ST. PETERSBURG -- For the past week, one game has felt like an ocean to cross for the Rangers. It took two days for them to clinch a postseason berth in Seattle, and they were just one win away from winning the AL West before falling in Game 162 to the Mariners.
Coming into Tropicana Field on Wednesday, the Rangers once again found themselves one game away, this time from advancing to the ALDS for the first time since 2016. And at last, they got the one win they needed.
“That's the kind of baseball we want to play,” Marcus Semien said. “Obviously, it’s a different opponent in Seattle. They're built on starting pitching and [we] just saw different arms there than we did here. We matched up well with Tampa. We’ll enjoy today, enjoy tonight and move on to our next opponent. But you saw that this is what this team is capable of.”
Texas will now head to Baltimore to face the Orioles in a best-of-five series in the ALDS starting on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers were 3-3 against Baltimore in the regular season.
The Rangers made it hard on themselves, and had a cross-country flight to prove it. But despite the disappointment at the end of the regular season, they quickly turned the page to a tough Tampa Bay team and essentially dominated the series.
“It’s the resilience of at-bats, pitches, and competition,” Corey Seager said. “We've never gone down, we've never just gone away and rolled over. To be able to do that in big moments and calm the nerves and everything like we did in this series, it's really special.”
The Rangers' all-around dominant effort on the mound made them just the sixth team in postseason history to hold an opponent to one run or fewer in a series spanning at least two games. The Rays entered the set riding a streak of 20 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, but they snapped the skid at 33 with a seventh-inning run in Game 2.
Manager Bruce Bochy emphasized leading up to the postseason that resilience was the theme of this Rangers team. From seeing five of their six All-Stars hit the injured list to losing two aces in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer to deploying a bullpen that has faced criticism all season long, the Rangers have overcome every hurdle and ended up right where they thought they would be: advancing in the postseason, with a chance to win the World Series.
“I think a lot of credit goes to Bochy from the beginning of the season,” Eovaldi said of the club’s resilience. “We knew what the front office expected of us at the beginning of the season. We knew coming in we had a really good team. He's been able to prepare us for these big moments, and we know what we're capable of doing. It's just us going out there and executing our plan.”
Bochy, who has also managed the Padres and Giants, became just the fourth manager in history to win a postseason round with three franchises, joining Bob Melvin, Dusty Baker and Davey Johnson. Bochy has also won 14 postseason rounds now, good for third all-time behind just Joe Torre (19) and Tony La Russa (16).
More than anything, Bochy has piloted the ship for a club coming off six consecutive losing seasons, and put them right back in the thick of a postseason race.
“He instills confidence in you as a player,” Jung said of Bochy’s impact. “He lets you go out and play your game, and that's all you can ask for in a manager -- somebody that's not going to micromanage you and let you go play your game. I feel like even when we had our scuffles, even when things weren't going our way, or even my way, per se, he just keeps throwing you back out there. The confidence he has in you, gives you confidence as a player.”
Bochy, on the other hand, credited general manager Chris Young for bringing him out of retirement and committing to bringing winning baseball back to North Texas.
“I envisioned that we had a talented enough team to make the postseason and compete for a world championship,” Young said. “How that would play out and the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs that we've been through, if there's one thing I've learned, this team is resilient. They've got a lot of character and, and it's been fun watching them go out and earn these moments.”