Last night, the Oakland Athletics clinched up a spot in the 2012 AL playoffs when they beat the Texas Rangers. Tonight when these two teams meet, first place in the AL West will be on the line.
The Rangers absolutely can’t believe that they are in this spot right now. They are now in a spot where they are looking back at the A’s, and are level with the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League, and New York will win that tiebreaker. The good news is that Texas does just need to win one of these last two games to win the AL West, though that is going to be a difficult task for sure here on the road. Matt Harrison is quietly an 18-game winner this year, and he is going to shoot for victory No. 19 when he takes the mound on Tuesday. We already know that this means that Harrison is going to be pitching on Sunday or Monday in the ALDS, assuming that Texas can win one of these last two games and avoid having to play in Friday’s one-game Wild Card playoff. Harrison has a 3.26 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while batters are hitting .258 against him. His numbers are virtually identical to those of last year, but he is getting more timely help from his team and has four more wins as a result.
Meanwhile, they’re going crazy in Oakland, where the A’s have guaranteed themselves at least a spot in Friday’s play-in game. It’s going to take a sweep of these last two games of the regular season to stay out of that game, knowing that the Athletics are one back with two to play. There is also a concern about what both the Yankees and Orioles are doing. Oakland owns the series tiebreaker against both the Yanks and the O’s. Right now, Oakland would be hosting the one-game playoff against the Orioles, but two wins and even just a single New York loss would give the Athletics the best record in the American League as well. Men like Travis Blackley, Tuesday night’s pitcher, are the reason that the A’s are in this great spot. Blackley has had some starts in the rotation this year, but at least since the start of September, he has been put back in the bullpen, calling into question whether he will be on the postseason roster or not. Blackley is 5-4 with a 4.00 ERA this year, though he has allowed too many home runs (10) considering the fact that he has only thrown 96.2 innings of work.
This has to be the night that the Rangers take care of business, and they know it. Oakland is too busy celebrating the fact that it is in the playoffs, and it will be distracted by what should be the ultimate goal. Texas gets the ‘Y’ next to its name, clinching the AL West title on Tuesday, avoiding the stress of tomorrow’s regular season finale. Texas 10 – Oakland 5