BALTIMORE — On Sept. 24, they took one win, packed up their gear and left Globe Life Field, wondering what awaited them upon their return.
Division title? Insurmountable deficit in the playoffs? Or the worst case scenario: a date with a T-shirt and deer stands and a winter full of regrets.
Instead, the Texas Rangers returned to their home in the Metroplex on Sunday night in an enviable position they had gained during a must-win two-week competition that took them to all four corners of the country.
On Sunday night, they peppered the Baltimore Orioles with timely hits, accepted their offers of free base tickets and searched everywhere for a team to beat in the American League playoffs with an 11-8 victory in the second game of their division series at Camden Yards.
Texas leads the ALDS 2-0 and can eliminate the top-seeded 101-win Orioles with a home win in Game 3 on Tuesday or, if necessary, Game 4.
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The series tilted, perhaps for good, towards Texas on Sunday in the third inning when Baltimore reliever Bryan Baker walked three Rangers in a row and designated hitter Mitch Garver got them all on the line with a grand slam off Jacob Webb to give the Rangers a 9 lead -2 and opening what looked like a slug dragging back and forth.
Instead, the Rangers took command and erased a 2-0 deficit by chasing Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez in the second inning, giving up 11 hits that felt like 100 thanks to 11 walks by Orioles pitchers, six of which came in the plate.
Now they will face seasoned playoff starter Nathan Eovaldi for Game 3, and the Orioles will face starters Dean Kremer, Kyle Gibson and the entire bullpen in hopes of stopping them.
It’s an enviable position the Rangers would be happy to take after beating Seattle 9-8 in their final home game of the year and then going on a season-ending seven-game road trip.
But oh, what an odyssey to get here.
They won just three of seven games at the end of the season, securing a spot in the playoffs but missing their chance at the league title by losing 1-0 to Seattle in Game 162 and then hopping on a nearly six-hour flight to Tampa Bay in the wild. -a series of cards.
That’s where they found their footing, with Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery throwing gems to sweep the Rays on a muted and empty Tropicana Field.
It was at Camden Yards, playing in front of an energized crowd of over 46,000, that they solidified their playoff position and landed on the doorstep of the AL Championship Series.
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Starters Andrew Heaney and Montgomery played competently enough, and Montgomery followed Heaney’s lead and was lifted in the fourth inning of Sunday’s Game 2. However, the bullpen was briefly shut down but led by manager Bruce Bochy. Manager Bruce Bochy’s capable arm performed well, with rookie lefty Cody Bradford following Montgomery and giving up just three hits in 3 2/3 crucial innings of relief.
However, it is the Rangers squad that will put potential playoff foes on high alert.
“The situation is so drawn out that there is no easy way out, I think, for the entire squad,” Bochy says.
Garver’s hitting was the star on Sunday, but their entire lineup was truly exceptional. No. 9 hitter Leody Taveras tied the game with two runs and a double in the second inning, scored three runs and drew two walks. Every Ranger reached base at least once – second batter Corey Seager had a postseason record five walks – and the Rangers outscored their opponents 24-6 in four playoff games.
That’s cause for celebration when their charter arrives at Love Field in Dallas late Sunday evening.
“We’re going home,” says Bochy. “It looks like we’ve been on the road for a month.”
Says Eovaldi, who is about to start his eighth career playoff game: “The atmosphere in Baltimore was amazing. The fans are electric. But I think we’re all very excited to come home and play a home playoff game for the first time since 2016.
“We will feed on them and it will be fun.”
Even more fun when the Rangers know they will definitely pack their bags again and have greater destinations on the horizon.
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