The homestand was setting up nicely for the Texas Rangers, who had two wild-card contenders coming to town and a chance to assert themselves in the playoff standings.
Or they could lay an egg and start the slow journey to the off-season.
These final 16 games could feel awfully long.
Here’s the aftermath of the seven-game homestand:
Two wins, five losses, 2 1/2 games lost in the wild-card race, five games back with 16 to play.
I know what the math says, but I also know what the math says.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-4 stinker against the Seattle Mariners.
1. The Rangers played plenty of bad baseball during their lousy homestand, allowing 28 runs in the final three games, but they hit rock bottom in the top of the sixth inning.
Three pitchers, four Seattle runs, 34 minutes, 50 pitches.
The final out of the half-inning came as Austin Bibens-Dirkx snared a line drive back to the mound. The fans weren’t necessarily cheering his play, but that the inning was finally over.
And with it, according to the Twitter, the Rangers’ playoff chances.
After watching that ... and Tuesday ... and Wednesday, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine the Rangers in the postseason. On Friday, when the homestand opened with a win over the New York Yankees, it didn’t take too much booze to imagine it.
Now, well, that much drinking would be harmful.
The Rangers will keep saying the right things until they are eliminated — playing with urgency, no tomorrow, every game is a big game — and that could continue through the final week of the season.
“We’ve been punched in the mouth,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’re not out. We’re going to play to the end.”
Said Elvis Andrus: “It doesn’t look good, but on paper we still have a chance.”
Once it’s over, the bullpen will shoulder much of the blame for the failed season, and rightfully so. Coaches are going to be evaluated/blamed, too. Some might not be asked to come back for 2018.
Planning will begin in earnest. The Rangers have a rotation to rebuild and a bullpen to upgrade. Shohei Otani or Yu Darvish? Bring Andrew Cashner back? Who is the best closer available?
Don’t expect a rebuild. Too many core players return. The rotation can be made serviceable via free agency. The bullpen, too, theoretically.
At this point, after that homestand, those things are easier to imagine than the Rangers making the postseason.
2. Cashner wasn’t at his best, though he wasn’t at his worst. If that is his worst, that’s not the worst thing in the world.
Before coughing up five runs in 4 1/3 innings, Cashner had been the Rangers’ best starting pitcher. He has still been the Rangers’ best this season.
So, what will it take to re-sign him?
Multiple years? Duh. But how many? Three or four seems reasonable. How much? Cashner is making $10 million this season, so $13 million to $17 million a year seems reasonable.
Should the Rangers re-sign him?
He won’t be the Rangers’ No. 1 target, not with Japan’s Otani expected to be posted and with Darvish on the market. In reading the tea leaves this week, it seems the Rangers will at least try to engage Darvish.
Consider this: Willie Calhoun, the prize of the Darvish haul, is wearing jersey No. 55. His Twitter handle is @11WillieCalhoun. Darvish wore jersey No. 11 with the Rangers.
If the Rangers had 11 available for Calhoun, who might like the number which he wore in the 2016 Futures Game and looks like a key piece going forward, why wouldn’t they give it to him?
Maybe the Rangers want to have it available for Darvish.
Pretty thin, right?
Anyhoo, Cashner probably falls in after the top targets, but they can’t sit back and wait for him to wait them out. They need to be proactive, more than they have been to date, and let him know they want him.
That’s the step they need to take with the games winding down.
3. Adrian Beltre had three at-bats at designated hitter in his first game since Aug. 31, and he laced a single to left field in the final one. He was immediately lifted for a pinch runner, with the score 10-1.
He didn’t look any different than when he came back from his calf injury or his ankle injury or his various leg injuries since 2011. He’s in management mode, and that hasn’t killed the Rangers in the past.
The Rangers acknowledged the risk he is taking by playing and the risk they are taking by letting him play. But, honestly, what’s the risk?
He aggravates it and can’t play the rest of the season. Well, guess what? That was what the Rangers had prepared themselves for after the initial diagnosis of a Grade 2 strain.
So he won’t be able to begin his off-season program until December instead of November? I think he’ll find a way to be ready on Opening Day.
What the decision indicates is how desperate the Rangers are and how desperately he wants to win a World Series before he retires.
His Rangers contract runs out after next season. He might continue to play after 2018, or he might take it to the house, as he likes to say. The Rangers would be foolish to not try to keep him, with as much as he means to the franchise as a player, a leader and a fan favorite.
Beltre might not be able to do more than split his time at third and DH in 2019. Keep in mind that Father Time is still undefeated. But Beltre is giving him a fight, something else that his decision to play again this season indicates.
There’s risk to letting him play, but not really in the grand scheme of things.