The Texas Rangers Are the Perfect Twins Playoff Opponent

Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers sat atop the AL West as MLB entered the All-Star Break on July 14. They had a two-game lead over the Houston Astros and a first-round bye in the postseason. Since then, the Rangers have gone 24-22, lost their lead in their division, and the first-round bye. However, as of this writing, they are one game back of Houston and the Seattle Mariners. More importantly, they are desperately holding onto the last wild card spot over the Toronto Blue Jays, who are just a half-game behind them.

The Minnesota Twins have gone in the exact opposite direction. Going into the All-Star Break, they were a half-game back of the Cleveland Guardians. Many people wondered what Minnesota needed to do to get back into contention and pull away from a weak AL Central.

Fast forward to this week, and the Twins find themselves with a six-game lead over the Guardians, cruising toward the postseason. Considering the way things have unfolded over the last few weeks, with the Rangers struggling and the Twins gaining momentum, Texas has transformed from a team that was unlikely to be a playoff opponent to the ideal first-round opponent for the Twins, provided everything goes according to plan.

Texas has had it rough at the end of August. They went on an eight-game win streak, making it seem like they’ve figured out their bullpen issues. Then they turned it around and went on an eight-game losing streak that ended in Minnesota on August 26. The Rangers series showed everyone the Twins’ true potential. Minnesota’s lineup changes are making an impact as the postseason approaches, and it shows.

Since the All-Star Break, Minnesota is ranked:

  • Third in the league with 16 come-from-behind wins
  • Seventh out of the 30 teams in runs scored (232)
  • Third in homers (75)
  • Tied for fifth in wRC+ (121)
  • And sixth in on-base percentage (.340) and slugging percentage (.464)

The biggest challenge Minnesota would face in a playoff series against Texas is almost certainly starting Max Scherzer Game 1 against the Twins. Since joining the Rangers at the trade deadline, Scherzer has posted a 2.21 ERA with 47 strikeouts through 36 2/3 innings.  If you watched the series this past weekend, you saw Minnesota struggle to get a hit against Scherzer. He only allowed one hit before being pulled as a precaution with forearm tightness. Once the Rangers went to their bullpen, the Twins not only got the hits to win the game but came from behind to pull off the upset.

There’s almost certainly animosity between these two teams, which is always good for fans. I’m also sure the media would love the added buildup, especially in the postseason. If you watched the August 25 game in Minnesota, each team’s pitcher threw the ball at the opposing team’s batter during the game. The benches cleared, and eventually, the bullpens emptied. It didn’t lead to anything. The teams mostly stood around and had a few choice words with one another. Still, it has already created a little rivalry.

During the August 27 Rangers game, the Twins got creative with their pitching strategy, combining Bailey Ober and Dallas Keuchel’s pitching talents. While probably not what the Twins originally intended, Ober pitched for four innings before they replaced him for what seemed to be performance-related reasons, with the Twins trailing 5-0.

After that, Keuchel took over and kept the Rangers from scoring. The Twins came back with four runs in the sixth inning and one run in the ninth inning, sending the game into extras. Minnesota would go on to win that game 7-6 in 13 innings. Given how well that worked, the Twins are likely to continue more creative pitching strategies in the postseason. However, it’s still uncertain who will make it to the final roster for the Twins postseason. That will be something to watch as we get closer to October.

Twins fans need to pay attention to the head-to-head play over the last month in the AL West. The Rangers and Astros opened a three-game set Monday in Arlington. The Mariners will play their last ten games of the regular season against Texas and Houston – seven against the Rangers sandwiched around a three-game Astros series. One of these teams will make a trip to the Twin Cities for some postseason baseball in October. Twins fans want the Rangers to lose enough games to keep their wild card spot but not win enough so they improve their divisional standings.

Given how Minnesota has played against the Rangers in the regular season, I want a 3-game series with Texas at Target Field in October. The Rangers would be the easiest opponent for the Twins in the first round, allowing them to end their dreaded 18-game postseason losing streak.

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