Texas Rangers: 2012 Memorable Moments
Memorable Moment No. 1: Rangers fall, 5-1, to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game.
The fact that the Rangers were even in the AL wild-card game had most people stunned, including the club itself. But despite losing a five-game lead with nine games to play (and a four-game lead with six left), the Rangers were still favored against the Orioles. After all, they had dominated the Orioles during the regular season, were playing the AL wild-card game at home and had No. 1 pitcher Yu Darvish on the mound. The offense had performed well against Baltimore, including the memorable four-homer game by Josh Hamilton (which made our list of top-10 moments).
The 26-year-old pitcher gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits in 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. And it wasn't enough. The Rangers' bats, basically silent the final 10 games, scored just one run. That one came on a double play ball hit by Josh Hamilton in the first inning. Texas was just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Baltimore starter Joe Saunders got through 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run. The Orioles' bullpen finished the game off as the offense got some insurance runs, scoring off Derek Holland after he entered the game with a runner on in the sixth. Even closer Joe Nathan struggled, allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. The Rangers threatened in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with two outs. David Murphy flied out to left to end the game.
The scene after the game was part shock and part disappointment. The players talked about how they didn't meet expectations. Murphy mentioned the club ran out of gas. But a season that looked to have so much promise as the club tried to defend its AL championship ended a lot sooner than anyone expected.
Was the AL wild-card game the most memorable moment for you? If not, what was?
Moment No. 2: Josh Hamilton's error in the final regular-season game of 2012
It's not fair to place all of the blame for the Texas Rangers' loss to the Oakland A's in Game No. 162 on Josh Hamilton. After all, Ryan Dempster had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth and couldn't hold it. Derek Holland wasn't able to limit the damage, either, as the A's got a bunch of runs late to win, 12-5.
But the turning point in the game was that fourth-inning error by Hamilton. The A's had already roared back from the four-run deficit to tie the score and get their crowd into the game. With two outs and two on, Yoenis Cespedes hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to end the inning. Hamilton came into shallow center field, put his glove up and overran it. The ball nicked off the top of his glove and went behind him. As he chased after it, two runs scored to put the A's ahead, 7-5. They were never threatened after that, winning the game and the AL West. It dropped the Rangers into the wild-card game.
After the inning ended, television cameras caught manager Ron Washington talking to Hamilton about the play. The skipper's body language indicated he wasn't too pleased. But he didn't get into specifics after the game, saying only that he asked Hamilton what happened. Hamilton said it wasn't any kind of heated exchange.
"He's always animated," Hamilton said. "He asked me what happened and I told him. That's Wash. Wash is animated. Even when he's out there talking to an umpire, you think he's cussing him out but he's just having a conversation with him. That's just Wash."
The play was the end of a rough final 10 days for Hamilton, who struggled at the plate, dealt with an eye issue and had fielding problems in the AL West-deciding game.
It was a difficult moment for Ranger fans, but a memorable one, too.
Moment No. 3: Texas makes a remarkable comeback on Aug. 1 vs. Angels
In the middle of the third game of a four-game series with the Angels, it appeared momentum had completely shifted. The Angels, trying to climb out of an early hole in the AL West, had taken the first two games of the series and led by six over a Rangers team that had been inconsistent the previous two months.
A loss would have put the Angels just two games back of the Rangers with two months to play. And it might have altered the look of the division down the stretch, too. But Texas' offense clawed falling behind behind 6-0 after the top of the third. It was a slow crescendo as the bats started swinging and slowly began to gain ground.
What happened after that game, at least in the month or so following it, was interesting, too. The Angels lost 12 of the next 17, effectively putting them out of the hunt. They made another run late with a good September, but a rough August combined with a tough September essentially ended their hopes. Texas went back in front in the AL West by as many as 6 1/2 games in August before eventually blowing a five-game lead with nine to play.
But in terms of dramatic games played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 2012, that's got to be the top victory for Texas. The players mobbed Andrus after the double and the club won 17 of the next 26. It was a momentum-swinging moment. No question about that.
You can read more about that game here.
Moment No. 4: Texas signs Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish just prior to the deadline on Jan. 18.
Before we get to Jan. 18, we have to back up a bit. While the Winter Meetings were wrapping up -- those meetings in Dallas included one of the Rangers' biggest rivals, the Angels, signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson -- general manager Jon Daniels and his staff were busy putting the finishing touches on two separate presentations to club owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, co-chairman of the board. The baseball staff wanted to go after Darvish and that required a major financial commitment.
The Rangers didn't take anything for granted. The scouts and personnel that had followed Darvish established contact with the family. Josh Boyd went to Japan to help iron things out. And Daniels, assistant GM Thad Levine and others worked with Darvish's representatives (Don Nomura and Arn Tellem) to get a six-year, $56 million deal completed (Darvish gets $4 million more if he stays healthy in those final few years of the deal).
A few weeks prior to the deadline, the Rangers entertained Darvish and his father. The club treated it like a recruiting trip, showing a video on the big screen, touring the ballpark and potential places to live and giving Darvish a taste of life in Texas.
