Rangers set to face Rays as 2nd AL Wild Card team

October 3rd, 2023

SEATTLE -- The Rangers briefly celebrated making the postseason on Saturday night, knowing the job wasn't finished. They knew they needed to win one more game to secure the American League West and leave it out of anybody else’s -- namely, the Astros’ and D-backs’ -- hands.

Instead, the Rangers’ bats were silenced by George Kirby and a trio of Mariners relievers on Sunday at T-Mobile Park to fall, 1-0, allowing the Astros to take the division with their 8-1 victory in Arizona.

“There's always going to be disappointment, because this game was huge,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I'm sure there's disappointment in [the clubhouse] still. Once we get on the plane, we have to realize, 'You're in the postseason.' You got to get your head back to where it needs to be. We're in the postseason and this is what we strive to do.”

Throwing a semi-bullpen game with starting on three days’ rest, the Rangers’ pitching staff did its job. Dunning, Martín Pérez and Jonathan Hernandez held Seattle to just four hits and one run, keeping things within reach for Texas’ offense.

But a ninth-inning comeback attempt fell short and Texas’ very long road trip continues. Instead of heading home with a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the AL Division Series, the Rangers have to make a cross-country flight to Florida, where they will face the Rays in a best-of-three Wild Card Series in St. Petersburg.

The Rangers drew no walks against Seattle's staff and mustered just four hits, two of which came from rookie outfielder Evan Carter. On a day when the bullpen -- which has had a troubling up-and-down season -- did its job, the offense failed to even put itself in a position to score runs.

“The pitching, I’ll start with that, what a great job they did,” said Bochy. “Dane battled and came back on early rest, got into a jam there. And Martín, what a great job he did get the ground ball we were looking for. You got to score runs to win the ballgame and we just got shut down. Kirby has been tough on a lot of teams. We knew we had our hands full and we had to find a way to get around it, and we couldn't do it. It just didn't happen today.”

Making the postseason at all is an accomplishment, but is this a disappointing finish for a club that spent 159 days of the season in first place?

“Yes and no,” Dunning said. “Obviously, it's a great feeling that we're still in a playoff spot. I mean, for us to lose it how we did, you know, tying with Houston and they obviously have the advantage over us, it hurts a little bit. But I know every single one of these guys, they grind and battle every day, and that's just kind of the way it is. We're looking forward to this next series and we're going to get started.”

Bochy emphasized that while it is a letdown in a way, it’s still important to just to look forward to the next series and prepare for the postseason, in whatever way that may be.

“It's obvious that we wanted to win this game,” Bochy said. “But we didn’t, so it's going to be up to us … to go through Tampa [Bay] and play a really good team. So we’ve got to bounce back and get this offense going. It's good to be here.”