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Underrated Curse of the Texas Rangers

There are 8 current MLB franchises that have never won the World Series, and the Texas Rangers are one of them. While that in itself could be considered a heavy burden to carry, the pain becomes magnified when the stars seem to be aligned against you. The Rangers have been a maligned franchise from the get-go, even if their story has never been as well-known as other teams like Boston, Chicago, or other bigger franchises with checkered pasts.

The team was born of out of the second coming of the Washington Senators, who were revived in 1961 after the original franchise had moved to Minnesota. The experiment didn’t last long, with the Senators playing in the nation’s capital for 11 seasons before relocating to Texas, where the team was renamed as the Rangers. This new team went its first 23 full seasons without making the playoffs, even as 11 of them came with a winning record. That long drought was immediately followed with three postseason appearances in four seasons from 1996 to 1999, even as they all ended with a single win and three playoff defeats in the ALDS to the Yankees.

That moderate stretch of success was followed by the ill-advised Alex Rodriguez signing, and another decade of playoff futility, albeit one in which the Texas franchise slowly began to acquire young talent through good trades and the draft, which helped the Rangers win the AL West in 2010 and suddenly become a solid contender to start the decade. However, it has also brought a set of painful defeats and near-misses that have been cruel, to say the least.

We take a look at how the Rangers have ended their seasons from 2010 to 2015, and rank them from the least painful to the most scarring events in this time frame. If you are a Rangers fan, this might be a good time to turn away.

2014: the Year of the Injury

The season started with high hopes for the Rangers, who were listed along with the Angels as favorites to take the AL West. Instead, an improbable slew of injuries derailed the promising season and led Texas to a 67-95 record that became the team’s worst mark since 1985. The disabled list was visited for prolonged stretches by the likes of Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and other key contributors for the franchise.

The Rangers finished 28th in offense and 29th in pitching in terms of WAR, with 15 different hurlers making at least one start for the team. While the Rangers were out of playoff contention by mid-June, the season at least served as a building block for young contributors like Rougned Odor, and there never was any dramatic loss to add to the franchise’s woes.

2013: the Tie-breaker

A year after the A’s had become a serious force in the AL West, they went toe-to-toe with the Rangers for most of the season. Even then, Texas held the division lead as late as September 4, but a 12-16 September mark paired with Oakland going 19-8 in the same month made the Rangers fight for a wild card spot. In what was the second year of the two wild cards per league, Texas came into the final weekend tied with Tampa Bay, with both teams holding course to set up a tie-breaking game to earn the second wild card berth and face the Indians.

And yet, the game was probably a huge mismatch from the start. While the Rays started David Price, the Rangers went with the untested Martin Perez. Even as the game was played in Arlington, the team never had a chance, falling behind 3-0 in the third and ultimately settling for a 5-2 defeat while the Rays advanced to the playoffs. The loss was painful, but the season as a whole could be considered a positive for the franchise.

2015: Failure to Clinch

This wound is still fresh for the Rangers, who became one of the AL’s most pleasant surprises only to lose in miserable fashion once the playoffs rolled around. The Rangers were projected to win somewhere around 76 games following the news that ace Yu Darvish would miss the whole season due to an elbow injury. And yet, the Rangers persevered and overachieved, with an aggressive trade for Cole Hamels fueling a second-half run that ended with 88 wins and the AL West crown.

Being pitted with the mighty Blue Jays looked like a death sentence for Texas, who instead went into Toronto and won the first two games of the ALDS. They were badly defeated in their two chances to clinch at home, but still had a chance to upset the Jays as they held a 4-3 lead heading into the seventh for Game 5. The bizarre sequence that ensued, which started with three straight fielding errors, aided a Toronto comeback that led to a 6-3 defeat and a painful exit from the playoffs. This made the 2015 Rangers only the third team in MLB history to lose a best-of-5 series after winning the first two games on the road, as had the 2001 A’s and the 2012 Reds.

