It’s playoff baseball time in Arlington.
For the fifth time since 2010, the Rangers are back in the postseason with unfinished business on the agenda. After making two straight trips to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, Texas is looking for a third appearance in the Fall Classic. However, this time they want to walk away as world champions.
The road is paved for the American League West division champs, who have home field advantage throughout the playoffs after finishing the regular season with the best record (95-67) in A.L. along with home field advantage in the World Series thanks to the A.L.’s win in this year’s All-Star Game. They’ll face the winner of the A.L. Wild Card game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Divisional Series.
“Hopefully this is the year,” said outfielder Carlos Beltran. “We have a great group of guys. My experience always is you just go have fun because you never know as a player when you’ll get this opportunity again.”
“We’ve had a great year and this is what you play for,” added first baseman Mitch Moreland. “We have an unbelievable group of guys in here and we’re looking forward to getting out there on Thursday. I think the sky is the limit.”
Game 1 of the ALDS will be Thursday afternoon at 3:38 p.m. in Arlington. Many of the Rangers faithful are not thrilled that the first two games of the divisional series are day games at The Globe.
“It is what it is,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus. “We’re going to be ready for those two day games and we know the fans are going to be here. It’s going to be electric and amazing.”
The Rangers go into the playoffs with one of the more solid lineups from top to bottom. Rougned Odor had a career year, leading the team with 33 home runs. Adrian Beltre had a team-leading 104 RBIs along with 32 home runs. Nomar Mazara was tied for the A.L. rookie lead in home runs with 20. The additions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy at the trade deadline made the everyday lineup even more dangerous.
“We have a deeper lineup than we did last year,” said third baseman Adrian Beltre. “We have more confidence and more experience. Hopefully that can be the reason why we can win 11 more games and be at the top at the end of these playoffs.”
And it’s that kind of confidence and experience which may be the reason The Sporting News came out and named the Rangers the World Series favorites.
“They might be the only one,” replied Banister when asked about it. “I’m glad that our guys have got some recognition in how they play. I think there’s a lot of feel-good in that. But ultimately there’s work to be done on the field.”
So if the Blue Jays win the Wild Card, this year’s version of the ALDS could also be a chance at redemption for Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who made some crucial errors against the Blue Jays in Game 5 of last year’s ALDS. So is Andrus rooting for another shot at Toronto?
“I want to win it, regardless if it’s Toronto or any other team in the league,” said Andrus. “I don’t get mad now because of who we are playing, I get mad now because we lost. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.”
And don’t forget about “The Punch” from earlier this year when the two teams met at The Globe. Odor connected with a right on Jose Bautista, which many considered payback for the “Bat Flip” incident in Game 5. There’s still bad blood between the teams, which would make the possible playoff matchup must see TV.
No matter who they face, the road to the World Series goes through Arlington. This time around, the Rangers are hoping the story has a happy ending.