Rangers not in playoffs for first time in 4 years
The Texas Rangers have gotten used to playing more than 162 games and into October.
This time, they only got an extra regular-season game - and didn't even get in the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Texas won at least 90 games for the fourth year in a row, even with suspended slugger Nelson Cruz missing 50 games and opening-day starter Matt Harrison pitching only twice. But the Rangers are already done.
"We played 163 games. In the past four years, our season was never over until 162 games were over," manager Ron Washington said Tuesday. "I think that's an accomplishment is itself. The only thing I feel is disappointment that we expected to do more and it just didn't happen."
The first day of October was set aside for Rangers players to clean out their lockers instead of preparing for a playoff game. Texas (91-72) lost the AL wild-card tiebreaker 5-2 Monday night to Tampa Bay, the only other team to win at least 90 games the past four seasons.
There was an empty feeling Tuesday in the clubhouse void of players.
Texas, which hasn't won a game in October since going to its only two World Series in 2010 and 2011, won seven games in a row just to force the majors' first wild-card tiebreaker since 2007.
"It's been a lot of fun, until the end," second baseman Ian Kinsler said after the game.
The Rangers were ultimately done in by a 5-15 slide to start September. That was after an AL-best 20-7 record in August for a two-game lead in the AL West going into the final month.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus said his regret the season is the final month.
"Especially after the August we had," Andrus said. "It was disappointing how we got that bad, but all around it was a tough year for us."
Andrus, Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios are among the hitters under contract for next season. Beltre had an AL-high 199 hits and Rios, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in August after Cruz was suspended, has a year left on his deal.
Pitchers signed beyond that include major league strikeout leader Yu Darvish (13-9, 277 strikeouts) with fellow starters Derek Holland (10-9) and Harrison. The staff ERA of 3.62 was the best for the Rangers since 1983.
But there could be some significant roster changes.
Closer Joe Nathan, with 80 saves the past two seasons, is expected to opt out of his $9.5 million deal for next season and seek a multiyear contract. Cruz, who was reinstated before the tiebreaker game and went 0 for 4, is eligible for free agency this offseason.
"Joe Nathan proved to everyone that doubted him what he was made of, and I certainly would love to continue giving him the ball," Washington said. "When you think about a Nelson Cruz, who wouldn't want a Nelson Cruz? Big heart, great teammate, but there's a lot of decisions to be made on our part and Nelson's part."
Others heading into free agency include catchers A.J. Pierzynski (.272, 17 homers and 70 RBIs) and Geovany Soto, outfielder David Murphy, right-handed reliever Jason Frasor and right-hander Matt Garza, who went 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts after Texas acquired him from the Chicago Cubs.
"We did everything you could do. I'm super proud of everybody in this room for what they did, how they went about their business, who they played, how they fought through adversity," said Pierzynski, who would like to return. "We just came up a little short. It stinks. It's not fun."
It was the second season in a row a September slump cost the Rangers. Last year, they lost the AL West crown on the final day of the regular season after being swept in three games at Oakland as part of a 4-9 finish that put them in the AL's first one-and-done wild-card playoff that they lost 5-1 to Baltimore.
The 730 runs were the fewest in a full season for the Rangers since 1992. They were shut out 11 times, including Darvish becoming the first MLB pitcher since 1989 to suffer four 1-0 losses in the same season.
"It was just a weird year on the offensive side," said Washington, 611-524 in seven seasons. "It just lacked consistency."
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