Rangers advance again, and wait for ALCS opponent
The Texas Rangers are back in the AL championship series and waiting for an opponent.
This is a team that didn't win a postseason series in the franchise's first 49 seasons before getting to the World Series last year. Now the Rangers have advanced in the playoffs two years in a row.
''We committed ourselves to a goal (last spring) and they made it to that goal, we are getting another opportunity to play to go to the World Series,'' manager Ron Washington said Wednesday, a day after the Rangers wrapped up their AL division series with a 4-3 victory at Tampa Bay.
''I don't see where it gives us any advantage,'' he said. ''The only thing it does, we certainly know what we have to do. I think our guys are more aware of getting to this point is not where we want to be. We want to be playing in the World Series.''
Game 1 of the AL championship series is Saturday. For the Rangers, it will be either an ALCS rematch starting at the New York Yankees or at home against Detroit.
The Tigers and Yankees play the deciding Game 5 of their AL division series Thursday night in New York.
Before last year, the entire postseason history for the Rangers - who began as the Washington Senators from 1961-71 - consisted of playing the Yankees in the AL division series three times in the second half of the 1990s with nine losses in a row.
Texas won its first-ever playoff game 15 years ago at old Yankee Stadium before New York won three in a row to clinch that series. The Yankees swept the 1998 and 1999 series, outscoring Texas 23-2 in those six games. New York went to the World Series all three times.
Fittingly, the Rangers clinched its first World Series berth after beating the Yankees in a six-game AL championship series last October before losing in five games to the San Francisco.
Texas backed up its first AL pennant by setting a franchise record with 96 wins this season. They have won three AL playoff series in a row after eliminating the Rays in four games.
''You don't accomplish things like that unless you've got a lot of people with the same vision pulling hard and pulling together,'' said general manager Jon Daniels, who is wrapping up his sixth season in that position. ''We set out a few years ago to try to build something that would sustain over time, and we're not there yet. But hopefully we'll be able to look back 10 years from now and say, `Hey, we did something pretty special.'''
The Rangers have improved their record each year under Washington, who is in his fifth season.
''I'm proud of what we've accomplished on the field and as an organization, but still a few significant steps ahead of us to reach our goal,'' Daniels said.
Rangers players got a day off Wednesday, their first at home since Sept. 12 when they had a break during a homestand.
They will work out Thursday and Friday at Rangers Ballpark. Even if they have to fly to New York later Friday, they plan to have their workout at home before leaving. There were no plans to get together as a team Thursday night to watch the Tigers-Yankees game.
''We take the rest today. ... We need it,'' Washington said. ''We played down the stretch. Although I gave a few guys some days off, I certainly didn't give them as many days off or as much time off as I wanted to, but we were constantly playing at a high level because even though we won the division, we still had to play at a high level to make sure we kept the home-field advantage.''
C.J. Wilson, who lost the AL division series opener against Tampa Bay, is set to start Game 1 of the AL championship series. Washington said the rest of the rotation would be determined once the Rangers know who they are playing.
During the regular season, the Rangers struggled against both Detroit and New York.
Texas was 2-7 and outscored 62-35 by the Yankees, including a 1-5 mark in New York. CC Sabathia, the likely starter for the ALCS opener if New York advances, beat the Rangers twice this season and in Game 5 in last year's series.
The Rangers were 3-6 against Detroit. The winning pitcher for all three Texas victories was Alexi Ogando, who is now in the bullpen instead of the rotation for the playoffs. Ogando had three scoreless appearances against the Rays.
Catcher Mike Napoli, who was involved in a bone-jarring collision in Game 4 of the ALDS, was checked out by a doctor after Tuesday's game. Daniels and Washington said Napoli was fine.
Napoli was walking toward the pitching mound when Washington went out to check on him during the game. The manager got Napoli to come back to the plate since the umpire wanted to walk with them to the mound to make sure nothing was said to the pitcher.
''He turned around and walked back to the plate,'' Washington said. ''The next thing he said, `Geez, I had a wad of chew where is it?' He swallowed it.''
Then Napoli responded, ''All right, Skip, let's go.''