Solace in angst.
The collective run differential in the American League West is +240.
The next best in baseball is the AL East’s +83.
The Rangers are in the game’s strongest division, and own the biggest division lead in the AL.
And yet in the top of the ninth inning of a fourth game in Kansas City, in a series in which Texas had already won two of three and owned a comfortable lead not only in the division but in the race for ALDS and ALCS home field, as the Rangers had the number eight hitter on first and the number nine hitter up with two outs in a tie game, and the Royals had turned the ball over to a pretty good closer, I watched Craig Gentry swing through a 2-2 Greg Holland fastball up and away and tweeted: “Depressing at-bat with a deep bench. Sigh.”
Earlier in the game, I’d tweeted: “Best team in the AL, but would be nice to either control the opponent’s running game just a little, stop running into outs on the bases, or both.”
I’m not an unhappy Rangers fan. I think I do a pretty responsible job of thinking back almost every day to the three decades of watching other teams earn the right to play in playoff series and win them and appreciating very much what we have here. These are the good old days.
Picking on whether the manager should have hit Jurickson Profar or Leonys Martin for Gentry there – and many Rangers fans were doing it, vocally – is probably just symptomatic of a fan base that’s locked in, passionate about this team and preoccupied with gaining every possible advantage available in the first 162 so that this October might end differently from the last two.
You can only maximize your chances so much, as Joey Matschulat aptly pointed out yesterday, but this is something we all intensely want. It’s hard to win.
When the local media reported on Twitter that Mike Napoli was out running the bases again on Thursday, I asked whether he got picked off. Momentary snark, nothing more.
We are not Red Sox fans, or Cubs fans, and while in past years I might have sat down to the computer this morning with real baseball complaints, or perhaps writing a report wondering why Texas released Miguel De Los Santos rather than attempting to run him through waivers and outrighting his contract, that’s well beside the September point in this era of Rangers baseball.
Adrian Beltre is under club control for at least three more years and a whole lot of playoff games.
Joe Nathan, two more years of control.
Yu Darvish five, Ian Kinsler four, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison two.
Derek Holland and Mike Olt and Profar six.
The farm system is loaded.
The front office is awesome.
Ownership is hungry.
But that’s all well down the road.
The lead is 5.5, and 5.0.
Four weeks from tomorrow is Game One.
Four weeks from today is the game that will decide, most likely, where Texas travels for that Game One.
In the meantime, I can’t promise there won’t be impulsive Twitter-angst this weekend over lineup decisions or outfield play or pickoffs or pitch location, but give me September baseball moments in Kansas City that get me worked up over running-on-fumes apathy every single day, and if you need something to lighten the mood a bit while waiting on Holland-Hellickson, Darvish-Price, and Harrison-Shields, watch this a time or two, and we’ll talk about the hard-charging Wilmer Font or who next year’s middle infield will be another time.