If you have paid any attention to the 2012 Texas Rangers in the last few months, you would know that they’ve had some serious problems as a team and the once comfortable lead in the AL West has become slim with the A’s and Angels steaming towards them. The Rangers were still 16 games over .500 entering last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, good for the second best record in the American league, but they were just 28-23 in June and July combined. Listening to Dallas sports radio yesterday I heard Randy Galloway say that it was a “must win” game on Wednesday night in early August. I didn’t know if I bought in to that thinking or not at the time, but I knew the game was going to be important with the way the Angels had been playing…and then the game began.
Sports are crazy sometimes. They can make you the happiest person in the world or drive you into a depression-type state in a short amount of time. If you’ve been a Rangers fan for more than the past two years, you are very used to the latter. Then sometimes you are watching a game and certain events give you the feeling that it will change the season in a dramatic way either for the better or worse, and last nights game made me feel that way. The Angels have been hot, they have the best young player in baseball (Mike Trout), they just traded for ace Zack Greinke to give them a stacked rotation, and the entire team has momentum going in a positive direction headed into the home stretch. The Rangers are the opposite: they have not been able to score at all lately (boasting a -29 run differential in July) and the entire team looks deflated. A player’s morale is a big deal in baseball (as in other sports) and when a team is struggling it’s all they will hear about in the media. The Rangers had just lost the first two games of this series to the Angels in convincing fashion and desperately needed to win while facing the Angels’ worst pitcher (Garrett Richards) and with Yu Darvish on the mound.
Darvish was due to have a good start after going 1-3 in July and having very rocky starts in his last two appearances. He toed the mound in 100+ degree heat and was set to face Mike Trout, Tori Hunter, and Albert Pujols in the first inning. Darvish struck out the side in the first and walked off the field as 43,000 fans cheered him on hoping tonight would be the night they got it all together. Darvish came out in the second inning and was just as sharp netting another K and getting a 1-2-3 inning. Darvish started the 3rd inning with a groundout and then this happened: walk, walk, infield single, 2-run error by Kinsler, 2-run HR, walk, walk, 2-run double, followed by a pop out to end the inning. That horrific turn of events that somehow didn’t prompt a mound visit by Mike Maddux or Ron Washington left the Rangers down 6-0 heading into the bottom of the 3rd.
With this kind of start to the game, all I could think about was the possibility of the Rangers losing again, then losing again Thursday and having the entire season spiral out of control. The fact is the Ranges were once a guarantee to make the playoffs this year, with two wild card spots there was no way they wouldn’t, but a loss would have put the Angels 2 games back and the A’s 3. My parents, who are both long time Rangers fans, were just as deflated as I was. I didn’t want to finish watching the game because how could a team that averaged 3.5 runs a game in July make up a 5 run deficit to a team who would undoubtedly score again? The Angels did just that, adding a 7th run in the 4th inning before the Rangers did this in the 5th: single, single, RBI Double, sac-fly, RBI-double, RBI-single. This made it 7-5 Angels, it gave Rangers fans some hope that they could get back into the game and maybe even win. David Murphy hit a RBI single to bring the Rangers to within one run and then came the bottom of the 9th. With one out Ian Kinsler came up and all I could think about was the potential for him to hit a pop-up to second base like he does 50% of the time. But instead, Kinsler turned on a ball at hit a home run to left field like we’ve also seen him do so many times, tying the game at 7 and eventually sending it into extra innings.
If you were excited about what happened in the bottom of the 9th, you had to hate what happened in the top of the 10th. Joe Nathan, our reliable closer, came in to try and keep the Angels at bay and two home runs later Texas was down 3 heading into the bottom of the 10th. All the hard work the Rangers put in to get back into the game was gone, and scoring 3 runs in an inning isn’t something that is easy. Once again I felt like the game was over. Nelson Cruz stepped up to bat at destroyed a ball to left-center, making the deficit only 2 runs with still no outs in the inning. Michael Young was safe at first on an error, David Murphy walked, and Mike Napoli singled to right loading the bases for Mitch Moreland. He singled to right scoring Young and left the bases loaded with still no outs and with the Rangers only down one run. Kinsler stepped up to the plate with a chance to be the hero again, but this time we were let down with a pop out to second.
Then Elvis Andrus came up. A double play would mean a loss for the Rangers and a single could give them a win. Elvis battled, making sure not to swing at anything bad and eventually laced a line drive down the 3rd base line that would plate Murphy and Gentry to give the Rangers a one run walk-off win that they badly needed.
Games like this can change a season for a team, especially one that seems to ride positive momentum as well as these Rangers do. They need to become the team that they were earlier this season soon, or they wont have a chance to make it to their 3rd straight World Series. If the Rangers would have ended up losing that game in the 10th after everything that happened it would have been crushing and they may not have been able to recover from such an emotionally draining loss. My mindset has changed to all positive thinking today; I believe a win like this was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Rangers.
The Rangers were looking to acquire a pitcher before the trade deadline came and went and they did just that getting Ryan Dempster from the Cubs for 2 marginal minor leaguers. Dempster isn’t the ace that the Rangers really wanted but he is an upgrade over Roy Oswalt (who was moved to the bullpen) and he’s a very good pitcher who can help us down the stretch. The Rangers also acquired Dempster’s battery mate Geovany Soto from the Cubs and designated Yorvit Torrealba for assignment removing him from the team. They won’t get an offensive upgrade with Soto but his arm and defensive ability are much better than both Torrealba and Napoli. Wednesday night the Rangers called up super prospect Mike Olt from AA Frisco to help add depth to the bench. Olt was hitting .287 with 27HR’s and 81RBI’s this season, so he can be a strong right handed bat off the bench down the stretch for the Rangers.