Well, at least you can't say watching the Texas Rangers play good teams in front of sellout crowds isn't interesting. You might even go as far as deciding it is entertaining. You should also make no mistake that while we were mentally auditioning this series for how we'll feel in the playoffs; the New York Yankees were as well. They weren't just ho-humming their way through two August games in Arlington. They were battling. It was a good test for these Rangers. And you know what, while they didn't ace the exam, thanks to a late inning collapse last night, they passed. The Yankees certainly know it isn't going to be as easy as it always has been when it comes to the Rangers for them.
With that said, losing on Wednesday night hurt. A sweep of the Yankees would have gone a long way for this team. It would have buried a seed of doubt within the Yankees. It would have grown a mystique of what playing the Rangers at the Ballpark in a tense affair should be like for an opponent and all of that stuff that doesn't really actually matter but kind of does in ways we'll never know. Instead, the Rangers lost. It was a thrilling, exciting baseball game but exactly what you didn't want after the Rangers were up 6-1.
Cliff Lee wants some sun screens? You get Cliff Lee some sun screens. In fact, the Rangers should just install one of those misting fans right on the mound for when he pitches. Cliff Lee can't leave us. I refuse to think otherwise. All concessions must be made. I am willing to negotiate with terrorists!
The good news is the Rangers won their own hotly contested game on Tuesday night. They even beat Mariano Rivera. Even though he didn't have his best stuff, C.J. Wilson held one of the best offensive teams in baseball to two runs. And the Rangers continued to utilize a smoking hot David Murphy to great success. It's hard to look at the positives of this series, when the end was such a bummer, but they are there. The Rangers, if nothing else, showed why it isn't without merit to consider this team capable of defeating the Yankees in a post season series. Are they the favorites? No. Is it likely? Still, probably not. The Yankees probably win a seven game series against the Rangers a little more than 60% of the time. However, there is probably not a season in the Rangers history where you could give them 1 in 3 odds at going to the World Series. And after a series like this, it becomes a little clearer as to why those odds aren't crazy talk.
One of my least favorite moments of this season has been defending Frank Francisco after giving up a late inning home run in both of the games in this series. Look, it's frustrating when the bullpen doesn't come through. It really is. The leverage in the situations they pitch in is immense. But I just don't see why there are fans of baseball teams that refuse to look rationally at the body of work of a relief pitcher just because the few times a season they don't come through are the ones that cut the deepest and scar the most. It happened with C.J. Wilson last season after a troubled '08 season. Frank Francisco is apparently the new guy in the doghouse after a troubled first week of the season. It's pretty simple, however. Frank Francisco has been either the best, or second best relief pitcher on the team behind Darren Oliver, and has been hugely valuable. If the only thing you can associate him with is his failures and you think because of those failures in a handful of games it means that he shouldn't be on the team, then you're wrong and you need to reevaluate how you evaluate relief pitchers.
Which reminds me, of course you should be worried when a relief pitcher is in the game. They're failed starters in most cases which means they aren't as good as the best pitchers in the game. They also have a higher probability of just not having it that night because of usage patterns and the like. There is also the fact that if a relief pitcher is in the game it means it is late in the game and odds are, either your team is so far out of it that the game doesn't matter anymore, or your team is close enough to winning that the game is going to be stressful. Associating that feeling with individual pitchers just so you can play the "I knew it. I had a bad feeling about this guy" game is just weird, however.
One of my favorite moments of this season will forever be watching Elvis Andrus flying around the bases for his lead-off triple in the bottom of the 9th. Sure, six pitches later the Rangers had blown their golden opportunity to tie the game in frustrating fashion. But I refuse to let that overshadow the pure exhilaration that I felt watching Elvis with the motor turned on.
So what did we learn against New York?
It might take a bucket full of Xanax, but October baseball is going to be fun.