They did it. And it all came down to the last game of the season. Game 162.
What a wonderful game it was.
Game 162 was more than just the last game of the season, though. In many ways, it was the most important Rangers game of the last four seasons.
Game 162 completed the unlikely, incredible worst to first season of the Texas Rangers. From 67-95 in 2014 to 88-74 in 2015. A turnaround of twenty-one games. In one season the Texas Rangers went from doormat to winning the West Division. It didn’t look possible at points along the way.
Game 162 took away the sting of Game 161, which had the very real chance of sitting alongside Game 6 in the pantheon of Rangers heartbreak, with fans able to recite the minutiae of each soul-crushing play in excruciating detail for years to come. But because of Game 162, now Game 161 is no more meaningful than Game 1 or Game 47 or Game 133 or any of the other seventy-four games the Rangers lost. It was painful, it was a head scratcher, but it was just a loss. Game 162 made sure Game 161 wasn’t the block that toppled the Jenga tower.
Game 162 chased away the Ghosts Of Collapses Past like the Great Collapse of 2012 and 2013’s Collapse II: The Sequel. Forgive Rangers fans for running through the streets in fits of panic, but 2015 was starting to line up eerily similar to 2012. In 2012 the Rangers had a five-game lead with nine to play and blew it. In 2015, they had a four-and-a-half game lead with nine to play. And tried to blow it.
Game 162 probably sealed the Manager of the Year trophy for first-year skipper Jeff Banister. After twenty-nine years of being in the shadows in Pittsburg, he got his chance, and has made the most of it. It wasn’t always easy, but does the Cy Young winner win every game, get every batter out, never allow a run to score? It’s an award he deserves, warts and all.
Game 162 put the finishing touches on a remarkable Rangers turnaround since the trade deadline. They were 47-52 before, 41-22 after. Their team batting average went from .249 to .270. And the team ERA dropped from 4.54 to 3.80, mostly on the arms of the bullpen, who went from a 4.71 ERA before to a 2.96 ERA after. It was Jon Daniels’s finest year in a career that already has two World Series appearances on this G.M. resume.
Game 162 validated the Cole Hamels trade, proving he is every bit the ace they traded for. Did the Rangers give up too much to get him? Ask the crowd in Arlington on Sunday.
Game 162 meant there would be no need for a Game 163. The Rangers historically don’t do well in the one-game shootouts.
Game 162 did one other thing. It confirmed the Rangers don’t have to rely on one or two players to win. It’s not Trout and Pujols and a bunch of other guys. The 2015 Texas Rangers head into the playoffs with the most well rounded offense in the American League. An offense that finished second in the American League in runs scored in the second half to Toronto, who they will face in the first round of the playoffs. An offense that has produced a different hero each win, often many different.
When asked for his thoughts on Game 161 in the glow of the victory in Game 162, Jeff Banister said, “This game has a cruel sense of humor every once in a while.”
Game 162 proved baseball has a wonderful sense of justice as well.
Game 162 was just one game. One unbelievably huge game.
The Texas Rangers are the American League West Division champions.
Now, does anyone want to buy my tickets for today’s Game 163, or for tomorrow’s Wild Card Game? Face value.