Rangers' goal shifts to home-field advantage

Division title secured, Texas eyes AL's best record

Rangers' goal shifts to home-field advantage

OAKLAND -- What's next? Who knows.

By clinching the American League West title with eight games left in the regular season, thanks to a 3-0 win over the A's on Friday night, the Rangers have plenty of time to rest and relax before the postseason begins. But there is still work to be done.

The Rangers' first postseason game won't be until Oct. 6, and the AL Division Series pairings may not be set until the final day of the schedule or beyond if a one-game playoff is needed to determine one or both of the Wild Card berths. The Rangers aren't even sure where they will be when the ALDS opens.

Race for AL home-field advantage still burning
Get official AL West champs gear

Rangers clinch 2016 AL West

They hope it will be Globe Life Park in Arlington, which will be the case if they finish with the best record in the AL. They are competing against the Red Sox and Indians, but securing the top seed would give the Rangers home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The division winner with the second-best record earns three home games in the best-of-five first round.

The Rangers enter Saturday a half-game ahead of the Indians and one game ahead of the Red Sox, both of whom lead their divisions but have not clinched.

"It's important. No matter who you play, you want to start at home," said third baseman Adrian Beltre, who homered in Friday's clincher. "Playing at your place is easier and you have the fans on your side."

The AL won the All-Star Game, earning four home games in the best-of-seven World Series. The Rangers are 51-24 at home with six still to play at Globe Life Park next week. The club record for home wins in a season is 52, set in 1978 and tied in 2011.

The Rangers had home-field advantage for the 2011 ALDS against the Rays and the AL Championship Series in both 2010-11, and won all three series. The National League had home-field advantage for the World Series when the Rangers lost to the Giants in '10 and the Cardinals in '11. They also lost the ALDS in five games last season when the Blue Jays had home-field advantage.

If the Rangers finish with the best record in the AL, they would play the winner of the Wild Card Game. That could mean any one of a half-dozen teams still in contention. But the Blue Jays are leading the race, which could mean a rematch of last year's hotly contested ALDS.

The Rangers were 3-4 against the Blue Jays this season, 4-3 against the Orioles and the Yankees and 4-2 against the Tigers. Within their division, the Rangers were 15-4 against the Astros and 12-7 against the Mariners.

The Rangers would play one of the other division winners if they don't finish with the best record. They were 5-2 against the Indians and 3-3 against the Red Sox this season.

The Rangers will also take the final 10 days of the regular season to set their postseason rotation and roster. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are lined up to pitch the first two games of the ALDS, leaving manager Jeff Banister to pick between Martin Perez, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and A.J. Griffin for the final two spots of a four-man postseason rotation.

The postseason roster always contains an element of suspense and will again this year because of strong contributions from September additions like relievers Tanner Scheppers and Nick Martinez, and outfielder Jared Hoying.

"We have some challenging decisions ahead of us in that regard," Banister said.

The Rangers also need to clarify the status of relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Tony Barnette, and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

Barnette has been sidelined since Sept. 4 with a strained oblique muscle and the Rangers are cautiously optimistic he'll be ready for postseason.

Jeffress was activated on Friday after missing almost a month as a result of his Aug. 26 DUI arrest in Dallas. He has been cleared by Major League Baseball after completing his rehabilitation program in Houston.

Choo is on the disabled list recovering from a fractured left forearm. He started taking batting practice on Friday in Oakland, and he'll soon see living pitching in Arizona Instructional League. If he continues his rapid recovery, he could be ready for the ALDS.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.