Texas Rangers: 2013 Defining Dozen

Defining Dozen: Longoria's HR ends Rangers' season

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
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Editor's Note: This is the 12th of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

RaysRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesEvan Longoria's home run doomed the Rangers in the wild-card tiebreaker game.
No. 1: Game 163 and Longoria's home run

The Rangers' 2013 season, one that was accompanied with some huge highs and some major lows, came to a screeching halt in the American League wild-card tiebreaker game on Sept. 30 in Arlington.

One swing of the bat by Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria doomed Texas.

Longoria, who always seems to produce big moments late in the season, did it again against the Rangers, belting a long two-run home run to right-center field in the top of the third inning to give the Rays and ace David Price a 3-0 lead. Price stymied Texas from there, throwing a complete game for a 5-2 victory as the Rays finally won a big game against the Rangers after being eliminated by them in the 2010 and 2011 AL Divisional Series.

Longoria's home run off rookie Martin Perez was a towering one. From the crack of the bat, it looked to be out of the park, even though Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin appeared to have a chance at a miracle catch, only to have the baseball travel over his glove.

Longoria also had a one-out double in the top of the sixth and scored on pinch hitter David DeJesus's RBI single to give the Rays a 4-1 lead. Longoria, who had three hits in the game, has been a terror in the final game of the regular season. He is hitting .579 (11 for 19) in those finales with seven homers and 10 RBIs.

"I wish I could explain it," Longoria said. "I wish I could bottle it up and take it through 161 games and not have it be on the last day."

For the Rangers, it was one final disappointment in 2013. They gave away the AL West lead with a horrid stretch in September, only to rally and win seven straight games to close out the season and force the one-game playoff with the Rays.

A win would have given the Rangers their fourth consecutive postseason appearance. But it wasn't meant to be, even though the Rangers got suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz back after missing 50 games. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout as Price picked off two runners, ending a brutal season for the Rangers as far as baserunning goes.

"I'm disappointed. We didn't get it done," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I've got no excuse for that."

Defining Dozen: Nelson Cruz's suspension

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Editor's Note: This is the 11th of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Nelson Cruz Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz's 50-game suspension took a power bat out of the Rangers' lineup.
Moment No. 2: Nelson Cruz's 50-game suspension

When Nelson Cruz stood in front of his teammates and apologized for letting them down as he announced he was accepting a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball, the Rangers were just a few games back of the Oakland A's and in wild-card position. Things actually got better, as the Rangers took over first place before the month was out -- even without Cruz in the lineup. But by the time Cruz returned, Texas was tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot and forced to play an extra game to determine who went to the postseason. Cruz didn't get a hit in that game, and the Rangers were out.

Cruz said that his first thought was to appeal the suspension and that right up until the day he had to decide, he was leaning that way. But then he explained what happened (or tried to) in an interview with USA Today's Bob Nightengale in September.

"That was my plan," Cruz told USA Today about appealing. "It's hard to explain it, but at the end it wasn't my decision. It wasn't what I wanted to do. It came out of my hands."

Cruz never did spell out what that was, but indicated to Nightengale that MLB was threatening a 100-game suspension. That would not have helped Cruz's market this winter as he sets out as a free agent to see what kind of longer-term deal is available.

So with Cruz out, the Rangers got even more aggressive on the bases and put more pressure on the opponent with their legs, knowing they were short a power hitter. And for the final three weeks of August, it worked. Texas finished the month 20-7. They entered September with a two-game lead in the AL West and seemed to have figured out life without Cruz.

But that didn't last. The power void became more and more evident as the offense struggled to score runs. Not having Cruz's presence in the middle of the lineup hurt, not only because Cruz was the club's top home run hitter and run producer when he left, but because pitchers could work their way through the lineup a little easier.

I think it's unfair to put the disappointment of the season on Cruz alone. But it's also difficult to imagine that Cruz doesn't help this team win just one more game down the stretch. And one more win would have put them in the AL wild-card game without having to play Game 163.

There are some that say Cruz turned his back on the team by not appealing the suspension. That certainly impacted the club. But no one appealed. And once Cruz made the mistake of getting involved in the Biogenesis mess -- and that's when he hurt the team, frankly -- he had little choice but to accept the suspension and get it behind him, especially with free agency looming.

That doesn't make what he did OK. It was just the reality.

