At one point this season, the Texas Rangers had a six-game lead at the top of the American League West. That advantage has evaporated, and the club currently finds itself in a precarious position as it holds onto the final Wild Card spot thanks to a tie-breaker.
Three teams are fighting for two Wild Card spots in the American League. The Toronto Blue Jays are currently holding down the second Wild Card slot with just a half-game lead over both the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers as of games on September 21. The MLB eliminated Game 163 tie-breakers last year, so now the first tie-breaker is head-to-head record. The Rangers are 5-1 against the Mariners this season, clinching them the season series. Still, these two teams face off in a three-game series in Arlington, TX weekend that could ultimately determine who earns the final playoff spot in the AL and make the tie-breaker moot.
With so many playoff scenarios still in play for the Texas Rangers (and a postseason spot far from guaranteed), this is the postseason seeding sequence that the team will most want to avoid.
Earn the #5 seed and face Tampa Bay Rays or Baltimore Orioles in ALWC
Obviously, the nightmare playoff scenario for the Rangers would be missing the postseason altogether. But in terms of seeding, Texas will want to avoid a matchup against the the AL East runner-up in the Wild Card round. The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are currently the two best teams in the American League (with 95 and 94 wins, respectively) and the only two that have clinched a playoff spot. Both could easily finish with more than 100 wins, yet one will have to play in the Wild Card round while the other will have a bye.
The Rangers face a difficult proposition here. The ballclub needs to do well enough to reach the postseason, but doing too well could make for a more difficult playoff route. As the sixth seed, Texas would have a Wild Card matchup against likely AL Central champs the Minnesota Twins — who are 3.5 games worse than the Rangers. If Texas is able to make up the half-game deficit and pass the Blue Jays, then the team would draw the Rays or Orioles in the first round of the playoffs. And if the Rangers should win that series, they would get the AL East champs in the Divisional Round.
Meanwhile, if the Rangers are the third Wild Card team, their ALDS opponent would be the Houston Astros — currently 10 games behind the Orioles. The difference here is stark. The Twins/Astros path as the six-seed offers opponents with 23 fewer wins on the season than the Rays/Orioles route as the five-seed.
Let's not forget that the AL West title is still very much in play as well. Texas trails Houston by just half a game (as does Seattle). Winning the division would put the Rangers as the number-two team in the American League, giving them a bye until the Divisional Round. It is difficult for the Rangers to be picky about their playoff matchups as they look to end their six-year postseason drought (and just secure a playoff spot in the first place). But avoiding the AL East side of the bracket would be very advantageous for the Rangers if they want to achieve a deep playoff run.