Rangers’ season comes to inevitable end

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Baltimore Orioles put an official end to the season for the Texas Rangers Friday night with a 5-1 decision in the American League wild-card game at Rangers Ballpark.

The season may have unofficially ended long before that.

It could have been when Josh Hamilton missed nearly a week because of an eye issue. It could have been when the offense went quiet the final three weeks of the season. It could have been when the Rangers went 4-10 down the stretch when one more victory would have given them a third-straight American League West title. It could have been when the Rangers were swept by Oakland in the West showdown.

One thing that the Rangers do know for sure is that the feeling they had after the season ended Friday is something they never want to experience again.

“I don’t know the right way to describe it,” said outfielder David Murphy. “At some point we just ran out of gas. We stopped playing like the Rangers. I don’t know why that is. It just happened and it’s disappointing when you don’t perform.”

Friday looked a lot like the last three weeks have for the Rangers.

Texas couldn’t get anything going against left-hander Joe Saunders, who had an ERA of more than 9.00 at Rangers Ballpark. Texas scored its lone run in the first inning on a double-play grounder by Hamilton, and eight innings of offensive futility followed.

The Rangers went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, hit into three double plays and then teased the 46,931 at the end. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning off Baltimore closer Jim Johnson. But Murphy flew out to left fielder Nate McLouth, sending to the Orioles to the American League Division Series against New York. For the first time since 2009, the Rangers will not be making a trip to the World Series.

It’s a tough pill to swallow.

“I’m not stunned,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I was right there watching it. I mean, as I said, a little execution here and a little execution there in some certain situations, it’s a different situation. But it isn’t, so I’ve got to live with it.”

Texas pushed all the wrong buttons against the Orioles. Starter Yu Darvish kept the Rangers in the game, as the game was tied at 1 going into the sixth. But Adam Jones hit a sacrifice fly to give Baltimore what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.

Darvish was pulled for Derek Holland with two outs in the seventh but that move backfired as McLouth singled in a run. The Rangers tried to keep things close in the ninth by bringing on closer Joe Nathan. But Nathan allowed two more runs, putting an end to a dismal night and closing stretch for all involved.

“We got outplayed,” Holland said. “There were a lot of different things and momentum wasn’t there. Going into the past nine games we were like 2-7 and haven’t played very good ball. We weren’t getting the job done offensively and defensively. We made mistakes. We didn’t deserve to win.”

Holland said he didn’t pitch up to his standards down the stretch.

He wasn’t the lone Ranger taking blame for the stretch run.

Hamilton, who may have played his last game in a Texas uniform Friday, went 0 for 4 and saw eight pitches in the game. He struck out twice, tapped back to the pitcher and hit into a double play. It continued his miserable September and October for the free-agent to be and he didn’t mince words about his play at the end of the season.

“It sucked,” said Hamilton, who said he heard boos and profanities in the field and at the plate during Friday’s game.

Texas did have nine hits Friday but all nine of them were singles. A team that hit 200 homers in the regular season could muster no power against Baltimore. But the Rangers know that if they would have played their style of ball at the end of the regular season, they wouldn’t have been in a do-or-die situation Friday night.

“It’s a very disappointing finish,” said Michael Young, who went 2 for 4. “We all feel like with the team we had, with the guys we had, we could have made another run at it. But it doesn’t really come down to tonight’s game. It comes down to the last week and a half or so. We felt like we had an opportunity to put our best foot forward and set ourselves up for a strong run. We couldn’t get it done.”