But Cruz's suspension earns a spot near the top of our list because it clearly had an impact on this offense during a crucial part of the season.

Defining Dozen: Wash's Cleveland team meeting

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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Editor's Note: This is the 10th of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Ron Washington Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRon Washington's timing for a team meeting couldn't have been any better.
No. 3: Ron Washington's team meeting after Cleveland sweep

Rangers manager Ron Washington has gained a reputation for knowing exactly when his team has reached the point where it's time to call a team meeting, almost always to shake a losing streak.

His timing couldn't have been any better after a 6-0 loss at Cleveland on July 28. The Rangers had been swept in a three-game series in Cleveland for the first time since 1980. Texas had dropped eight out of 10 games since the All-Star break to plummet six games behind division-leading Oakland.

That Sunday loss in Cleveland was the third time the Rangers had been shut out in four games. Yu Darvish had lost to Justin Masterson, 1-0, on Saturday. Reliever Tanner Scheppers had been involved in an incident in a Cleveland bar before the series started.

More of a concern for Washington was the lackluster way the Rangers played in the 6-0 loss, collecting only two hits and looking listless in the field.

“It looked like we were sleep-walking,” Washington said after that Sunday game. “I’m not upset at my team. I’m just upset at the way we were playing. I’m not upset at my team because that’s my guys and I’m going to be on their ship until it sinks, if it has to, but I don’t feel it’s going to sink.

“I just thought there was a message that needed to be sent and everybody needs to be a part of it.”

Washington held court for some 40 minutes and five or six players also were said to have spoken up during the meeting.

“We had a good meeting,” left fielder David Murphy said after the game. “I think everybody is on the same page and we’re ready to get back on track.”

The Rangers responded to Washington's challenge. They went on a five-game winning streak, starting their hot stretch with three consecutive walkoff home runs for a home sweep against the rival Los Angeles Angels.

The Rangers lost a game to Oakland, then went on an eight-game winning streak to take the division lead back from the A's. The Rangers went 19-4 during a stretch from July 29 to August 23 as they built a 3 1/2-game lead in the American League West that was eventually lost in September.

Washington's Cleveland meeting didn't save the AL West for the Rangers.

But for a stretch there, the Rangers played their best baseball of the season, responding to their skipper's charge.

Defining Dozen: Matt Harrison's injury

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Editor's Note: This is the ninth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Matt Harrison, A.J. Pierzynski, Mike Maddux Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY SportsMatt Harrison won 18 games for the Rangers in 2012 but couldn't get healthy this season.
Moment No. 4: Matt Harrison's injury.

It was supposed to be another consistent, defining year for Matt Harrison. He was coming off an 18-win season in 2012 and had put together two straight seasons of at least 30 starts and an ERA just over 3.00. Harrison had become a reliable pitcher, something he worked hard to accomplish. It earned him a new long-term deal from the Rangers for $55 million over five years.

Based on the 2012 season, it was Harrison and not Yu Darvish that got the start on opening night in Houston (Darvish would start Game 2 and nearly throw a perfect game against the Astros). Harrison gave up five earned runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings in a loss. He was on the mound in Arlington a week later and allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings to the Los Angeles Angels.

It was after that start that Harrison complained of back pain. He got two injections and hoped to work through the pain and rehab so he wouldn't miss much time. But after the injections wore off, he experienced numbness down his left foot.

That prompted more evaluation and the decision to have surgery to repair a herniated disk. The initial diagnosis was that Harrison was out until at least the All-Star break but could potentially return at some point shortly after that. But Harrison required another back surgery and still was hopeful he could return to the rotation in September and help with the stretch run.

As Harrison attempted to complete a start during a rehab assignment in Triple-A Round Rock in August, he felt numbness in his throwing hand. So he had his third surgery of the season, this one ending any hopes of returning before 2014. Since the back wasn't going to allow him to pitch anymore during the season, he also had surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in his non-throwing shoulder. He had the same condition in 2009 in his left shoulder and had surgery to repair it.

Harrison is expected to be ready to go in the spring. But the surgeries meant the Rangers' rotation was without one of its workhorses from the previous two seasons. That forced some young pitchers into the rotation earlier than expected. Justin Grimm took Harrison's place in April, and Nick Tepesch also played a big role early in the season in the rotation. Grimm was later traded to Chicago as part of the Matt Garza deal.

