The Lone Star State is about to get a double dose of October baseball.
The Texas Rangers clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 with a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday at T-Mobile Park. A few minutes later in Arizona, the reigning champion Houston Astros stamped their ticket to the postseason with a 1-0 win over the Diamondbacks, a result that eliminated the Mariners.
The Rangers’ magic number to clinch the AL West title is down to one, with a single game left to play. Houston will win the division with a win on Sunday and a Rangers loss.
“We’re still trying to win this division. But to get there, you work too hard from spring training to pass this up,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You got to enjoy it. You got to celebrate.”
The ninth playoff berth in Rangers franchise history comes just two years after the club lost 102 games. Texas went 68-94 last year despite several high-profile signings before finally righting the ship this summer after hiring the future Hall of Fame skipper.
“This is what I came back for, and there’s nothing like it,” Bochy said. “It’s been some kind of ride so far, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. But to be in this moment right now, these are memories you never forget, and for these guys, I couldn’t be happier.”
First baseman Nathaniel Lowe led the way for Texas on Saturday, going 2-for-4 with a run-scoring single in the first inning. Catcher Jonah Heim went 1-for-3 with three RBIs.
José Abreu played hero for Houston on Saturday, driving in the only run his team would need against Arizona with a fourth-inning RBI double. Justin Verlander struck out five over five innings, and Hector Neris got out of a big jam with 1.2 innings of ace relief work.
“The celebration was a bit muted,” Verlander said. “Keep your eye on the prize.”
On Sunday, the Astros will try and reach the 90-win mark for the sixth time in seven seasons, a streak that was only interrupted by the shortened 2020 campaign. The Astros have reached the ALCS every year since 2017, winning four AL pennants and two championships over this current stretch.
Seattle, meanwhile, finds itself the odd club out once again. Starter Luis Castillo was shelled by the Rangers in his most important start of the year, allowing four earned runs on five hits while walking five in just 2.2 innings of work, essentially sealing his team’s fate early on in Saturday’s game.
It’s a disappointing end for a Mariners squad that was looking to build on last season’s success. The franchise has now missed the playoffs in 21 of the last 22 seasons.
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