With their thrilling 4-3 victory over the A’s in Oakland on Saturday, the Texas Rangers have finally made their long-awaited return to baseball’s promised land, earning their first postseason berth since 1999.

While it was nearly a foregone conclusion that they would eventually clinch the AL West, considering their significant division lead, nothing in baseball is ever set in stone until the other potential outcomes are mathematically eliminated. The Rangers were able to erase any lingering doubt, claiming the American League West division crown with a week’s worth of regular-season action remaining.

The ability to clinch with a week left should not be underestimated. Although their rotation has been set-up for postseason action for the last few weeks, the Rangers now don’t have to rely on dramatic “must-win” scenarios for at least a week, easing the burden on their staff.

Relievers can also be used judiciously, keeping them fresh for baseball’s “second season,” while still giving them the proper amount of work to keep them sharp and ready. Similarly, position players are now afforded the opportunity to heal their weary bodies, and opportunity that their opponents, Tampa or New York won’t have.

In baseball, it pays to adhere to the age-old cliches of “taking one day at a time” or “never looking beyond today’s game,” but now the Rangers can actually look ahead somewhat, with their clinching victory rendering the remainder of the regular season meaningless in terms of playoff ramifications.  

Texas knows that since the Rays and Yankees hail from the same division, they are unable to play each other in the first round of the divisional playoffs, so one must play the Rangers, and the other, the Twins.

Currently, with the Yankees and Rays embroiled in a tight division race, only separated by a half-game, the AL East battle is likely to go down to the final day of the season. As it stands today, the Rays lead the East with the best record in the league, and would therefore play the postseason entrant with the lowest winning percentage, the Rangers.

That could all change over next few days if the Tampa and New York were to exchange places in the East standings, in which case, the Rangers would then face the Yankees in the Division Series. Although the Yankees have been a strong team, and are the defending World Series champions, there are many factors that may contribute to that being a match-up that the Rangers would actually prefer, if given the choice.

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