ARLINGTON – The Rangers reached the season’s midpoint and to celebrate this accomplishment, they staged a pageant about all that’s happened. Because everybody loves it when the kids put on a show.
Here’s how it went: They quickly dug a big hole with sloppy play, then put together a promising rally, only to have to try to hold on for dear life to preserve the progress they made.
Pretty much sounds like the season-to-date.
Plot twist: For a change, they maintained their grip. Won a close game: 6-5 over the Central-leading Minnesota Twins. They reach the season’s midpoint at 38-43, on pace for 76 wins. That would be a 16-win improvement over 2021.
“It’s a good stepping-stone for us,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Hopefully we win by eight tomorrow, but as long as we win, I don’t care. It was a big win for us.”
Was it a just a one-night fluke? Or an omen of things to come?
Look, the numbers say the Rangers have been unlucky in the first half. They began the day 4-17 in one-run games, on pace for what would be a club record 34. Analysts like to say that one-run games involves a significant quotient of luck, either good or bad.
The data says: This is the payback for winning all those one-run games in 2016 when they went 36-11. As if getting swept by Toronto in the Division Series that year wasn’t payback enough.
In 2016, the teams’ Pythagorean records, based on runs scored and allowed, suggested Toronto was really a 91-win team, the Rangers an 82-win team. The Rangers, according to the Pythagorean formula, had been a lucky team during the regular season.
This season, the Pythagorean formula suggests the Rangers have been unlucky so far. They “should” have been 41-39 entering Friday.
Woodward would prefer to be good rather than lucky.
“We haven’t played well at times in close games,” he said. “We just haven’t been exceptional in those games, where it’s like a great at-bat, executing pitches, making every quality play that we can that determine things. There are just some little things that have hampered us at times. It’s a matter of getting every area a little better.
“Sometimes, it does come down to luck when you lose a close game,” he added. “But when it’s this consistent, it tells you we’re close, but we’re not quite there yet.”
For a night, at least, they offered some hope they might yet get it.
1/14Texas Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley (27) hugs umpire Angel Hernandez (5) before the game between Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins at the Globe Life Field in Arlington on Friday, July 8, 2022.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)
The game began just like the season. The Rangers, who lost nine of their first 11 games this season, fell into a hole before somebody could lose the first shaker of salt on what was designated as “Margaritaville Night.”
Luis Arraez led off with a ground ball, the attempted fielding of which could best be described this way: Nathaniel Lowe fell down and went boom. He bobbled the grounder, then fell while retrieving it and threw wildly to Jon Gray at first. Before the crowd could even finish its requisite booing of Carlos Correa, the next hitter, he’d homered into the visitor’s bullpen.
Minnesota added another run in the third on a pair of errors by Corey Seager and Jonah Heim and a single by Max Kepler past a drawn in and shifted infield. It was a miracle the Rangers were only down by three runs going to the bottom of the fifth.
And, then, just like the team that fought back to .500 by the end of May, the Rangers rallied. In the fifth they put together the kinds of at-bats that Woodward has envisioned since he arrived as manager in 2019. After Sonny Gray mowed them down the first time through the order, the second half of the lineup produced a pair of hits and a hard-earned walk from Kole Calhoun to load the bases.
Then they actually capitalized. Mitch Garver, who will have season-ending forearm surgery after this series against his former club, was hit by a pitch to force in one run. Rookies Leody Taveras (sac fly) and Josh Smith (single) each drove home runs to tie the game. And Corey Seager did what he’s paid to do: Drove a two-out, three-run homer into the right field seats to make it 6-3.
“To have success at something you’ve struggled with, it’s Important to see what it looks like and what it feels like,” Seager said. “We had that tonight.”
Jon Gray immediately went out and allowed a double to No. 7 hitter Nick Gordon and a two-run homer to No. 9 hitter Ryan Jeffers.
It made it a one-run game.
In the first half of the season, that usually meant bad news for the Rangers. Maybe, as they are about to start the second half, they are about to change the story line, too.
On Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant
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