ARLINGTON -- The Rangers ran out of gas and everything else as their run of two straight American League West titles came to an end in 2017.The division race was ended early as the red-hot Astros cruised to the AL West crown, and Texas' chances of reaching the playoffs via
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers ran out of gas and everything else as their run of two straight American League West titles came to an end in 2017.
The division race was ended early as the red-hot Astros cruised to the AL West crown, and Texas' chances of reaching the playoffs via the Wild Card sputtered over the final two weeks of the season.
The post-mortems have already been filed: injuries, bullpen meltdowns, too many strikeouts by their hitters and too many walks by pitchers. Too many veterans being counted on who just weren't as good as expected.
As 2017 comes to an end, here are five things to remember about the year the Rangers had:
The agony and the ecstasy
Third baseman Adrian Beltre is no stranger to leg issues in Spring Training, but a strained right calf muscle this season was more serious. Beltre began 2017 on the disabled list and did not rejoin the lineup until May 29.
When Beltre finally returned, he was still productive at the plate, and by the end of July he was rapidly approaching a significant milestone. It happened on July 30, the same day that Ivan Rodriguez was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Beltre had a double off of Orioles left-hander Wade Miley for the 3,000th hit of his career.
Joey Gallo was not expected to make the Rangers' Opening Day roster, but did so after Beltre went down. It soon became clear that Gallo was going to stay longer than expected, a fact that was reinforced on May 12 when he hit a three-run, walk-off home run in a 5-2 victory over the Athletics.
As the season progressed, so did Gallo. The strikeout rate slowed as the home runs piled up. The final total was 41, most on the club. His pal Nomar Mazara finished with 101 RBIs, clearly defining the two as the hope of the future for the Rangers.
Bullpen: Trial by fire
The Rangers led the Indians, 5-3, after six innings on Opening Day. They ended up losing 8-5, and thus began the season-long problems for the bullpen. Sam Dyson started out as the closer but was deposed quickly. Matt Bush didn't fare much better, proving to be more effective as a setup reliever.
Jake Diekman missed five months because of his abdominal surgeries, Keone Kela was on the disabled list twice for shoulder issues and Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress weren't as effective as the previous year. The shining star was left-hander Alex Claudio, who ended up as the closer and the Rangers Pitcher of the Year.
The Rangers began the season hoping Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels would head the rotation. But Hamels missed two months in the first half with a strained right oblique muscle and Darvish went through a five-game losing streak in June and July. As his struggles continued, it appeared obvious the Rangers were going to trade him, given that he was a free agent at the end of the season.
The deal came down on July 31, the day after catcher Jonathan Lucroy was traded to the Rockies. Darvish was sent to the Dodgers for outfielder Willie Calhoun, pitcher A.J. Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis.
The best story of the year
Right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx had spent 11 years in the Minor Leagues without reaching The Show. He had pitched for two independent teams and played seven years of winter ball in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He came to Spring Training as a Minor Leaguer and wasn't even in big league camp.
Bibens-Dirkx was called up on May 7, when the Rangers needed extra pitchers, and soon caught peoples' attention. It was supposed to a short stay, but Bibens-Dirkx pitched his way into a regular role, appearing in 24 games for the Rangers with a 5-2 record and a 4.67 ERA.
On June 11, Bibens-Dirkx pitched the Rangers to a 5-1 victory over the Nationals and Max Scherzer in Washington D.C., allowing one run in seven innings. It was the Rangers' best victory of the year.
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.