At first, this year looked like it could be a good one for the Rangers. The team arrived in Arizona for spring training fresh off back-to-back American League West championships and a 95-67 record. Although storm clouds threatened the future, thanks to soon-to-be free agent stars and an aging roster, 2017 started as a season that felt like it could be a championship ride for the Rangers' core players.
By May 8, it'd proved to be anything but. The Rangers lost in San Diego to slip to 13-20, a depth from which, despite several valiant efforts, they'd never fully recover. By the end of the season, Yu Darvish, the best pitcher in Rangers history, was getting ready for the playoffs with the Dodgers, to whom he'd been traded July 31. Jonathan Lucroy, the All-Star catcher acquired by the Rangers at the 2016 trade deadline, was gone, too, traded to the Rockies. The team, which managed to hang in the AL Wild Card race until September, finally capitulated, losing eight of their lat 10 games to end the season.
As the Rangers settle in to watch the playoffs on TV for only the third team since 2010, lets take a look at five key moments that swung the season.
Adrian Beltre injures his calf, starts the season on the disabled list
By March 27, the Rangers seemed to have escaped spring training largely unscathed by injuries. Then, during that afternoon's tuneup against the Kansas City Royals, Beltre strained his right calf. The Rangers third baseman ended up missing the first 51 games of 2017. Beltre returned to be, as he was in 2016, the team's best player, getting on base more than 38 percent of the time while slugging .533. Had he made it into the lineup before the end of May, Beltre and Rangers standout shortstop Elvis Andrus might've dragged the team into the second wild card slot. Depending on whether the Rangers decide to rebuild or reload in 2018, 2017 could've been Beltre's last year in a Rangers uniform. If it was, Beltre ended his seven-year Rangers career with a bang, collecting his 3,000th career hit while continuing to play at a Hall of Fame level during his age-38 season.
Opening night breaks Sam Dyson
Coming into 2017, the Rangers bullpen was expected to be the pitching staff's strength. The Rangers had MLB's best record in one-run games in 2016, riding a bullpen featuring Sam Dyson, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette to a division championship. Those three all returned in 2017, but the bullpen was a disaster. The breakdown began opening night against the Indians. In the eighth, Bush gave up a game-tying home run to Edwin Encarnacion. Dyson gave up three runs in the ninth. The Rangers lost 8-5, and Dyson was the losing pitcher.
The Rangers erstwhile closer never recovered. Two days later, he recorded just one out and gave up five runs, blowing a save and picking up another loss as the Rangers dropped to 0-3. By the time the Rangers traded Dyson to the Giants on June 6, Dyson was 1-6 with a 10.80 ERA. The instability created by the Rangers' inability to finish games persisted throughout the season.
Blowing it in Cleveland
The aforementioned phenomenon happened again against the Indians in Cleveland on June 26. The Rangers, fresh off a series win against the Yankees in New York, were 38-37, with a chance to solidify their record above .500 and assert themselves as a contender for the AL wild card. Up 7-1 after two innings and 9-2 after three and a half, things were looking good until Cole Hamels, otherwise the Rangers most consistent starter, and the woebegone bullpen conspired to give up 13 unanswered runs in the next four innings.
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The capitulation in Baltimore
The Rangers came out of the All-Star break at 43-45, desperate for a winning streak. After taking two of three from the Royals in Kansas City to start the second half, the Rangers headed to Oriole Park at Camden Yards looking to build on their momentum. Over four days, the Orioles outscored the Rangers 34-11, sweeping the series and dropping the Rangers to 5.5 games back in the wild card race.
Welcome to Oakland
The Oakland A's were not good in 2017. They finished 75-87, 26 games back of the Astros in the American League West. Despite the team's lack of talent or ambition, it's clear that Billy Beane viewed 2017 as a rebuilding year. The Rangers went 1-8 in Oakland this season. Twice during the second half of the season, the Rangers went in coming off series wins. Both times, Oakland swept the series. The second sweep, from Sept. 22-24, put the final nail in the coffin of the Rangers' long-shot wild card hopes.