And it comes down to this. I, like many others, had predicted at the beginning of the season that the Texas Rangers would win their third consecutive AL west division title. I also believed that the Los Angeles Angels would finish second and grab one of the two wild cards. Never did I imagine that on the last day of the season the Rangers would be tied for the division lead with the Oakland Athletics with huge playoff implications on the line. Not too long from now they will face off with the winner taking the division title and the loser playing the wild card game against either the Baltimore Orioles or New York Yankees.
I really can't describe what I've seen from the Rangers the past week or so. The offense hasn't been there. There's been a lack of motivation displayed by Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton who are both mired in slumps at the wrong time. Kinsler has gone hitless in five of the team's last ten games including the last three in a row. Josh has ten hits in the last ten games but only five RBI and has amassed a ton of strikeouts. The Rangers are 4-6 in their last ten games and are the only playoff team heading into the postseason with a losing record in those last ten.
So how does Texas win today?
It starts with Ryan Dempster who must throw strikes. The Oakland Athletics set a new major league record this season with strikeouts as a team. If Geovany Soto frames him just right and he does his job then it should be easy cruising for Dempster.
Kinsler and Hamilton need to be more patient at the plate. Swinging at the first pitch is becoming just as aggravating as popping up for me when it comes to Kinsler and I wish Josh could be more selective and learn that the opposing pitchers are going to throw him a lot of change-ups and the majority of them will be low and outside. Make them come to you not the other way around.
Michael Young and Mike Napoli are not the best defensive infielders in the game and they are both manning the corners today. Young is at third due to Adrian Beltre's lingering shoulder pain and Napoli is at first due to Beltre being the DH and you don't want to take his bat out of the lineup. They need to be flawless.
The Rangers need this win. They need the momentum to shift in their favor. Some will say that momentum doesn't carry over from day to day but I don't believe that. If this team loses today then they will have an aura of defeat surrounding them that will more than likely spell doom in the wild card game. Some fans will say that this team will win the wild card game because of the sense of urgency. They should have had a sense of urgency last night. And they'll definitely be playing with it today.
It comes down to game 162.
Until next time, I'll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, clawandantlernation.com and a member of SABR. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.
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