The Rangers Are 81-65


I’m drinking whiskey and coke tonight, because it’s one of those nights.

The chances of the Rangers winning the American League West took another sizable dip on Friday, as the Athletics took the opening game of a critical 3-game series in Arlington, 9-8. Derek Holland had another of those games one could classify as his worst start of the season, but he’s done that, like, 3 times in his last 7 starts, so either the line between “good” and “bad” is becoming blurred or we are soon going to have to adjust what is “normal” for Derek.

In his briefest start (3.0 innings) since September 24th, 2012 — also against the A’s — Holland allowed 6 runs on 8 hits in a game the Rangers absolutely needed. He looked awful. At this point it remains mystifyingly unclear what has changed in Derek’s approach over the last month and a half, but we aren’t starved for theories. Most obviously, one could opine that his “stuff,” or command, hasn’t been the same since striking out 10 Oakland bats (against only 2 walks) in 8.0 innings on August 4th. He also didn’t surrender any runs in that start.

Through that day, Derek Holland was one of Major League Baseball’s most effective starting pitchers, generating better than 4.5 Wins Above Replacement per FanGraphs. Since then, he has basically been useless, which leads me to the next theory:

Facing the Astros on August 10th, Holland was shotgunned by a line drive off his non-throwing forearm, and perhaps he has yet to shake off the lingering effects. As a man of logic as it relates to baseball, and of questionable reason in most other aspects of life, I find it difficult to put an abundance of stock into this notion; but that’s also to say I’ve never been a professional pitcher who has had to deal with the psychological trauma involved when a grown man smokes a projectile in my vicinity at speeds eclipsing 100 miles per hour. I’m not that guy.

Nonetheless, I cannot ignore results.

Even in spite of a feverish 8th inning rally, one that turned a 9-2 deficit into a 9-8 thriller, the Rangers were unable to close the deal. Sure, they weren’t helped by a horrendous call at 3rd base to end the inning, but if we are going to play that game, we must also acknowledge (a) why Alex Rios was questionably attempting to take an inconsequential base with 2 outs, (b) the fact that the Rangers pitching staff put the team in a virtually insurmountable hole, and (c) that there were still 3 outs to play with in the bottom of the 9th. If you are one to suggest that they had the game “stolen from them,” or what have you, you must also be willing to rationalize that it was a game they had no business winning in the first place.

I’m all for hypotheticals — don’t get me wrong — but it’s a serious issue if we are relying on the proven incompetence of major league umpires, who show time and time again the blatant necessity for expanded instant replay.

Lastly, a rant:

Over the last couple weeks my twitter feed has become inundated with fans spewing of the notion that the Rangers are in the midst of yet another September “collapse.” For those who think that, I’m not calling you stupid, I just think you’re wrong. You see, at the end of July the Rangers trailed the AL West by 6.0 games; this was right after Matt Garza was acquired but still before Alex Rios got here.

In short order, Texas erased that deficit and actually turned it into a surplus. If I’m not mistaken, the division lead grew as high as 3.5 games in their (our) favor. Now, I’m not arguing it hasn’t been a wholly underwhelming disappointment to see that lead, too, evaporate. Because it has. I’m arguing the Rangers never got high enough, were never in a commanding enough there’s-no-goddamn-way-we-can-lose-this position, for it to be considered a “collapse.”

Last year the Rangers held a 5-game lead with 9 left to play, and they wound up playing in — and being defeated in — the wild card playoff. That is a collapse. That is something which should not have occurred in reality. Yet it did.

This year there were still 30 or so games left on the schedule, and the fact that Texas possessed a 3-game lead is much less important than the respective schedules Oakland and Texas faced, and have faced, since then. In a way the division lead was never in the Rangers control, because September held the meat of their schedule while Oakland was asked to play a bunch of cupcakes — much like the Rangers during their 21-7 August run.

To that end, September has certainly been a disappointment, but that’s more been due to their (lack of) performance on the field than some type of collapse. In baseball, teams get hot, teams get cold, and in the end it all evens out. Right now the Rangers are cold. That’s all this is.

Yet, through the curse words aimed at the television screens, the yearning to drink more, and the thoughtless pain that can only be delivered watching something you have no control over, it won’t be long before it’s all over.

In 3 weeks, Texas will either be playing the Red Sox in the ALDS — which most, if not all of us would take — or the season will be over. There will be no more time wasted asking whether or not Yu Darvish is an ace, why the offense can’t score runs, why Ron Washington is still the manager; those questions will be on the back-burner in favor of the NFL, or the playoffs, or porn.

My lingering thought always leads back to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Why couldn’t it have worked out how it was supposed to? Why does it feel like I’m stuck in a coma? When am I going to wake up? I guess I’ll never know, and that’s why I’m here now.

I’m drinking whiskey and coke tonight, because it’s one of those nights.