Found September 29, 2013 on Fox Sports Southwest:
ARLINGTON, Texas When the Rangers started their final homestand of the season last Monday, there was little hope of them making a playoff push. They had fallen behind the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays in the wildcard race, so most of the talk was about who might be fired after the season. Even a visit from the woeful Houston Astros didn't offer any guarantees. The Rangers knew they needed to run the table in seven games against the Astros and Angels to have any shot at sneaking into the postseason. The eternal optimist, Nolan Ryan, described the Rangers' situation as a "free-fall." And that's why a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on a drop-dead gorgeous Sunday at the Ballpark was so stunning. The Rangers didn't clinch a playoff spot, but they did force a wildcard tiebreaker Monday night against the Rays. The winner of Monday's game at the Ballpark will earn the right to play the Indians on Wednesday in the A.L. wildcard game. "We showed heart, fight, grit, any other adjective you want to use," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We found our game." There were absolutely no signs the Rangers were poised to end the regular-season with seven consecutive wins. The Rangers had been 0-6-1 in its previous seven series. A split with the Rays had seemed like some sort of a breakthrough. The Rangers still haven't won a series outside their division since taking two of three games from the Reds in late June. But they had dominated the Astros (17 wins) and Angels (15 wins) throughout the season. With Yu Darvish on the mound for the Rangers in front of a raucous crowd, it seemed like the Rangers had the advantage Sunday. But with two outs in the first inning, Mike Trout drove a Darvish fastball 421 feet onto Greene's Hill in center field. Given the fact the Rangers had already lost four of Darvish's starts by a 1-0 margin, it wasn't a good sign. Fortunately, the early wakeup call wasn't necessarily a dealbreaker for Darvish. He retired 13 of the next 14 hitters he faced while showing a lot of emotion on the mound. Designated hitter A.J. Pierzynski led off the fifth inning with a double to left-center field. Catcher Geovany Soto followed with a walk, but Mitch Moreland struck out. Pierzynski and Soto both advanced a base when pitcher Jason Vargas fired an errant pickoff throw into center field. It was at that moment the Rays-Blue Jays game went final. With a 7-6 win, Tampa Bay clinched at least a spot in the tiebreaker game, which put the Rangers in a win-or-go-home situation. Only moments later, Craig Gentry shot a two-run single up the middle to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The crowd of 40,057 breathed a sigh of relief. It was the first legitimate threat of the day for the Rangers, and they were able to capitalize. Gentry reached base safely in his first three plate appearances Sunday and is 17-for-36 (.472) over his last 10 games. He's also become automatic on the basepaths, reaching safely on 18 of his last 19 steal attempts. Washington managed this game like he was in the playoffs. Darvish induced a double play in the sixth inning. But then he gave up a single to Erick Aybar and walked Mike Trout. Pitching around Trout didn't seem like an awful idea after watching Josh Hamilton's first two feeble outs of the game. But Washington had seen enough from Darvish even though he'd only thrown 84 pitches. Darvish looked shocked when he saw Washington signal for left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to enter the game. "I brought in Cotts to make Hamilton as uncomfortable as possible," Washington said. "It was just the right time. The game could've gotten out of hand. I was only concerned about the moment. I felt like Cotts was the guy. I wasn't worried about having to get 10 outs." Hamilton went the opposite way on a high fastball to drive in the tying run, but Cotts struck out second baseman Howie Kendrick to end the inning. Washington wasn't in the mood to apologize for his decision. "I respect Hamilton," he said. "I respect Hamilton a lotI was afraid of the Hamilton-Darvish matchup." The Rangers responded with a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. After back-to-back singles from Adrian Beltre and Pierzynski, Soto doubled to right center-field. Beltre came limping home to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. It's only been seven days since the Rangers' season was left for dead in Kansas City. Last Sunday, they lost 4-0 on a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning. The Rangers only managed four runs in that three-game series. But as they have all season, the Astros and Angels offered the Rangers safe harbor. Now, the Rangers have a chance to change the ending of a story so many of us had already written. And it looks like they'll try to find a spot in the lineup for old friend Nelson Cruz, who caught a flight to Arlington on Saturday night. Shortstop Elvis Andrus stood at his locker late Sunday afternoon talking about the plan he had for facing Rays ace David Price. But he took a moment to look back at the past week. "People started talking about what happened last year," said Andrus. "And it felt like it was happening again. You didn't want to put extra pressure on yourself, but we didn't have any choice but to win every game. And we have to keep doing it." Game 163 awaits.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Suspended Nelson Cruz will be on Rangers roster for tiebreaker

On Sunday, Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels confirmed that outfielder Nelson Cruz will be activated for Monday’s tie-breaker game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Cruz completed his 50-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Sunday’s season finale. While Cruz will be on the roster, it will be up to manager Ron Washington whether or not the 33-year-old...

