Soto Saves The Day

29 07 2013

Whether it was due to the inundation of injured pitchers, the disappearing act of the bats or the absence of any sort of energy, the Rangers had plenty of reasons to begin considering their season a lost cause as Oakland’s lead grew bigger and bigger with each consecutive Rangers loss. Before Monday, they had gone 2-8 during the second half of the season and fallen six games behind the A’s in divisional standings. At one point during Monday’s game, the Rangers had gone 26 scoreless innings. Things seemed dire. Things seemed hopeless.

Then, Geovany surprised ESPN’s nationally-televised audience and possibly saved his team’s season.

After a two-out, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth, catcher Geovany Soto met his teammates at the plate for celebration as the Texas Rangers had themselves a 4-3 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Angels to end their four-game losing streak.

Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza started his second game in a Rangers uniform. He lasted seven innings and gave up three runs on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks. Angels Jered Weaver pitched a solid seven innings, holding Texas to only one run and retiring 12 straight Rangers hitters at one point.

Soto followed up an A.J. Pierzynski game-tying home run that came two batters earlier in the inning.

The last time the Rangers won in walk-off fashion was May 26, 2012 when Josh Hamilton knocked one out of the park to take down the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the win, Texas is now within one game of the Baltimore Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot.

During a 162 regular season, it seems that one game can only mean so much in the big scheme of things. Yet, given the Rangers current state, it felt as though the Rangers were being pushed far enough down the ladder that they eventually couldn’t climb back up emotionally. The team has been in a mediocre daze where wins at first felt like they were coming far and few between and then were actually coming far and few between. They seemed one crushing loss away from spiraling downward for good.

But they fought back with two crushing home runs in the bottom of the final inning. The way this game was won in Rangers Ballpark provides a much needed spark that has been absent, well, since the beginning of the season. Even Dirk Nowitzki knew this was big.

By getting a walk-off home run and getting one from Soto, who now only has five home runs on the year, the Rangers can build on this and hopefully find their once strong stride. The MLB postseason has shown us quite frequently of late that momentum is a huge part of the game, and if found at the right time, a team can make some noise in October. (Example: 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.)

This isn’t to say that Soto has homered the Rangers into October and beyond; however, he might have homered the Rangers back to their winning ways.

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The Failures of DFW Sports: Texas Rangers

12 11 2012

Co-writer: Trevor Rathbun

As you can tell if you have visited my blog the past weekend, being an avid sports fan in the Dallas metroplex has been nothing short of miserable this past decade. I understand that a very prominent team in Dallas won the NBA Championship only two years ago. (Trust me, I wouldn’t forget that.) However, do not let the championship hangover fool you into believing that these sports teams have accomplished anything more than mediocre and choke-job seasons. I’m simply telling you how it is.

Before you begin to yell at me for criticizing the Rangers, let me say this: I understand they have come a long way. Just four years ago, they were doing what they were supposed to do by having a great start to the season up to the All-Star Break only to finish with a record around .500 and no playoff games. The fact that they have had three straight 90-win seasons, which equals the amount they had the previous 49 years, should be considered a remarkable improvement for the franchise.

But at this point, the Rangers shouldn’t be given any leeway. They improved as an organization and elevated their level of play comparable to the best teams in the MLB, and that’s how we should view them – with elite status.

So, we are discussing the dominant Texas Rangers’ teams of late that reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011, as well as the 2012 team that led the entire major league in terms of record for multiple weeks during the season. Dominating only begins to illustrate this team in terms of regular season play the past three years.

These past three seasons are the biggest examples of rapid misery in the Dallas area. After their remarkable emergence as a playoff team behind the bats of Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young in 2010, the Texas Rangers looked as if the sky was the limit. As “potential” became the favorite adjective to describe this ball club, most analysts couldn’t help but talk about the likelihood that a championship was inevitably and most certainly just around the corner.

Nolan Ryan took over as the president for the Rangers under owner Tom Hicks in 2008. With Ryan getting involved, the club was beginning to produce young-talent from their farm system and making acquisitions that actually benefitted the club instead of helping out the Yankees. If anyone should be left out of the DFW disappointment melting pot, Ryan might have himself a case.

