I’ve got to keep telling myself, I enjoy this. The Texas Rangers entered Sunday’s contest in control of their own destiny despite leaving themselves no margin for error. This is what we call “fun”.
Euphoria set in as the Rangers claimed first place on September 15th. Visions of a division championship and playoff baseball danced in our heads. The team looked to have that intangible “It”, and appeared poised to be the team no one wanted to play in October.
And things looked great coming down the home stretch. Yeah, they lost the series to the Astros last weekend, but they hit October with a three game lead and four to play versus an Anaheim Angels team with post season aspirations of their own.
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Good times were had as the Rangers took game one. Guaranteeing themselves at least a wild card was a monumental accomplishment, given the lows during the campaign. All they had to do was win one of the final three contests to cement their place in the post season tournament.
But then Friday night happened. Rangers’ closer Shawn Tolleson gave up two hits in the ninth inning of a tie game, thus handing the home team a 2-1 loss. It was taut, well-played game that didn’t seem to portend anything particularly ominous. Split the final two games and we’re cool, right?
Enter Saturday afternoon. A back and forth affair seemed to finally crystallize in the Rangers’ favor, as they took a 10-6 lead to the bottom of the ninth. What happened next was nothing less than a house of horrors. Tolleson, inexplicably used for a fifth consecutive day, came in and promptly gave up back-to-back solo homers and was promptly pulled. Ross Ohlendorf came in and couldn’t stop the bleeding.
"But as I’ve said over and over, I was wrong about this bunch. Time and again, as the chips were down and all looked lost, they dug deep."
The final result was an 11-10 implosion that felt very reminiscent to game six the 2011 World Series. Lo and behold, even the old nemesis, David Freese, was present and providing clutch hitting for the visiting Angels. Despair had officially set in for yours truly. The other shoe had fallen. The Rangers were cooked and destined to play a hundred-and-sixty-third game in order to determine the American League West champion.
But as I’ve said over and over both here and to friends and family, I was wrong about this bunch. Time and again, as the chips were down and all looked lost, they dug deep. Nowhere was this quality more on display than when they cobbled together a six-run bottom of the seventh on Sunday to break open a tense, tight game.
Cole Hamels did what he was brought in to do, which is be the stud and shut the door. After a first-inning wobble, he settled down and baffled the Angel lineup for the rest of the afternoon. Complete games in the clutch is what staff aces do when there is absolutely no margin for error.
Damn, Rangers. Y’all needed all one-sixty-two to do it, but y’all did it. Ladies and gentlemen, the Texas Rangers are–miraculously–your 2015 American League West champions.
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