The playoff scenarios in the American League West change by the minute, but the Texas Rangers are doing their best to make all the mathematics a moot point.
If they keep winning, it doesn’t matter what the other teams around them do.
They did just that for a second-consecutive night Wednesday, using a four-run third inning to snap a tie and beat the Detroit Tigers 6-2.
The win, along with the Los Angeles loss to Oakland, dropped the Texas magic number to clinching their first West title since 2011 to two games with four games to go. There are still all kinds of scenarios that can play out over the next four days, but all the Rangers are focusing on is what they can control.
"I believe in the fact these guys are in the now players," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "No opportunity wasted. I believe they concentrate on what’s going on right in front of their face. They really don’t get caught up in what’s down the road."
Wednesday that meant beating Detroit rookie left-hander Matt Boyd for a third time this season.
The Rangers did just that in powerful fashion by busting the game open in the third inning.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos, who was making his first start since Sept. 9, got the inning started on the right note by hitting his first home run since July 18 to give Texas a 3-2 lead. Boyd retired the next two batters before Texas put together three-straight hits with the heart of its batting order. A bloop single by Prince Fielder scored Adrian Beltre before Mike Napoli lashed a two-run homer to left to make it a 6-2 game.
Napoli, who was replaced in left by Will Venable after his homer, is now hitting .417 against left-handed pitchers. The club is now 9-2 in his 11 starts in left. His third-inning homer is the reason he continues to get the nod.
"I’m just trying to give a tough at-bat every time," Napoli said. "I know the situation. I know I’m going to get two or three at-bats and hopefully we’ll have the lead and they can put some defense in there."
That scenario played out perfectly Wednesday, as the third proved to be more than enough support for Yovani Gallardo (13-11) and the Texas bullpen.
Gallardo surrendered a pair of first-inning runs, but that was all he allowed in his 5 1/3 innings of work. He was also taken off the hook for his first-inning bobble in the bottom of the frame as the Rangers tied the game on a two-run homer from Adrian Beltre.
Gallardo still hasn’t pitched more than six innings in a game since June, but he gave the Rangers a chance once again and that’s all that mattered.
"For the guys to come right back there and tie it up in the first inning that was big," said Gallardo, who has now started at least 30 games and thrown at least 180 innings in seven-consecutive seasons. "I just had to hold it down after that and make pitches. "It’s great. You just have to give the guys a chance to come back and swing the bat. They’ve been doing it the whole year."
Now that the Detroit series is over, the Rangers can now focus on their four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers can eliminate the Angels from the West picture Thursday night.
That’s what’s in-the-now for Texas.
"We’ve got one goal and that’s to go out there tomorrow and take that one and finish our business," said first baseman Mitch Moreland. "We have one more series to go and we need to come out ready to go."