2010: the 1st World Series

The Rangers and their young talent stormed to a 90-72 finish and their first playoff berth since 1999, and then finally won the first playoff series by defeating the Rays in the ALDS. The fun didn’t stop there, as the Rangers then beat their playoff tormentors, taking down the Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS. The season also included an MVP year from Josh Hamilton and a second-half cameo from Cliff Lee, who was also a big part of the playoff push.

However, the Rangers ran into the buzzsaw that became the even-year Giants. The Rangers only won Game 3 of the World Series, while never having a chance against a rotation that included Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner, being outscored 25-12 for the full series, and only scoring one run in their final three losses. While there was certainly no shame in losing to a historically great team, having to see your rival clinch in your stadium must certainly hurt.

2012: the Collapse

The 2012 Rangers had healthy and productive seasons from Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, a strong pitching staff led by Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, and with a 51-34 record at the All-Star break, Texas again looked like a solid contender. On June 30, they had a 13-game lead over the A’s, but Oakland suddenly became the best team in the AL and had ridden a 48-25 second-half mark to a final weekend showdown versus Texas. All the Rangers had to do was to win one game to secure the division.

After the A’s had won the first two games by a combined 3 runs, the Rangers held a 5-1 lead by the fourth inning and had the steady Ryan Dempster on the mound. The bottom of the fourth became an improbable implosion by Texas, highlighted by a dropped pop fly by Josh Hamilton, which led to Oakland taking a 7-5 lead in what eventually became a 12-5 loss that handed the AL West to Oakland and sent Texas to the inaugural AL Wild Card elimination game.

Even as the Rangers would host that game against the Orioles, the team looked distraught and defeated following the 2-7 stretch in the final days of the season that made them lose the division title. Yu Darvish started the game for Texas, but he was outpitched by Baltimore’s Joe Saunders, while the Rangers made two costly errors that led to a 5-1 defeat as the team left 8 runners on base. The wild card game was just a final nail in a coffin that had been built over a slow, painful collapse for the Rangers.

2011: David *bleeping* Freese

With a 96-66 record, the Rangers finished with the second-best mark in the American League, and the best record in franchise history. The core of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, and CJ Wilson helped the Rangers win the AL West wire to wire, and then blitz through the playoffs by defeating the Rays 3-1 in the ALDS and then the Tigers 4-2 in the ALCS. Texas was then slightly favored to win the World Series in what was their second consecutive trip to the Fall Classic.

Facing the Cardinals, the Rangers fell behind in the series 2-1 before rallying to a 3-2 lead as the series shifted back to St. Louis. In what was a Game 6 full of swings and lead changes, the Rangers appeared to seize control with a 3-run seventh inning that left them nine outs away from the title. The Cardinals scored once in the 8th, but Texas sent out closer Neftali Feliz to close out the game. With two men aboard and two outs, Feliz faced David Freese, and had him down to his last strike before the infamous triple/Nelson Cruz misplay happened, allowing both runners to score and tie the game.

While it would have been easy for Texas to roll over at that point, the top of the 10th included a Josh Hamilton two-run homer that appeared to clinch the title for good. Immortal veteran Darren Oliver mercifully relieved Feliz, only to allow two straight singles. Following a sacrifice bunt, Scott Feldman came in to pitch, allowing a run-scoring groundout to put St. Louis within one run but also at two outs. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked, leaving the stage for Lance Berkman, who also fell to two strikes, only to deliver another game-tying hit. Of course, it was Freese who won it in the 11th with a walk-off homer and tied the series at 3.

Following a game in which they twice had a winning expectancy above 90%, the Rangers looked like dead men walking in Game 7. Despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first, the Rangers never scored again and ultimately fell 6-2 to Chris Carpenter. Even still, the game is mostly an afterthought at this point. Game 6 is certainly the most traumatic loss in Texas history, and doubles as one of the most painful defeats in MLB lore.

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