ARLINGTON -- For 183 days, the Rangers enjoyed an intense and remarkable regular season, compiling the best record in the American League on their ability to mount late-inning comebacks and win an extraordinary number of close games.Then came three games in October, and all their tremendous accomplishments were washed away
ARLINGTON -- For 183 days, the Rangers enjoyed an intense and remarkable regular season, compiling the best record in the American League on their ability to mount late-inning comebacks and win an extraordinary number of close games.
Then came three games in October, and all their tremendous accomplishments were washed away as the Blue Jays swept them in the Division Series. That doesn't seem right, but the Rangers did make it clear their goal was to win the World Series, and anything short of that was a disappointment.
That clearly is the Rangers' epitaph for the 2016 season, but it doesn't change the reality that once the games started, watching this ballclub night after night was truly fun for anyone who loves baseball.
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"Look at the numbers and how we played all year long, the comeback wins, the one-run wins -- that's not luck," manager Jeff Banister said. "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. And so I couldn't be more proud of them."
As often is the case, the focus is more on the end result than the journey. But this journey was extraordinary in its own way.
Record: 95-67, first place in the American League West.
Defining moment: There were so many one-run and comeback victories that it's hard to pick one. But Sept. 13 is as good as any. The Rangers trailed 2-1 into the ninth inning against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Rougned Odor struck out for what should have been the second out of the inning but reached on a wild pitch by pitcher Ken Giles. After Mitch Moreland struck out, Elvis Andrus hit a triple that tied the score and Jurickson Profar singled to put the Rangers ahead. This was the victory after the 27th out.
What went right: The Rangers were 36-11 in one-run games and had 49 comeback victories. All those neat statistics are embedded within Texas fans. The Rangers were just a very good all-around team with no single area -- pitching, hitting, defense, baserunning -- standing out. But what they did better than anyone else was find a way to win a ballgame. That they were 28 games above .500 despite scoring just eight more runs that they gave up (765-757) is extraordinary.
What went wrong: Injuries impact every team and the Rangers were not immune, especially with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo missing most of the season and Prince Fielder suffering a career-ending herniated disk in his neck. But the biggest issue was the Rangers could never achieve their dream of having a steady, rock-solid rotation of Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Pérez, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis for an extended period of time. They all had their moments, but the rotation started to break down in September and proved to be the teams' downfall in October.
Biggest surprise: Rookie right-hander Matt Bush stands out above all others, going from a Florida prison to the bullpen in less than a year and becoming one of the top relievers in the AL. He could easily be the Rangers' closer of the future.
Hitter of the Year: Ian Desmond, Odor and Andrus all had outstanding seasons at the plate. But the Rangers' elder statesman still stands above the rest of them, as Adrián Beltré enjoyed another season that fits well on his growing Hall of Fame resume.
Pitcher of the Year: Hamels entered September as a leading candidate for the Cy Young Award. The last six weeks weren't quite as good, but for five months, he was the true leader of the Rangers' pitching staff and everything they wanted from their No. 1 starter. A secondary candidate would be Sam Dyson, who handled the job of closer after Shawn Tolleson struggled for the first six weeks of the season.
Rookie of the Year: Outfielder Nomar Mazara was pressed into service earlier than expected when Choo went on the disabled list in April. Mazara got off to a fast start and ended up staying all season. He wasn't quite as good in the second half, but the Rangers have to be excited about his future. Bush also deserves consideration, as does Tony Barnette, who was outstanding as the Rangers' utility reliever.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.