ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Seven days after the Texas Rangers clinched their second straight American League West title, they took another significant step toward their ultimate goal.
Yu Darvish looked playoff-ready with a season-high 12 strikeouts in six innings as the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Friday night and clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The Rangers can be tied by the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, and they own tie-breakers over both teams. The AL owns home-field advantage in the World Series thanks to its win in the All-Star Game.
Texas has never previously owned home-field advantage throughout the postseason and has never won a World Series. This clinching came thanks to the team’s record 53rd home victory.
"We’re playing really good baseball at home," shortstop Elvis Andrus said, "so it’s always good to start everything at home."
Darvish (7-5) allowed one run, three hits and one walk. His 28th career game of double-digit strikeouts is the second-most in a pitcher’s first 100 major league starts, topped only by Dwight Gooden (31). Darvish will likely start Game 2 of the Division Series — following Cole Hamels — in his first postseason appearance since losing the 2012 AL wild-card game to Baltimore.
"He looks a little bit more electric to me," said Evan Longoria, who had two of the Rays’ four hits. "His ball is moving in different directions."
Shin-Soo Choo returned to Texas’ lineup after missing 39 games with a fractured left forearm. Choo pulled a single to right in his first plate appearance since Aug. 15 and went 1 for 4.
Matt Andriese (8-8) gave up three runs and seven hits, including solo home runs to Carlos Beltran and Rougned Odor.
Darvish went into the game averaging 11.45 strikeouts per nine innings this season, best in the league. In his final four starts of the season, he fanned 38 in 24 2/3 innings.
"I’ve had pretty good results lately," Darvish said through a translator, "and I think I’m in a good position now."
Beltran homered just inside the right-field foul pole, his 29th of the season and seventh since joining Texas at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Odor’s homer was his 33rd, tying Adrian Beltre for the team lead this season. The only Texas second baseman to hit more in a season is Alfonso Soriano, with 35 in 2005.
Longoria had two doubles, one driving in the Rays’ run, giving him career highs of 171 hits and 80 extra-base hits this season.
CHOO KNOWS HIS MISSION
Results aren’t the most important thing for Choo with him scheduled to play all three games of the series, which will determine if he’s on the 25-man postseason roster.
"My job is to show them I’m healthy the next three days," he said.
AFTER DARVISH, MORE ZEROES
Sam Dyson earned his 38th save. Four Texas relievers worked three scoreless innings, running the bullpen’s streak to a club-record 29 2/3, and it allowed one hit and one walk.
"These are guys we’ve seen be extremely effective, overpowering, have the ability to get outs when they need to get outs," manager Jeff Banister said.
Texas (95-65) is one win short of tying the club record set in 2011. … The Rays are 10-18 in September, the most losses in one month for the team since going 7-20 in July 2007. … Logan Forsythe, who has been the Rays’ leadoff hitter in 123 games this season, appeared as a pinch-hitter and will return to the lineup on Saturday night. … Ian Desmond increased his majors-leading total of outfield errors to 12 with two dropped fly balls.
Tampa Bay: Jake Odorizzi (9-6) hasn’t won since Aug. 30. The Rays have lost in his last four starts, during which he has had a 5.40 ERA.
Texas: Colby Lewis (6-4), who figures to start Game 3 of the Division Series, is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three September starts after missing two months with a strained lat muscle. Lewis lasted only 1 1/3 innings in his previous start last Sunday at Oakland.