Banister's influence shouldn't be overlooked
ARLINGTON -- There's nothing about the Rangers that really computes. Not that they care.
Texas somehow pulled out a 4-1 victory against the American League East-leading Blue Jays at Globe Life Park on Thursday afternoon, and it now has sole possession of the second AL Wild Card spot after the Twins lost to the Rays, 5-4.
Big deal? It's a very big deal.
This is, after all, a Rangers club that stumbled through a 7-14 April and was 7 1/2 games back of first place in its division, which was the biggest deficit of any team at that time. It's a team that lost ace Yu Darvish for the season to Tommy John surgery and No. 2 starter Derek Holland for a 113-game stretch because of a left shoulder strain.
It's a team that was optimistic about the return of Josh Hamilton after his forgettable stint with the Angels, only to have him limited to 38 games because of an assortment of injuries to his left shoulder, left hamstring and right shoulder.
It's a team that has struggled to a 29-32 record at Globe Life Park, the only losing record at home for any of the 14 big league clubs with a winning record. The other 13 teams have a combined home-field winning percentage of .637.
Not that the Rangers are complaining. They know better. You think any of the other playoff contenders are feeling sorry for them? No chance. Heck, they're not sending sympathy cards or even apologizing for what's happened in Arlington this season.
And to Texas' credit, the club is not asking for any solace. The Rangers see a challenge, and they've accepted it.
Manager Jeff Banister didn't back down, even though his managerial debut was pockmarked with that April stumble.
But Banister has never backed down. Why start now?
This is a man who developed bone cancer in his left leg during his high school days, but he refused to allow doctors to amputate it, and Banister won that battle. This is a man who was involved in a home-plate collision in junior college, suffering three broken vertebrae in his neck, but he kept on catching and wound up getting a scholarship to the University of Houston.
This is a guy who, before he was hired last winter to manage the Rangers, had spent his entire 28-year professional baseball career in the Pirates organization, where in eight years as a player, he recorded just one big league at-bat -- as a pinch-hitter on July 23, 1991 -- and beat out an infield single. That was the only big league moment in Banister's first 25 years in the Bucs organization, where he spent time as a Minor League manager and coordinator, before he was hired as a member of the big league coaching staff in 2010.
"Life experiences give us either the reason to quit or the reason to have resilience and grit," Banister said.
For anybody who wonders, Banister's experiences gave him resilience and grit, and right now, that's translated into how Texas has responded under his guidance.
The Rangers played themselves back into postseason contention by running off a 9-2 stretch before returning home to host the Blue Jays on Tuesday. And Texas wasn't about to let the disappointment of a 6-5 loss on Tuesday or a 12-4 setback on Wednesday spoil its recent handiwork.
This team, after all, has taken on a Banister persona, which was underscored in Thursday's victory.
While Cole Hamels was on the bench, awaiting his Friday night start against Baltimore, a handful of the Rangers' recent under-the-radar additions got things back in order on a Texas-heat-baked afternoon in Arlington.
The acquisitions of Will Venable from the Padres, right-hander Sam Dyson from the Marlins, catcher Bobby Wilson from the Rays and lefty Jake Diekman -- as the other guy in the Hamels deal from the Phillies -- might not have been headline-grabbing transactions, but they are the kind of fill-in-the-hole additions that can make a difference in a stretch drive like Thursday's win.
Wilson kept a pitching staff focused through a three-hour, 40-minute, 176-pitch afternoon.
Dyson gave up a run in a 1 2/3-inning effort, but he came into a bases-loaded situation in the seventh and induced a double-play grounder from Jays leadoff hitter Troy Tulowitzki after taking over for Diekman, who got into trouble after striking out Kevin Pillar to open the frame.
And Venable made a lunging, diving grab of a Cliff Pennington sinking line drive into left-center, turning a potential run-scoring triple into an inning-ending out in the second.
"He doesn't make that catch, it is a different story," said Banister. "I'm not sure when he was in flight if he was going to get there."
But hey, over the years, there were a lot of times others weren't sure Banister was ever going to "get there."
He, however, never gave up, and neither has the team he is managing.