It’s going to feel like a million little deaths.
You have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a Rangers season that ended anything like this. In 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016, the Texas Rangers season wasn’t over until the final out of the final game. In 2014, the season was over by mid-June.
This year? We saw the dismal April bullpen, then a surge. We watched the trade deadline sell-off, then a surge. We witnessed Mike Napoli’s line drive double play to third base in the 8th inning to quell the Rangers’ best hope of avoiding a sweep in Oakland, and it felt like the end of the line.
Then a surge.
And now, as time runs out on the season, we have seen the Rangers lose a series to the Yankees, followed by dropping three out of four to the Mariners. Then came tonight.
Nick Martinez escaped a two-baserunner first inning, then didn’t allow another one until the fourth inning, when the Angels scored two runs: Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun doubled, then Andrelton Simmons singled Calhoun home to make it 2-0.
But in the fifth inning ...a surge. Joey Gallo beat out a mis-hit infield single to the third base side. Will Middlebrooks doubled to put two runners in scoring position, and Brett Nicholas singled them both home. An inning later, Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run home run gave Texas its first lead in 33 innings.
It lasted for a third of an inning.
Martinez began the bottom of the sixth by allowing a Trout single and an RBI double to Upton. With the left-handed Calhoun up and the score now 4-3 Texas, Jeff Banister called on Yohander Mendez, who had pitched just 2 ⅔ innings at the big league level this season, and had allowed 3 runs on 4 hits in that time with a 1.500 WHIP.
But at least he didn’t have any walks.
He has one walk now.
To Mendez’ credit, here is the pitch that was called ball three.
I know there were a lot of factors in tonight's game, but I can't stop thinking about this one Mendez pitch that was called ball three. pic.twitter.com/glPSfCClje— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) September 16, 2017
Mendez has still pitched just 2⅔ innings in the big leagues this season. He was removed after walking Calhoun, and Ricky Rodriguez entered. A single, a sac fly, and a C.J. Cron home run later, it was 7-4 Angels.
In the eighth inning, another surge: Brett Nicholas singled, and so did Delino DeShields. Shin-Soo Choo walked to load the bases, and despite all the horror of the sixth inning, the Rangers now had the tying run on first base. But back-to-back sacrifice flies from Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre–while pulling the Rangers to within just one run–did nothing to advance that tying run from first base. Drew Robinson, who had entered the game for defensive purposes in the bottom of the sixth when the Rangers led 4-2, struck out. It was 7-6 Angels.
If you’re keeping track of who scored and when, perhaps you’ll note: had strike three from Mendez to Calhoun been called correctly, the Rangers would be tied or in the lead. (If only there were some way to call these things with more accuracy!)
Instead, they trailed 7-6, which is where the game would end, and with it, mathematically, the Rangers' hopes for a third consecutive AL West title. With the loss and the Astros win, Texas was officially eliminated from AL West contention.
It seems fitting it would happen on a night that felt like a microcosm of a season. A surge and a fall, a surge and a fall, a million little cuts until eventually there was no time left for any more surges before Fall.