Editor's Note: This is part of a series of entries about elements of the game that the Texas Rangers hope to improve upon heading into 2013. And since it's now 2013, we call them our Rangers Resolutions.
Today's resolution: Finish strong
This also was a resolution in 2012 after the Rangers were a strike away -- twice -- from winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6, only to see the St. Louis Cardinals come back twice to eventually win the title in seven games.
But in 2013, it takes on new meaning. The Rangers were five games up in the AL West with nine games remaining in the season. The question most fans (and media) were asking was when the club would clinch, not if they'd clinch. But the Oakland A's went on a memorable run and the Rangers couldn't find their rhythm.
Texas was still in control, though, with one series left. They had clinched at least a playoff spot before they flew to Oakland for the final three games of the season. They needed to win just one of those games to be AL West champions for a third consecutive season. We all know what happened. The A's swept the series. The most memorable play was one that Josh Hamilton didn't make in center field as a routine pop fly nicked off his glove in a tie game in the fourth inning. The error allowed the A's to take the lead and they won the game on the final day of the season, earning the division title in stunning fashion.
The Rangers still had a chance to turn things around. They hosted Baltimore in the AL wild-card game. But the offense, which was inconsistent during the final stretch drive, couldn't do much against the Orioles' pitching staff and the Rangers' season abruptly ended in early October.
Texas hit just .241 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in the final nine games. They had .300 on-base percentage. It wasn't just the hitting, though, that struggled. The team made six errors in those games, including five in the final two games of the regular season. The pitching staff posted a 6.04 ERA and it was mainly because of struggling starting pitching. The rotation had a 7.80 ERA in that span.
The Rangers went 2-8 in the final 10 games (including the AL wild-card game) to end their 2012 season. It was not the ending anyone had expected.
So as we get going on 2013, the Rangers must resolve to finish strong this season. They should be more rested after a longer offseason. It was clear after two long seasons, including three full series of playoff games, that the Rangers were a tired group. That shouldn't be an issue this season.
Texas took the AL West lead early in 2012 and only let it go on the final day. The blueprint for 2013? Get the lead early again with a good start and then finish things this time.