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1. Giving up 11 unanswered runs after taking a 5-1 lead not only sums up the way the Texas Rangers lost yesterday to the Oakland A’s, but it pretty much sums up the way the Rangers blew the division lead over the last couple of months. It was actually looking pretty good early and often. Texas had a 5-1 lead through the 3rd inning thanks to some clutch hits. But a big inning became a bigger inning when Josh Hamilton had one thing go wrong on what should have been an easy, inning-ending pop-up and the rout was on.
There was nothing they could do to stop the A’s after that. The rest of the game felt like a coronation, ending with the crowing of an unlikely division champion. How unlikely? Go ask your average baseball fan to name more than one member of the Oakland A’s. If they can do it, they’re likely a Boston fan because of the supposedly washed up former Red Sox on the team. Or they know of the comical ineptitude of older players like Bartolo Colon.
Because of the movie Moneyball, A’s GM Billy Beane is more famous than any of his players. Coincidentally, a line spoken by Brad Pitt from the movie sums up the roster well. Upon telling his scouts about Scott Hatteberg, the scouts have no idea who he’s talking about. Pitt’s response is, “Exactly. The guy sounds like an Oakland A already.”
Meanwhile, all the name players that built up their reputations with great hitting and clutch performances during the playoffs of the recent past could only muster up a good enough record to qualify for the wild card play-in game. It’s hard to believe that such a collapse could happen to Texas, but the Rangers and their fans have to consider the bigger picture.
In the history of Major League Baseball, blowing this division lead doesn’t even come close to some of the biggest chokes of all time. This is barely a blip on the radar. And, most importantly, the Rangers are still in the playoffs. On Friday, it’s a winner-take-all in Arlington to get to the division series.
2. Because the New York Yankees beat the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on the last day of the regular season, the Yankees win the division and the Orioles settle for the wild card. Although their settling for a wild card is much different than the way the Rangers qualified for that spot. Baltimore was never supposed to get here, much like the A’s.
Thankfully, Texas is at home with Yu Darvish on the hill on Friday. And he’ll be facing a hot hand on the other side no matter who the Orioles go with. Steve Johnson is a rookie who made his major league debut after the All Star break. He proved to be so effective that he made a couple of spot starts, which he won. In the final weeks of the season, he was placed into the starting lineup and the Orioles won both his starts. Johnson has made four starts this season, he has a 4-0 record, the team won all his starts and his ERA of 2.86 as a starter makes him a pretty solid guy to put on the mound.
Baltimore’s other option is to pitch Joe Saunders on regular rest. As a former member of the LA Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks, Saunders has starting experience in the playoffs. Saunders has also been a steadier hand this season. Every one of his six starts in September was a quality outing and Baltimore went 4-2 in those games.
We’ll likely find out some time today who the Orioles decide to go with, but they’ll have a tall order in trying to beat the outstanding Rangers rookie. Darvish has just gotten better and better as the season has gone on and he’s in the middle of a hot streak. He’s pitched eight straight quality starts. Texas is only 5-3 in those game because of the way their offense has struggled as of late.
Only one of the three pitchers has faced the other team this season and it was Johnson in a relief appearance. Back on August 22, Johnson gave up an RBI double to Geovany Soto in a blowout.
Update: The Baltimore Orioles announced that Joe Saunders will make the start in Friday’s play-in game.
3. As for the Houston Astros, they just couldn’t seem to run away from history. With their 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs, Houston set yet another franchise record for losses in a season finishing with a 107-55 record. It was in heartbreaking fashion as well. It was looking like the Astros might be able to pull off a memorable ending when, in the 8th inning, Justin Maxwell cranked a no-doubter to left field for a three-run homer to tie the game. Instead, Bryan LaHair hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 9th for a walk-off win.
There’s been a lot of reminiscing this week about how the Astros are leaving the National League and even how the games won’t be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest anymore. But that’s something that the fans will feel far more than the players. Remember that a ridiculous amount of these players haven’t been in the league very long and haven’t been with this team very long. And these past two seasons have been the worst in franchise history. Now they’re moving to the AL West where the Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, and LA Angels await them. It’s going to be tough sledding again next year. It’s going to be tough to avoid history again. They might not set a new franchise record for losses, but they’ll likely lose 100 games again, which would make them one of the few teams in major league history to lose 100 games in three consecutive seasons.
It’s a tough spot to be in: putting a bad season behind you but looking forward to another bad one. But that’s the Houston Astros.
4. If you’re a Texas Longhorns fan or an Oklahoma State Cowboys, you know that there was some controversy at the end of their game in Stillwater on Saturday. With Texas down by two points with less than a minute to go, Joe Bergeron plunged toward the goal line and fumbled. No camera angle could see whether he fumbled before or after he crossed the goal line. But when the officials converged on the play, they signaled touchdown.
Replays were inconclusive. Even if replays had proven that Bergeron fumbled, Texas would have retained the ball because there has to be a clear recovery by the defense before the scrum for officials to award the defense the ball on a play like that when it is reviewed. The Longhorns would have kicked the short field goal and won anyway. Again, there is no conclusive evidence that Bergeron fumbled before he crossed the goal line.
Even so, Big 12 officials contacted Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys for ruling the play a touchdown too soon. My good friend Gina Mizell broke the story for The Oklahoman which confirms to many people that OSU maybe should have won the game.
This is where things get interesting, though. Big 12 officials came out and said that the reports were false. But Mizell confirmed with a second source that the apology was actually issued, so it appears that the Big 12 wanted to apologize to the Cowboys but didn’t want it to go public because ever since my friend at The Oklahoman doubled down with a second source, the Big 12 hasn’t said anything.
But again, the apology doesn’t change the fact that we don’t know when Bergeron fumbled and that even if the replay had concluded that Bergeron fumbled, there was no clear recovery so Texas would have been awarded the ball and would have kicked the game-winning field goal anyway. It seems that this is all for nothing.
Photo courtesy Cooper Neill/Getty Images
5. The TCU Horned Frogs may be on the verge of having their season collapse. They’re 4-0 with a 1-0 conference record and while they’ve had running back injuries and trouble with turnovers, quarterback Casey Pachall has played relatively well. Well now Pachall is in major trouble because he spent the night in jail after being arrested for DWI. Pachall has subsequently been indefinitely suspended from the team.
TCU is currently ranked 15th in the AP poll and the team has been struggling so far in their first year in the Big 12 despite their 4-0 record. They turned the ball over repeatedly against Kansas and last week Pachall had a terrible game against SMU. Any notion that TCU would be a contender in the Big 12 was slowly being put to rest but this may be the nail in the coffin. According to reports, it’s not like there’s any doubt as to what happened because Pachall submitted to a breathalyzer test and failed. The indefinite suspension is not where it ends. I have no doubt that he’ll soon be dismissed from the team.
That will leave the offense in the hands of Trevone Boykin, a redshirt freshman who has attempted all of 10 passes this season. He went 8-8 for 75 yards and a touchdown in TCU’s blowout win to open the season and hasn’t done much since. Now it appears that the offense will be in his hands the rest of the season. It’s not going to be easy for him either. TCU has Iowa State’s tough defense at home followed by having to face Baylor’s powerful offense in Waco. TCU’s conference championship hopes could very well be done before they play the toughest part of their schedule when they play four ranked Big 12 teams to finish the season in succession.
6. Finally, there was one clear winner at yesterday’s presidential debate: Steven Spielberg. Did you see the new Lincoln trailer? If not, check it out. The more we see of this movie, the more we want to see it. Daniel Day-Lewis looks like he’s already sealed the Oscar with this performance.