Rangers' implosion one of epic proportions

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When asked earlier this year what his favorite rule change in Major League Baseball was, Elvis Andrus didn’t say it was instant replay. Or the designated hitter.

He didn’t say it was interleague play or the fact that the All-Star Game determines which league’s representative will get home field advantage in the World Series.

No, instead, Andrus expressed his approval of the new Wild Card system.

“All of those games make the game more interesting,” he said. “I love the idea of the extra Wild Card. Fans will enjoy that extra game and it’s a chance for another team, so it’s always good for fans to be able to see that.”

“Interesting” may not be the word Andrus would use to describe the new playoff format now.

Not after the Rangers blew a four-run lead for the second time in three days, falling to the A’s, 12-5, Wednesday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their regular season finale. The Rangers were swept by the A’s and did not win the American League West despite leading the division for 178 days — the most by a team that didn’t win its division since the divisional era began in 1969.

Instead of popping champagne, Texas will try to regroup in time for its Wild Card game against the Orioles in Arlington. For a team that has lost five of their last six games and nine of their last 12, that will be much easier said than done for the slumping Rangers.

Only two teams have erased deficits bigger than the 13-game hole Oakland dug itself out of to win the AL West this year, as the A’s went 57-20 (.740) in their last 77 games, winning their last six.

But even numbers as mind-boggling as those don’t explain the full magnitude of what happened in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday afternoon.

Josh Hamilton settled under a fly ball in shallow center field off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. What should have been an inning-ending can of corn turned into a two-run error as the A’s took a 7-5 lead in a six-run fourth inning, one frame after the Rangers pushed five runs across. The A’s would score the last 11 runs of the game.

Hamilton was one of the biggest reasons why the two-time defending AL champion Rangers were in such great position to win a third straight division title. But that moment epitomized Texas’ recent struggles. The Rangers, who held a 13-game lead over a previously nondescript A’s team and who held a 5-1 lead over this same squad before the fourth inning began, were suddenly trailing and eventually without a division crown that seemed wrapped up this time last week.

It will be interesting to see how the Rangers respond.