At first, the Rangers survived OK without Harrison. But like any lingering absence or injury (see Nelson Cruz's suspension), it caught up to them. It's difficult for a rotation to simply move on when you lose a guy who won 18 games the previous season. The Rangers' rotation pitched well, but there's no question Harrison's presence was missed.

Defining Dozen: Rangers run the table

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
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Editor's Note: This is the eighth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Jurickson ProfarAP Photo/Jim CowsertJurickson Profar's walk-off HR helped Texas finish the regular season on a seven-game win streak.
No. 5: Seven straight wins to end the season.

The Rangers had a pretty good idea they would have to win all seven games on their final homestand of the regular season to have any chance of making the postseason, or at least get themselves in an American League wild-card tiebreaker game.

And they did just that.

A wild final week at Rangers Ballpark included 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar belting a walkoff home run, Alex Rios hitting for the cycle and a four-game sweep of former teammate Josh Hamilton and the rival Los Angeles Angels to close out the seven-game winning streak.

The Rangers' perfect homestand forced a tiebreaker with Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, which the Rangers ended up losing 5-2 in Game 163 to end their season.

The Rangers entered the week having lost on a Sunday in Kansas City on a walkoff grand slam by Royals outfielder Justin Maxwell. Ron Washington's team had a create some momentum with a three-game series against Houston.

The Astros were the perfect opponent. The Rangers, who were already 14-2 against Houston, built up steam with a 12-0 victory over the Astros on Monday night. Rios hit for the cycle, finishing it off in six innings, and Derek Holland threw a six-hitter.

Then came a 3-2 win on Tuesday as Adrian Beltre homered and a 7-3 victory on Wednesday as rookie Martin Perez won for the 10th time on the season.

The drama continued to unfold Thursday night against the Angels as Profar electrified the crowd with his sixth home run of the season, a towering shot to right field to finish off a 6-5 victory. The Rangers leaned on the bullpen from there, winning three close games. Neal Cotts won two games and Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan pitched in all four games of the series to force the one-game playoff with the Rays.

The Rangers had to have every win as Cleveland ended the season on a 10-game winning streak -- clinching the first wild-card spot. The Rays lost two games over the weekend at Toronto to allow Texas to pull even for the second spot.

"I believe in [momentum]," catcher Geovany Soto said after the game as the Rangers forced a Game 163. "I believe the team is coming together more than ever."

The Rangers didn't beat the Rays, but they did show determination in any forcing the extra game against Tampa Bay.

Defining Dozen: Yu Darvish almost perfect

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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Editor's Note: This is the seventh of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Yu DarvishAP Photo/Pat SullivanYu Darvish pitched 8 2/3 perfect innings in his first start before giving up a hit to the Astros' Marwin Gonzalez.
Moment No. 6: Yu Darvish's near-perfect game.

When the 2013 season began, it was time for the baseball world to see what Yu Darvish had learned after his first year in the big leagues. He came over from Japan with plenty of fanfare as his every move was chronicled in 2012. And after making some adjustments and learning from his mistakes in the first part of the year, Darvish finished with a flourish. He was one of the top pitchers in the game in the final two months of 2012 and went into the offseason with some momentum.

His first start of the 2013 season was in Houston against the Astros in the second game of the year for Rangers. And right away, it was clear Darvish had all of his pitches working. His fastball was electric and his slider, a pitch that Nolan Ryan said is Darvish's best and one of the best in the game, was flummoxing Astros' batters. But Darvish could throw whatever he wanted. He had the slow curve and the harder curve. He changed speeds. And he got plenty of swings and misses.

Darvish just kept rolling through the Houston lineup. He had 14 strikeouts, setting a career-high. And 12 of those came on that devastating slider. He struck out the side twice (in the second and fourth innings). Until the ninth, the only stressful moment came in the eighth inning, when Darvish ended up in a full count against Chris Carter (only his fourth of the game). After Carter fouled off three pitches, he struck out.

In the ninth, with everybody around baseball watching -- and Darvish trending on Twitter, of course -- Jason Castro grounded out to short and Carlos Corporan bounced out to second. That brought up Marwin Gonzalez, the No. 9 hitter, with history on the line. Darvish was one out from becoming the 24th pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game. He was also one out away from throwing the second perfect game in Rangers, 19 years after Kenny Rogers did it at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

But Gonzalez hit a first-pitch fastball through Darvish's legs and into center field to break up the perfect game and no-hitter. Darvish, who threw 111 pitches, was immediately removed since it was his first start of the season and the Rangers didn't want to tax his arm. So Darvish ended up with a one-hitter in a 7-0 Rangers win.

