As I was, unfortunately for my sanity, listening to MLB Network’s Intentional Talk earlier this afternoon, I heard Chris Rose say something interesting. The Texas Rangers have not been in first place in the AL West since April 23rd. Of last year. Now, I don’t particularly care for the Rangers, but this is newsworthy.
No one, aside from Nostradamus, had the Houston Astros winning this division. Yet, here they were, staying out in front, but with a dwindling lead, in mid-September. Probably even fewer people put the Rangers in first come October 4th. This is part of what we baseball fans love about this crazy game. Truly, anything can happen.
Now, I’m no vaunted prognosticator from the 16th Century, but I did just foresee this last week. Sort of? Scroll down to the bottom of the article and read that last paragraph if you’re too lazy to read the whole thing. I’ll give you a minute.
Let’s take a quick look at that back-and-forth game from Tuesday night, shall we? In the bottom of the first, when Prince Fielder hit a one-out single to left, driving in Delino DeShields Jr., the Rangers Win Expectancy jumped up to 76.4%.
It would top out at 90.0% by the time they’d tallied a huge first inning blow, going up 4-0. As you can see from the graph, it quickly declined as the Astros struck back in the top of the second inning. From then on it would vacillate, yet stay close to neutral. Now, we all know what Adrian Beltre means to the Rangers. He’s a monster at the plate, even late in his career, but is a game-changing wizard at the hot corner. But how important is a healthy, hot-hitting Prince Fielder to them? Not only did he go 3-for-4 for the game, but his leadoff single in the ninth allowed them to pinch run Drew Stubbs. Stubbs, of course, would score on Mitch Moreland‘s sacrifice fly for the walk-off win.
However, Fielder’s most important contribution may have come in the bottom of the fourth. With two out, Fielder standing at first, Beltre laced a single down the foul line in left. Fielder took a risk, hauling his left tackle sized body all the way home from first. Now, all the highlight shows had their laughs at the big guy running, but he showed some serious speed at a crucial moment. The risk certainly paid off. Maybe they didn’t need to have Stubbs run for him in the ninth?
That two-out gamble that turned into a run tied the game. Texas pitching was able to hang on until Moreland’s sac fly sealed the deal.
Texas followed that nailbiter up with a 14-3 snoozer on Wednesday night. They jumped on Dallas Keuchel for six first inning runs and never looked back. Fielder had a monster game with five driven in on two home runs. Every starter but Moreland contributed a hit and a run. The win was the fourth in a row for the Rangers, and they now hold a 1.5 game lead in the standings over the Astros.
Will they be able to hold onto the division lead? Who knows, but they do look like they’re hot at the perfect time to become a nuisance come the playoffs. Please Lord, let the Toronto Blue Jays pulverize them if it comes to that!