2010 brought with it another management transformation, as the Rangers were sold to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan after the franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy under owner Tom Hicks. That year, the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee and exceeded expectations by making it to the World Series.

Eventually, the San Francisco Giants would go on to take the series 3-1 under tremendous pitching from Tim Lincecum and the Giants bullpen and abysmal hitting from Josh Hamilton and the Rangers lineup. Since this was the first time the team faced any sort of pressure at this high level, you can only be so disappointed in them… at this point.

The following season, the Rangers found themselves in the World Series yet again, but with a few new faces. Cliff Lee decided to return to the Phillies via free agency and the Rangers added third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Mike Napoli. With his stellar performance during the regular season, Josh Hamilton was named the AL MVP as the streaking Rangers were looking as if they had the ability to accomplish what they couldn’t a year before.

A hungry Albert Pujols and St. Louis Cardinals stood in their way. The series eventually came down to seven games, with Game 6 going into eleven innings as the Cardinals fought back twice with the Rangers being one strike away from winning their first ever championship twice. One. Strike. Away. David Freese hit a solo shot in the eleventh inning while having two strikes already in the count to complete the unfathomable comeback.

The heartbreak was seen on the faces and body language of the Rangers, as the Cardinals went on to celebrate an easy 6-2 win in Game 7 and steal the World Series. Once again, the Rangers came up short and were being compared to the NCAA Butler Men’s basketball team that lost in the championship two years in a row. What’s the difference between the two? Butler exceeded expectations while the Rangers failed to reach them.

With two championships being taken away, this team stormed out of the 2012 season and never looked back. Even with an offensive slump midway through the season, the Rangers led the AL West division for the entire year and dominated the baseball headlines as well. Josh Hamilton even had a four home run game during the regular season that sparked the interest of the nation. It seemed as though this team was determined to shake off their newly established image and avoid becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball.

Yet, as the season moved along, the much lower paid Oakland Athletics played ferociously and fearlessly with nothing to lose the entire time the Rangers dominated the division. When all the attention was on the Rangers and Angels, the A’s just went about their business. A business of winning.

A September slump from the Rangers came at the worst possible time, all while the A’s were riding their momentum into the closing days of the season. Oakland played and defeated Texas the last three games of the season, taking the series as well as snatching the AL West title away from the slumping Rangers. They led the division one day, but that one day was enough when dealing with a team like the Rangers.

Instead of playing like the pre-September Texas Rangers, they continued their tremendously aggravating slump into the AL Wild Card game and lost to the Orioles 5-1 in a rather disappointing effort.

No matter the fact that the starters might have been work down by Washington or that the momentum might have been lost down the stretch, the Rangers were a better baseball team than both the A’s and the Orioles. If you watched these three teams play during the regular season and you see the makeup of the ball clubs, this realization becomes very clear.

But they ended up being farther away from winning it all than the previous two years. This collapse is regarded as one of the most epic and prolific fallouts in all of baseball and sports history. We all just experienced three straight years of coming up short while having enough tremendous talent to get the job done. The collapse at the end of the season was just the cherry on top of the choke pie the Rangers served to their avid fan base.

So, why did the Texas Rangers fall apart and fail to play like they should have? As the season came to a close, why did it feel oddly fitting the this team would undoubtedly choke at the worst possible time? Why did these Rangers fail again?

They unfortunately couldn’t help but fit into a pattern that a metroplex can’t break out of. They couldn’t help but find a way to let down their fans by providing them with false hope that each consecutive year would be the year they finally put all the pieces together.

They couldn’t help but be one of the failures of DFW sports.

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Game 162 – The Biggest of Them All

3 10 2012


Here we go.

Today is the day that could lead to the reigning AL Champions reestablishing themselves as the Buffalo Bills of the MLB or simply closing out a tight race when push comes to shove. Dempster will soon step out onto the mound at the Coliseum and must pitch his best game since he put on a Rangers uniform if he wants to give his team a chance to save face. A lot of face.

The Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers are all tied up with a record of 93-68. That’s right – the AL West team that doesn’t have one player making over $10 million, compared to the team in Los Angeles that has seven of those, will be challenging the team that has been the sole leader of the division for 177 straight days. (Can you say #Moneyball?) You know that new one-game, wild-card playoff that will implemented this year? A trial run is about to take place.

Winner takes all Wednesday afternoon as the team that comes out on top between the A’s and Rangers will claim the AL West pennant. Even though Texas had a 13-game lead on June 30 and had a four-game lead with six games to go, that is just as in the past as the Rangers past two failures in the World Series. This entire six-month long season will literally be defined by one day of baseball. That one day has arrived.

Ryan Dempster (7-3, 4.64) will attempt to avoid pitching as he did last Friday when he allowed the Angels to rack up four earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched. Since he came down south, it has been difficult to figure out Dempster as he has been one of the more inconsistent starting pitchers. Even though he has pitched fairly well of late, he must be at the top of his game since he will be facing a stout, young pitcher that hasn’t been afraid of the limelight. A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71) has been one of the best rookie pitchers of late, winning 10 of his last 12 outings. He has a certain command that is not often seen from first-year pitchers and will be difficult to slow down.

The Rangers can only blame themselves for the pressure at hand. They have played nowhere close to their level of baseball during the most important stretch of the season. Losing eight of their past 12 games, including four of their last five, this would go down as one of the best representations of choking in modern-day sports.

Inconsistency seems to be the new consistent and making the crucial hit seems to be a constant struggle for everyone in this lineup – even AL’s player of the month for September Adrian Beltre (2-11, no RBIs in his last three games). Speaking of inconsistent, Josh Hamilton has decided to go into yet another slump as he has gone 1-8 in the last two losses, while failing to hit a home run in the past eight games. When he carelessly swings the bat, he again looks like the man that went through that dreadful drought midway through the season. How can the Rangers put their faith in that type of unpredictable batter?

Pitching has it’s fair share of problems. The players in the projected playoff rotation – Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Dempster – have all had recent off nights while a lingering injury to Mike Adams has put the bullpen into question. Yes, closer Joe Nathan picked up his 37th save against the Angels Sunday night, but also blew one while picking up the loss earlier in the day to the same team.

The Rangers not only want to win this game for their own dignity, but they do not want to allow an A’s team to enter the playoffs even hotter than they already are. Remember the last time they had to face a surging team in the postseason? Alexi Ogando, Matt Lowe and Neftali Feliz sure remember. If Oakland pulls this one game out and takes the division, you would have to give them the clear advantage if they face Texas later on in the AL playoffs.

Even though the Rangers’ current situation can only described as frustrating and stressful for a DFW sports follower such as myself, this is what makes sports one of the most intriguing genres on television. Most season finales do not have the ability to promise their viewers a finish that will either evoke pure joy or utter distress – two emotions all television shows dream for from their viewers. And once this intense game comes to a close, fans of the losing team will only have to wait a short time period before they get yet another one-game stress fest.

“Take one game at a time” never has seemed to be more fitting for Ron Washington and the Rangers than it does right now. Before they can begin their quest to conquer the MLB mountain known as the postseason that they have geared up for, attempted to climb and come right near the peak two years in a row, it all starts with this one game. They may have already clinched a playoff berth and will live to play another day no matter the outcome of game 162. However, game 162 will shape the mindset of every single Ranger. Game 162 will either start their playoff run with a bang or a bust. Game 162 will give Texas the AL West or give them a win-or-go-home playoff game.

Go take your third straight pennant if you want it. Or continue to crumble toward the finish. It’s all in your control, Rangers.

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Unlucky Number 13? Hamilton Doesn’t Care

27 05 2012

(Home run at 2:07)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the bottom of the 13 inning soon approached during a game in which the Rangers could not find a way to convert when they put men on base (13 left on base), it didn’t seem plausible that they had the ability to come back from the 7-5 hole they had dug themselves in. Hamilton had other plans.

