The sell-out crowd at Globe Life Field was chanting “We Want Houston!” last night as soon as Jose LeClerc struck out Jordan Westburg to punch the Rangers ticket to the American League Championship series for the first time since 2011. From the comfort of my couch in the back of my house in front of my large television, I thought, “Shouldn’t we vote on that first?”
Let’s worry about the Astros later. Today, let’s celebrate the darndest baseball team anybody’s ever seen. Who are these guys? Resilient. Scrappy. Unpredictable. Streaky. The most fun a Rangers team has ever been to watch since, well, those World Series teams of 2010 and 2011. Even Bruce Bochy, who has seen it all and won it all, can’t figure this group out. He’s as perplexed as anybody. Part of the joy in last night’s on field and clubhouse celebration was watching Bochy trying to suppress his smile. It’s been a crazy, unexpected, up and down ride with these Rangers. And it’s not over yet.
The bottom line with this group is that they only have one weakness: that blasted bullpen. It’s terrible. Chapman proved that again in the 8th inning last night, loading the bases with Orioles to inject the only drama during the blowout win. But the hitting, the starting pitching, and the superb defense are neutralizing their only disadvantage.
The lineup is incredibly deep. Spots 1-9 are loaded and give opposing pitchers no breathing room. There’s no break. The O’s walked Seager last night to load the bases for Mitch Garver the day after they did the same thing which resulted in a Garver grand slam! This time it was only a two-run double — I guess that’s a win for Baltimore — but Garcia hit a three run jimmy-jack on the very next pitch. That sequence illustrates the point. Lowe has reclaimed his groove, Carter has added to the lineup’s threat, Garcia’s confidence is soaring, and Seager’s going to get on base four times a night. Their chase rate is the lowest in the majors. The Rangers walked 18 times during the three game sweep. It’s a pitcher’s nightmare.
And the pitching is there. Nate Eovaldi is nasty again, Jordan Montgomery is going to give you seven solid innings, and Jon Gray and Mad Max look like they’re going to be ready for this next round. Bochy can wave his wand to get through the seventh and eighth innings so LeClerc can finish it off with a three or four out save, whatever is needed.
The Rangers are getting healthier, their confidence is through the roof, and they’ve got a Hall of Fame manager calling the shots.
I remember telling our daughter Whitney during the ALCS and World Series in 2011 to really enjoy it. Soak it in and remember it, because we’re not guaranteed it’ll ever happen again. This could be it, you never know. I still suffer from PTSD related to Cruz’s drop in Game Six. Last Wednesday, when Sean McDonough announced during the 9th inning in Tampa that the Rangers were “one strike away,” my heart sank into my socks and I threw up a little bit in my mouth. Yes, I still suffer from PTSD. And for the past several years, it has felt like we’d never get back. Well, we’re back. Enjoy it. Soak it in. Remember this. We’re living in the good ol’ days again with the Texas Rangers.
Do we want Houston? We’re getting them whether we want them or not. An I-45 series for much more than a clunky silver boot. A Lone Star matchup for the AL pennant.