The day the deal came together -- Jan. 18 -- was an interesting one in Arlington. Japanese media had stayed through the night just in case a deal got done hours before the deadline, but things didn't come together until that afternoon. Darvish was still in Japan, but made his way to Texas two days later for the official news conference.
But the posting and the signing represented yet another major step for the club. It showed it has an ownership group willing to spend money and one that put its trust in the front office.
Memorable Moment No. 5: Josh Hamilton belts four home runs in Baltimore on May 8.
Before the game ever started, Josh Hamilton was in the middle of one of the best streaks of his career. He had just been named AL player of the month for April after hitting .395 with nine homers and 25 RBIs. He was hittng the ball all over the place and making opposing pitchers cringe.
It was the 16th four-homer game in major league history and the sixth in the AL (first since Carlos Delgado did it for Toronto against Tampa Bay on Sept. 23, 2003). He was just the third player to hit four homers all with at least one man on base.
"Obviously it's, other than being in the World Series, the highlight of my big league career," Hamilton said after the game.
Hamilton added a double to go 5-for-5, becoming the third player in big league history with at least 18 total bases in one game. That's the most in the AL and second-most in MLB history to Shawn Green's 19 for the Dodgers in 2002. Hamilton's performance set club records for homers, total bases and extra-base hits in a game. He was the fifth Ranger with as many as eight RBIs in a game, one shy of the record set by Pudge Rodriguez on April 13, 1999 at Seattle.
Since he homered in his final at-bat the night before, Hamilton had six extra-base hits in six plate appearances, the first player to do that since Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. on July 1-2, 1998.
As an aside, May 8 was a fun night to witness in person. After Hamilton hit the third home run, you just had a feeling he could get the fourth. The dugout went absolutely crazy when he did it and Hamilton didn't even realize afterward what a big deal it really was to do that. It's essentially the equivalent of perfect game thrown by a pitcher, if you note how rare it is to hit a four-homer game. For a hitter, that's a ridiculous effort.
So it's not a surprise that it makes our top-5 memorable moments for the season.
Memorable Moment No. 6: Yu Darvish wins big league debut.
The 25-year-old Japanese star made his long-awaited major league debut at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington against Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners in the fourth game of the 2012 season. The Rangers didn't want to put too much pressure on Darvish by putting him higher in the rotation order, and the Monday night debut against Suzuki made for tremendous stories here and in Japan.
Darvish, signed in early January to a six-year, $56 million contract, looked a little nervous in the first inning. He gave up four runs on four hits and three walks. Darvish didn't have solid command and looked uncomfortable, needing 42 pitches to get through an inning that took more than 20 minutes. He only threw four first-pitch strikes in that first inning and had three three-ball counts. Pitching coach Mike Maddux even came out to check on him and try to calm him down.
"When I stepped on the mound for the first time, I felt calm and my mind felt calm," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa after the game. "But my body felt like it wanted to go, go, go. My mind and my body were not on the same page."
But thanks to the Ranger bats, Darvish's first inning didn't cost him. Darvish settled down and the Rangers ended up winning 11-5. He gave up another run in the second, but then found his rhythm. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, and when it was over, Darvish was a winner.
"He was just overamped," Rangers manager Ron Washington said at the time. "He wanted to battle and he wanted to be a warrior. He wanted to give us those zeroes after the second inning because it gave us a chance to get back into the game."
It was a huge crowd, as you'd expect, and a large contingent of media was on hand to witness it. The game was carried live in Japan and members of Darvish's family were in attendance. After the game, Darvish admitted he was fired up for the start and vowed he'd get better. Of course, he did. Even though he gave up five runs, Darvish got a standing ovation from the home crowd, which understood he was battling nerves and dealing with a host of adjustments as he ventured into the big leagues.
You only get one major league debut. And Darvish's was certainly memorable.
Were you there? What do you remember most about Darvish's first MLB start?
Memorable Moment No. 7: Adrian Beltre wins two late-September games despite injuries.
The Rangers' third baseman certainly showed his toughness and grit as the season was winding down. Despite abdominal pain, Beltre talked himself into the lineup on Sept. 20 in Anaheim and ended up hitting a two-run homer in the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie and give the Rangers a series win. It was an important victory at the time, keeping the Rangers ahead in the AL West as the Oakland A's began to charge.
Four days later, the Rangers welcomed the A's to town for a big four-games series in the hotly-contested AL West The Rangers fell behind in the first game after Derek Holland struggled, but they mounted a comeback. Down 4-2 in the seventh, Josh Hamilton drew a two-out walk to bring Beltre to the plate. The veteran hit a two-run, opposite-field homer off reliever Pat Neshek to tie the score. The sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, noting what Beltre did four days earlier in Anaheim, chanted "MVP" in tribute. Beltre said after the game that he didn't hear them.
But he came up again in the ninth with the game on the line. With two runners on base and no outs, the A's decided to intentionally walk Hamilton and take their chances again with Beltre. He made them pay, hitting a walk-off single to give the Rangers a 5-4 win. The players mobbed Beltre and, of course, rubbed his head. It put the Rangers five games up in the AL West with nine games to play, a lead they would not end up holding as they fell to the A's on the final day of the regular season.
