The game along Randol Mill Road on Sunday that, safe to say, no one cared too much about brought the Texas Rangers’ 2017 season to a close.
For those who care a little, the Rangers lost 5-2 to the Oakland A’s to finish their season with a 78-84 record.
But the damage was done long before Tuesday, when the Rangers were eliminated from postseason contention. It turns out that a hint of what was in store for the Rangers was given on Opening Day and in the lid-lifting series versus the Cleveland Indians.
Bullpen blows it, offense comes up short, bullpen blows it.
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That was a trend in the first half, a trend that led to the release of a closer and the trade deadline departure of a star pitcher. It was apparent by June 1 that there would be no three-peat, and only a lousy year for the American League kept the Rangers’ wild-card hopes alive into the final week.
For only the second time since 2009, there is no tomorrow for the Rangers. Even in 2013, one of three seasons in the past eight when the Rangers didn’t make the playoffs, they played more than 162 games.
And it stinks.
Contrary to popular opinion, the stench doesn’t just emanate from one area, the one beyond the wall in right-center field at Globe Life Park. It was a team effort, from the bullpen to the front office.
“You win as a team and you lose as a team,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Everybody wants to do their best, and there’s no reason to point any fingers. It just didn’t happen for us this year. Hopefully we can learn from everything that happened this year and get over it and get ready for next year.”
The bullpen, though, is an easy target. Sam Dyson imploded at the start of the season, taking the loss in the opener. That was the first of six losses for him in 17 appearances, and his blown save in the third games was the first of four before the Rangers released him June 2.
The relievers’ woes went beyond Dyson. They have allowed 39.7 percent of inherited runners to score this season, worst in the majors. Their 4.66 ERA is 14th in the 15-team American League.
Matt Bush struggled during his first stint as a closer (five blown saves), Tony Barnette allowed the highest percentage of inherited runners to score (51.2 percent) in the majors, and nothing was done in the off-season to attempt to fill the void created by Jake Diekman having surgeries for ulcerative colitis.
“There’s no secret our bullpen had a tough season,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said.
Manager Jeff Banister took a deeper look to find that the pitchers walked too many batters and didn’t strike out enough, and the hitters struck out too many times and didn’t walk enough.
Within that defensively are free runs, shorter starts, more innings for the bullpen and more time on their feet for fielders. Offensively, there were few runners on base and fewer hits with runners in scoring position and fewer productive outs.
And more losses than wins for only the second time since 2009.
Banister said that the Rangers will review everything, dating to the off-season and into spring training, to figure out what went wrong.
“Anytime that seasons don’t go to your expectations, there is that evaluation process,” Banister said. “Do you look at one single moment? I think that would not be beneficial to us. You have to evaluate all of it.
“There are certain events inside the season that send you in different ways. Were we prepared enough to handle them, whether it was injury or lack of performance?”
And the Rangers will, beginning Monday as they meet with the coaching staff. Some are under contract for 2018, some are not. Pitching coach Doug Brocail said that the club holds an option for next season but he hasn’t heard anything yet.
Banister didn’t want to discuss specifics, but confirmed that planning for 2018 is under way as the 2017 season comes to an end much sooner than expected. If there is a silver lining it’s that, despite all that went wrong, the Rangers weren’t eliminated until Game 157.
“Everything we went through this year, you can go from Opening Day when we had that blown game, on Sept. 25 we still had the opportunity to still be in the postseason,” Chirinos said. “If I take anything out from this year, this team never quit, man. This team came to the field every day and did everything they could to have the opportunity to be in the postseason.”
But their season is over.