Texas Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis, left, discuses a call with home plate umpire Eric Cooper during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
ARLINGTON, Texas – The signs were all there Saturday for what was supposed to be a celebration of the first America League West crown for the Texas Rangers since 2011.
Instead the signs that ended the game were ones that were seen in the 2011 World Series and 2012 regular-season collapse.
Texas couldn’t protect a four-run lead in the ninth inning against Los Angeles as the Angels rallied for an improbable 11-10 win that left the Rangers faithful having the kinds of flashbacks they’d rather not.
It also left Texas players in the clubhouse a little stunned too.
"What do you think?" outfielder Josh Hamilton responded when asked if he was stunned."A fun game to be a part of, a tough game to be on the losing end of. They did a good job of not giving up, not quitting. We didn’t think they would. You know the caliber of players they have and they’re going to fight to the end just like we do. It’s a tough one."
An awfully tough one on a day the clubs combined to use 18 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 6 minutes. It was the final 30 the Rangers would like to have back.
Texas manager Jeff Banister went to closer Shawn Tolleson to open the ninth inning. It marked the fifth-straight day Tolleson had pitched and it showed. Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun each homered off him to start the frame, cutting the Texas lead to 10-8 and prompting manager Jeff Banister to go to Ross Ohlendorf as he had already used Sam Dyson, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman.
That move didn’t work either though. After getting two outs with a runner at second, Ohlendorf allowed four-consecutive singles, with C.J. Cron, Carlos Perez and Johnny Giavotella driving in runs. Giavotella’s gave the Angels the lead and sent the game to the bottom of the ninth.
That’s where it ended in a fitting fashion as Elvis Andrus, who singled with two outs, was called out at second base after he overslid the bag. The Rangers then headed to a clubhouse that had been cleared for what was supposed to be a postgame celebration of a division title.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way but the Rangers couldn’t put away a Los Angeles team that had 17 hits against a club-record nine pitchers.
Banister pushed what he thought was the right bullpen buttons late, but it didn’t happen.
"As things unfolded we were a strike away three different times, a broken bat in there too," he said."I felt like Ohlendorf made some good pitches. In those situations good pitches aren’t good enough. You’ve got to execute pitches. I felt like they got just enough on the ball and they singled us and came away with the W."
The strike-away comment brings back bad memories to 2011 for Rangers fans. And the memories that Saturday was supposed to create were different.
Texas rallied from a 5-1 deficit with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. After the Angels took a 6-5 lead in the top of the sixth, the mood turned festive in the bottom of the inning as the Rangers scored three times to grab an 8-6 lead.
The euphoria carried over into the seventh when Hamilton, who was cast away by the Angels in April, smacked his second homer of the game. Then Rougned Odor added to the fun with another homer, giving the Rangers a 10-6 lead.
The Angels had all but waved the flag too, going with Mat Latos and Jo-Jo Reyes in the eighth inning. Latos signed with the Angels Monday because the team needed arms and Reyes hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 before Saturday.
Of course all that ended when the Rangers couldn’t get through the ninth.
"I felt like the ball was really coming out well" said Ohlendorf."I felt like my fastball and slider were both really good. I’ve got to find a way to get the last three outs there. They did a good job hitting, but I need to get them out there."