Darvish was disappointed after the game, but still happy with the effort.

"I went as far as I could go, and that was satisfying," Darvish said through interpreter Kenji Nimura.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after the game that Darvish threw seven different pitches and showed great command. And Pierzynski thought he was going to catch another perfect game. He also caught Philip Humber's perfect game with the Chicago White Sox in 2012.

"You get to that point, and you think it's going to happen," Pierzynski said. "It just wasn't meant to be."

Defining Dozen: Trading for Alex Rios

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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Editor's Note: This is the sixth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Angels/RangersSarah Glenn/Getty ImagesAlex Rios was a nice addition and one of the Rangers' most consistent bats in September.
Moment No. 7: Trading for Alex Rios.

The Rangers weren't able to completely replace the offense they lost when Nelson Cruz was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season. But they did make a nice addition after the July 31 trade deadline when they acquired outfielder Alex Rios in a waiver wire deal.

Rios was a nice addition in the Rangers' clubhouse, where he was well received. And he was a good all-around offensive player in his 47 games for Texas, batting .278 with six home runs, 26 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

Rios was one of the Rangers' most consistent bats in September, hitting .291 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. He had an .834 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) for the final month.

He had perhaps the best game of his 10-year career in the last week of the season. Rios hit for the cycle, propelling the Rangers to a 12-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Sept. 23. He finished off the cycle in six innings, flying around the bases for a triple after lining a fastball into right-center field for a triple.

Rios became the seventh Rangers player to hit for the cycle, and the win moved the Rangers within a game of the second American League wild-card spot.

Rios was greeted with a standing ovation when he went out to the field for the top of the seventh.

"I had goosebumps when I was running to right field, so it felt great," Rios said after the game.

Rios wasn't a rental player for the Rangers. He'll be back for at least one more season for $12.5 million, bolstering an outfield that could be without Cruz for the first time in six seasons (Cruz is a free agent, but the Rangers still have interest in bringing him back).

Rios should help the Rangers have a more balanced offense in 2014. He stole 42 bases for the Rangers and White Sox, third-most in the AL. The Rangers can search for a few power bats, knowing they have a solid all-around player with Rios.

Defining Dozen: Letting one get away

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Desmond Jennings AP Photo/Chris O'MearaDesmond Jennings put the finishing touch on a difficult loss for the Rangers.
Moment No. 8: Rangers blow late lead, fall 4-3 to Tampa Bay Rays in September.

When you end up tying for the final wild-card spot, you can easily look back and pick out a game here and a game there that would have made the difference. But there was one that kept coming up when talking to some players and staff down the stretch: Sept. 18 in Tampa Bay.

That night, the Rangers led the game twice, only to blow it. They had the Rays down to their final strike, in fact, but couldn't finish them off. Instead, the Rays walked off with a 4-3 victory in 12 innings. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon called it the kind of "organic" win that could spark them to a run. And it did, as it turns out.

The Rangers led 2-0 going into the bottom of the fourth and appeared to get out of the inning on a ready-made double-play ball. But a good, hard slide by Wil Myers on Jurickson Profar prevented a good relay throw and the inning continued. The Rays got two to tie it in that frame.

"That was the big inning," manager Ron Washington said after the game. "Not turning that double play changed the whole ballgame."

Texas regained the lead in the 11th on an aggressive, heads-up play by Elvis Andrus, who ran all the way home from first on a two-out single by Adrian Beltre (Myers didn't really see him and Andrus was able to get home). But with Joe Nathan on the mound in the bottom half, the Rays clawed back. David DeJesus hit a 2-2 slider to center to tie the score.

That set the stage for the 12th. With lefty Joseph Ortiz on the mound and Neftali Feliz warming up, right-handed hitter Desmond Jennings came to the plate. Washington decided to stick with Ortiz, thinking his changeup would be crucial in the at-bat. Jennings, though, singled to give the Rays the victory.

Texas ended up winning the next night to claim the season series from the Rays, giving the Rangers the home game in Game 163. But at the end of the year as they glanced back to the previous few weeks, it was that loss that stuck with him.

