So here we are, at the end of 162. This is where twenty of the thirty teams pack up their gear for the last time and go home, or go to instructional league, or the winter league. Some will retire, some will become free agents and won’t realize they’ve retired until they just can’t land a job in 2017. Many will have played their last game in one uniform, and will suit up in another in a few months. Their writers are, today, putting the wraps on the season, performing autopsies on bullpens and unfulfilled expectations.
The Rangers, of course, have more games to play. The “season recap” was written a week ago when the team clinched the AL West. So today’s 6-4 loss didn’t feel like a funeral or a last hug from a loved one. No, instead, it took on, quite nearly, the tone of the final spring training game before Opening Day. Six out of the nine starters in the lineup were replaced, some as early as the 4th inning. 7 different pitchers graced the mound. It was a lighthearted, oh-who-cares affair in which - until the bottom of the 9th - perhaps the most important play of the day was by a man in the front row who tackled one of two men who had run on the field and evaded security for quite some time.
Martin Perez did not make it to 200 innings, a goal he had set before the season. He finished at 198⅔. “I threw my best,” Perez said after the game. “It was a lot for me, especially after Tommy John, to play a complete season, I feel happy, and - I didn’t get 200 innings in the regular season, but I think I’m gonna make it in the playoffs, so,” he smiled and pulled at his beard as he looked at the ground for a moment before looking back up “so that counts, too.”
Hopefully when he does cross the 200-inning threshold, he will do so in much more comfortable fashion than today’s outing allowed. The second inning was his downfall today; after a leadoff double to Richie Shaffer, Alexei Ramirez hit a ball that crept softly down the first-base line. So slow was the ball, in fact, that Ramirez outran it to first base. Perez corralled the thing, and made a nice throw as he fell backwards toward home plate, but Ramirez had already crossed the finish line. After that, Curt Casali singled to bring home the first run, then after a 6-4 fielder’s choice moved Ramirez to third, Jaff Decker hit a sac fly to make it 2-0 Rays.
They would score again in the third, when Elvis Andrus allowed an Evan Longoria groundball to burrow under his glove and into the outfield. After a lineout and a strikeout, Ramirez singled, Casali walked to load the bases. Then Luke Maile grounded a ball up the middle that Andrus made a stellar diving catch on, but as he popped up - seemingly with time to make the short throw to second base, he instead opted to throw to first. Maile beat the throw, and it was 3-1. Martin Perez’ day was over and the bullpen took over.
Ryan Rua had a great game. In the second inning, he singled home Adrian Beltre for the first run of the game, then stole second base. In the 4th, after Jonathan Lucroy’s 24th home run of the year made it 3-2, Rua again singled, and again stole second base. He then went on to walk in the 7th and 8th innings. Rua is in the thick of the decision-making process as far as a postseason roster goes, and while the macro picture is of the utmost importance, it’s also impossible to say that a strong last impression isn’t important. Rua made a strong last impression.
The same cannot be said for Delino DeShields, also battling for a postseason roster spot. DeShields took over for Carlos Gomez in the 4th inning, and struck out 4 times. In the 7th, he was unable to get a bunt down with runners at first and second with no outs. In the 8th, his strikeout came with two outs, the bases loaded, and the Rangers trailing by a run after a Jurickson Profar bases-loaded walk.
Jared Hoying also made his closing arguments today. He came on in the 8th inning and singled in his lone at-bat.
Perhaps the purest form of baseball is when a game checks all three of these boxes: meaningful, entertaining, and unique (and in that order). Today filled the last box first.
