The 2015 AL West Champion Texas Rangers are headed to the home of the Toronto Blue Jays for a winner-take-all game on Wednesday, October 14th. Why? Former Ranger manager Ron Washington would say: "That's the way baseball go."
Why is the reality grim? We're headed into the house of the hottest hitting team in the majors, with a cripply Adrian Beltre and some pitching that has us praying every ball isn't crushed 450 feet. Rather, we're praying that they crush the ball 450 feet, but foul for strike two.
In the words of the great Michael Scott, it's as if the entire Rangers fan-base had its figurative tire-slashed...the hate note reads: "You guys suck. You can never pull together as one and revenge us. That is why you suck!" Deflated, bummed, hopeless is how we feel...and it's how our team looks when they step out on the field.
Here's the problem: The home team has everything to lose. That's why the Rangers came out swinging and stole two games in one of the loudest houses in baseball. That's why the Jays came out and stole two games back in a completely different park in Arlington. And that's why the Rangers have every ability to come out and steal game 5, crushing the playoff hopes of the Jays and their explosive lineup.
How? Quality pitching...long at-bats...effective management.
These 3 things led the Rangers to their first two victories, and the neglect of these three things caused the Rangers to lose back to back games in Arlington.
While it may not be popular or fun or conventionally wise, you have to throw a crap-ton of pitches to these guys to get them out. Especially with the way the umpiring has been (not calling ANY borderline or corner pitches strikes) you cannot take the opportunity to get out ahead in the count. With every successive game, the Jays' hitters have been more patient, more disciplined and more dangerous at the plate. They smell playoff success and they're going at it with everything they have.
The Rangers have to battle the way they did in Games 1 and 2. They swung at way too many first pitches in their two home games, completely killing momentum and letting the Jays' pitchers take a breath.
I understand the call to go to Holland in Game 4. It was the wrong call. Banister didn't heed his own advice. He fell back on conventional roles and gave Derek Holland the position and opportunity that he didn't deserve. Bad choice...paid the consequences. My advice to Banister? Stick with your gut...you were right to throw away conventional roles. Keep going with the strongest possible option at ALL TIMES.
I think the Rangers will lose a close game in Toronto. I hope the Rangers win a blowout game in Toronto. The "experts" thought the Rangers wouldn't even get to this point.
I hope the Jays go to sleep early Thursday morning with this proverb on their mind after having lost to the team that had "no chance" in the AL:
"That's the way baseball go."