Couple quick thoughts over lunch . . . .
There are five games left. That’s the equivalent of the final 90 seconds of an NBA game, or a play or two into action in the NFL after the two-minute warning.
One final round tonight with Houston, against whom the Rangers’ win percentage this year (.889) looks like an elite free-throw clip.
The only two times Texas has lost to the Astros this season, in 18 games, the winning pitchers for Houston were Bud Norris – who is now with Baltimore – and Travis Blackley – whom the Astros traded to the Rangers a month later.
In that second game, Yu Darvish (6-6-5-5-4-6) lost, and Blackley won in relief after three other Astros relievers couldn’t hold onto the lead that starter Dallas Keuchel (5-6-2-2-1-4) had entrusted them with.
Keuchel, who has a reasonably good history against the Rangers (.240/.305/.323 slash, 3.65 ERA in four starts, including a 2.70 in two Rangers Ballpark starts), gets the ball tonight, against Martin Perez, whose one career start against Houston (9-4-1-1-2-8) was his best against anyone.
The Perez gem was on August 11, and Keuchel was his mound opponent. It was the Rangers’ 12th win in 13 games, and Texas would win another 11 out of 17 to finish the month.
But after that came September, during which the Rangers are 7-15, even with wins over Houston the last two nights, and as a result Perez-Keuchel II has exponentially more riding on it tonight than anyone could have imagined a month ago.
Even last night, this could have felt a lot different, had Jason Giambi – who is having a worse season than Lance Berkman – not rescued the Indians from a loss that would have dropped Cleveland into a tie with the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot, hitting a walkoff blast that I envision Nelson Cruz having watched, perhaps in The Brookside II in Surprise, a million miles away from actual contribution to an official baseball game, which seems wrong in the context of Giambi hitting a huge difference-making home run in a game that counts.
But maybe Cruz is a week away from contributing himself.
And now that I think about it, if the Rangers manage to force a Game 163 against the Indians for that second Wild Card spot, I suppose Cruz will be eligible to play in it. (Right?)
Holding ground isn’t nearly as cool as gaining it, but it sure beats losing ground, which Texas can’t afford to do tonight, or tomorrow, or Friday or Saturday or Sunday.
One more against Houston, then four against the Angels. Five games. One time through the rotation for Texas and for Cleveland and for Tampa Bay. #CastleDoctrine doesn’t begin to tag what’s left this week, hopefully in front of full, raucous houses.
It’s Go Time.