Rangers save big celebration for AL West title
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are going back to the postseason, and they did open up a couple of bottles of champagne on Thursday night for a small toast, but just a small one.
"We were celebrating a little bit, but we're holding off for a better one," reliever Shawn Tolleson said.
The Rangers were celebrating because they assured themselves of a postseason spot with a 5-3 victory over the Angels. But they haven't wrapped up the AL West title just yet. The Rangers need one more win or one more loss by the Astros in the season's final three games to accomplish that task.
"We had a toast, yes," manager Jeff Banister said. "I believe in celebrating moments that are important to a group of guys in that clubhouse and what they accomplished. We are not done yet. We still have a mission to accomplish."
Right now the worst the Rangers could do is finish in a tie with the Astros, lose a tiebreaker game and end up in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser against the Yankees. One more victory or an Astros loss would give the Rangers the division title and put them in the AL Division Series.
The Rangers would start on the road against either the Royals or the Blue Jays in a five-game ALDS that would start on Thursday. As division champions, the Rangers would play the one that finishes with the league's second-best record. They each enter Friday 92-67. In case of a tie, the Blue Jays would go as the top seed and play the Wild Card winner because they won their season series against the Royals.
"We want to finish the job we started," outfielder Josh 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. Still, everybody is excited at the same time."
The Rangers reached postseason by going 44-23 in their last 67 games. That goes back to July 29, when they started the day 47-52 and eight games out of first place.
"It has been a crazy year. Sometimes it was a tough battle," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "But that's what makes the year so special. It wasn't easy, but it makes us stronger as a team. We are proud of what we accomplished."
The Rangers are 87-72 on the season, a 20-win improvement on what they went through in 2014. That's the third largest increase in wins from one year to next in club history.
"As a team, we've come a long way," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "This season has had its ups and downs … but overall it has been fun because it's been a grind the whole year. A lot of people didn't expect us to be here, and we found a way to get here. This is just accepting the fact that we're in the playoffs. But our eyes are still on the division."