SEATTLE -- Two years ago, the Rangers lost more than 100 games for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Texas followed up one of its worst seasons ever with the mega signings of middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien the following offseason, but general manager Chris Young urged everybody at the time to not get too eager. It would not be a single-year fix. The Rangers wouldn't go from 100 losses to 100 wins in one winter.
As it turned out, it took two years and another offseason spending spree to get to 90 wins and a return to the postseason.
With a 6-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday at T-Mobile Park, the Rangers secured their first postseason berth since 2016, which was also the club’s most recent winning season.
- If Texas wins or Houston loses: The Rangers win the AL West and receive a first-round bye.
- If Texas loses, Houston wins and Toronto wins (all finish with 90 wins): This is not treated as a three-way tie, but rather as two separate two-way ties, with the AL West being settled first. In that scenario, the AL West would to go Houston, by virtue of winning the season series against Texas. The Rangers would take the second WC spot while the Blue Jays would have the third WC spot. (Texas finished with a better head-to-head record.)
- If Texas loses, Houston wins and Toronto loses: The Astros win the AL West, the Rangers would take the second WC spot while the Blue Jays would have the third WC spot.
Their 90 wins are tied for the seventh most in club history. It’s just their ninth season with 90 or more wins, already a 22-win improvement over 2022 (68). That’s the third best (full seasons only) year-over-year increase in Rangers history (plus-27 in 1974, plus-25 in 1986).
“This is what I came back for,” said manager Bruce Bochy, who came out of retirement this offseason. “There’s nothing like it. It’s been some kind of ride so far and we got a lot of work to do, but to be in this moment right now, these are memories that you will never forget. For these guys, I couldn't be happier, because we've been through a lot.”
For Nathaniel Lowe, one of just four remaining members of the 2021 team that lost 102 games, clinching a playoff berth feels even better.
“It feels so sweet,” Lowe said. “After getting beaten for two years straight wearing this uniform, to be able to come out and know that we have a real chance to win a World Series is all you can ask for. So yeah, I'm grateful to be a part of the team and we're looking forward to a great postseason run.”
Heaney posted a 4.22 ERA over 27 starts this year before moving to the bullpen following the Trade Deadline acquisitions of Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery. With Jon Gray landing on the IL on Friday, Heaney was handed the spot start with the season on the line. He delivered with 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
“The story was Andrew Heaney,” Bochy said. “To get the one day off and he goes out there and throws a beautiful game. Ran into some tough luck there in the fifth, but he got us where we wanted him to get us and did a terrific job.”
Leclerc, the longest-tenured Ranger, opened the season as the team’s closer before struggling to a 6.75 ERA in May. He only recently returned to high-leverage situations, and he recorded the final four outs of Saturday's win.
“It was special for José,” Bochy said. “To go out there and finish, we couldn't have had a more right guy on the mound.”
The Rangers know the job still isn’t finished.
Even amid Saturday’s clubhouse celebration, the entire team paused to watch the bottom of the ninth inning between the Astros and D-backs in Arizona. When Houston secured a 1-0 win, the clubhouse knew there was one more game to play, and win, to secure the AL West.
Semien said Saturday’s celebration doesn’t at all affect their desire to come out to win on Sunday.
“I think it's easier to get up for tomorrow,” he said. “We're in first place right now. We are the first-place team in control of our own destiny. It's a big challenge for us tomorrow with [Seattle starter George] Kirby. We just need to focus on what the plan is and put up runs. That's what we’ve been doing all season long.”