Beyond the boxscore
Why the Rangers are at the top of the American League
After all, the Halos were able to do it without All-World first baseman Albert Pujols, who, despite having a “down” year by his standards, is still hitting .283 with 30 home runs and 96 RBIs. Combined with a suddenly tight race in the AL West and a schedule that has the Rangers playing their last 16 games against divisional opponents, fans had legitimate reason to worry about a third-straight division crown.
About the only positive that could be taken from that day was the fact that the Oakland A’s lost to the Detroit Tigers, keeping them three games back in the race.
It was about as ugly a game as could happen given the timing. And were this any team but the Rangers — like say, the Cowboys — concern might be warranted. This is definitely the kind of situation in which the Cowboys would choke. But the Rangers have done this before.
Despite failing to win either of the last two World Series, the Rangers have shown a mental and physical fortitude the last three seasons that was previously absent in Arlington.
Despite failing to win either of the last two World Series, the Rangers have shown a mental and physical fortitude the last three seasons that was previously absent in Arlington. Still, 11-3. That eight-run fourth inning. Shellacking. None of it left a good taste in fans’ mouths.
So what did the Rangers do yesterday? They went out, without Josh Hamilton or Adrian Beltre, and beat the Angels 6-2. The score might not have been as indicative of just how in control the Rangers were against former teammate C.J. Wilson. It could have been even more right off the bat in the first inning when Wilson walked three batters to load the bases before ultimately getting Mike Napoli to ground out to end the frame.
To top it off, the A’s lost again, pushing Texas’ division lead to four games. Although that 11-3 loss was as bad as they come, in reflection, the 6-2 win looks even better.
The Rangers could have taken that loss and let it wear them down. Instead, they came back against a pitcher that knows the ins and outs of their lineup and knocked him out of the game after two and two-thirds innings. They didn’t worry about what was happening with Oakland against Detroit. If anything, it showed that the Rangers can brush off the kind of losses that send less experienced teams into a downward spiral.
On the radio on the way into work Wednesday, it seemed as though the sky were falling. Hamilton had left Tuesday’s game early with sinus conditions that were affecting his vision, and Beltre was nursing a sore shoulder. And while we weren’t happy with how the loss played out, Wednesday’s game served as a reminder that there’s a reason these Rangers have managed to accumulate the best record in the American League and reach the last two World Series.
Wednesday’s game served as a reminder that there’s a reason these Rangers have managed to accumulate the best record in the American League.
It’s important to remember that these Rangers are not the team that Dallas has known since their move from D.C. in 1971. Those Rangers, save for a brief string of successes in the mid-’90s, were bottom dwellers of the league, chugging out losing — or, at best, average — seasons in much the same way as the sitcom Two and a Half Men.
And Rangers fans have internalized that hopelessness and futility to the point that when a bad loss like Tuesday’s comes along, it seems a harbinger of collapse. And it’s not like anything that happened in last year’s World Series dissuaded fans of that notion. But if the Rangers are to avoid becoming baseball’s version of the early ’90s Buffalo Bills, then Wednesday might be that turning point.
For all of the Angels’ disappointments this season, they are still a dangerous team that just happens to play poorly at times. In the AL Central, the Angels would only be half a game in back of the White Sox for the lead. They just happen to be playing against the Rangers and a surging Oakland.
This is not to say the Rangers are out of the woods yet. They still have seven games against Oakland, but before they play each other, the A’s must travel to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series while Texas takes on the hapless Mariners.
But with 14 games left in the 2012 season, Texas has shown why the team not only has the best record in the AL, but also the determination to make it to another Fall Classic. The race to the playoffs should be interesting.