On a well-attended, unseasonably cool night in early May 2004, the Rangers fell behind 2-0 to the visiting Tigers, surged back ahead to retake a 4-2 lead, and then, by way of a truly horrific sequence of events, allowed 12 unanswered runs and fell behind by a 14-4 margin going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Their win expectancy, at its lowest point, plunged below 1 percent -- the seeming point of no return, salvation, or comeback.
The story from that point -- perhaps with a slightly apocryphal or embellished element to it -- goes something like this: with his team ahead by double digits, Craig Monroe lofted an inning-ending pop fly and, in a spectacularly ill-advised move, slammed his bat into the dust in frustration. The Rangers, as the story goes, took particular umbrage to Monroe's display, became angry, rallied around that show of disrespect, and went out and plated 10 runs in the bottom half of that inning to knot the game at 14-14, with an extra-innings win following several hours later.
Now, obviously, things never deteriorated on Wednesday night to such a degree that the Rangers' chances of winning the game mathematically slipped below 1 percent ... but the situation was dire. Twice. Yu Darvish breezed along for 2.1 innings before careening into a wall and delivering one of the worst innings of any Rangers pitcher thus far this season, and ultimately put Texas into a 7-1 hole; their win expectancy plunged as far as 5.1 percent during that phase of the game. And after they scratched and clawed their way back into the game from the fifth inning on, and eventually made it all the way back on Ian Kinsler's game-tying solo shot in the ninth inning, Joe Nathan imploded for three runs in the 10th inning, and their win expectancy again plunged as far as 5.4 percent.
They were effectively 1-in-20 shots to win at two separate and distinct points in this ballgame, and they made it all the way back and triumphed in the face of terrible odds ... and they did it twice. They've overcome late-game deficits this year, but they hadn't pulled something like that off until now. They pulled an improbable, odds-defying win out of nowhere right around this same time last August, but the key point of distinction there is that the Rangers didn't have to come back twice. Last night, they were buried early, methodically rallied all the way back, and then had to go right back out and fight for their lives once they found themselves mired in a three-run hole in the 10th inning. It may not have been unique, but it was a truly marvelous piece of work.
And though I didn't notice any specific post-game quotes that might validate this specific possibility *, I wonder if, at some point along the line last night, they simply got mad about what the Angels were doing to them ... because something snapped. David Murphy spoke at some length about the long-overdue return of confidence and momentum and that "killer instinct" to the lineup last night, and acknowledged that, before last night, the dugout had been awash in lifelessness. Elvis Andrus alluded to the Rangers just being "that hungry" to make a comeback a reality. This roster thoroughly established its resiliency last year and, at times, this year, but that doesn't mean the switch is always available to flip on and off at a moment's notice. Again, something snapped last night. Something changed.
[Upon further review, Andrus did, in fact, state that the Rangers were "angry" after what had transpired thus far in the series, so, well, there you go.]
Murphy also remarked how the Rangers always felt that they were going to come back and win this particular game, and, yeah, I get that it's easy to say throw platitudes like that around after the fact, and after you've pulled off an emotionally uplifting comeback ... but there was a moment that the FSNSW telecast captured right after Nelson Cruz's 10th-inning blast where Elvis Andrus was ready to greet Cruz on the dugout steps, and he had this huge, pure, genuine smile plastered across his face. He's already a jovial sort of player in his own right, but it stood out to me at the time because, damn, when was the last time you saw a Rangers player so positively giddy and confident?
And that's when I start to think that, yeah, they're not just blowing hot air. They really did feel this comeback coming all along. At some point, the emotional trigger was activated, and the narrative changed.
I'm not going to call this a 'season-changing win' or delve into hyperbole of that sort, because I don't feel comfortable assigning such an enormous degree of significance to any one win, much less attempt to project something from it that may not be there to project. Sure, it could give them something to build on, but I've seen far too many wins that were purported to be momentum-builders that ultimately failed to deliver on the hype. Just call it a great win, a necessary win, a win that this team really needed to stem the tide, and hope that everything else falls into place behind it.