It was 360 days ago when I wrote about one of the worst losses in Rangers memory, a July 20, 2011 Rangers-Angels affair that was still bugging me nearly three weeks after it had been played.
On that night, Texas was riding a 12-game win streak, built mostly against division opponents, during which it broke free of a tie atop the AL West and pushed its lead to a season-high five games.
Behind Derek Holland, the Rangers (who had blanked the Angels, 7-0, the night before) jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fifth inning, chasing Dan Haren. Texas was headed toward 13 straight, a six-game cushion, and – a week and a half before the trade deadline – was about to hand the Angels their fifth loss in six games and, according to several stories, a possible decision to raise the white flag and sell off a couple veterans before the 31st.
Then Los Angeles scored six runs in the sixth inning.
And held on for a 9-8 win.
Remember this one (if you dare put stock in the significance of one baseball game).
The point (as I found myself having to spell out and defend over the next few weeks) was not that I felt the Rangers were in any danger of losing their grip on the season but instead because I was concerned that it could galvanize a wheezing Angels club.
That day 360 days ago, when I revisited that brutal loss, the division lead had been carved down by Los Angeles to one game.
As for last night, I don’t believe for a second that Texas 11, Los Angeles 10 will bury the Angels or lock anything up, but this team needed a galvanizing moment in the worst of ways.
It was the best win of the year in the strangest Rangers season yet, snatched from the angry clutches of what would have been the season’s worst loss, not just because of the importance of the game and the directions Texas and Los Angeles have been heading but also because of the manner in which it was happening. The cataclysmic third inning, the year’s worst, was far less an exhibition of getting beat by the Angels than an exercise in the Rangers beating themselves in all kinds of ugly ways, the worst way to lose. Texas was giving the game away in a single, early frame, with some of the worst pitching and defensive execution in memory.
Before the game I’d tweeted:
Tonight’s the night. The offense opens up a can and the pitching does the job.
I don’t know where the hunch came from. Maybe it was the boost I hoped the Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto trades would give a team that had been playing without any swagger. Maybe it was the law of averages, or the law of Overdue, or the desperation of wishful thinking.
But in the third, the pitching was very clearly not doing the job.
I didn’t have the stomach to tweet about the game after that, and don’t have the energy to write about the ninth or the tenth inning right now (though I’m still getting chills thinking about it), and I’ve resolved not to in-game tweet again until the Rangers lose. You don’t mess with a streak.
The division lead is back to four games, and the Rangers and Angels tangle tonight for the final time until the season’s final two weeks. It won’t be C.J. Wilson’s first game as a visitor to Arlington, but it will be Dempster’s and Soto’s – and Mike Olt’s – first as Texas Rangers, and I wish first pitch was in about 10 minutes, with all three hopping off the top step and running out onto the field.
After giving the game away last night, Texas bowed up and took it back.
The Rangers could give it all back tonight. But I don’t think so.
A win like that, like that, after the way this series had gone, could do more for a baseball team than any closed-door meeting ever could.
Maybe the combination of that impossible win and the arrival of three new players jumpstarts a team that’s been in obvious need of its own galvanizing moment.
I know Texas 11, Los Angeles 10 did that for me.