With spectacular pitching and timely hitting, the Texas Rangers managed to look more like themselves during a Sunday matinee against the Chicago Cubs.
If you’ve spent most of your life following the Texas Rangers, it’s easy to feel like you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even during the past seven seasons, when the team has been mostly good, success has always been singed by a stumble or downright heartbreaking failure. In the grand scheme of the Rangers’ franchise story arc, there has been more bad than good.
So you probably can’t be faulted for that uneasy feeling creeping into your baseball psyche lately. In a season thus far marked by sharp turning points, this rough stretch began on June 29th. To that point, the Texas Rangers had been one of the more dominant teams in all of major league baseball. They began to get hot in early May, but they really took it to the next level after the iconic punch on May 15th. What followed was one of the best six week stretches in franchise history. The Rangers could do no wrong.
But on June 29th, the Rangers took a four-run lead to the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees. The bullpen proceeded to give up six runs, transforming a seemingly sure win into a 9-7 loss. At the time, it felt like an “uh-oh” moment. It was a very uncharacteristic loss for this team. Since that meltdown, the Texas Rangers have been able to do very little right.
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The hope was that the All Star break would be a chance to get away and recharge. The Rangers’ four-day break came at a time when they were looking gassed. The pitching hit a wall. The offense was there on some nights, but the bats couldn’t overcome night after night of starters failing to get beyond the fifth inning. As great as they were in June, July looked like a complete flop.
Well, the hangover continued as the Rangers embarked on a weekend three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. They were shut out in the opener on Friday and only managed to scratch out one run in another loss on Saturday. The only thing that stood in the way of a possible sweep was the fact that pitcher Cole Hamels was set to toe the rubber on Sunday afternoon.
Even then, Hamels came in having failed to get passed the fifth inning in his last two starts. The malaise that had permeated the team seemingly affected their ace as well. While the prospect of rescuing one game from the series seemed possible, there was no guarantee of a win.
All Hamels proceeded to to was hurl eight masterful innings, scattering four hits, one unearned run, and seven strikeouts on a clean ninety-one pitches. The staff ace, after a brief funk, came in put his team in position for a badly needed win. Closer Sam Dyson slammed the door shut with a sixteen-pitch, three up-three down bottom of the ninth where he struck out the two , three, and four hitters in the Cubs’ fearsome lineup. For a day at least, The Texas Rangers looked like their once dominant selves.
Of course, one win isn’t necessarily a harbinger of another resurgence. Even with yesterday’s positive result, the Texas Rangers are still a paltry 4-11 in their past fifteen games. They’re not out of the woods by any stretch. But the mark of a good team is that they can minimize the natural lulls of a 162-game marathon. The team that showed up on Sunday looked a lot like the team we’ve been used to seeing all season.
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A divisional series against the Angels awaits. The Angels’ record suggests their season has been an abject disaster, but the way the Rangers are rolling right now, nothing is set in stone. It would behoove the Texas Rangers to at least win two of the tree games in Anaheim. Start by winning a series, build on that, and try to get on another roll.