Remember when the 2015 Texas Rangers went from worst to first?
Remember when it was announced that Yu Darvish was having Tommy John surgery and would miss the 2015 season? Or when Jurickson Profar injured his shoulder *again*, and would miss another year?
Remember Opening Day, when a Rangers team (with zero left-handed relief pitchers) was an 8th inning single by Ryan Rua away from being no-hit by Sonny Gray? Roman Mendez finished that 8-0 loss.
Remember the home opener? Derek Holland gave up a home run in the first inning, and was promptly removed from the game with a shoulder injury. He was out for over half the season. Rua injured his ankle a few innings later and would hit the 60-day DL. Shin-Soo Choo was also removed with back spasms.
Remember a couple of days later, when Leonys Martin hit a walk-off grand slam, only George Springer ascended into the Heavens and caught the thing so it wasn’t a grand slam but an out, and the Astros beat Texas in 14 innings? The Rangers wouldn’t hit a grand slam for the entire season, finishing with zero.
How about April 19th? The Rangers led the Mariners 10-5 in the 7th inning, but lost when Nelson Cruz hit a walk-off single against Neftali Feliz.
Remember April 27th? That was the day the Rangers traded for Josh Hamilton. No one was even sure he would be able to play much, if at all, and it was seen more as a marketing move than a baseball one. That was also the day that Shin Soo Choo’s batting average dipped to .096, so maybe it couldn’t hurt to have another left-handed outfielder?
Remember when Elvis Andrus was making what seemed like an error per game for the first month of the season?
Or May 3rd, when Gallardo and Gray matched up again? The Rangers lost again, and their record was 8-16. The next day, Delino DeShields, despite having a batting average of under .200, entered the game in the 5th inning, went 1-2 with a walk and a stolen base, and promptly took the job of starting centerfielder. Leonys Martin, long hoped to be the long-term answer in CF, eventually ended up in AAA, and then injured.
May 9th was another day for the books. Rougned Odor was sent to AAA because he was hitting .144, which meant Tommy Field was now the Rangers’ second baseman. Odor wouldn’t be back til June 15th (but he would hit .292 after he returned).
The day after that, Wandy Rodriguez retired the first 19 batters he faced, after having retired the previous 15, for a total of 34 consecutive batters retired; a Texas Rangers franchise record. Remember that?
Remember when Jeff Banister relieved Neftali Feliz of his closing duties and proclaimed that the bullpen had “no roles” but really Shawn Tolleson was the new closer? Remember Stolmy Pimentel or Kyuji Fujikawa?
Remember May 26th? The Rangers pulled themselves back to .500 that day, at 23-23. They would do so again on the 29th at 25-25; the day that Josh Hamilton hit two home runs against the Red Sox.
May 30th, I’m sure you remember. That was Chi Chi Gonzalez’ debut, and he held the Red Sox hitless for the first five innings. David Ortiz broke up the no-hitter, and Chi Chi left the game after 5 ⅔ innings when he gave up a double to, of all people, Mike Napoli.
The next day, I wish I didn’t remember, but I do: Adrian Beltre injured his thumb sliding into second base to break up a double play. He would miss 19 games. But remember Joey Gallo’s debut? That was special.
Do you remember June 6th? That was the day the Rangers beat the Royals to finish off a 14-3 run. Their record was 30-26 then.
I clearly remember June 19th. After a series with the Dodgers that saw Gallo hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw, the Rangers had a 4:00 a.m. arrival at their hotel in Chicago and Chris Sale held the offense to one run in 8 innings. But Colby Lewis matched the effort, and in the ninth inning, the White Sox trotted out David Robertson. A walk by Shin-Soo Choo, an Andrus single, and a Mitch Moreland pinch-hit single did the job. The Rangers were 37-31 then, and I remember that was the night I admitted that I believed in this team.
I also remember how they lost their next six in a row.
How about June 28th? The Rangers lost to Toronto that night to slip to third place in the AL West. They would not regain second until August 21st.
Remember July 3? The Rangers designated Neftali Feliz for assignment. The Rangers were then swept by the Angels and Diamondbacks, and went 1-7 in their last 8 games before the All-Star Break. Their record again dropped below .500 during that stretch.
