The Texas Rangers have guaranteed themselves the opportunity to play a 163rd game in the 2012 season by clinching at least one of two AL Wild Card spots in the MLB playoffs with an 8-7 win Sunday night over the Los Angeles Angels. This will mark the first time in Texas Rangers franchise history where the team has advanced to the playoffs three years in a row.
Now the Rangers will travel to face the Oakland Athletics needing to win just one game of a three game set to clinch the AL West title for the third year in a row as well. This year, that division title is worth more than it has been any other year because Wild Card spots are no longer equal in value to the playoff spots for division winners.
For the Angels, their season is all but finished as their only hope of extending play beyond 162 games is if they sweep the Seattle Mariners and the Rangers sweep the Athletics. That would put the Angels in a tie with the Athletics, requiring a one-game playoff in order to reach the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays are in the same boat as the Angels, so there is still a conceivable chance for a three-way tie for that one last Wild Card spot (the other has been claimed by either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles, whichever one doesn’t win the AL East). While the odds of that happening are slim to none, the 2011 season showed us that anything is possible, right down to game number 162.
The Rangers will send rookie pitcher Martin Perez to the mound on Monday to attempt to seal the division title. The Athletics saw the Rangers clinch the 2010 AL West crown on their field in Oakland. They will need to sweep the Rangers this week to not only prevent seeing the Rangers celebrate another division victory on their field, but to put themselves into a tie for first place in the division.
The MLB season is down to three games. Each of these three games counts the same as any of the other 159 that have been played, and yet the magnitude of each game seems exponentially larger now. October baseball, and all the intensity, drama, heartbreak and elation that comes with it begins tomorrow.
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