The Rangers and the curious case of the one-run loss

July 29th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.  

ARLINGTON -- If you had to find a name for the Rangers’ 2022 season, it would be something like “The Curious Case of the One-Run Loss.”

After two more one-run losses for the Rangers this week in Seattle, the club is now 5-23 in one-run games this season, good for a .179 winning percentage. That’s bad by itself, but it’s even more glaring when you realize Texas is 38-30 (.558 winning percentage) in all other games this season.

The only other MLB team that comes close to the Rangers’ record in one-run games is the Angels -- a team that already fired its manager and has been memed repeatedly on Twitter after every loss -- at 6-17 (.261). Over a 162-game season, the worst record in one-run games belongs to the 2021 D-backs at 10-31 (.244), which the Rangers could easily surpass if things keep going in this direction.

And maybe it's a little bit of karma for 2016, when the Rangers had the best record in baseball in one-run games at 36-11 (.766).

But honestly, what gives? The Rangers aren’t a bad team, no matter what the winning percentage in one-run games may tell you. Many of these losses include blown leads or comebacks falling just short -- the worst of which came in a three-game sweep by the streaking Orioles on Fourth of July weekend. What is Texas missing to get over this one hump?

“There's a lot of little plays there that we have to make,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after the first of Texas’ losses to Seattle this week. “If we're going to win games, we've got to find a way to get it done. We had them on the ropes and just didn't have a big hit or a big at-bat. We're going to find a way to get them.”

It’s easy to say, “Get one more hit, strike out one more guy, take one more walk.” Woodward probably gets tired of saying it just as much as the fans have gotten tired of hearing it. But there’s no running from the fact that seven of the Rangers’ last 10 losses have been by two runs or fewer, including two to the last-place A’s to open the second half.

No matter how close Woodward may feel the Rangers are, continuous one-run losses are no doubt demoralizing for an organization hoping to return to contention in the near future.

“We keep fighting no matter how bad it gets,” Woodward said. “We are going to learn from this. … We keep getting in these situations and we're going to learn from them. We're going to bounce back. We're going to continue to grow from these things.”

The Rangers are going to learn from these close losses. They’re going to fight to the end. But at some point, they can only hope the fight turns into wins.

For now, maybe this is just who Texas is -- hovering around .500 for much of the year, losing close contests and occasionally stealing one or two games from a contender.

“We're trying to obviously find a little bit of a streak, like a little bit of a run where we win six out of seven and everything comes together for an extended period of time,” Woodward said. “You see the ups and downs with a really small margin for error.

“There's just a little bit of a back and forth. We play well enough to win one day and make one mistake or don't make the play, and then we lose. That's what a .500 team looks like. It’s just kind of the ups and downs every day. We're trying to get above that, obviously. We just got to keep fighting.”