ARLINGTON, Texas — Just like that, with another strange ending in Toronto, the season ended for the Texas Rangers.
So much for having the American League’s best record, their aces lined up for the postseason and the three big additions to the lineup in August.
For the second year in a row, the AL West champs are done after a best-of-five AL Division Series against Toronto. This time, they got swept.
“We expected to go a little bit farther than this,” said third baseman Adrian Beltre, now at 19 seasons without a World Series title. “We had a really good team to do it, a lot of great guys that were committed to win. … We got cold at the worst moment.”
Second baseman Rougned Odor short-hopped the relay trying to complete an inning-ending double play in the 10th late Sunday night, and Josh Donaldson scored from second base on the throwing error.
“Got to come back stronger, know what we did wrong this postseason, and use that for next year,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said of the early exit. “And as soon as we get an opportunity to go back, just go out there and execute.”
That sounds similar to the message after the 2015 ALDS, when Texas lost the series-deciding fifth game in Toronto after three consecutive errors — two by Andrus — in the seventh inning set up Jose Bautista’s tiebreaking three-run homer and emphatic bat flip.
After an MLB-best 49 come-from-behind wins among their 95 victories in the regular season, the Rangers didn’t have another comeback in 2016. They had been 36-11 in one-run games, a modern era-record .766 winning percentage.
“I believe in this core group of guys. Look, look at the numbers and how we played all year long, the comeback wins, the one-run wins,” second-year manager Jeff Banister said. “That’s not luck. I’ll argue with anybody that wants to say it’s luck. It’s not luck. It’s a case that they continue to play. They’re very talented. We’re not perfect. No team is perfect.”
The Rangers got Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish for just such moments, but the aces allowed 12 runs in 8 1/3 innings in losing the first two games at home. Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP with Philadelphia, had his worst-ever postseason start and Darvish gave up four homers — three in one inning. Hamels (15-5) won only one of his last six regular-season starts, with seven scoreless innings at Oakland on Sept. 23 to win the AL West title-clinching game for the second year in a row. The All-Star lefty was 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA the other five starts. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 regular-season starts in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Ian Desmond was an All-Star shortstop who turned down a qualifying offer with Washington before signing a one-year deal in spring training with Texas and becoming an All-Star center fielder. He will be a free agent after hitting .285 overall with 22 homers. But he struggled after the break, hitting .237 with seven homers the last 67 games.
THE LATE ADDITIONS
In the closing hours before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, Texas acquired OF/DH Carlos Beltran and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Beltran played in his sixth postseason (with five different teams) and Lucroy’s deal included a team option that allows the Rangers to have some stability at catcher in 2017. Former two-time All-Star OF Carlos Gomez was released in mid-August by Houston after hitting .210 in 85 games, then had eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games for Texas, becoming the primary leadoff hitter.
ROUGIE’S ROUGH FINISH
Blue Jays fans certainly relished that game-deciding error by Odor, who punched Bautista on May 15 to ignite a bench-clearing brawl. A banner in Toronto read, “Would Rather Get Punched in May Than Get Knocked Out in October.” Odor was trying to turn a double play like the Rangers did so often this year (MLB-leading 190, one short of a team record). The 22-year-old second baseman did hit .271 with 33 homers.
END OF AN ERA?
Andrus, Mitch Moreland , Game 3 starter Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, the oft-injured left-hander left off the ALDS roster, are the only Rangers remaining from their first World Series in 2010. While Andrus is signed through 2022, Moreland and Lewis are headed for free agency. The Rangers could elect to pay a $1.5 buyout instead of exercising their $11 million option for Holland, but he could return.