Final 10 games sour six months of hard work
Bats went silent, pitching struggled down stretch
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a five-game lead with nine to play. Ten games later, their season was over.
The Rangers have never had a season come to a sudden and stunning end like what happened in 2012. They still won 93 games, but what happened in the final two weeks won't easily be forgotten.
"We just got cold," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "We played our hearts out and we got cold."
"It's baseball," closer Joe Nathan said. "It just seemed like down the stretch there, our timing and everything was off. We weren't swinging the bats well. We didn't pitch well. For most of the season, we played pretty good baseball and stayed consistent. But we picked the worst time to get into a funk and the last two weeks didn't go our way for sure."
The simple explanation is the Rangers wore down physically after playing deep into October in each of the past two years. The Rangers got off to a fast start, but then cracks started showing. The pitching staff was hit hard by injuries. The offense went into a slump in June and July. Key offensive players like Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli saw their production fall off from previous seasons.
The Rangers rallied over the final two months and seemed ready to make another deep run into the playoffs. Then came the sudden and unexpected conclusion. In the end, this was not the season the Rangers expected.
Record: 93-69, 2nd in the AL West
Defining moment: For all the good things that happened to the Rangers, this season will be remembered for the three straight losses to the Athletics at the end of the season. That knocked them out of first place and into the Wild Card playoff game, which they lost to the Orioles.
What went right: Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison combined for 34 victories as All-Star starters ... Joe Nathan recovered completely from two years of dealing with Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and saved 37 games ... Elvis Andrus had another All-Star season at shortstop and David Murphy hit .304 with a .380 on-base percentage and .479 slugging percentage, all career highs for a full season ... Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre combined for 79 home runs and 230 RBIs in the middle of the order ... Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman showed the potential for being key members of the future bullpen ... Craig Gentry played well in a part-time role ... pitchers Martin Perez and Justin Grimm, infielders Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar, and outfielder Leonys Martin showed they have a future at the big league level.
What went wrong: Starters Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz suffered season-ending arm injuries ... Kinsler, Cruz and Young all stayed healthy, but did not have the seasons expected of them ... Napoli's physical problems left the Rangers scrambling at catcher ... relievers Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Koji Uehara and Mike Adams missed significant time due to injuries, as did starter Derek Holland. Scott Feldman had a six-game losing streak, a six-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak as part of his unusual season ... Roy Oswalt went from the rotation to the bullpen to out the door as quickly as possible when it was all over ... Ryan Dempster won seven games after being acquired from the Cubs, but had a 5.09 ERA and let a 5-1 lead slip away on the final day of the season.
Biggest surprise: Ross came out of nowhere to win a job as a reliever in Spring Training and won a job in the bullpen. He pitched in 53 games and went 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.