The Angels clawed their way back from the brink of extinction Saturday night, scoring 5 runs in the ninth inning against the Rangers to secure an improbable 11-10 victory and keep their playoff hopes alive. But for all of yesterday’s magic, the Angels find themselves back on the brink, and there’s plenty still at stake for the Rangers.
If the Angels lose, they go home. If the Astros beat the Diamondbacks, the Angels go home. If the Angels win, and the Astros lose, the two teams would meet Monday in Houston for a one-game tiebreaker to determine who wins the second Wild Card spot, and the right to play yet another do-or-die game, this one against the Yankees.
The Rangers, who have already secured a playoff spot, sit atop the AL West, one game ahead of the Astros. If the Rangers win today or if the Astros lose, the Rangers clinch the division. If the Rangers lose and the Astros win, the two teams would meet Monday in Texas for a one-game tiebreaker, with the winner moving on to the Divisional round, and the loser earning the chance to play the Yankees in the Wild Card game. No matter what, the Rangers are in.
The Rangers are undefeated in Cole Hamels’ last 9 starts, during which his ERA has been 3.39. September/October has historically been Hamels’ second-best month, as he’s gone 24-13 with a 2.96 ERA during that time over his career. And he’s been nearly as good in the playoffs, going 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA. A stage this big doesn’t even faze Hamels.
The Angels were originally going to send Nick Tropeano to the hill, coming off the best game of his life on Tuesday, allowing just one run over 6 ⅔ innings with 11 strikeouts. But with so much on the line, the Angels have decided instead to give the ball to staff ace Garrett Richards on just three days rest. Richards went 4-2 in September with a 2.90 ERA, but the 5.4 BB/9IP has to make you nervous, as does the unsustainably low BABIP of .232 over that span.
What should really make Angels fans nervous is that Richards has never before pitched on three days rest. Over the past 10 seasons, teams have gone 241-282, a woeful .461 winning percentage, when pitching a guy on short rest.
The larger problem with this strategy for a team like the Angels is that even if they manage to win with Richards today, they have another must-win game on Monday – sure would be nice to have their ace on full rest for that one.
All stats courtesy Baseball-Reference.com
Watch the Los Angeles Angels vs. the Texas Rangers at 3:05pm ET Sunday on TBS.