By Mark Miller
Something seemed terribly wrong when the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers were on MLB-TV on Sunday afternoon and the Baltimore Orioles faced the New York Yankees on TBS that night.
It should have been the Texas Rangers playing in one of those games. After coming within one strike twice of winning the 2011 World Series, fate certainly should have allowed them one more chance at their coveted dream.
All they needed to do was win just one of their four October games. Do it in Oakland and they’d be the American League West champions. Do even better and they might just be the best in the American League. Either scenario would keep them from the dreaded one-game wild card playoff.
Unfortunately the Rangers lost all three games in Northern California but did earn the consolation prize of hosting the wild card game last Friday. Too bad they continued to play like the previous two weeks in losing the Baltimore Orioles.
That meant there would be no chance to win their third straight A.L. pennant. There would be no opportunity to avenge what happened last year. There would, however, be a stunned Rangers Republic starting with their players.
“It hasn’t sunk in that there’s no more games,” said pitcher Yu Darvish, who gave up just five hits while walking none and striking out seven in the 5-1 loss. “Honestly not me, my teammates and the Rangers fans thought it would end this early. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do tomorrow.”
After two consecutive years in the World Series, it’s likely Texas fans didn’t know what to do either this past weekend. They expected to be at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington cheering on their favorite players. They expected another trip to the World Series.
So exactly what happened to the Rangers?
“We just didn’t get it done,” said manager Ron Washington. “It came down to executing against good pitching. Fundamentally we tried we just couldn’t get it done and it came back to haunt us.”
The Rangers should have immediately known it wasn’t their night starting with game’s first pitch. That’s when second baseman Ian Kinsler booted Nate McLouth’s ground ball which led to the game’s first run.
When Kinsler walked to lead off the bottom of the inning and Elvis Andrus singled him to third, it seemed like the Rangers of old, the ones who led their division all but three days in 2012. Even though Kinsler scored, when Josh Hamilton ground into a double play, it was a reminder of the team that ended up losing eight of its final 10 games.
While the game remained tied through five innings, an uneasiness fell upon Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers had runners on base in every inning but three double plays snatched away any momentum. It seemed inevitable Baltimore would be the one to break through.
The Orioles did just that in the sixth on two singles and a sacrifice fly. They scratched out another run in the seventh with the help of a wild pitch by Derek Holland, brought in to face McLouth, who singled in the run.
“You make moves and if the players get it done, great move,” Washington said. “If the players don’t get it done, you’re left open. I’m left open.”
Had the Rangers gotten it done that night or any other last week, they’d still be playing.
“I never thought anything like this would happen,” Washington said. “I was very positive after we played Anaheim and went to Oakland, I was very positive. A few situations the ball bounce our way here or there it may have changed.
“I’m not a negative person. I don’t get pessimistic. I always stay optimistic. And when things like this happen, I’m shocked. Right now I’m shocked. That’s the way winners feel and I’m a winner. I won’t go any further but we’re winners and I’m a winner.”