The Rangers had the AL West in their hands on Saturday as they entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead over the Angels. They just couldn't hold on to it.
While the Rangers' pitchers in that inning failed them, it was a horrible decision by rookie skipper Jeff Banister that led the disaster in the first place.
Banister pitched Sam Dyson for the fifth straight day in the eighth inning, and he had very little problem getting out of the inning on just more than 20 pitches. He looked fresh and dominant. Yet, with the four-run lead, Banister went to closer Shawn Tolleson for the fifth straight day after he'd been hit hard all series. Tolleson promptly gave up back-to-back homers to start the inning and was toast.
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Of course, after that, Ross Ohlendorf kicked away the Rangers lead and Andrew Faulkner finished the inning after the Angels had come back to score five runs in the ninth to save their season and prolong the Rangers' tension.
That put the Rangers in a huge bind on Sunday as Dyson and Tolleson were fried, and Keone Kela had pitched on Saturday and therefore wouldn't be available. That meant the Rangers were going into Sunday with Derek Holland being a probable high-leverage option out of the bullpen, along with Jake Diekman, and then not much else.
So what did Cole Hamels do? How about a complete-game three-hitter to win the West and keep the bullpen from anything more than a mid-innings stir from long reliever Nick Martinez. It was a gem, and it saved Banister's backside from some serious criticism had they not won Sunday's game.