This evening, the Texas Rangers will take on the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, a winner-take-all game to advance to the World Series. The Rangers will be starting future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, whose season was supposed to be over when he tore a shoulder muscle in early September, and who was rocked in his return to action in Game 3. The Astros will be starting Cristian Javier, who had a mediocre 4.56 ERA in the regular season, but who also sports a 2.08 career postseason ERA, including allowing just two runs on three hits in 5.2 IP in Game 3.
It will be all hands on deck for both teams, I imagine — other than Nathan Eovaldi and Framber Valdez, last night’s starters, every pitcher on each team will likely be available. Don’t be surprised if Jordan Montgomery is brought in to face Yordan Alvarez in a key moment, or if Justin Verlander is asked to close the game out for the Astros.
This has been a terrific series so far — I mentioned on Twitter last night it has probably been more fun for a fan who doesn’t have a rooting interest. For fans of the teams involved, it has been gut-wrenching, anxiety-inducing, stressful...but also exhilarating.
This isn’t exactly a coin flip game, but it is pretty close. The Astros are slight favorites. Fangraphs has the Astros with a 56% chance to win. The oddsmakers have the Astros at -125 favorites. The edge is to Houston, but just slightly.
I’m anxious right now. I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m counting the minutes until game time...and then, once it is game time, I’ll be tense and agitated and almost wishing I could go to sleep and wake up and find out what happened.
And I know I’m not the only one.
Amidst all this, though, I find myself taking a step back to appreciate what a ride this season has been, how amazing this team has been. The 40-20 start, Jacob deGrom going down for the year, the bullpen volatility, picking up Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the deadline, the winning streaks where it seemed the Rangers were unbeatable, the losing streaks where it seemed the Rangers would never win again, the pitcher injuries down the stretch, the awful series in Seattle, the rolling over Tampa and Baltimore, the back-and-forth series with the Astros.
This is a franchise that has, throughout its history, been weird. The 2023 Texas Rangers season has definitely been weird, and also wonderful.
And I wanted to take a moment today to appreciate how weird and wonderful this season, and this team, has been, regardless of what happens tonight.
Longtime readers of LSB have heard me talk about this before — I did a whole post about it before the 2011 playoffs — but there is a quote from Warren Zevon that I heard years ago that has stuck with me. In 2002, Zevon, who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, was on the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman asked him if there was anything that he understood now that he was facing his own mortality. Zevon responded, “Just how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”
Whatever happens tonight, this has been a magical season, the type of season that makes being a fan worthwhile. Take a moment today to think about the 2023 Texas Rangers, how fun and infuriating and special and maddening and entertaining they have been.