Cruz batting sixth for Rangers in tiebreaker

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Nelson Cruz, who completed his 50-game suspension for PED use, will make his return to the Texas lineup tonight as the designated hitter in the American League tiebreaker game. Cruz will bat sixth for the Rangers against Tampa Bay left-hander David Price. To make room on the 40-man roster for Cruz, the Rangers designated outfielder Joey Butler for assignment...

Rios provides punch, but it's not enough to save Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas The Rangers acquired Alex Rios in mid-season to provide offense to help them make the playoffs. He did just that in Monday's AL Wild Card Tiebreaker. But Rios' RBI double in the sixth came up just short of being a home run, much like the Rangers came up just short of making the postseason in a 5-2 loss. "We fought. We fought very hard," Rios...

Rangers had no problem with baseballs Friday

ARLINGTON, Texas The apparent problems with the baseballs during Friday Texas Rangers game against Los Angeles apparently only impacted C.J. Wilson. None of the five Texas pitchers used in the game had any issues with slippery balls, which Wilson complained about following the game. "I can't tell you I noticed any difference with the balls," said Texas reliever Tanner...

Texas Rangers: On a path to the Wild Card

The Texas Rangers have been playing playoff quality ball this week. Lets take a look back at how far they have come and what they still have ahead of them. Texas had a 3 game series against the Houston Astros in the beginning of the week. If they were ever going to make a last push for playoffs it had to start on Monday. Texas bore down and swept the Astros winning 12-0, 3-2, and...

Nelson Cruz Welcomed Back From Suspension to Applause, Standing Ovation (Video)

Nelson Cruz is back in the lineup at just the right time. The Rangers took on the Rays on Monday night in a tiebreaker game to send one of the two teams to the playoffs in the Wild Card spot. Cruz was back in the No. 6 spot in the batting order after serving a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal, and the home crowd in Arlington welcomed...

Contract Crowdsourcing 2013-14: A.J. Pierzynski

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2013-14 free-agent market. Note that, this year, in addition to asking readers to estimate the years/dollars each...

Umpires blow call on Rangers’ Leonys Martin catch

Instant replay sure would be nice in a situation like this. The Texas Rangers caught a huge break in the seventh inning of Game 163 when a Delmon Young fly ball was clearly not caught by Rangers’ centerfielder Leonys Martin but was called an inning-ending out by the six umpires calling the game. The Rays should have scored a run on the play and been up 5-2. The winner of this game...

Rangers to activate Nelson Cruz for tiebreaker

Nelson Cruz’s 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs has come to an end and he will be on the Texas Rangers’ active roster Monday for their tiebreaking game against Tampa Bay to determine the second American League wild-card team. But only manager Ron Washington knows for sure if the outfielder will be in the lineup as the Rangers try to push themselves into...

Nelson Cruz activated for tiebreaker game

The Texas Rangers, who have been without slugger Nelson Cruz while he was serving a 50-game suspension, will activate him in time for tonight's tiebreaker game against the Tampa Bay Rays. As reported by T.R. Sullivan and Master Tesfatsion of MLB.com, Cruz accepted a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball in August for violation of the Basic Agreement and its Joint...

Rangers force AL wild-card tiebreaker, beat Angels

The Texas Rangers forced a one-game tiebreaker for the second AL wild-card spot, winning their seventh in a row Sunday when Geovany Soto hit a tiebreaking RBI double and later homered to beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-2. The Rangers (91-71) added game No. 163 to the regular season, and will host Tampa Bay on Monday night. The winner plays two days later at wild card leader Cleveland...

The Price Was Right In Texas As Rays Down Rangers

The Tampa Bay Rays claimed the second Wild Card berth upstaging the Texas Rangers 5-2 in a contest dominated by Rays ace lefty David Price. The 28-year old pitched a gutsy complete game victory leading his troops to victory and setting up a one game playoff with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday. Price established his inside fastball early which allowed him to keep Rangers hitters...

Game 162 is not the end

Yu Darvish was set to take the mound in the team’s final regular season game with postseason hopes still very much alive.  Texas had swept the Astros and battled rain to beat the Angels in three out of three games. They just needed one more to finish strong. And Yu did his part. He gave up a two-out homer in the 1st to Mike Trout.  After that, he settled down for the next several...

Delmon Young Traps Ball During Diving Attempt, Rangers Receive Big Break After Umpires Rule It a Catch (GIF)

The Rays and the Rangers know they can’t afford any mistakes as the two squads battle to keep their seasons alive, but they have no control over the mistakes the umpires make in the do-or-die game. During the top of the seventh inning, Delmon Young came to the plate with runners on first and second as he lined a ball into center field. In what looked to be a hit that could’ve...

MLB's Biogenesis probe could impact playoffs

Major League Baseball's investigation of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic had an impact on the 2013 season, with 14 players suspended and 13 of them serving their penalties. It will have a lingering effect on the postseason. Five things to know about Biogenesis and postseason baseball: CRUZ CONTROL: Outfielder Nelson Cruz completed his 50-game suspension on Sunday, and Texas...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.