I love baseball, but this post-season has been a challenge even for me, especially this week’s wild-card round. Save for the Marlins, who looked positively listless against the Phillies last night and may very well have already been ousted by the time that you read this, I have not even tangential rooting interest in the field. Until the Dodgers take the field this weekend, I’m in it for the game far more than the team.
But one of the great things about post-season sports is the potential of unexpected results and heroes. Especially when it involves teams that have a history of disappointment and futility. That, along with the city they play in, is what drove me to the Marlins, but, again, I’m a pessimistic realist.
But when I muse about what I saw unfold this afternoon before another non-sellout crowd in St. Petersburg, and saw a few statistics about what they’ve accomplished already, I’m adding the Texas Rangers to my preferred list, at least for now.
As THE FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM’s Lawrence Dow recapped:
The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 to sweep the Rays in the best-of-three American League Wild Card series at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
What to know about the game and the series:
What it means: The Rangers won the series 2-0. The Rangers remain undefeated in seven games at Tropicana Field and will play the Baltimore Orioles at 12 p.m. on Saturday in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
The Last Time: This is the first time the Rangers have won a playoff series since 2011, when they defeated Tampa Bay in the ALDS and the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
How the Rangers won/lost: The game was a short-lived pitchers’ duel until the Rangers opened up scoring with a four-run fourth inning. The Rangers scored in the fifth inning off a Nathaniel Lowe ground-out and two additional times in the sixth inning on back-to-back doubles from Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.
The Rangers had another excellent performance from their starting pitching with Nathan Eovaldi coming up huge in the biggest game of his Rangers tenure.
This was a team that had a 2 1/2 game lead in the American League West with a week to go, only to lose four of their last six–two of them to the Trout and Ohtani-less Angels, no less–and ultimately fall from a wild card round bye to a fifth seed and zero home games with their Metroplex faithful. They went down to the last day of the season only to anemically fall to a Seattle team that was reduced to spoiler when they were eliminated the day before by the only win of four games the Rangers took against them.
If anything, the presence of two ex-Mets pitchers–both injured–seemed to define them. Naturally, I empathized, but as they were taking on team that had won 99 games in the regular season in Tampa, I had scant little hope.
Boy, was I wrong. And, slowly, they’re beginning to make even the most discerning sports fans in DFW take notice, too.
According to data released by MLB this week, the Rangers had the largest year/year proportionate increase in local market rating of any MLB team, nearly doubling their 2022 audience.
And consider this: they’re making their eighth post-season appearance since they broke a quarter-century schneid since they relocated from Washington in 1972 in 1996–the same year that the Cowboys last appeared in, let alone won, a Super Bowl. Incidentally, both the NBA Mavericks and NHL Stars have more titles in that span (one each) than do the Cowboys.
They’ve also endured some pretty dramatic post-season heartbreak, In 2011, in their second consecutive World Series, they were down to needing one strike to clinch the franchise’s first-ever title, only to see St. Louis’ David Freese hit a game-tying homer to send it Game 6 into extra innings. There again, they were one strike away from immortality before blowing the lead and then ultimately losing it, as well as Game 7, to the Cards.
So yes, this is a team I can identify with.
They’re running into a juggernaut with top-seeded Baltimore, to be sure, but it’s a young, playoff-untested Baltimore. The Rangers’ roster has experience and grit, and showed it. They will have a more daunting enemy crowd to begin the Division Series this weekend, but if they can steal one of two, look out.
Seeing deGrom and/or Scherzer celebrate will be tough. Seeing an underdog emerge triumphant could make up for it.
So go kick some Bird butt, Power Rangers. I care how you do, and I suspect more of the Metroplex might start to soon as well.