Monday night at Rogers Centre, the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays opened a . You only need to glance at the American League wild-card standings entering Monday to understand how important this series is for the two clubs:
- Tampa Bay Rays: 88-56 (+8.5 GB)
- Toronto Blue Jays: 80-63 (+1 GB)
- Seattle Mariners: 79-64
- Texas Rangers: 78-64 (0.5 GB)
Four head-to-head games mean a chance to bury a direct wild-card competitor and create a little cushion with fewer than three weeks remaining in the regular season. A split isn't the end of the world, not even for the Rangers, but it would represent a lost opportunity. You only get so many chances to take matters into your own hands this late in the season.
Monday's series opener went to the Rangers thanks partly to top prospect Evan Carter, who swatted his first career home run to tie the game 2-2 in the third inning. Corey Seager then gave the Rangers a lead with a fifth-inning RBI single, and Jonah Heim broke it open with a seventh-inning grand slam. Texas won the series opener 10-4 (box score).
Here is Carter's first MLB home run.. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Carter the .
Right-hander Dane Dunning gave the Rangers six workmanlike innings, holding the Blue Jays to three runs on six hits and three walks. He struck out seven. Relievers Chris Stratton, Martín Pérez, and Ian Kennedy recorded the final nine outs for Texas. Carter, Heim, Seager, Leody Taveras, and Robbie Grossman all had multiple hits as part of an 11-hit outburst by the Rangers.
Monday's win moved the Rangers to within a half-game of the Blue Jays for a wild-card spot. On Tuesday, they'll send trade deadline addition Max Scherzer (12-6, 3.91 ERA) to the mound against Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-2, 2.65 ERA). That is the sort of game you go get a guy like Scherzer to win: late in the season against a team you're battling for a postseason spot.
Even with Monday's win, the Rangers are only 7-16 in their last 23 games..