The Texas Rangers probably don’t feel a whole lot of sympathy for the Boston Red Sox, but they share something in common this season at Yankee Stadium.
Way back on June 29, the Rangers took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning only to see the New York Yankees score five times for a victory that arguably sent the Rangers into a spiral ahead of the All-Star break.
The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, only to see the Yankees score five times for a victory that would help give the Rangers a 1 1/2-game lead for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
With the Detroit Tigers beating the Cleveland Indians, the Rangers have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Indians for best record in the American League, which determines who has the home field.
The Rangers now also hold the tiebreakers over the Red Sox and Indians.
And it all took place in the span of about 30 minutes.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-5 victory.
1. Starting pitchers generally don’t like to pitch in minor-league games in spring training because the minor-leaguers light up when they see a big name pitching against them.
They throw out whatever approach they have and just start hacking.
Cole Hamels didn’t use those exact words in reference to the Milwaukee Brewers’ batting order Wednesday night, but he got his point across. The young Brewers were swinging early and often, as in the first pitch, and forced Hamels to make some adjustments.
He did, eventually. After allowing five runs (three earned) in his first three innings, he allowed only one hit over his final four.
The Brewers have some decent veteran players, but also their fair share of free swingers. Once Hamels started finding the strike zone with his off-speed pitches, the game swung to his advantage.
When it was done, he had reached 200 strikeouts for the fifth time in his career and 200 innings (200 1/3, to be exact) for the eighth time and seventh in a row. He has 22 quality starts.
The body of work is impressive. The way he finished in his tune-up for the AL Division Series was impressive. His postseason track record is impressive.
Hamels is ready for the playoffs.
2. Carlos Gomez hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to win the game for the Rangers, who have an MLB-best 49 come-from-behind wins and an impressive 13 wins when trailing after seven innings.
Gomez also hit a three-run homer Tuesday and has four homers and 12 RBIs in his past 11 games.
Out in Arizona on Wednesday, Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer and singled in his final game in the instructional league. He’ll almost certainly be in the Rangers’ lineup Friday as the club tries to see if he can be a player for them in the ALDS.
A fair question was raised by another media member: Do the Rangers want Choo to return?
The lineup has been just fine without him. Gomez has flourished since becoming Choo’s replacement in the leadoff spot.
If Choo is put back atop the lineup for the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine Gomez becoming a platoon player with Nomar Mazara. Choo at the top and Gomez sixth after Rougned Odor would make for a potent lineup. The bottom three hitters would be Jonathan Lucroy, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus, who had the game-tying single ahead of Gomez’s blast.
The Rangers’ lineup is already a bear for opposing pitchers. Swapping a healthy, base-reaching Choo for Mazara would make it even tougher.
But Choo has to be healthy, and the Rangers have to get past the cliche of not fixing something that isn’t broken.
3. With the Rangers in the playoffs, who would be the best matchup for them?
The easy answer is Houston, who went 4-15 against the Rangers this season, but the Astros are clinging to their wild-card lives. One Baltimore win or one Astros loss will send the Astros into vacation mode.
Who do the Rangers want to play?
Their standard answer is it doesn’t matter, but a few have taken notice of the injury bug that has struck the Indians’ rotation. The Rangers easily won the season series against the Indians, winning 5 of 7 and 2 of 3 on the road.
Who do the fans want to see the Rangers play?
It’s got to be Toronto, right? A Blue Jays-Rangers rematch of a 2015 ALDS would be filled with storylines. Well, not really. It would be filled with Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor storylines, plus a heavy dose of Andrus.
Who do the beat writers want to see the Rangers play?
A small sample says the Seattle Mariners, in large part because of a fondness for Seattle. Lots of airline miles, too. Seattle is third on my list, which is as follows: Baltimore, Cleveland, Seattle, Toronto and Houston, which is penalized because I would have to drive to Minute Maid Park and get no airline miles.
The Rangers can wrap up the home field as soon as Friday. The wild card could go down to Game 162 on Sunday. If the Rangers are the No. 1 seed, they won’t know their ALDS foe until after Tuesday night’s wild-card game.
They took a big step toward the home field Wednesday.