<
>

Rangers' sweeping loss to Toronto a total team collapse

TORONTO -- The Texas Rangers' final loss of the 2016 season had been over for 15 minutes and Adrian Beltre wore only his baseball pants as he slumped in a folding chair in front of his locker, aimlessly rolling a baseball in his hand and staring at the floor.

Beltre, the Rangers’ leader and unofficial captain, sat like that -- lost in thought -- for about 10 minutes. In the days before the AL Division Series, Beltre had pronounced his team -- which won an AL-best 95 games -- worthy of winning a championship. He told his teammates to prepare as hard as they could for the playoffs because there were no guarantees any of them would ever have a better shot.

The 37-year-old Beltre helped lead Texas' offense during the regular season, hitting .300 with 32 homers and 104 RBIs. But all his words seemed hollow in the silence of the Rangers' clubhouse after his team was swept by Toronto.

Toronto beat Texas 7-6 on Sunday night, ending the Rangers' season when Josh Donaldson scored from second on a 10th-inning throwing error by second baseman Rougned Odor as he tried to complete a double play.

“It was a weird way to lose,” Beltre said.

The Rangers didn’t lose the series on that one poor play. They lost the series because their best players didn't make enough good ones. You can start with their 1-2 pitching duo of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

Both pitched poorly. So did Game 3 starter Colby Lewis, who lasted two innings and two batters.

The Rangers' starters pitched just 10 1/3 innings in the series, allowing 16 hits, 17 runs (16 earned), four walks, seven strikeouts and seven homers. Their collective ERA was 13.98.

The starting pitchers were the primary reason the Rangers never had the lead at the end of any of the 28 innings they played against the Blue Jays, but their hitters weren’t much better. The Rangers had seven players hit at least 20 homers this season, but Elvis Andrus -- who hit just eight during the regular season -- managed the club’s first ALDS homer in the third inning of Game 3.

Odor hit the team’s only other homer in the fourth inning. Carlos Beltran, Beltre, Odor and Jonathan Lucroy, the middle of the Rangers’ lineup, went a combined 7-for-44 (.144) with three RBIs, four runs scored and six strikeouts.

It’s hard for any team to win that way.

In Game 1, the Blue Jays opened up a 5-0 lead in the third inning when the Rangers failed to make any one of three plays.

Beltre couldn’t handle a smash that glanced off the top of his glove when he leaped to snare it. Hamels failed to cleanly field a bouncer up the middle that Odor likely would’ve gobbled up for an out.

Then, Ian Desmond ran 133 feet to the wall in center but couldn’t make the catch on Troy Tulowitzki's drive, leading to a bases-clearing triple and a 5-0 lead. The Rangers never really recovered.

“They did everything better than us,” Desmond said. “That’s why they won.”

The Rangers are left to contemplate how to improve. They’ve won at least 90 games in five of the past seven seasons and won the AL West title in four of them.

Just getting to the playoffs no longer satisfies this team’s core. The Rangers want a title.

“Regardless if I did good or bad, we lost in the end,” Andrus said. “This game is all about that. It’s not about one guy or how you perform or how you hit. It sucks the same way to lose, whether you hit a homer or go 0-for-4.”