Once upon a time, the 2023 Texas Rangers were the gold standard of pairing a mashing lineup with a veteran rotation overflowing with talent.
Just a few months later, they have a chance to receive a different honor: The Bob Barker Award for "Closest Team to the Playoffs Without Going Over."
If their current collapse reaches the finish line, Texas' season might've survived only slightly longer than Barker himself, and their current roller coaster ride -- staving off disaster, then embracing it -- has been quite remarkable to behold.
Once upon a time, the Rangers led the vaunted AL West by as many as 6.5 games, a high water mark they attained by defeating the Yankees 4-2 in 10 innings on a late June night in the Bronx. You remember it, right? New York rallied late, but couldn't push the lead run across, only for Adolis Garcia to cash in the ghost runner with an immediate two-run shot off Michael King.
Somehow, the 2023 Yankees -- a team seemingly as allergic to punching back as any squad of the modern era -- captured a hard-fought win the very next day, riding the right arm of Luis Severino to a white-knuckle 1-0 victory. Ron Marinaccio closed it out and put two men on before recording two whiffs and a pop fly. Almost nothing about that game sounds real in the cool light of September, but it certainly did happen ... and it might've represented the beginning of the end for ol' Texas.
Starting with that loss, the Rangers hold a record of 35-40, and the way they've gone about losing steam, regaining it, then spitting it out again is something you wouldn't wish on your second-worst enemy (you'd obviously wish it on Boston).
Did Yankees start 2023 Rangers' epic collapse? Many people are saying...
Jacob deGrom? Not available. Max Scherzer? Nope. You thought so, but nope. You're going to have to gut this out with Nathan Eovaldi, Jordan Montgomery and Jon Gray, and you won't be allowed to stop and catch your breath for even one second.
Bruce Bochy's Rangers might've saved their best collapse varietal for last, seemingly salting a playoff spot away when they went on the road to Toronto last week and four-game swept the hapless Jays in a near runaway. Not only did they conquer the Rogers Centre and force them to spell "Center" correctly, but they bludgeoned the "compete" out of Toronto, winning the four games by scores of 10-4, 6-3, 10-0, and 9-2. Now that's how you stave off a collapse!
Except ... they didn't. Texas followed that series up by getting run over on the road by a Cleveland team that doesn't really hit all that much, falling 12-3, 2-1, and 9-2. They tried to get off the mat with a Marcus Semien leadoff home run against the Red Sox on Monday, but mustered only one run for the remainder of that game, falling late on a Rob Refsnyder bases-loaded single. With just a handful of games still on the docket and their breathing room gone thanks to a dramatic Toronto sweep of Boston as well as Seattle topping Oakland in their opener, the Rangers now need to muster some serious courage considering they play the Mariners seven more times to conclude the season.
The winner of those two series will more than likely go to the playoffs. Hopefully, on the eve of Game 1, the slumbering Rangers still see Sevy breathing fire when they close their eyes.