It took a 7-game winning streak to close the regular season slate just for the Rangers to earn this opportunity: The chance to play in a tiebreaker game to determine who gets to play in the real wild card matchup in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Despite the mostly awful September that saw the Rangers basically hand the AL West to the Oakland Athletics and a stint in which even the once invincible bullpen seemed to be falling apart at the seams, the Rangers find themselves playing baseball beyond the 162 games that were originally on their schedule.
Would we all have liked to see the Rangers win the division? Sure. At the same time, not many teams in baseball each year are even afforded this opportunity, and it's something I think we should all keep in mind heading into tonight's game. While we oftentimes shake our fists when the club is playing poorly -- and I'm certainly not immune to doing so either -- overall, it's nice to look back and see that, hey, in what was supposed to be a "rebuilding year" according to many so-called experts, this ball club strung together a pretty nice season.
Maybe there are no experts in baseball.
So tonight, we get to see the Rangers take on David Price and the Rays in Arlington.
Will we get to see a monster night from Adrian Beltre?
What, if anything, can Nelson Cruz provide after not playing in a Major League game since early August?
Can Martin Perez hold his own on the mound?
Has anyone considered that the backup catcher, Geovany Soto, has an OPS of .794?
Has anyone considered or even realized that Craig Gentry has been the Rangers most consistent weapon in September?
I don't have answers for any of those things. I could see Beltre and Cruz feasting on David Price, who has struggled in Arlington. Then again, I could also see Price leaving us all speechless as he deals a gem for the Rays.
Martin Perez has been solid for a team that was decimated from injuries before spring training even started. I'd hardly say he's overmatched, but he certainly hasn't pitched in a game of this magnitude yet. My hope is to see him leave everything out on the field, set everything up nicely, and exit after 8 innings with a lead. Then again, I could see him struggling to get through 3 innings in a game in which he'll almost assuredly have a short leash given to him by Ron Washington.
The Soto question was left more as a thought than anything. While Soto is often criticized for having a low average, he has, on the whole, been more than effective as a backup catcher, and someone I hope to see the Rangers bring back in that role.
Finally, we have Craig Gentry. He's the reason Nelson Cruz won't be seeing much (if any) time in the outfield. There has been some talk that Cruz has done some work in left field, as Alex Rios has solidified his spot in right field for the foreseeable future. On the same note, Gentry, considered mostly for his speed and defense in left field, has been on fire at the plate, posting a September line of .355/.403/.419 for an OPS of .822. He's hit lefties and righties very well in the 2nd half of the season, and right now, there's absolutely no reason for him to not be in the lineup. He's a more effective defender than Cruz, and Cruz can serve as the DH. In other words, we shouldn't see David Murphy as anything more than a late-inning pinch hitter against a right-handed pitcher. Even at that, I'm not sure I want Murphy at the plate after the season he's had.
With all of that said, maybe we'll be sitting here tomorrow and celebrating another win by the Rangers. Possibly, we'll be talking about the offseason ahead. I still wouldn't bet against these Rangers. Not after this past week.