A bobbled grounder, an errant throw, a missed catch, a bloop and a bomb. That was the sequence, over a span of only 17 pitches, in which the
Nine outs away from a division series-clinching victory in Toronto, Texas committed three consecutive errors and gave up a long three-run home run to
Six months later, the implosion still reverberates through the Rangers clubhouse.
"That's something I really have in my mind right now that I'll be using the right way," shortstop
Jeff Banister, who guided Texas to the
"The first thing Banny said to the team after the game was, 'Let it fuel you. Remember this feeling and work to not feel it again,' " General Manager
"I don't know if it's changed anything we've done this spring. It's an extremely driven group, and I'm not sure if we need additional motivation. But if it helps some of the guys focus their energy, then it can be a good thing."
With the club the Rangers have assembled this spring, they should be in position for redemption come fall.
Texas had a record of 45-24 over its final 69 games in 2015, including a three-game sweep of Houston in August and a four-game sweep of the
Houston, with reigning
They'll have ace left-hander Cole Hamels, who had a 7-1 record and 3.66 earned-run average in 12 starts after being acquired from Philadelphia in July, and key setup men Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman, both acquired July 31, for the whole season.
And the rotation should receive a huge boost by early June when right-hander
"The rotation we have now looks pretty solid," Andrus said. "Knowing we're going to have Darvish in the third month … it's like making the best trade of the year."
The rotation, which will include right-hander
"On paper, when you think about the names and what they've done, it does have the potential to be a pretty dynamic rotation," Banister said. "But again, we have to keep them healthy."
Darvish is about a year removed from elbow ligament-replacement surgery and has made significant strides this spring. Many pitchers return from the procedure in 12 months, but the Rangers added two months to Darvish's rehabilitation program to increase the chances for a full recovery.
"I'm of the mind-set that the best pitchers, when they come back from this surgery, they don't take a long time to get back to a top level," Daniels said. "They kind of jump right in. … You're talking about one of the top handful of pitchers in the world. He's in his prime. He's in tremendous shape."
The bullpen is anchored by closer Shawn Tolleson, who had a 2.99 ERA with 35 saves, 76 strikeouts and 17 walks in 72 1/3 innings in 2015; Dyson, whose 96-mph fastball is described by Banister as "a bowling ball sinker;" and the left-handed Diekman, who throws 97 mph from a lower arm slot.
Hard-throwing right-handers Keone Kela, who had a record of 7-5 with a 2.39 ERA as a rookie;
"To count on the same three or four relievers to carry the load all year long is asking a lot," Daniels said. "We wanted to give Banny some other options so he can mix and match, keep guys fresh but still have enough pieces ready to roll."
The lineup is deep and balanced, with the speed of leadoff man Delino DeShields (25 stolen bases in 2015) and the on-base ability of
Andrus (25 stolen bases) adds speed, and second baseman Rougned Odor (16 home runs, 61 runs batted in) and catcher
Texas ranked third in the AL with 751 runs last season, 114 more than it scored in 2014. There is no reason to believe the Rangers can't be just as — or more — productive in 2016.