Much like we basically know the NL East is going to the Washington Nationals and the NL Central is definitely going to the Chicago Cubs , the AL West is all but decided here on Sept. 3. The Texas Rangers have a 10 1/2-game lead over the Houston Astros after yet another head-to-head victory on Saturday, 12-4 over Houston.
Entering Saturday, SportsLine gave the Rangers a 99.8 percent chance of winning the AL West. After another win over the Astros, it should be 100 percent heading into Sunday. There are only 26 games left. To put this into perspective, if the Rangers were to go 8-18 the rest of the way, the Astros would have to go 19-8 in order to end up in a tie.
Is that possible? Sure. Obviously it’s possible. Is it plausible? No, it’s really not.
Remember that historic Boston Red Sox collapse in 2011, when the Tampa Bay Rays ran them down and it culminated with Evan Longoria ‘s walk-off homer/the Red Sox losing in walk-off fashion to the Baltimore Orioles ? The Rays were nine games back on Sept. 3. They went 16-8 while the Red Sox went 6-18 the rest of the way. That was drastic, and in the case of the Rangers and Astros, even that wouldn’t get it done for Houston. They’d need a more extreme comeback. The odds are heavily stacked against that, too, when looking at the schedule.
Of the Rangers’ 26 games left, 18 come against terrible teams ( Los Angeles Angels , A’s, Milwaukee Brewers , Rays). After Sunday’s game in Texas, the Astros have four in Cleveland and then host the Cubs for three.
So we can probably feel at least mildly safe in just saying this thing is over. I’d feel strong enough to wager something hefty, if anyone would actually take the Astros side.
How it happened on Saturday was — nevermind. It doesn’t matter, other than to say that the Rangers have totally just crushed their opposition to the point of it surely being demoralizing. They’ve been doing it all season. It’s one of the more remarkable displays on divisional dominance in head-to-heads in recent memory.
The Rangers are now 13-2 against the Astros. Earlier this week, they effectively ruined the Seattle Mariners ‘ playoff chances with a sweep and sit 11-4 against Seattle.
So the Rangers are 24-6 against the two other playoff contenders in their division. That’s a 162-game pace of 130 wins. They completely and utterly own the Astros and Mariners.
How bad is it? They’ve actually won the division solely because of the head-to-head dominance.
Check this out. If we take out the games the Rangers have played against the Astros and Mariners, here are the winning percentages of the three teams:
Astros, .575 (162-game pace of 93 wins)
Rangers, .547 (162-game pace of 89 wins)
Mariners, .546 (162-game pace of 88 wins)
That would have been quite the race, if the Mariners or certainly the Astros could hang with the Rangers when they play them. They just can’t. The entire division has swung based on one team dominating the head-to-head matchups.
The Rangers are an interesting team. They’ve lost Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to injuries. The current rotation beyond Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish hasn’t been very good — and Darvish has only made 12 starts. The bullpen was awful for a while and still entered Saturday with a 4.76 ERA (27th in baseball). They didn’t have a productive catcher until the trade deadline, either.
We’ve already discussed the head-to-head dominance of their competitors, but they’ve also been magic in one-run games. They are 30-8 in such affairs. That is the best record in baseball history in one-run games. Here’s the top five:
1. 2016 Rangers, 30-8
2. 2012 Orioles, 29-9
3. 1981 Orioles, 21-7
4. 1908 Pittsburgh Pirates , 33-12
5. 1970 Orioles, 40-15
The new-school way of thinking is to see all of this and declare that the Rangers have actually been more lucky than good and they’ll stop being so lucky soon. We’ve also been hearing that all season. Once the playoffs begin, everything is reset to zero, and you’ll be looking at a Rangers team that is unbelievably confident in themselves in close games and that has as much talent as anyone. They can also use a Darvish/Hamels combo for three games in the divisional round and four games in the ALCS and/or World Series should they advance.
They’ve gotten this far with dominating important head-to-head matchups and winning close games. Who is to say it can’t continue?
Source: CBS Sports / Rangers dominating Astros, Mariners and close games en route to AL West title