The Texas Rangers became the fourth American League team to clinch a playoff berth by defeating the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night, 6-1. This could have happened earlier, but the Mariners won the first two games of the series to delay the matter for Texas.
Though the Rangers have secured a playoff berth, the fate of the AL West still hangs in the balance. The Astros won Saturday night in Arizona, 1-0, and remain one game behind the Rangers. The Astros have the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series, nine games to four. Still, the Rangers have the lead, so either a Rangers win or Astros loss gives Texas the division title while Houston needs to win and the Rangers to lose. Should the Rangers complete the job, it would be their first division championship since 2016.
The division title is a big deal and not just due to the difference in how "division champ" sounds as opposed to "wild-card." Whoever wins the AL West will get the No. 2 seed in the American League, which means the chance to rest until Saturday, skip the Wild Card Series and play the first two ALDS games, and possibly Game 5, at home.
The Rangers had previously not made the postseason since 2016. The winds of change have swept through the organization in recent years. Texas has become a big-time spender, signing the likes of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jacob deGrom. Additionally, the Rangers were aggressive at the deadline, acquiring starters Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery. (Scherzer, whose regular season ended in mid-September after he suffered a teres major strain, .)
Those are just the moves the Rangers made for veteran players. We'd be remiss to ignore that this is the first season at the helm for skipper Bruce Bochy, who came out of retirement in exchange for what's believed to be one of, if not the highest current managerial salary in the sport (Bochy reportedly makes around $6 million, according to the New York Post's Jon Heyman).
The Rangers have spent money all over the last few years in order to put themselves in this position. Now, they will be rewarded with October baseball. We'll find out Sunday if that's as a division champ with a bye or as a wild card.