The two games showed how tough Beltre is and that even with injuries, he can play at a high level. He was so good in September that he earned AL player of the month honors.
Memorable Moment No. 8: Jurickson Profar's rookie debut.
Even before 2012, Jurickson Profar had created buzz as a tremendous prospect working his way through the minor league system. That buzz reached a crescendo in 2012 as he put together solid numbers at Double-A Frisco and was considered one of the top prospects in the league. It didn't hurt that he hit a home run and played well in the Futures Game a few days before the All-Star Game in Kansas City. There were plenty of scouts and national baseball writers in attendance and that put Profar in the front of everyone's minds a few weeks before the trade deadline.
The 19-year-old joined the Rangers in Cleveland on Sept. 1 and debuted the next day when Ian Kinsler was scratched with lower back stiffness. Profar became the first player born in 1993 to appear in the majors (19 years, 195 days old) and the first teenager to play in a game since Pudge Rodriguez in 1991.
In his first at-bat, Profar belted a home run (on the fourth pitch) off Cleveland starter Zach McAllister. That made Profar just the third teenager in big league history (since 1896) to homer in his first career at-bat and the second-youngest to do it. Profar was the first Rangers player to homer in his first career at-bat in Washington/Texas franchise history and the first since Brant Alyea in 1965.
Profar wasn't done, though. He also had a double in his next at-bat, becoming the first teenager with two extra-base hits in his first MLB game since Johnny Callison did it for the Chicago White Sox in 1958.
Profar, of course, got a shaving cream pie to the face after the game. He added a go-ahead RBI double in his second career start on Sept. 8 at Tampa Bay and, according to baseball-reference.com, was the only teenager since at least 1918 to have multiple games with an extra-base hit and an RBI within his first three career games.
Profar finished his brief big-league stint with a .176 average (3-for-17) with two RBIs and four strikeouts. He batted .281 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs to go along with 16 stolen bases in 126 games for Double-A Frisco in 2012.
Memorable Moment No. 9: Colby Lewis is lost for the season with an elbow injury.
No one can question Lewis' toughness, that's for sure. The veteran pitcher knew he had a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, but wanted to pitch. He came off the disbled list (he was on there starting June 26 with right forearm tendinitis) to make one start July 18 at Oakland and was able to grind it out, but he knew it couldn't last. So he had surgery to repair the torn flexor tendon July 27.
It was also a bad break for Lewis, who has put up with a hip condition and is a grinder, getting the ball every fifth day. He went to Japan for two years and found his command, returned to the big leagues with Texas in 2010 and pitched more than 200 innings for the first time in his big league career. He did it again in 2011 and at the end of both years was a stalwart in the playoffs.
The loss of Lewis thinned the pitching staff further. Neftali Feliz was also injured and ended up out for the year after Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1. Texas appeared to have plenty of depth in the starting rotation in spring training, but that quickly dissipated. Lewis' injury (and Feliz's, too) started a ripple effect that ended up putting Justin Grimm in the big leagues to make his debut and led to Martin Perez coming up. It also forced the front office to do something at the trade deadline to try to bolster the rotation, which is how Ryan Dempster ended up in Texas.
Lewis, who was 6-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts before his season ended, had successful surgery and has begun rehab. The club hopes he can be a huge midseason addition in 2013 and once again be that rock in the rotation. But losing him in the middle of the summer was a tough blow.
Memorable Moment No. 10: The Rangers get a new closer.
The Rangers did not wait around for the relief pitching market to crystallize. They scouted Nathan as he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2011 and believed that his work after returning from a DL stint with a right flexor muscle strain was enough to warrant the two-year deal, and they had faith that he could return to the form that made him one of the top closers in the game with Minnesota.
Texas made a sizeable investment, signing Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million contract with a club option for 2014 at $9 million. They made the deal in November and immediately told Neftali Feliz that he was moving into the rotation so he could get mentally prepared and be stretched out for spring training.
Admit it: After the first week of the 2012 season you were worried about Nathan, weren't you? I know I got a bunch of emails and there was a lot of conversation in our ESPN Dallas in-game chats about Nathan and whether he appeared fully healthy and ready. But after some struggles that first week Nathan became nearly automatic. He converted 37 of his 40 save opportunities, a 92.5 percent success rate that ranked third in the American League behind Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney and Baltimore's Jim Johnson. At one point Nathan converted 31 consecutive saves, from April 15 to Sept. 12, setting a club record.
Nathan showed he was healthy and had his velocity back. He had hitters baffled by a nasty slider, too. Nathan experienced some fatigue late in the season and wondered if he had a bit of "dead arm" down the stretch. His blown save against the Angels on the final homestand was memorable, though it didn't make our top-10 list.
But without question, Nathan proved in 2012 that he's one of the top closers in the league and the position isn't one the Rangers will have to worry about filling this off-season. Nathan turns 38 on Nov. 22, but feels good and believes he could even pitch into his 40s as long as he's hungry and healthy.
Was there one particular save from Nathan that was memorable to you? How important a signing do you think he was -- and could be -- in the future?
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.