As of Tuesday afternoon, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to care about the Texas Rangers this season.
Well, to be completely forthcoming, I was having a hard time giving much of a shit about anything Tuesday afternoon. This happens to me a lot on Tuesdays, but this Tuesday in particular hit pretty hard. With the best four days of the sports year about 10 days in our rearview mirror and the start of the football season still five months away, I felt as if I was staring at a long dull drought only to be sporadically lifted by the oases of golf majors. It didn’t help that these are the best and worst of times to be a Rangers fan. Sure, I remained interested for much of the last three seasons because Texas was among the best two or three teams in baseball during that time. But the heartbreaking loss in Game 6 of the World Series in 2011 followed by a painful slide at the end of 2012 made me wonder if I could sustain interest through another 162-game season. Being a baseball fan is an annual marathon, except that it’s not like a marathon because you can quit being interested in baseball for the year much easier and with no sense of shame that would accompany quitting a marathon.
Add the Rangers’ lackluster opening of the season to the list. It was already difficult to get excited about the Rangers’ off-season. Texas effectively dumped Josh Hamilton and that had to be done. The Rangers did what I hoped they might do, which was spend some of the Hamilton money on a catcher, which they did by signing A.J. Pierzynski. But I was hopeful we would see Jurickson Profar in the lineup and poised to have a breakout season. Alas, as spring training wore on, I realized via sports radio that Profar would not be an everyday player. Then the Rangers went out on Sunday night and let the hapless Astros hang an 8-2 defeat on them. The Rangers hitters seemed to be carrying on the tradition of late last season when they went to the plate to produce a ton of empty at-bats and generally failed to get anything going.
Of course, I tuned in to the Astros-Rangers game Tuesday evening anyway. For one thing, when the world doesn’t seem very interesting to me, sports can always at least slightly raise my level of enthusiasm. And for another thing, my roommate had promised to make dinner and she wasn’t home yet, so I was kind of just whiling away the evening.
Still, I turned to the Astros-Rangers game for a reason. I wanted to see the Rangers generate something on offense. I wanted some sign of life from them; anything to make me want to continue to watch through the summer until I could fully turn my attention to football. The Rangers hitters, to their credit, didn’t disappoint. Craig Gentry hit a double that would have been a triple if some moronic fan hadn’t reached down from the stands to grab the ball. Gentry would eventually score the only run the Rangers needed on a Lance Berkman single to left. Though Texas left the bases loaded, the Rangers hitters gave me a little reason to stay interested at least for the night.
And then Yu Darvish gave us so much more.
By the time my roommate and I sat down for dinner, I was explaining to her why I needed to leave on the television and why a perfect game is so much more important than a no-hitter.
Darvish struck out 14 Astros hitters while sitting down 26 straight. And the difference between 26 and 27 was the difference between me holding my arms up over my head and exclaiming “He did it!” in disbelief and me on the floor screaming “No!” in disbelief. Some unheralded Astro (that phrase is redundant these days, I realize) called Marwin Gonzalez hitting in the nine hole ripped a single between Darvish’s legs and up the middle. Perfect game over. No-hitter over.
But you know what? Darvish accomplished almost as much with his near-perfect game as he would have with a perfect game. Sure, he won’t join the few men in Major League Baseball history who have sat down 27 in-a-row. He still won the game in dramatic and impressive fashion. He still gave Rangers fans like me a reason to want to put in my chips for the season. He breathed life back into a team that was starting to look like a zombie.
A perfect game in the second game of the season would have been wasted anyway. It’s setting the bar way too high to go perfect in your first outing of the season. Darvish gave us more than enough reason to be excited about the Rangers and especially excited whenever he takes the mound. These are things I’ve come to accept and fully believe in almost 24 hours after I was screaming “No!” in my living room.
When you think about it, the fact that I was screaming anything about Game 2 of 162 says it all.
Photo via SportsIllustrated.CNN.com (ap).
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