Just yesterday I wrote about what I believed to be the top-five things the Texas Rangers needed to return to the World Series. Now we know that is not going to happen as one of the most talented baseball teams in the world will be sitting around watching the greatest month of baseball on television like the rest of us. No question this was a disappointing season, but what were the top-five things that took place on Friday night against the Orioles that caused the Rangers' season to come to an end?
Lack of Timely Hitting
The Rangers had nine hits, two walks and opportunities to score throughout the night. However, they left eight men on base and were 1 for 7 with men in scoring position. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus each had two hits as well as Nelson Cruz and Michael Young, the problem was that sandwiched between them were Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who were both 0 for 4. There were missed opportunities throughout the night, that never allowed them to gain any momentum. The only hit all night that came with a runner in scoring position came in the bottom of the ninth when Jurickson Profar had a pinch hit single with two men on.
A Lost Josh Hamilton
Both Hamilton and Beltre were 0 for 4, but Hamilton has received all of the criticism and he is who received all of the boos at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It might seem unfair, but Hamilton saw 8 pitches the entire night. He struck out two times on three pitches, one of them looking, grounded into a double play and put one of the worst swings ever on a grounder back to the pitcher. They may have both been 0 for 4, but their approach at the plate was completely different. Hamilton looked lost and like he had already moved on, paving the way for a very sad departure to what was a successful run in Texas.
Washington's Decision To Pull Darvish
We are all still wondering what he was thinking and we will probably question that for years. Washington will also question the decision for years, but he would never let you know that. We know Washington wanted the left-on-left matchup, but Darvish was at 91 pitches, had given up two runs, with only one earned at that point and was still dominating Orioles hitters. The Orioles had gotten good wood on very few Darvish pitches throughout the night and there was no sign of that changing. This was also Darvish's first outing in the big leagues without allowing a walk.
It makes no sense to pull an "ace" in a postseason game when they are still doing their job. It becomes even more complicated when you think about Washington going to Holland in that situation. While Holland has regularly been used out of the bullpen during the past three postseasons, he is still a starter. He is not a reliever and he is not accustomed to dealing with inherited runners. He had also thrown 163 pitches since Sunday, 113 on Sunday and then 50 in relief on Wednesday. Holland would have had a side day in the middle of the week anyway, but there is still a difference between a side session and game action, not to mention the multiple times he warmed up during the week. There is no compelling reason for Darvish to be pulled in that situation and absolutely no reason to go to Holland. Teams search for years to find "ace" pitchers and it is for situations like the 7th inning. Not using them there, defeats their purpose and their paycheck.
A Dead Ballpark
It is hard to criticize the fans when this team was playing without any emotion, but from the start of the game the crowd was nonexistent. The Rangers sold out the ballpark 38 times during the regular season, yet the Rangers had tickets available for a Wild Card game on a Friday night. That still left 46,931 in the stands, but they may as well have been home. They tried at times, but just as the team seemed defeated before the game began, so did the fans. The Rangers may have earned home field advantage for the Wild Card game, but that really meant nothing, other than the Rangers having the last at bat. There are times where a team inspires the crowd and then there are times the crowd can inspire the team. Unfortunately, this was one of those times where the Rangers needed inspiration anywhere they could have found it and while they did not do much to pull the crowd into it, the fans did not do anything either.
A Team That Had Lost Their Way
It is unclear at this point what really went wrong with this team. Were they tired from the previous seasons of postseason baseball and a manager that relies on his starters more than any other manager in the game? Were they worn out from drama surrounding different parts of the team? Had injuries impacted the club more than people realized? It really doesn't matter what the reason was, this was a team that was flat and done. They need a fresh jolt that will probably include some names like Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt, as well as a few names from outside the organization, but this group as we know it had packed it up a while back. You can't win games in October without chemistry and that had been lacking for a very long time.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Josh Hamilton
- Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
- Jurickson Profar