The excitement is building around the Texas Rangers fan base as the team looks like it is headed to their eighth AL West division title and their first since 2016. It has been a rollercoaster ride of a season that is on the doorstep of ending Houston's reign atop the division. The Rangers after losing on Thursday 3-2 on a Seattle walkoff still have a magic number of 2 to clinch the division. There is nothing to be excited about until there is something to be excited about. These Texas Rangers should look back at the 2012 Texas Rangers team to remember that fact.
The Sudden Collapse of the 2012 Texas Rangers
Texas entered the final 10 games of the season and were up four games in the division over Oakland. They won on a walk-off single from Adrian Beltre over Oakland to push that lead up to five games. They were up five games with nine to go. The core of this team was composed of players who were one out away from winning the 2011 World Series.
Texas had nine games to go and had a five-game lead over the Oakland A's. Texas would then lose the next two games at home against Oakland before winning the final game of the series. Texas still held a four-game lead with six games to go. They should have clinched at home against the Angels. The team instead lost the next two games and Oakland won the next two to cut the lead to two games. Texas would then win the final home game of the season to take a two-game lead to Oakland for a three-game showdown to end the season.
Texas needed to win one game in Oakland to secure the division. They had stumbled down the stretch massively, but still only needed one of these three games. The 2023 Texas team still needs just one win to make the playoffs and two to win the division. This 2023 version of the Rangers should not do what the 2012 Rangers did.
The Texas Rangers embarrassment by the Bay
Texas started rookie Martin Perez in the first game of the series. He was only able to get through four innings and allowed four runs. Unfortunately for Martin that is all Oakland would need. The bullpen held Oakland scoreless the rest of the game. Mike Napoli hit a home run in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game, but the A's bullpen shut it down the rest of the way. Texas's lead was now down to one game with two games to go.
Texas still just needed one win to clinch their third consecutive division title. Texas went to Matt Harrison in game two of the series while Oakland turned to Travis Blackley. Harrison pitched well in this game. He went six innings and allowed just three runs with five strikeouts and just one walk. That should have been good enough. Blackley held Texas to just one run. Texas scored on a Josh Hamilton RBI double in the third inning. Texas lost 3-1 and the division lead was now gone and both teams were tied heading to a decisive game 162 on a Wednesday afternoon in bright and sunny Oakland, California.
Last game of the season and Texas went to their trade deadline acquisition Ryan Dempster to try and lock down the division. Texas got off to a great start and led 5-1 through three innings. The offense after being dormant for much of the first two games busted through in the third with five runs. Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, David Murphy, and Geovany Soto all came through with RBI base hits in the inning. Again that would be it for the offense. The wheels came off at that point. Dempster allowed two runs in the fourth and was then removed in favor of Derek Holland. It did not get better from there. The A's scored six runs in the fourth inning to take a 7-5 lead. It was capped off by the shallow fly to center that Hamilton lost in the sun allowing two runs to score. Texas would go on to lose 12-5 and lose the division. They still made the wild card game, but they lost that one as well.
What can 2023 learn from 2012?
The most important lesson is not be overwhelmed by the home crowd. I know Oakland has trouble attracting fans now, but in 2012 they were loud and rambunctious group of fans. Seattle will be that way this entire series as their playoff life is on the line. They will be loud from the first pitch to the last pitch. Texas has to stay focused, play their game, and come through with timely hits. They have to stay poised and not make foolish mistakes or give Seattle extra outs.
The second lesson is to take care of business early in the series. If this gets to Saturday or even Sunday and the division is still in question it will be very hard for Texas to finish the job. It will be sellout crowds and the pressure will be massive for a team that has not won anything yet. Texas needs to finish this off by Saturday at the latest. The 2012 team could have ended it either in the first or second game of the series. The offense was not there though to take advantage of good pitching performances. If it was Texas would not have had to deal with a game 162 and could have rested their guys instead.
The final lesson is to just continue to play good baseball like this team has over the last 10 days. Texas did experience a major setback on Thursday night. They had a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning with Aroldis Chapman on the mound. He allowed the first three batters to reach and was removed. Hernandez nearly finished the job getting the first two batters out. He then left a ball up against J.P. Crawford who hit the ball over Evan Carter in left field to score two runs and win the game. The 2023 Texas Rangers now will have to bounce back on Friday night and try to get a win and secure at least a playoff berth.
Texas has all of their regular season goals right in front of them. One win and they make the playoffs, two wins and they win the division and secure a first-round bye. They just have to beat Seattle and claim what they feel is theirs. Nathaniel Lowe said it best earlier in the season when being interviewed by Chris Rose.