Defining Dozen: Perez hits double-digit wins

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
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Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Martin PerezAP Photo/Jim CowsertMartin Perez earned his 10th win of the season in the final week against the Astros.
Moment No. 11: Martin Perez gets win over Astros in final week, earns 10th victory.

Rookie left-hander Martin Perez had already established himself as a sure-fire starting rotation member for the 2014 season before his start Sept. 25 against Houston. He reminded everyone why he's an important part of the Rangers' future in his final regular-season start.

Perez had eight strikeouts in a 7-3 victory over the Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, giving Texas its third win in a streak of seven straight victories to force an American League wild-card tiebreaker game against Tampa Bay. It gave Perez 10 wins in his first first full season in the major leagues.

The Rangers had the confidence to start the 22-year-old in that tiebreaker game against the Rays. Texas lost to Tampa Bay, 5-2, and Perez suffered his sixth loss of the season, giving up a home run to one of the game's best clutch hitters, Evan Longoria.

Perez's second-half success was critical as the Rangers led the AL West heading into September. Perez had a six-game winning streak during a stretch from Aug. 5 to Sept. 3 as the rest of the rotation struggled. Only fifth starter Travis Blackley notched a win during that stretch.

Perez had been at his absolute best in an August start at Minute Maid Park, earning his first complete game of his career with a 4-0 win over the Astros. He allowed four hits as the Rangers coasted to a 6-1 victory.

Perez was able to hold things together against Houston in that final week start. He used his changeup to baffle Houston hitters. The Astros were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

But he also fell behind 3-1 in the fourth inning when he allowed three runs, including a two-run homer. He was was visibly upset on the mound.

But the offense scored five runs and regained a 6-3 lead, allowing Perez to refocus. He retired nine of the last 12 batters he faced and made it through seven innings, allowing manager Ron Washington to hold back key pieces of his bullpen.

"I told myself, 'Don't worry about the runs,'" Perez said after the game. "I had to focus and do what I have to do to get seven innings. I felt emotion, and when I do that I have to realize I'm the best pitcher on the mound."

Defining Dozen: Trading for Matt Garza

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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Editor's Note: This is the third of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Matt GarzaRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesMatt Garza was a disappointing 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts for the Rangers.
Moment No. 10: Trading for Matt Garza

With the Rangers' starting pitching depth getting severely tested and the team needing another top-flight arm for the stretch run, general manager Jon Daniels and his staff agreed to send four prospects to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza a little more than a week before the trade deadline.

The Rangers shipped pitchers C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez (who was the player to be named later) and third base prospect Mike Olt to the Cubs for Garza, who is a free agent this offseason. At the time, Garza was the best pitcher available on the market and was pitching in July like one of the top hurlers in the league.

The price in prospects was high, but the trade made sense. Garza, after all, had pitched in the American League for the first five years of his career, including three successful seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before he was sent to the Cubs. So the thinking was that making the transition from the National League to the AL shouldn't be a big issue for Garza (unlike Ryan Dempster, the Rangers' trade-deadline pickup in 2012 who struggled as soon as he arrived in Texas from Chicago).

But Garza never really materialized as that big arm down the stretch. Heck, I thought he'd slide in at the No. 2 spot in the rotation, ahead of Derek Holland and behind Yu Darvish. And I was wrong. Holland pitched better. So did rookie Martin Perez. Garza was 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts for the Rangers. In his final 11 starts with the Rangers, Garza managed just two quality starts. He had a great outing against the Kansas City Royals as the Rangers tried to grab that final wild-card spot. But he couldn't sustain that momentum, giving up five runs (though just one earned) on 11 hits against the Angels in what ended up as a win for the Rangers.

It's easy to look back and say the trade was a failure. And it was. But at the time, the Rangers' front office stepped up and made a move to attempt to strengthen the rotation. It was designed to have an impact. It did, just not in the way Texas hoped or expected.

Defining Dozen: Darvish struggles vs. A's

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
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Editor's Note: This is the second of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Yu DarvishAP Photo/Jeff ChiuYu Darvish struggled against the A's in early September, raising questions about his status as an ace.
Moment No. 11: Yu Darvish struggles against A's, raising questions about "ace" label.

The Rangers' division title hopes took a significant blow on a Wednesday afternoon in early September in Oakland with Yu Darvish on the mound. Texas was routed 11-4 by the A's that day.

It created a firestorm of questions about whether Darvish, in his second season in the big leagues, truly is ace material (a ridiculous notion, but one that was put out there).

