Usually, for the Rangers, when they have played in a series that means far more for their opponent than for themselves, it is because they're out of the race and trying to play the role of spoiler against a club in contention. Because of the rare times the Rangers have even found themselves in contention, it being over a decade since there has been a season where the Rangers played with a lead this late, the Rangers haven't played in many series that felt more meaningful in terms of hopes for a playoff berth for the opposition than it does for the Rangers. This was one of those series. For the A's this was a series that meant allowing themselves to believe in a possible September turn-around rather than making Autumn golf plans early. For the Rangers, while stomping on the throats of the nearest enemy is always welcome, it wasn't a series of much consequence.
While the A's might have left Arlington with a feeling that they still have a tiny bit of hope, the Rangers did what they needed to do, they won a game. It's not want you wanted. It's not the best case scenario. It's not what I assume the team was going for. It isn't something to pat the team on the back over, but it is what the Rangers needed. Had the A's swept the series, they would be 5.5 games back. That's still a lot. The Rangers probably win the division in that scenario 85% of the time. But it isn't insurmountable. 15% is one heck of an incentive to keep battling. However, thanks to winning a game in this series, the Rangers still lead the division comfortably by 7.5. The Rangers probably win the division in this scenario 95% of the time. While I imagine the A's will continue to battle, they do so having lost about 10% of their small chance to come out as division champions. That's why the Rangers winning one game in this series was ultimately a victory.
The one game the Rangers did win happened to also be one of the best played games of the season for the Rangers. They got to Brett Anderson for a 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks to some infield hits and a double by David Murphy and just continued to hit, pitch, and field at high level for the remaining eight innings. Truly, this was the high point of the series.
Helping to make it a high point was the continued amazing play of Josh Hamilton. He was 3 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and another run scored on an infield single from second base. He also made an amazing catch in left field to bail out Neftali Feliz in the 9th inning. It wasn't quite as good as the game he had against Boston earlier in the month, but the fact that games like it are becoming commonplace blows my mind. For the series, Josh Hamilton was 5-10 with 2 runs, 3 RBI, a HR, 2 BBs, and world class defense. Josh Hamilton is the American League MVP.
The Arlington crowd agrees. One of the cool moments of the season was hearing the 30K+ crowd chanting "MVP! MVP! MVP!" for Josh Hamilton on Friday night. Tommy Hunter should have joined in on the chant as well. There's no way Colby Lewis gets that kind of support from the offense. But they do work every time Tommy is on the mound. He should thank god every night for Josh Hamilton.
Jorge Cantu, on the flip side of the best player in the American League this season, was 1-10 in the series with a game on Sunday that might have been among the worst of any Ranger all season. He was 0-4 with 3Ks and a GIDP to go along with a mental lapse on defense that allowed a run to score after forcing a runner at first instead of second on an easy inning ending double play with a runner at third that walked in as the A's player at first stopped to get himself in a rundown. Just brutal.
Just as brutal was watching the Rangers get shut out at home by Dallas Braden. Dallas Braden is exactly the kind of pitcher that seems to be able to put the Rangers in a funk for days thanks to being left-handed with the ability to throw soft junk that seems to bewilder the Rangers.
But that is not as bewildering as fans booing Colby Lewis. Apparently it struck a nerve with Colby as he told reporters after the game that he thought the Rangers fans were better than that. While Colby Lewis should be careful about voicing an opinion such as that, considering no one is going to side with the rich professional sports player, he is absolutely right. The fact that he was booed at the Ballpark is a joke. Colby Lewis has been pitching like an ace for the Rangers this season and has run into a string of bad luck/poor support from the team's offense which has caused him to go on a win-less drought. It's exactly why the win stat for pitchers is a bad way to judge a starting pitcher. Colby Lewis has gone out of his way to say in interviews that winning the games personally is not his goal, but that pitching well enough to put the team in position to win is his goal. The fact that fans of the team were booing him is ridiculous. Boo the offensive or the terrible lapses in defense on Sunday, but Colby Lewis is not deserving of scorn from the stands even in his worst start.
So what did we learn Against Oakland?
Thanks to winning one, the dance continues unabated.