Wednesday, August 11, 2010 Updated: August 12, 12:05 PM ET
Rangers know how to keep their cool
By Richard Durrett ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Now is when we find out what kind of character the Texas Rangers have this season.
They've shown resolve and resiliency at key parts of the season so far. They'll have to do it again now after a 7-6 collapse at the hands of the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
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"It's always a gut check when you have the lead and lose it, especially to these guys," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The championship goes through them. But our guts are fine. We'll bounce back on Friday. We always have."
Washington is right. His team has endured tough losses and difficult stretches this season, only to bounce back with big wins and productive streaks.
There seemed to be a collective nervous energy at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the late innings of Wednesday's game.
That feeling is decades in the making. It's August. The Rangers are in contention. It's so hot you cringe looking at a thermometer. This is the time of year when wins are usually difficult to achieve in Arlington. Previous Rangers teams that have flirted with contention have fallen out of it just in time for football season.
Add in the fact that the defending World Series champs, who lead the majors in comebacks, were slowly and systematically altering the momentum, and many of the 48,676 in attendance could sense things slipping away.
The Rangers staked their ace to a 6-1 lead after five innings, which after the run support Cliff Lee has received this season should have felt like 10-1. Instead, Lee made it just 6 1/3 innings, tying his shortest outing of the season and only further illustrating how great he's been in 2010.
Lee left with runners on base in the seventh and looked tired. He admitted after the game that it was the hottest weather he's pitched in. The Rangers' bullpen couldn't hold the lead for him.
The Yankee tidal wave enveloped the Rangers in the latter stages of Wednesday's game, scoring at least once in each of the final four frames and eventually taking the lead in the top of the ninth against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz.
A leadoff triple by Elvis Andrus in the bottom of the ninth ignited a slightly dormant crowd, but Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero couldn't get him home.
"It was a well-fought game," Young said. "Obviously, we would have loved to have wrapped that up, but it didn't happen tonight. Any time that we have a chance to turn the ball over to our bullpen, we feel we're in great shape. They strung together some good at-bats and they deserve credit for that. If the situation pops up again, we like our chances."
The challenge this weekend is for the Rangers to forget about Wednesday and focus on the Boston Red Sox. Several players said Thursday's off day would help with that, noting that this isn't a team that stews about things.
"We can take a day and get away and move on to Friday," starter Colby Lewis said. "This won't linger for long."
Lewis points to Andrus' triple as proof that the club refuses to let anything completely keep them down.
"I know we didn't get that run in, but we got a triple off one of the best closers in the game and had an opportunity," Lewis said. "We were fighting until the end. That's who we are."
The Rangers have had bad losses and tough series this season. They lost a lead late in Cleveland on the first road trip, got swept at Yankee Stadium and lost two of three in Boston. But they bounced back by winning 15 of their next 21. They dropped six of seven in May to the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, including three one-run losses, but promptly won 20 of their next 25, including 10 in a row in June.
Rangers ace Cliff Lee admitted to being affected by the hot temperature in Texas' loss to the Yankees on Wednesday. But his teammates finally gave him plenty with which to work.
Texas was swept at home by the Baltimore Orioles, who had won nine road games all season before swinging into Arlington in July. They came out and won the next four series, including a road trip in Boston and Detroit.
"We've showed a lot of resiliency this year," said Murphy, who had two RBIs and continues to swing a hot bat. "Obviously, we have to prove ourselves when we come out this weekend and play. The Yankees are a good team. Good teams show resiliency and they showed it tonight. It's tough letting this game get away from us, but it's one game. We're not going anywhere. It's not going to change our way of thinking. It's not going to decrease our confidence. It's one game and we'll wake up and it's over."
What this means come September or October is hard to say. Could it mean something in November, as Lee tries to decide where to go? Maybe. He was hot on the mound Wednesday with a game-time temperature of 99, which probably felt like 119. And he got to see first-hand what even a Yankees lineup without Mark Teixeira can do late in games.
But he also saw that his Rangers teammates can score runs for him. And there's little doubt that the club's new ownership group wants Lee in a Rangers uniform long term.
Lee will probably get another shot at the Yankees when they come back to Arlington in September. Until then, the Rangers have to prove they can fight back from a difficult loss and keep the pressure on in the AL West. The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels both won Wednesday, dropping Texas' lead to 7.5 games over the Los Angeles Angels and eight over the Oakland A's.
"We believe in ourselves, and why shouldn't we?" Lewis said. "We have to continue to grind it out. We have to split series or win series the remainder of the season and we'll be where we want to be. We'll be ready for Boston. That's what we've done all year."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.