ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington was in shock, slugger Josh Hamilton got booed and pitcher Yu Darvish wasn't sure what to do next.
After going to two World Series in a row, then being in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season, the Rangers never expected an ending like this.
The Rangers are done without winning a game in October. That includes the three-game sweep at Oakland, part of 4-9 finish and cost them the AL West crown on the final day of the regular season. They then lost 5-1 to upstart Baltimore Orioles in the AL's first one-and-done wild-card playoff.
Closer Joe Nathan said Saturday, while cleaning out his locker, that the Rangers unfortunately picked the worst time for their worst slump of the season.
"You throughout the course of a season try to go through your funks at the right time. Unfortunately, we picked about the worst time to go into our worst funk," Nathan said Saturday in a quiet and mostly abandoned Rangers clubhouse. "Most of the season, we played good baseball and stayed consistent. ... The last two weeks didn't go right, for sure."
It was a miserable closing stretch for the 93-win Rangers and Hamilton, the former AL MVP and batting champion heading into free agency. He may have played his last game in a Texas uniform, considering the price and length of contract it likely will take to keep him.
Hamilton hit a career-high 43 homers and drove in 128 runs but was lustily booed by Rangers fans while going 0-for-4 against the Orioles.
"I enjoyed my five years playing with these guys. Most fun I've ever had playing baseball," Hamilton said after the game, when he also put his odds on staying at 50-50. "The fans, it's been a good ride. Even if you send me off with boos, I still love you."
In May against Baltimore, Hamilton became only the 16th major leaguer with a four-homer game as part of a 5-for-5 night that included a double.
With the season on the line Friday night, Hamilton struck out twice on three pitches, including the inning-ending out in the eighth with a runner at second when it was still 3-1. He swung at the first pitch his other two at-bats. Though it pushed in the only Texas run, Hamilton's double-play grounder in the first came after the first two batters reached on a combined 12 pitches.
That came after Hamilton dropped a routine popup in Wednesday's regular-season finale, a two-out tiebreaking miscue that allowed the A's to score two runs and go ahead to stay. He missed five games on a September trip because of a cornea problem he said was caused by too much caffeine and energy drinks — and had one homer with 18 strikeouts in the final 10 regular-season games after returning.
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