Every baseball game is like the beginning of a new poem in a book of poetry. Each poem is connected in that they’re all a part of a big book, but they’re also each their own individual work of art. If you didn’t like the poem before, you get to start a new one fresh. So after the Texas Rangers had one of their worst months in recent history in July, going 9-14 and finishing 2-5, as the calendar flipped to August they got the opportunity to start a new game with a new outlook.
After that inning, I was preparing to write a fairly peeved open letter to the Rangers, detailing what I would say to them if I was in that clubhouse. It was going to rant about their lack of focus, missing fortitude, inability to play the “Rangers” brand of ball that they have played the last three years. Too many games lately, the Rangers have appeared to lack the stomach for the fight. A team that has prided itself on never giving up and always knowing they’re in the game had frequently appeared to be ready to roll over and move on to the next day once the first signs of adversity hit them. Poor at-bats and defensive lapses were defining the team, not resiliency and character. They weren’t playing like the team that they have set out to be. It was time for a change.
That change came quicker than expected, as after that 3rd inning there was a different team in the home dugout at the Ballpark in Arlington. That transformation was led by Ian Kinsler. Charged with an error in that abysmal 3rd, Kinsler took the field the rest of the game with the kind of performance that tells the rest of the team that he is ready to carry them on his back. He drove a double to right-center to score Mike Napoli that was a key to a four-run Rangers fifth inning, he was aggressive on the basepaths, and it was his solo home run in the ninth inning off Ernesto Frieri that kept the Rangers alive and sent the game to extra innings.
After the game went to bonus frames, the Rangers got kicked in the gut again. Joe Nathan entered the game to keep it all knotted up, but instead surrendered two home runs in a three-run tenth inning for the Angels. Albert Pujols hit the final blast, giving him back-to-back multi-home run games for the first time in his career. After an impressive rally down from 7-1, that Pujols shot appeared to be the dagger that put the Rangers down for good.
Once again, the Rangers rallied with the spirit and fight that they had been lacking in their play in July. Nelson Cruz led off by launching a home run over the visitor’s bullpen, and he was followed by four straight Rangers reaching base. The cherry on top was a game-winning, bases loaded, walk-off single ripped down the left field line by Elvis Andrus.
It was an improbable win, to say the least. The Rangers were down 6-0 in the 3rd inning, 7-1 in the 4th, and 10-7 in the 10th, and they fought back from each one of those to maintain a four-game lead in the division, and guarantee they would have at least a three-game lead on the Angels at the end of this series.
Maybe it was the kick that July was over, or that the front office once again re-enforced this team at the trade deadline, or that all of a sudden that first place lead didn’t seem so cozy, but something instilled a sense of urgency in the Rangers tonight. The level of intensity quickly ratcheted from the dog days of summer to playoff-style ball. It was palpable, and it was needed. It is too soon to declare this one game to be a season-defining moment, even if it feels that way right now. It can become that moment retrospectively, if the Rangers pull away from the Angels from here and take the division. That journey to immortalizing the moment starts tomorrow, with a fresh opportunity to create a new work of art.