The Rangers and Rays entered today’s action — the final day of regular season action — tied for the second AL Wild Card spot and remained so at the end of the day. While the Indians secured themselves top billing in the AL Wild Card play-in game, the Rangers and Rays will have to play a 163rd game against each other to decide who gets the privilege of matching up against the Tribe in the Wild Card play-in game on Wednesday.
The Rays scored six times in the first inning against the Blue Jays in what looked like an easy victory, but the Jays stormed back late to make things interesting. Trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Jays scored three times against Rays starter Matt Moore. They added on in the seventh against Jake McGee and two in the eighth against Joel Peralta and closer Fernando Rodney to bring the game to 7-6. Rodney, however, was able to record the four-out save to keep the Rays’ post-season hopes alive.
Meanwhile, the Rangers wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Angels, winning their seventh consecutive game to force that Game 163. Starter Yu Darvish was solid, allowing only a home run to Mike Trout in five and two-thirds innings of work. With two outs in the sixth, lefty Neal Cotts entered the game and allowed an inherited runner to score, charged to Darvish, to tie the game at 2-2. In the bottom half of the inning, Geovany Soto hit an RBI double to put the Rangers up 3-2, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They would score again in the seventh and twice in the eighth to go up 6-2. Joe Nathan pitched a comfortable ninth to keep the Rangers one win away from the post-season.
Tomorrow, at 8:07 PM Eastern, the Rangers will host the Rays. Lefty Martin Perez will oppose Rays lefty David Price. The winner will face Indians starter Danny Salazar on Wednesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner of the AL Wild Card game will play the AL East-leading Red Sox on Friday.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.