The Rangers' path to a potential American League Wild Card berth was thrown a curveball on Friday when it was announced that Texas' game on Saturday against the AL West rival Angels would start earlier than any game in Rangers Ballpark's history.
With a forecast showing a threat of inclement weather in the area later on Saturday, the first pitch of the game was moved up to 11:05 a.m. CT from 7:05 p.m. With the Rangers and Halos squaring off in the season finale on Sunday and potential AL Wild Card tiebreaker games scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Texas felt it was best to attempt to squeeze in the game on Saturday morning.
The Rangers entered play on Friday night one game behind the Indians for the second AL Wild Card spot, and Rangers skipper Ron Washington said the unusual start time will not affect his club's push for a postseason spot.
"It's an earlier wakeup call, that's all it is," Washington said. "They expect rain, so we'll do what we have to do. We certainly don't want to play a doubleheader on Sunday."
Though rare, starting a game before noon is not completely unprecedented. Along with the Red Sox's annual Patriots' Day game, which starts at 11:05 a.m. ET at Fenway Park, the Nationals have hosted an 11:05 a.m. game on Independence Day for each of the last two seasons. Those two games marked the only contests this season that started prior to noon local time.
The Nats fell to the Brewers in that game earlier this season, one year after beating the Giants following an even shorter turnaround. On July 4 of last season, the Nats and Giants squared off at 11:05 a.m. ET -- 8:05 a.m. local time in San Francisco -- after dealing with the added wrinkle of an 85-minute rain delay the prior night.
Texas' skipper is hoping to avoid a similar occurrence in Friday's game and said he plans to head home as soon as possible following the final out.
"I don't pull that," Washington quipped when asked if he would just spend the night in his office. "I'm going home to my bed. If it's four or five hours [of sleep], then it's four or five hours."
Regardless of how much sleep the players ultimately get before Saturday's game, one thing is for sure -- they will be waking up much earlier than originally planned. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Rangers played a game so early was on April 21, 2008, against the Red Sox, as part of the Patriots' Day festivities in Boston. There is no record of the Rangers starting a home game before noon local time.
Asked what he would normally be doing at 11:05 a.m. on a typical day with a 7:05 p.m. home game, Derek Holland -- who will oppose Garrett Richards on Saturday -- said he can usually be found at the local Pancake House.
"Thrilled," Holland said sarcastically of the adjusted start time. "No, it is what it is. You still have to pitch, whether it's 11 a.m. or 7 at night."
The Rangers also learned on Friday of their potential fate if they finish tied with Cleveland and/or Tampa Bay in the AL Wild Card race. If all three teams finish with the same record, on Tuesday, Texas would host the loser of a game played on Monday between Tampa Bay and Cleveland. The winners of those two games would advance and square off in Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game.
If the Rangers finish in a tie with just one of those clubs, the two tied teams would meet in a winner-take-all game on Monday. As a result of head-to-head series this season, the Rangers would host the Rays if they finish tied with only Tampa Bay or travel to Cleveland if they finish with the same record as only the Indians.
That potentially hectic schedule aside, Washington was also satisfied with Saturday's altered start time because it increases the possibility of avoiding a Sunday doubleheader. With every game so crucial to the Rangers' postseason hopes, he did not want to have Saturday's game postponed and make his team feel as if it needed to win two games in one day, Sunday.
Not to mention the toll it could take on the Rangers to play a crucial doubleheader one day before potentially playing a win-or-go-home tiebreaker game.
"It's tougher to win a doubleheader," Washington said. "You could be unlucky and lose a game. I'd rather take my chances on one game a day. We don't need any flukes. We need every opportunity we can get."
Even if those opportunities require little sleep and setting alarm clocks just a couple of hours earlier.