The Texas Rangers’ 2010 AL West title was more than a decade in the making. That likely made Friday’s two-hour wait to see if they would win another one much more bearable.
Playing less than 24 hours after clinching the West, Texas continues its push for home-field advantage in the AL division series on Saturday when it faces the Seattle Mariners.
After winning its first West title in 11 years last season before advancing to the franchise’s first World Series, Texas (91-66) celebrated another division championship Friday night in Arlington.
The Rangers’ 5-3 series-opening victory over the Mariners (66-91) trimmed their magic number to one, and they had to watch from the clubhouse as the second-place Los Angeles Angels lost 3-1 to Oakland to officially end the West race.
Texas has secured back-to-back division crowns for the first time since 1998-99.
That next step is locking up home-field advantage in the opening round. The Rangers are tied with Detroit for the league’s second-best record, but by virtue of losing the season series to the Central champs, Texas will have to finish with a better record to avoid starting on the road for the second straight postseason.
The Mariners right-hander, though, is 0-3 with a 3.74 ERA in three starts against Texas in 2011 after allowing three runs in seven innings of Sunday’s 3-0 home loss. Hernandez, 10-15 with a 3.87 ERA in 31 career starts in this matchup, doesn’t have double-digit losses against any other team.
“They’re dangerous,” he told the Mariners’ official website. “If you throw quality pitches, you can get them out. If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay.”
Hernandez’s former teammate and good friend Adrian Beltre(notes) has been doing that to a lot of pitchers lately. The Rangers third baseman, who hit a two-run shot off Hernandez at Safeco Field on Sunday, has homered nine times in the last 12 games after hitting his 29th of the season Friday.
While manager Ron Washington said he would start to give his regulars some rest as the team prepares for the postseason, Saturday’s scheduled starter Alexi Ogando(notes) (13-8, 3.58) faces an important outing as the team hasn’t announced how he will be used in the playoffs.
The right-hander opened the year 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA and was named an All-Star for the first time, but he hit a rough patch, going 0-3 with a 6.41 ERA in five appearances prior to throwing six innings of shutout ball in a 7-4 home win over Cleveland on Sept. 15.
Washington said after the game that he nearly pulled Ogando in the second inning before he escaped a bases-loaded jam.
Ogando is 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in three starts in this divisional matchup in 2011.
The Rangers, winners of five straight at home, are 6-1 against Seattle in Arlington this season.