ARLINGTON, Texas — Six days ago the Texas Rangers were coming off a deflating extra-innings loss to Kansas City and in need of the improbable to happen on their final homestand to secure a 163rd game this season.
They’ll go into Sunday’s regular-season finale with that chance after beating Los Angeles 7-4 Saturday for their sixth-straight victory. Not bad for a team that started September winners of just five of their first 20 games.
The Texas win, combined with the Tampa Bay loss Saturday, put the Rangers in a tie with the Rays for the No. 2 wild-card spot heading into Game 162.
It also means for the first time this week, the Rangers control their own destiny in securing a 163rd game.
Texas followed Saturday’s win, which concluded with Joe Nathan striking out Howie Kendrick in a downpour, with a team meeting. The meeting was about playoff scenarios and no doubt focused on the importance of Sunday’s game.
Being ready for it shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’re fighting to the end and hoping,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Our mentality right now is we’re focused on winning no matter what time it is or where we’re playing. We know what we have to do out there to continue to win games.”
Saturday’s game started earlier than any other game in Rangers Ballpark history (11:07 a.m.) and finished in a big enough downpour that if Kendrick would have reached base, Texas manager Ron Washington would have asked for the game to be stopped.
But in between, the Rangers were able to do enough with their 10 hits and five Los Angeles errors to notch their sixth-straight win at home, which is the longest home winning streak since 2011.
The Rangers jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second inning by scoring four times on just two hits. Two bad errors by the Angels pumped enabled the Rangers to score the runs with just one RBI, that coming on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rios.
Despite that big frame, the win didn’t come easy as Derek Holland struggled and was pulled after 4 2/3 innings with the Rangers clinging to a 5-4 lead. But the Rangers answered the two runs by Los Angeles in the top of the fifth with two of their own in the bottom of the fifth.
That was enough for the Texas bullpen, which once again was stellar. Four relievers combined for 4 1/3 innings of one-hit ball to close the game with the Rangers having a chance at their fourth consecutive postseason trip.
Having a chance is all they wanted when the week started.
“I’ll say they showed strength, they showed fight, showed desire, showed heart and any other adjective you can find to describe it,” Washington said. “That’s what they’ve done. We know we’ve got another game to play and we certainly know who our opponents are. We’ll come out tomorrow and try to keep our intensity up and do whatever we have to out there and hopefully we can come away with another win.”
The Rangers will have their ace on the mound for Sunday’s game in Yu Darvish, who will be opposed by Los Angeles left-hander Jason Vargas.
They’ll also have the confidence of knowing they’ve done the little things right on the homestand even when they haven’t had the big hits or gotten strong outings from their starters.
That could be huge, just like it was Saturday when they took advantage of opportunities given them.
“We’ve played good baseball for this homestand,” said Rios, who went 1 for 3 Saturday with a double and RBI. “Today you saw how we played. We did the little things. We moved guys over (three sacrifice bunt). We were able to pick each other up. We played as a team. When you do that, you have a pretty good chance to do well. That’s what we’ve been doing.”
And if they can it for one more game, game No. 163 awaits.