The Texas Rangers are off to an incredible start in 2012. After 19 games, they were 15-4, having won every series they have played this year, and playing as a truly dominant club. The Texas Rangers played their 20th game tonight, and are now 15-5. This means they lost. That’s fine, all baseball teams lose. In fact, even phenomenally amazing baseball teams lose forty games in a year. Forty! That means that to be awesome at accomplishing your task as a baseball team, you still fail 25% of the time. This is like being in college where you have that buddy who doesn’t care about working hard and just walks around saying “heh, C’s get degrees”. That slacking buddy is some of the greatest baseball teams ever, because they still only get 75% of their “tests” right.
So there, that’s simple, right? All teams lose, the Rangers lost tonight, no big deal. Well, not exactly. See, the fact that they lost isn’t so bad. The problem is that they’re really bad at losing. And by this I mean that they’re playing so good that even when they lose they make you think they’re going to win. They should have the decency to lose by a lot if they’re going to lose. That way, the rest of us can get on about our Friday nights. Instead, tonight, all around couches and sports bars and in the ballpark in Arlington sat Rangers fans on the edge of their seats because the Texas Rangers make you believe they’re going to win, even when they’re going to lose.
Tonight’s game wasn’t even all that close. The Tampa Bay Rays won 8-4, after jumping out to a 1st inning lead of 4-0, and expanding to a 4th inning lead of 7-1. After that 1st inning, the Rangers win expectancy never climbed above 32.9%. See the win expectancy chart below:
So what am I talking about? I’ll tell you. In the 8th inning the Rangers got a Nelson Cruz bloop single to right, a David Murphy hit off of a left-handed pitcher, and Mitch Moreland reached on an error by Evan Longoria. All three of these things were a little fluky. The Texas Rangers have been playing some “team of destiny” caliber baseball, and have had especially productive 8th innings, so the wheels were starting to turn, in my mind at least. Now it was bases loaded, one out, with Ian Kinsler at the plate and the Rangers down 8-4 against a Tampa Bay bullpen that entered the game with the 2nd-worst ERA in the MLB. For being down 4 runs, a better situation could not be provided.
Then Nelson Cruz made a boneheaded move and tried to score on a wild pitch. The attempt itself wasn’t boneheaded, it was the way he went about doing it. He hesitated twice on the play, and then decided to try to score. After one hesitation, he needed to stay at third base. It’s a go or don’t go move, there is no in between. Cruz found the no man’s land, and was thrown out.
But wait, Kinsler drew a walk, and now Elvis Andrus is at the plate with the bases loaded again, already with three hits on the night. After an 8-pitch battle, Andrus drives one down the right field line, which gets in the infamous Ballpark jetstream, hugs the line, and sails over the fence. Foul by about 5 feet. The game-tying grand slam was missed by that much. Then the inning ended, as did the Rangers collective hopes of winning this game.
Three of the five Rangers losses have been by one run, and the fourth loss was by three runs. So this 8-4 loss was the worst of the season for the Rangers, and it still felt like they were in it until the end. That’s the kind of team the 2012 Texas Rangers are. Now, their streak of not losing consecutive regular season games since August 25th of last year will be tested tomorrow.
It’s always more fun to win, and it’s never fun to lose. But losing happens, and often the losses help you to appreciate the wins. Thankfully for Rangers fans, the losses have been few and far between. Either way, the Rangers are playing one of the most entertaining brands of baseball right now. In the end, the Texas Rangers are bad at losing because they’re good at baseball, and that makes it all worth it.