The final day of the regular season has arrived, and no, it doesn’t feel like Opening Day was just last month.
A baseball season is long. Some say too long, from a contingent of players to part of baseball’s fan base and especially to my wife and kids.
And all 30 teams endure seven weeks of spring training and play 162 games so that they can play even more.
The Texas Rangers are one of 10 teams that will be in the playoffs. At 95 wins, they hope to get one more Sunday in the finale and then 11 more in the postseason.
That quest begins Thursday, and what happened Saturday in a mostly meaningless game could help the Rangers extend their journey.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
1. Colby Lewis’ regular season is finished, and he found most of what he was looking for in his finale even though he allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings.
He would have preferred to not surrender a three-run homer in the third inning and would have preferred to pick up Rougned Odor, whose error made all four runs in the third unearned.
One of his two walks scored, ahead of the big Corey Dickerson homer.
But Lewis threw 101 pitches, 71 of them strikes. He kept the defense engaged, striking out only three. He felt marvelous physically, was in rhythm mechanically and had a better feel for his pitches than in any of his previous three starts.
That rates as good news for the Rangers, who were looking for more from one of their four projected starters in the postseason. The assumption is that Lewis will start Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
For a moment, though ...
2. ... Forget who the Rangers’ Game 3 starter will be. Manager Jeff Banister claims that he still hasn’t settled on a starter for Game 1.
The way the rotation has been lined up for the past two weeks sure looks like the Rangers have the ALDS rotation in mind — Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Lewis, Martin Perez. The way Banister explained it, though, is that Hamels and Darvish were flip-flopped to give the rotation a jolt and to get those two into the same series as often as possible the rest of the way.
If he says so.
Hamels is the pitcher with the sparkling postseason track record, the big-game reputation, the 3.32 playoff ERA. He also has the 77 walks this season, second most in the league.
Darvish has 6 2/3 innings of postseason experience. He is coming off Tommy John surgery. He can absolutely dominate when he’s on, which he was for his final two regular-season starts.
If Darvish starts Game 1, he could also start Game 5 on extra rest. If he starts Game 2, he could also start Game 5 on normal rest. The same goes for Hamels.
The ALDS opponent will dictate who starts when, said Banister. Toronto, Baltimore and Detroit are heavy with right-handed hitters.
Hamels still seems like the guy. The Rangers won Game 1 last year with him starting and should have gotten through seven innings of Game 5 in the lead with him on the mound against that same righty-heavy Blue Jays lineup.
But Banister said that the Game 1 starter is undecided.
If he says so.
3. The Rangers’ playoff roster? Any guesses?
Catchers (2): Robinson Chirinos, Jonathan Lucroy.
Infielders (5): Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, Odor, Jurickson Profar.
Outfielders/DH (6): Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, Nomar Mazara.
Starting pitchers (4): Darvish, Hamels, Lewis, Perez.
Relief pitchers (8): Tony Barnette, Matt Bush, Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Derek Holland, Jeremy Jeffress, Keone Kela.
How’d I do?
I have four hang-ups: DeShields, Mazara, Claudio and Holland. Ryan Rua, Jared Hoying or Tanner Scheppers wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Mazara is deserving for what he did this season, but his offense has cooled and his speed and defense are seen by as some as liabilities. Hoying thrives on the bases and in the field, but his bat isn’t strong. In looking for a left-handed bench bat, Mazara is a better option than Hoying.
DeShields can fly and hit lefties. His defense is handicapped by his lack of arm strength. Hoying and Rua don’t have the same kind of speed. Rua can play first base and probably is the better righty hitter than DeShields.
Holland hadn’t pitched since Sunday since being moved to the bullpen before working the eighth inning. Scheppers hadn’t been all that busy either before tossing the ninth, but he can go multiple innings and would be a sixth righty in a bullpen that could be facing an opponent that is heavy with righty hitters.
Holland comes with postseason experience and is a highly regarded veteran in the clubhouse. Claudio has been an unsung bullpen hero and can be hell on lefty hitters, but velocity plays in the postseason and he doesn’t have it.
I feel pretty good about Beltre, though.