Surely you haven’t forgotten July 18th, when Hank Conger started a benches-clearing incident with Rougned Odor, and we got one of the most iconic pictures of a Texas Rangers manager in history: Jeff Banister pointing his finger at A.J. Hinch. We all thought that might be a turning point.
But I remember when they lost to Houston the next night.
And the night after that, in Colorado, when Drew Stubbs crossed the plate and everyone left the field because that’s what you do when the game is over, and Tanner Scheppers accurately described his night with a word that had to be bleeped on television. The Rangers were 43-49 then, 9 games out of first place.
I’ll never forget when the Rangers took an early 5-0 lead against the Yankees, only for Martin Perez and a plethora of other pitchers (including Adam Rosales in what was not his only pitching appearance of the year) to give back those five runs and then another sixteen runs after that. It was July 28th, and the Rangers were 8 games out of first place.
I remember thinking that night that this might be it for the Rangers this year, and I wasn’t alone. With the trade deadline looming, most baseball pundits saw Texas, if not as true sellers, at least as a hybrid of selling potential free agents while picking up pieces for the future.
The future. Certainly not for 2015. Yovani Gallardo’s departure was almost a foregone conclusion.
And then they won the next two against the Yankees. And then they beat Madison Bumgarner.
Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, and Bobby Wilson were traded, and Yovani Gallardo was not.
Remember Cole Hamels’ first start, when Sam Dyson gave up a late home run to Hunter Pence to lose the game? The new guy didn’t look like much.
Remember Cole Hamels’ second start, when he lost to the Mariners?
Or Mike Napoli’s 2015 Rangers debut the following night; an 11-3 win in extra innings? We all should have been ecstatic, but were instead apoplectic that Jeff Banister had let Shawn Tolleson throw 45 pitches, even though no team in the history of baseball had ever come back from an 8-run deficit in extra innings.
Speaking of Mike Napoli, how about his first home run as a Ranger, against that same Seattle team in Texas on the day that Derek Holland returned? It was sandwiched between home runs by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus as part of a back-to-back-to-back against Joe Beimel.
Remember spring Training when Joe Beimel pitched for the Texas Rangers?
How about August 22nd? That was the day the Rangers climbed into sole possession of the second Wild-Card position.
I know you remember Sunday, September 13th, when we all thought that John Blake had made a mistake when he tweeted that Mike Napoli was starting in left field? He was the 12th left fielder the Rangers had used in 2015. See if you can guess them all without looking. Spoiler: you either forgot Michael Choice or Carlos Peguero.
Oh man, I remember Tuesday, September 15th. That was the second of a four-game series against the Astros, who had been alone in first place (save for an eleven-game stretch bookending the All-Star break) since April 19th. On September 19th, the Astros woke up in first place, and the Rangers went to sleep in it. They never gave it back, and they would go on to sweep the Astros in Arlington.
But remember when they lost two in Houston and one against the Tigers to trim the division lead to 1.5 games? Remember when Cole Hamels followed this pattern [1 out, 2 outs, give up two runs] for the first three innings against Detroit, but Texas eked out a victory anyway because there was no D in Etroit?
I’m sure you remember this past Friday, when we thought “Errorck Aybar” was a funny pun until the Rangers couldn’t score and Shawn Tolleson pitched for the 4th day in a row and wasn’t great and the Rangers lost to Anaheim and the Astros won again? Or Saturday when Tolleson pitched for the 5th day in a row and despite another 2-HR game from Josh Hamilton, 4 runs just wasn’t a big enough lead in the ninth inning, and baseball punched Ranger fans in the gut, and waved David Freese around like a flag? Remember all the parallels between that game and *that* game?
Remember waking up on Sunday morning feeling sick to your stomach with excitement and nerves? And then, do you remember when Cole Hamels started the game with 1 out, 2 outs, 2-run Albert Pujols home run, and you wanted to throw up because WHAT IF THIS IS 2012 WHAT IF WE CAN NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN?
Don’t ever forget those any of those things. Don’t let time and fading memory tell you that it was easy, and thus rob you of the joy of watching this team overcome adversity. There are hopefully many more memories to make before this October comes to an end. But for today, there’s one last question I have for you:
Remember when David Freese grounded out to Rougned Odor for the 27th out and Cole Hamels pitched a complete game, and the Rangers won the American League West?
I’ll never forget it.
Remember to follow Levi on Twitter @ThreeTwoEephus.