There was no celebration. No champagne corks popping. But Friday night in Houston, there was a division championship won.
When Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer off Scott Kazmir to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead, the AL West was won. Oh sure there’ll be some tense moments in this final week and the Astros and Angels will certainly borrow manager Jeff Banister’s “Never Ever Quit” rallying cry.
But I said the Rangers simply needed to win one in Houston to capture the division. Mission accomplished.
The 6-2 victory in the season opener widened their gap to 4.5 games. It’s down to 2.5 over the Astros and 3 over the Angels with seven games to play. But, barring an epic collapse along the lines of their 2012 debacle, even Yogi Berra would agree that it’s over.
Why? Because the Rangers start a three-game series tonight in Arlington against a Tigers’ team that is 72-83 and has exactly zero to play for. In the first two games they send Colby Lewis and Cole Hamels to the mound. At worst they’ll take two of three from Detroit, which would lower their magic number on both the Astros and Angels to three – regardless of what Houston does against Seattle or the Angels against the A’s.
Down to three, the Rangers would merely need to split the weekend series with Anaheim to clinch. So there’s the blueprint. Go 4-3 in your last seven – at home – and the division is yours. Get to 88 wins and the Rangers win the AL West, because they’d win the head-to-head tiebreaker by going 13-6 against Houston this season.
This is what I’m selling, even though Banister isn’t buying.
“Safe? There's nothing safe in baseball,” the manager said after Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Houston. “You've got to continue to play. It's about competing. These guys, they've never taken that approach. We've been playing from behind all year long. We've worked way too hard to get to this point to think that anything is safe.”
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.