Tuesday night's loss to Pittsburgh was hard to take for Texas Rangers fans.
In a game like that, under those circumstances, it was one of those deals where you might have been happier had the Rangers just continued their funk and lost 5-1 — nice and painless.
Instead, they showed heart and fight, got runners on the corners with a one-run deficit and the one guy you'd want up to bat in that situation at the plate. Instead of heroics, Adrian Beltre fanned on three pitches to end the game and give the Rangers their second straight loss.
But what happened on Tuesday night elsewhere helped the Rangers across the board. Oakland lost to Minnesota in a late rally, thanks to a Josh Willingham homer (his second of the night). The Kansas City Royals topped the Cleveland Indians, and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles. Oh, and those Tampa Bay Rays, who have the second AL Wild Card spot right now, they lost to the Boston Red Sox.
So do the math, the Rangers didn't lose any ground, anywhere. Now, would it have been better to gain ground across the board? Sure it would, but all they lost was a day.
Here's what lies ahead for the Rangers, who complete a three-game series with the upstart Pirates and three really good starting pitchers along with baseball's second-best bullpen on Wednesday.
The Rangers will host AL West-leading Oakland for three games. If the Rangers want any shot at winning the West and avoiding the AL Wild Card Game, they have to win that series with the A's. A sweep, though unlikely, would be tremendous and at worst, pull them even when they leave for Tampa Bay on Sunday evening.
After the A's series, there's four games with the Rays, who are in a bigger funk than the Rangers are at the moment, but are still a dangerous team with good starting pitching. After that, the Rangers play three teams they should be able to handle in Kansas City, Houston and Los Angeles, the latter two teams being ones that the Rangers have absolutely owned this year. And here's the thing: The Rangers have gone through awful funks multiple times this year, and each time they do, they follow it by going on a tear (see August).
If the Rangers lose the series to Oakland, the West is likely gone, but the Wild Card is a pretty safe bet, and hosting that one-game playoff for a second straight year is, as well.
Here's the deal: The Rangers' offense is struggling right now, and we all know that. But with the pitching staff — starters to bullpen — the Rangers have, they can make a deep run in the postseason. It's the whole getting to the postseason thing that could present a challenge, but if they can get in, and get past the one-game playoff, their team sets up well for playoff series.
It's understandable if you're losing hope, but don't give up yet.