In the 7th inning, the Rangers’ bullpen’s streak of 35⅓ scoreless innings came to a close. That happens. HOW it happened? Unique: First, Jake Diekman got a fly-out to center field. No problem. Then he struck out Evan Longoria. No prob-wait, the ball got away. Like, far away. Longoria is on first base now. Shaffer walked (and the strike zone on what might’ve been strike three was questionable), and Ramirez ended the streak with a bloop single that hit the shallow rightfield Bermuda triangle. Diekman’s day was finished and Dario Alvarez came on. He ended the inning without completing an at-bat: as Ramirez tried to steal second base, Alvarez stepped off and ran towards him. Ramirez turned around and tried to retreat to first, which drew a throw from Alvarez. But Ryan Rua (continuing his good day) caught Shaffer too far off third base, and threw over. The tag was applied, and it was a 1-3-5 caught stealing. Unique, right?
It also became entertaining late. In the 9th, after Hoying’s single to lead off the inning, Robinson Chirinos also singled. Then with runners at the corners, Hanser Alberto made it three in a row. Hoying scored, and the game was tied. But Mazara struck out, Brett Nicholas flied out, and Gallo, too, swung and missed at strike three to send the game to extra innings.
Bleh. Extra innings was bad. Tanner Scheppers gave up three hits in a row, allowing one run to score on a wild pitch, and another to score on a single. “Okay,” Arlington said. “That’s quite enough regular-season baseball for one year. We really should not have taken that last bite. That was too much. It started to taste gross. The appetizer has long since been forgotten, and I am finished with the main course."
"...Now bring me a bird to begin dessert, I don’t care what type.”
"Yeah, we’re going to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday -- got to stay sharp. We’re waiting to see who’s going to come over. But for the most part, just practice a little and prepare for the team we’re going to face." - Adrian Beltre on the plans for this week
"Of course. We’re not going to sit around and watch it, but we’ll keep our eye on it. We’re baseball players, you can’t get away from it. You get to watch and sometimes you learn something. But my family is here and I’m going to spend some time with them, and we’ll be ready for Thursday." - Beltre on the Wild Card game
"He beat by a couple points. But that’s one thing I take pride in, trying to hit .300 every year. I know it doesn’t happen every year. But it’s something that I like to do. I’d like to hit .300 every year and produce a lot of runs. Once you get close to .290, your eyes get on .300. Once I got up to the high .290s, I was pushing to get there, and I got there." - Beltre on hitting .300 (and Elvis beating him)
"I’ll relax and hang out with my family. It’s going to be a little hectic coming up here soon. I’m just going to take the next three days and relax, have a little fun and prepare myself mentally and physically for the month ahead." - Lucroy on days off
"I’ll probably just keep tabs on it. We have three days until we play, so I’m going to just spend time with my family and prepare myself scouting wise and go from there." - Lucroy on WC game
TEXAS finished the season with the most wins and highest win percentage in the American League for the 1st time in franchise history…dropped the final 2 games of this series to the Rays and lost 4 of 6 meetings with Tampa Bay this season…had a 5-game win streak in extra-innings snapped, finishing 6-6 in extra inning games this season.
MARTIN PEREZ did not factor into the decision after exiting with the game trailing 3-1 after 3 innings…finished the season with a career-high 198.2 innings.
ADRIAN BELTRE had a single in 2 plate appearances to raise his season average to .300…is the 7th Ranger ever with a season of .300, 30+ HR, and 100+ RBI (Juan Gonzalez-4 seasons, Alex Rodriguez/Josh Hamilton/Beltre-2, Pudge Rodriguez/Rafael Palmeiro-1)…is one of just 3 active players with multiple seasons of .300/30+ HR/100+ RBI, joining Miguel Cabrera (6 seasons) and David Ortiz (5)…batted .362 (38-105) over final 28 games.
JONATHAN LUCROY homered for the 11th time in 47 games with the Rangers…finished the season with a career-best 24 home runs and his 81 RBI were one shy of a career-high (82 in 2013).
RYAN RUA reached safely in 4 of 5 plate appearances today with 2 walks and 2 singles…was 3-for-7 with 2 walks and a double in 2 starts this series…had a career-high 2 stolen bases and is 10-for-10 in steal attempts to start his career.
HANSER ALBERTO hit a game-tying RBI single in the 9th inning, snapping an 0-for-15 drought since his double on 7/31 vs. KC.