Sat, 02 Dec 2023

Rangers continue playoff pursuit, start series vs. Angels

Field Level Media
25 Sep 2023, 14:25 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Texas Rangers' magic number is five to earn their first playoff berth since 2016 as they begin a season-ending seven-game road trip on Monday night in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels.

Texas (87-68) holds a 2 1/2-game lead over slumping Houston (85-71) in the American League West and isthree games in front of Seattle (84-71) after sweeping the Mariners over the weekend in Arlington. The three teams, along with Toronto (87-69), are also in a battle for the three American League wild-card playoff spots.

After playing three games with the fourth-place Angels (70-86), who are 2-9 in their last 11 games, the Rangers finish with a four-game series at Seattle that could have major playoff implications. The Mariners, who are 1-8 against the Rangers this season, begin a three-game make-it-or-break-it series with the Astros on Monday in Seattle.

With the head-to-head tiebreaker already in hand against Seattle, Texas would seem to be in good shape heading into the final week of the regular season. Don't try telling that to Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, though.

"We still have a lot of work to be done and we have to make sure we take it one game at a time," Eovaldi said after picking up his 12th win in Sunday's 9-8 victory over the Mariners. "I think that's the biggest thing when you get into this kind of run and race. You got to make sure you don't take any opponent for granted. Ultimately, we want to win the division. That's kind of what it comes down to."

"You still have to have the same mindset," Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien, who hit two of the team's season-high six home runs in Sunday's win, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Keep this mindset now, and when we get in (the playoffs) have the same mindset. The goal is not to get to the playoffs, it's to win it all."

Right-hander Jon Gray (8-8, 4.22 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in four career starts against the Angels, is scheduled to start the series opener for Texas. Gray will be looking for his first win since Aug. 11, when he allowed just two hits and struck out seven over seven shutout innings in a 2-1 victory at San Francisco.

Gray is 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in his seven starts since that contest and has allowed eight homers in 30 2/3 innings during that span. He has failed to make it out of the fourth inning in any of his last three starts while compiling a 10.38 ERA.

Los Angeles will counter with left-hander Patrick Sandoval (7-13, 4.19 ERA). Sandoval, who is 1-3 with a 3.94 ERA in seven career appearances and six starts against the Rangers, has won just one of his last nine starts with that victory coming on Aug. 25 against the Mets in New York in a 3-1 win.

The Angels, coming off a 9-3 loss at Central Division champion Minnesota on Sunday, finish their season with six home games, including a season-ending three-game series with Oakland. It had been hoped that three-time A.L. MVP Mike Trout would be back for the final homestand but Trout, who fractured his left hamate bone on a swing against San Diego on July 3, was placed on the 60-day injured list before Sunday's contest.

"I know it's disappointing for him," Angels manager Phil Nevin told "I'm frustrated for him, not at him. Everyone wants to see Mike Trout play, and nobody more than us. He helps us. He's one of the greatest players in the game."

Trout played against the Reds on Aug. 22 but suffered a setback in that game. He hit off a tee before Friday's game with the Twins but still had some discomfort in the wrist.

"There is some stuff in there," Nevin said.

Trout finished the season with a .263 average and 18 home runs and 44 RBIs in 82 games.

--Field Level Media

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