Josh Hamilton hit his league-leading 20th home run of the year Saturday in walk-off fashion to give the Texas Rangers an 8-7 victory against the pesky Toronto Blue Jays. Even though there was a total of 408 pitches thrown on the day, because of Hamilton’s walk-off home run, the man that tallied only five pitches (Jason Frasor) picked up the loss.

Hambone provided his team with a much needed win as they finally won back-to-back games for the first time since May 11. They now will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon as Yu Darvish (6-2) will look to pass eight other six-win pitchers to take the AL lead in wins.

 

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Hammering Hamilton

12 05 2012

As this week comes to a close, Hamilton closes the chapter on one of the best sports weeks a professional sports player has ever had. This season could also be the last chapter of Josh Hamilton’s tenure in Texas.

Joshua Holt Hamilton smashed a curve ball from C.J. Wilson into the stands for yet another home run in the Texas Rangers recent 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. (keyword: smashed.)

Hamilton has collected nine home run in his last six games this week. He only sits behind Frank Howard of the Washington Senators for the all-time record, who hit 10 homers during a six-game stretch in 1968.

Hamilton joins one other player to have hit 18 homers in the first 34 games of the season. Cy Williams accomplished this feat in 1923.

Even though this single week was incredibly memorable, No. 32 has been a monster at the plate all season long. He leads the entire league in batting average (.402), home runs (18) and RBIs (41). He makes every one of his appearances at the plate a must-see for any baseball fan.

“Locked in” doesn’t give Hamilton enough credit for what he has done so far. No matter the pitcher, the ballpark or the pressure on his shoulders, he has produced at an absurd level for the Rangers. Injuries have derailed him the past few seasons, so his ability to play an entire season is still uncertain.

As he continues to head toward a possible Triple Crown, owners continue to crunch the numbers to figure out if they can bring this gifted athlete to their town. He is the free agent this upcoming off-season, and if the Rangers find a way to win the World Series (third time’s a charm?), it could be extremely difficult for owner Nolan Ryan and his wallet to bring back the 2010 AL MVP.

However, no matter what it takes, Ryan needs to sign the man. Ryan needs Hamilton for his organization to continue to thrive.

The Rangers have quickly vaulted into the elite class of the MLB after many years of bottom-of-the-barrel fishing, and the organization has put Hamilton at the helm. Even though Michael Young has been in Arlington longer, this DFW metroplex has fallen in love with their Hambone.

Yes, Hamilton has had the field issues that he is fighting to deal with. At one point before he came to the Rangers, he hit the absolute bottom (for a professional baseball player). The MLB didn’t even want him in their league.

But through a religious finding and accountability partners, Hamilton not only got his life back together but also emerged as one of the best playing the game today.

When the Rangers had a chance to take advantage of their player when he seemed at his absolute lowest during his relapse this summer, they decided to temporarily suspend contract negotiations so Hamilton could recover from this problem. Ryan did this because he is trying to create a type of ballclub that is like a family. He doesn’t treat his players like business pawns; he treats them like real human beings.

As Hamilton fights his own human problems that the media eats up quicker than Albert Pujols’s struggles, his team has always backed him up. Even with these problems, he showcases his aptitude for baseball every single night he steps on the field.

And this has all happened in Arlington. This has happened right along side the Rangers rise to two straight AL Championships and the best record in the 2012 MLB season so far. This has all happened in a Texas Rangers uniform.

If the Rangers and their franchise player want a win-win situation, a deal must get done. No other city or management would be willing to provide one of their players with what Texas has given Hamilton and no other player could provide a team with such a unique and captivating attitude in their leader.

Yes, there is the risk of his injury problems at the age of 30. Yes, he has off the field issues that have popped up more than once. Yes, it would probably cost nine-digits to keep him from going to another team.

But the Rangers need this. Hamilton needs this. The unique partnership between these two parties is more than simply a professional sports team bringing in a person to play their designated sport. A bond has been created for the better of the Rangers franchise and for the better of Hamilton as a player and as a man.

Hopefully Nolan Ryan will make the right decision when the time comes – no matter the cost.

Sign Josh Hamilton.

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