|Final - 10.5.2012||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|WP: Joe Saunders (1 - 0)
LP: Yu Darvish (0 - 1)
This is the way the season ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
If you believed in the predictive value of narratives, you saw this coming. The Rangers' depressing, inexorable tailspin from the top dogs in the American League to failing to even take their own division was finally ended in their own house in a play-in game by a team that barely outscored their opponents over the season.
The Rangers fell behind immediately through the same methods that kept them from winning the division: bad luck and Michael Young, with a dash of an inability to hold baserunners.
Nate McClouth knocked the first pitch of the game on the ground towards Young -- who just has to be in the field, despite no real success when he's there (more on this later -- who let it bounce off his ineffective physical being for a Reached On Error. McLouth stole second, and J.J. Hardy responded with a ground ball that skipped unluckily just past the reach of Ian Kinsler for the game's first run.
The Rangers started of spectacularly, with a walk from Ian Kinsler and a single by Elvis Andrus. It was all downhill from there, as Josh Hamilton began a nightmarish night by grounding in to a double play, bringing home the game's only run in the most pathetic fashion possible. It what was likely his last game as a Ranger, Hamilton saw eight whole pitches, struck out twice, and failed to get a single ball out of the infield.
He was not alone in failing. Texas needed to get to Joe Saunders early, to get runs against the weak Baltimore starter before facing their bullpen. Instead, they allowed Saunders to go five and two-thirds innings, barely scratching him at all. It was not that Saunders brought some dominant stuff, it was simply that Texas spent its evening making weak contact at best on very hittable pitches. Once he left, they predictably continued to struggle against the awesome Oriole bullpen. The offense was the reason the season sank in the final weeks, and that meme continued in their one and only playoff game.
The sad part -- outside of the whole "ending the season" thing -- was the waste of a great Yu Darvish start. The Rangers incredible, young offseason addition was tremendous, with his first two runs allowed coming merely on groups of ground balls finding the outfield, including one unearned. He struckout seven, walked none, and looked in control the entire time he was on the mound. In the biggest game of his American career, he was everything advertised, and gave this delicious little glimpse of what it could be like seeing him pitching more big games in October.
The Texas fans knew it, giving him a standing ovation when he left. Fortunately, Yu Darvish will be a Ranger again for several years, and will get even better, and will pitch more big October games. Yay.
The problem was when he left, and it brings us to the other big problem with this game and this season. After yet another grounder found the outfield and a bunt advanced the runner to second, Darvish was lifted so Derek Holland could face the lefty McLouth.
There is no way Holland was a better option than a healthy Darvish. Allowing for the possibility that Darvish was not feeling well, why dominant reliever Koji Uehara -- who handles lefties just fine -- wasn't brought in is unfathomable. Holland promptly threw a wild pitch, then surrendered a single to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead. The run ended up being unimportant, since the Rangers' offense was done from the start, but it highlighted some "interesting" management from Ron Washington in the game.
After that, Uehara came in to the game in the next inning anyway. Why couldn't he have started sooner? In the seventh, the Orioles brought in familiar righty Darren O'Day, but Wash left Young at the plate with Mitch Moreland sitting on the bench. Moreland then hit for Geovany Soto, and despite having a third catcher on the roster, Washington chose, to move Mike Napoli behind the plate. So, simply because Michael young has to play the field -- thus tying up his backup catcher at DH -- and has to hit in all situations, platoon advantage or not, Ron Washington sacrificed the DH for the rest of the game should the Rangers actually manage to come back.
None of this game made sense. Maybe there is some secret knowledge we are not privy to, but this game seemed like a season-ending head scratcher clinic from Washington after a year of questionable bullpen moves, running regulars in to the dirt, and clinging to a washed up veteran like some sort of sick habit.
Consider one of SB Nation's own, one of the smartest and most reasonable baseball fans you'll find, and a long-time ardent Ron Washington supporter:
I have defended Ron Washington relentlessly the past few years, but I'm at the point where I have a hard time justifying him returning.— Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) October 6, 2012
There may be reason we don't see for keeping Washington around, and calling for his head is probably fueled by a lot of emotion. Still, he at least has to be under question after the way 2012 has gone.
Anyway, that's all for the offseason. In the actual game, the Orioles scored some more runs that didn't matter. The game ended 5-1, but it felt over long before David Murphy somehow came up as the tying run in the ninth inning. The Rangers long journey towards wasting a phenomenal start to the season is finally complete. Last season, they left us feeling like we had been stabbed in the heart just as we were beginning to truly feel the greatest love a fan can know. In 2012, they gave us a taste and then let it slowly whither and die from diseased failure.
Hey, wait'll next year, right?
- Josh Hamilton -19%
- Mike Napoli -13%
- David Murphy -10%
Biggest Play: With no outs in a 1-1 game, Chris Davis singles with J.J. Hardy on first, putting runners at the corners (12% Win Probability Added).
Gary Darling's Strikezone