Let's look back.

The Rangers held a one-game lead in the American League West after splitting the first two games of a three-game series against Oakland. That set up a Wednesday afternoon showdown on Sept. 4 between Darvish and A's rising young star right-hander Jarrod Parker.

The day was a disaster for Darvish. He gave up a two-run home run in the first inning to Brandon Moss after a two-out walk, immediately putting the Rangers behind 2-0. He walked two more A's in the second and allowed another run as the Rangers fell behind 3-0. Darvish gave up another two-run home run to Daric Barton -- his third long ball in 130 games -- in the bottom of the sixth, and the rout was on.

Darvish's final line was very un-Darvish like. He walked a season-high six batters. He matched a season with five runs allowed. Darvish, who led the majors in strikeouts, fanned only four A's, equaling a season low. He lasted five innings, his shortest start of the season.

And there was more. Darvish walked away from pitching coach Mike Maddux during one mound visit. Darvish and starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski also had a heated exchange at one point. Pierzynski came out toward the mound and Darvish appeared to wave him away in frustration.

Darvish said after the game that he had no problems with Pierzynski. The Rangers didn't take any chances with Darvish's psyche. Geovany Soto, not Pierzynski, caught the rest of the Darvish's starts.

"When you're competing, you can't put a certain feeling on something you see out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Darvish-Pierzynski exchange after what was the biggest loss of the season to that point. "People are competing. I thought nothing of it myself."

The bigger deal was the AL West race was even. The Rangers talked boldly at the time, but they were on their way to being done in the division.

"We lost two out of three. We're even," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said after the game. "There are [23] games left, and we need to win one more than they win. There's nothing really more to make of the series. They beat us two out of three. We play them again at our place. There are a lot of games in between."

The Rangers followed that Wednesday loss in Oakland by losing nine of 10 games and basically losing the division title, falling 6 1/2 games behind the surging A's with 13 games left.

Darvish's struggles against the Rangers' current main division rival continued. At least from a losing standpoint. Darvish allowed a run in seven innings -- this time opposing Bartolo Colon -- 10 days later on Sept. 14 in Arlington. Darvish was ace-like with 10 strikeouts and one walk, but a first-inning run was too much for the Rangers to overcome.

It was Darvish's second consecutive 1-0 loss and record-setting fourth of the season, and still the ace questions came up. Darvish is 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in seven lifetime starts against the A's.

Fair or not, it leaves some questions for Darvish to answer about being an ace in 2014.

Defining Dozen: Three straight walkoff wins

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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Editor's Note: This is the first of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Leonys MartinKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsLeonys Martin hit one of the Rangers' three consecutive walk-off homers in July against the Angels.
Moment No. 12: Three straight walkoff wins against the Los Angeles Angels

The Rangers reached one of the season's defining moments in late July. They were scuffling a bit and preparing for word from MLB about the fate of Nelson Cruz when they arrived back in Arlington to face the Angels. After they lost 12 of the previous 15 games, the Rangers needed a spark. And they got that spark in dramatic fashion.

It started on Monday, July 29, with a run in the sixth inning to end a 26-inning scoreless drought for the offense. Three innings later, it was backup catcher Geovany Soto providing the heroics, blasting a game-winning solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri. Texas trailed 3-2 entering the inning, but A.J. Pierzynski tied it with a leadoff home run.

It was the club's first walk-off win of the season and they celebrated like it. But it was only the beginning. The next night went to extra innings as an offense that was starved for runs put up 14 in a win. Leonys Martin provided the winning hit, a clothes-line three-run home run in the 10th. Martin called it the biggest moment of his career. The win got Texas within five games of the A's. It was the first time in 32 days that they'd managed to gain any ground on Oakland.

The final game of the three-game set was just as dramatic. The Rangers and Angels went into the ninth tied at 1. Adrian Beltre changed off of that with a solo homer to win the game.

The Rangers swept the series from the Angels, winning all three games with walk-off homers. Martin Perez pitched very well in the victory as the Rangers created some momentum heading into August. It was the first time in club history that the Rangers won three straight games with walk-off homers.


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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.92 159 126
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .326
HRA. Beltre 14
RBIA. Beltre 53
RA. Beltre 52
OPSA. Beltre .890
ERAY. Darvish 2.92
SOY. Darvish 159