For the second consecutive season, the Texas Rangers watched another team celebrate on their field. For the second consecutive season, the players watched from the dugout wondering how game 163 could end like it did. For the second consecutive season, we’re talking about the offseason before the playoffs got under way.
Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler were picked off first base. Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios hit shots to left field that, on any other night, would have left the ballpark. Alexi Ogando allowed two doubles in three at-bats, then gave up back-to-back walks after being summoned from the bullpen to take over for Martin Perez, and Tanner Scheppers’ throwing blunder in the ninth was just the icing on a really bad cake in the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
And no matter how much the fans at Rangers Ballpark tried to will Nelson Cruz into a dramatic return, that never happened.
Last season, all the Rangers needed was one win over the Baltimore Orioles, also in their 163rd game, to win the AL wild-card game and move on to the divisional round of the American League playoffs. That season came to an end with a resounding thud.
This season, again in Game 163, the Rangers needed one win in order to face the Cleveland Indians to determine who would be the wild card in the American League playoffs.
But, like 2012, the Texas Rangers’ season ends with a resounding thud.
To sum up Monday night with a pretty little bow, it just wasn’t the Rangers’ night. Nothing went their way and, outside of Martin Perez, who was pretty good through 5.1 innings, by the ninth inning, you could feel the wind leave the sails as well as the ballpark itself.
If you were watching on television, you saw the faces of so many fans who weren’t ready for the season to be over. After their team ran off seven consecutive wins, there was no way this game was going to end with a loss. There was no way, as well as this team had been playing, game 163 was going to go any way but theirs.
They were wrong.
Those at the ballpark remained in their seats, stunned at the turn of events that had taken place for the last nine innings. After seven consecutive wins, the season couldn’t possibly end like this. After all that had gone right for them to sweep the Angels, even in the games they had fallen behind or committed a franchise-record four errors in a single inning, they still were able to come up with a win. But, on this night, that win never materialized.
I could spend this time questioning the decisions by manager Ron Washington. I could question taking Martin Perez out of the game in favor of Alexi Ogando, then not having a quick hook after Tampa Bay padded its lead against Orando.
It wasn’t a fun night for anyone who rooted for the team in red. It wasn’t a fun night for the team in red. All that remains now are a list of questions that may take a few months to answer.
Will Nelson Cruz, with free agency looming, return to the Texas Rangers or will the front office wish him well and move on?
Will A.J. Pierzynski be asked to come back or do the Rangers have another idea for a full-time catcher?
Have Mitch Moreland and David Murphy played their final games for the Rangers?
How much is Matt Garza worth to other teams when free agency begins and how much is he worth to the Texas Rangers?
Will the Rangers give Colby Lewis one more try at a comeback or is retirement a real option for the veteran right-hander?
How will Matt Harrison recover from multiple surgeries in 2013 and will we see the 18-game winner again?
Is there a blockbuster trade for a pitcher or a bat, or both, that could be coming in the offseason?
Those are just a few questions that will be asked this offseason, and the answers make take longer to be known, giving us more time for speculation and debate.
2013 is over all too soon.
But, sometimes you just have to admit, that’s the way baseball goes.
(Not so) Happy Tuesday everybody.