"That ... SUCKED." - Mike Rhyner, date/context unknown
Derek Holland got his big early lead, a four-run lead furnished primarily by a fortuitously placed David Murphy liner (which turned into a three-run inside-the-park homer), and he squandered it. The Astros dinged him with a homer in the third inning. They did it again in the fourth inning. They did it again in the fifth inning, and then they padded on the eventual winning run against an uncharacteristically bad Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning.
In their four highest-leverage plate appearances of the night, all of which transpired during the last two innings of the game and all of which had the potential go-ahead run either at the plate or on base already, the Rangers' hitters mustered two harmless fly outs, a fielder's choice ground out, and a slightly harder ground out that became the game-ending double play. The Rangers had one of the American League's best baserunners on base and the American League's best hitter at the plate concurrently in the ninth inning of a one-run game, and nothing came of it.
It's not what you expect out from the best team in the world, nor is it what you should expect. You should expect better. I would never argue to the contrary. And I do still get the frustration over this team not winning as often as expected over this last little stretch of games.
Sometime in the very near future, though, the Rangers are going to string a few wins together again, and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth will predictably subside. In four and a half months, the Rangers are probably going to be kicking off another post-season run, and virtually no one will remember these few weeks where the Rangers won games at a roughly 50 percent percent rate, as opposed to their usual 60-65 percent win rate. These last few weeks do matter, but the only weeks that really matter in the view of this fan base don't roll around until the month of October. Maybe that's playing into my inability to get too terribly fired up over the problems of the last few weeks.
That, and the fact that the Rangers, for any and all of their recent missteps, still boast a great overall record, a championship-caliber (and healthy) roster, and a relatively firm grasp on the division. I'm good with that. I don't need this team to be the greatest thing to happen to baseball since the '98 Yankees -- and, for the record, the Tom Verducci-authored article that bred that comparison was dangerous. The content was great and on point, obviously, but it took the continued raising of expectations to impossible new heights. Suddenly, 95 wins turns from something laudable into something underwhelming. A temporary run of mediocrity engenders an excess of undue criticism and/or panic. The benchmark becomes unfairly and unreasonably high.
Again, you should expect better than .500-caliber ball from this team over any given stretch of games on the basis of its talent and expected performance. Sometimes, though, you're not going to get that level of play you're expecting -- and you know what? It happens. It happens to virtually every great team. The 1998 Yankees lost four of their first five games of the regular season. They dropped three games during a four-game stretch in June, and four games during a five-game stretch in July. They went 12-16 over a 29-day stretch spanning from mid-August to mid-September. They ended up being okay. This team will be okay. It's going to be okay. I promise.
You can get as overjoyed or as distraught as you want over the outcome of each individual game. That's your perogative as a sports fan. But if you do so without keeping everything in perspective, without keeping the bigger picture in mind, you're just making another problem out of something that's supposed to help you escape from the other problems in your life. I've been in that place. It's a s---ty place to be.
Don't go to that place. Don't jump.