Rangers wrap up playoff berth with win over Angels
The Texas Rangers allowed themselves just a taste of the good stuff after clinching their first playoff berth since 2012 with their 5-3 victory over Los Angeles Thursday night.
They know there’s still work to be done.
The Texas win clinched a wild-card spot for the Rangers and eliminated the Angels from contention in the American League West. The Rangers now just need one more win over the final three games or one loss from Houston in Arizona to wrap up their first division title since 2011.
Following the game there were t-shirts and caps handed out, a few words exchanged and a little champagne toast.
That was all part of the plan, but Thursday’s win isn’t the big prize.
"I believe in celebrating moments that are important," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "We’re not done yet. We’re not done at all. We still have a mission to accomplish and something that as a group of players we all talked about in spring training, but nobody else was talking about it but us."
While getting the playoff-clinching win for big for the Rangers, getting left-hander Derek Holland back on track may have been just as important.
Holland, who had struggled in four-consecutive starts, was much more effective Thursday as he pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs in picking up his fourth victory.
Holland showed no ill effects of the finger that was hit in his last start in Houston. He set the tone in the first inning by striking out the side, which was his first clean inning since a Sept. 15 start against Houston.
"The whole time everybody was worried about how I was performing and I didn’t want to let any of that stuff affect me," Holland said. "Each time I go out I’m trying to compete and get better every time. Obviously things weren’t going my way the past few starts, but I’m just happy all the work I’ve been doing to not let that stuff get to me and continue to push myself has paid off."
The Angels did get to Holland for a run in the second, but Texas gave the pitching staff all the support it would need with four runs in the fifth inning.
The Rangers tied the game on an RBI double by Delino Deshields off Andrew Haney. After Haney walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases, Adrian Beltre came through with the game’s big hit with a three-run double to left. The playoff-clinching hit pushed the Beltre RBI total to 32 since Sept. 1 and put the Rangers winning bullpen pieces into motion.
Texas had eight hits, missing on scoring chances early. They were able to string together some good at-bats in the fifth.
"We were kind of getting guys on base for two or three innings and not capitalize but in that inning we were able to put good at-bats, take some pitches," Beltre said. "I was able to hit a pretty good pitch he threw me on a 2-2 count. I was lucky enough to hit it where nobody was standing."
Los Angeles cut the lead to one after scoring single runs in the sixth and seventh, but 2 2/3 innings of scoreless work from the bullpen and Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh provided a little cushion.
It was the second big play of the night for Hamilton. He saved Holland in the second with a running over-the-shoulder catch on Shane Victorino’s sacrifice fly. Hamilton crashed into the wall with his surgically repaired left knee, but saved at least one run for Texas on what turned out to be a memorable night.
Hamilton said it hurt crashing into the wall, but he said he was fine after the game.
Like everyone else in the clubhouse, he was ready to move onto the next stage of the season, which would be winning the division.
"We want to finish the job we started," Hamilton said. "The ultimate goal is to win the World Series but first you have to get to the playoffs. We still have some work to do. Everybody is excited at the same time."
Excited enough for the first of what they hope is a long string of celebrations.
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