Rangers' 2017 slate full of peaks and valleys

Club came up just short of a return trip to postseason

Rangers' 2017 slate full of peaks and valleys

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had some big victories and major injuries, lots of home runs, but even more strikeouts and a few too many blown saves.

There was a 10-game winning streak and a few other stretches of brilliance, but they were also swept at too many inopportune times by teams like the Orioles, Mariners and A's.

Texas made an unexpected late-season run at an American League Wild Card berth, but there was also no postseason for the first time since 2014. In the end, the Rangers were just simply not quite good enough.

The club had its moments in 2017, and there is still a core group of talent to build around. But the season showed there is also work ahead to get back to a level it expects.

1. The agony and the ecstasy

Third baseman Adrian Beltre missed the first two months with a strained right calf muscle and battled through September with a strained left hamstring. As a result, he played in under 100 games and had fewer than 400 at-bats for the first time since his rookie season.

Beltre was still able to reach the 3,000-hit milestone for his career, as No. 3,000 came on July 30, on a double off of Orioles pitcher Wade Miley. It also came on the same day -- about an hour later -- former Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was clearly the best day of the season for the Rangers.

Beltre's 3,000th hit

2. Opening battery bon voyage

Yu Darvish was the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher and Jonathan Lucroy was the catcher. The pitcher-catcher combination with six All-Star selections between them was expected to be significant contributors to a club coming off two straight AL West titles, which had every reason to expect it would compete strongly for a third.

They were also free agents at the end of the season, and that reality hung over the club from the beginning -- clouds that got darker with each passing month. As the Rangers entered July on the fringe of contention, it was obvious that both could be traded by the end of the month.

Rangers gain prospects in trade

Lucroy went first, getting dealt on July 30 to the Rockies. Darvish was traded the next day to the Dodgers for Minor League outfielder Willie Calhoun, pitcher A.J. Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis.

3. The decline of the bullpen

The Rangers left Spring Training thrilled with their bullpen, especially since closer Sam Dyson looked so dominating pitching for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. The Rangers were sure the bullpen would be a major strength -- led by Dyson, Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Jeremy Jeffress and Tony Barnette.

That didn't turn out to be the case. The bullpen was a headache from Day 1. The Rangers had a 5-3 lead after six innings on Opening Day and ended up with an 8-5 loss. Dyson and Jeffress ended up being traded, while Bush and Kela struggled through shoulder problems.

Left-hander Alex Claudio ended up being the Rangers' best pitcher, while Austin Bibens-Dirkx ended up as the best story -- finally making it to the Major Leagues after 12 years in the Minors.

Claudio locks down the save

4. Rise of the titans

Joey Gallo and Delino DeShields endured uphill battles to make the Opening Day roster. Even beyond that, their roles on the ballclub were murky, at best. But, as the season progressed, it became quite clear they deserved prominent roles on the club going forward. DeShields re-established himself as a threat at the top of the lineup and Gallo in the middle of it.

Gallo's solo homer

The Rangers have a future -- and it will be built around Gallo, DeShields and Nomar Mazara.

5. One and done

The Rangers emphasized one-year contracts while pursuing free agents last season. That's how they got outfielder Carlos Gomez, first baseman Mike Napoli and starter Andrew Cashner. It was a mixed bag of success. All had their moments, all had their struggles and all spent time on the disabled list. Cashner would win the award for Most Likely to Return.

The Rangers also gave a one-year extension to catcher Robinson Chirinos -- a move that looks quite shrewd -- and a six-year deal to second baseman Rougned Odor. He is signed through 2022.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.