Let's think back to August 1st. The Rangers had just finished losing a series to the Angels in Anaheim with Cliff Lee on the mound. Lee had pitched a good game but not an other-worldly Cliff Lee game and the offense had once again done nothing to help him out. And after that disappointment came an off day on the 2nd. Perhaps nothing is momentarily worse for a baseball fan than an off day following a loss. The greatest gift baseball has for us is the knowledge that if your team loses there will be another game tomorrow to get it right. On those dreadful few days of the year that the team happens to be off, it's misery.
And for the Rangers-franchise-in-the-news this season, misery has loved company. For the first few days of August, while the offense had stalled, all talks were on the impending auction of the team. You hate to say it was a distraction, and it probably wasn't, but on the 3rd, the Rangers had perhaps their best pitching match-up of the series (Vargas/Lewis) and absolutely did nothing at the plate. Frustration, it seemed, was beginning to sprout legs. For the first time in the second half of the season, it seemed like the Rangers had hit a rut.
August 4th came and all eyes were on the auction drama for much of the day. In retrospect, considering the ultimate outcome, perhaps the distraction for us as fans ended up being a good thing as the team was down 5-2 in the 5th inning that night and without a bigger story to focus on, the sweeping tendrils of panic might have begun to grip us with designs on squeezing tight. But then, with 50% of the series having been played with sideways glances toward the exit, in a calculated in-game decision to intentionally walk Nelson Cruz, David Murphy did this:
6-5 Rangers. A Michael Young grand slam two innings later would ice the cake (Which happened just as the Greenberg/Ryan group threw a bid salvo that clued the Cuban/Crane group in that they were not going quietly themselves). It would be no more than 10 minutes or so after the Rangers won the game that word came down that Jim Crane was shaking the hand of Nolan Ryan and congratulating him on his new stewardship. August 4th had etched itself into the mental scrapbook.
2010 has been filled with great on-the-field Rangers baseball. Perhaps the best we've every watched. But the of-the-field news has been horror piled on a train wreck. To have the Rangers turn it on, in such a fashion, to deny the creeping doubts, just as the franchise was seemingly pulled out of a nightmare, is something I won't soon forget. If you had any reservations before, those should be quelled, this season is special.
The Rangers faced their poorest match-up of the series in Felix Hernandez/Tommy Hunter on the 5th. For the first six innings, the offensive explosion on the night before was looking like a mirage. The hopes were that the Rangers would come out reinvigorated. But then again, Felix Hernandez is really, really good and can stop a hot-hitting team in its tracks. Felix Hernandez is the kind of pitcher that puts teams in funks. But then David Murphy did it again. A two run opposite field home run that barely cleared the fence. It was a shot that shocked practically everyone in the stadium except probably Murphy. The Rangers would open the flood gates an inning later.
So what did we learn in Seattle?
Get your popcorn ready.