ARLINGTON --Upon arrival to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for the first-ever American League Wild Card game, my buddies and I all remarked about how different this felt than the past few editions of postseason baseball in DFW. After the Texas Rangers epic meltdown highlighted by the Oakland A's 12-5 rout that ended Texas' hope for an AL West title, fans hanging outside of the Ballpark ranged from cautious optimism to total gloom.
In spite of the cloud of negativity, there was still a glimmer of hope if the Rangers could claw past the Baltimore Orioles in the winner-take-all game, the Yankees would be in town and another run to the World Series was possible. It was not meant to be as the crowd of 46,931 fans witnessed a 5-1 loss to Buck Showalter's Orioles.
I was clad in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt when Yu Darvish took the mound to begin the game with an official temperature of 75 degrees. By the time Josh Hamilton struck out on three pitches in the eighth inning, the temperature had plummeted to 57. It's almost fitting that the cold front blew in over Arlington during the game as the end of Rangers baseball coincides with winter approaching.
In the later innings, chatter began comparing this year's version of the Rangers to the 2007 Dallas Mavericks. Each team had come oh-so-close to winning in the previous year -- Rangers within a strike on two occasions to beating the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series, Mavs up 2-0 and a commanding lead in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Both teams displayed regular season excellence -- Mavs followed up their finals loss by going 67-15 before falling in the first round to the Golden St. Warriors while the Rangers were in first place for 178 days, just not the final and most important one. Lastly, both teams lost to foes led by former coaches -- Warriors coach Don Nelson had coached in Dallas prior to his stint in the Bay Area while Buck Showalter was replaced by Ron Washington as Rangers manager. From a fan's perspective, hopefully the Rangers can follow the Mavs lead and regroup or reload and bring a title to DFW.
Fans began the exodus prior to the ninth inning and once the Orioles added two more runs for a 5-1 lead, it was evident that this team's run was nearing its end. The Rangers made a threat in the bottom of the ninth, but saw its hopes end on a David Murphy fly-out.
Perhaps the gentleman siting to my right, Mark, 46, from Colleyville, summed it up best. "This team has been dying a slow death over the last few weeks," he said. "Tonight was just the funeral."
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