By: Richard W. Humphrey
Texas Rangers Baseball Contributor
The Texas Rangers’ season came to an end in Toronto Sunday night. Toronto pushed across an unearned run in the 10th inning to take a 7-6 win and become the first team to move on to the League Championship Series. They will face either Cleveland or Boston beginning next Friday.
The Rangers and Blue Jays jockeyed for the lead over the first six innings. Texas scored first without benefit of a hit when Carlos Gomez walked and stole second base to get into scoring position; and then scored on two ground outs.
The lead didn’t last long. The Jays came back with a pair of home runs in the bottom of the first, one with a runner aboard to take a 3-1 lead. Elvis Andrus cut the lead to one with a home run in the third inning, the Rangers’ first in the series; but Toronto answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Josh Donaldson blooped a ground rule double down the right field line to drive home one, and then scored himself on Edwin Encarnacion’s single making the score 5-2.
That ended Colby Lewis’s night on the mound. The Ranger starter got just six outs, and gave up five runs.
Rougned Odor pounded the Rangers’ second home run in the fourth inning with a runner on base to pull within a run at 5-4. In the sixth inning, Texas took their second lead of the game and series with two runs. A walk, a single and Mitch Moreland’s double plated the pair.
In the bottom of the inning, Jeff Banister made the pitching move that will be criticized. Jeremy Jeffress had pitched well, getting a double play to end the fifth inning and striking out Russell Martin to start the sixth. Troy Tulowitzki singled on basically a bloop to right field, and Banister jerked him out of the game, bringing in Jake Diekman to face pinch hitter Melvin Upton, Jr. Diekman has struggled mightily in recent outings including allowing a three run home run in game one. He threw just one pitch in this game that Upton lined to left for a double. That put Tulowitzki on third, and he subsequently scored on a passed ball to tie the game.
The game stayed tied at six until the 10th. The Jays bullpen has been maligned, but on Sunday night, they retired the final 13 Ranger batters.
Keone Kela bailed out Diekman to get the game to eighth still tied. Matt Bush was terrific for Texas. He struck out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth inning, and retired the Jays again in the ninth on a strikeout, pop out and fly out.
Bush had pitched two innings in a game five times this season, but never more. But Banister brought him back to pitch the tenth inning. Josh Donaldson led off with a double. The Rangers walked the next batter to set up the double play, and Bush struck out the next batter. Bush got the ground ball to short that should have been the inning ending double play. However, Odor’s relay throw to first was wide. Mitch Moreland couldn’t scoop it, and that allowed Donaldson to score from second with the game winner.
Bush was the losing pitcher. Roberto Osuna was the winning pitcher.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great season for Texas. The bottom line though for the series was that the starting pitchers were awful. Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Lewis combined to complete 10-1/3 innings and allow 16 earned runs. The Rangers were behind early in every game. It was too much to overcome.
It will be a longer off season than expected as there are no more games. It will be an interesting off season to see how the team gets re-configured for 2017. Four players in the batting order are eligible to be free agents this winter – Carlos Gomez, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran and Mitch Moreland. It’s unlikely that more than one will return. As for the rotation, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, and Martin Perez are back, but Derek Holland, A. J. Griffin and Colby Lewis may not be. The team that takes the field on opening day next April will look a lot different from the roster that Banister took into the playoffs this month.