ARLINGTON — The Texas Rangers are finished.
After a valiant fight to stay in the AL Wild Card race for as long as possible, even seeing an injured Adrian Beltre limp to the plate in 12 straight games with a hamstring injury, the Rangers playoff hopes were finally put to rest on Tuesday.
Putting an exclamation point on that fact, the Rangers were hammered 12-2 on Wednesday by the Houston Astros in their first game after official elimination.
It was a tough loss, but it helped create a story that Willie Calhoun will be able to tell for the rest of his life.
With most of the Rangers regulars shut down for the remainder of the regular season Calhoun got the start in left field against Houston. And in the second inning he connected for his first Major League home run against Cy Young-winning pitcher Justin Verlander.
“It was pretty cool,” Calhoun said. “He’s one of the better pitchers in the whole MLB I was able to put to good swings on him.”
Hitting your first home run against Verlander is already enough of a story. What followed after will make it a bit more memorable for Calhoun when he hands the ball to his dad, who he said he’ll be giving the ball to.
To make sure the rookie got his first home run ball, Beltre worked out a deal with the fan. The third baseman that recorded his 3,000th hit earlier this season traded over an autographed bat and hat for the fan to make sure Calhoun wouldn’t miss out on a new family heirloom.
Overall September has been a valuable experience for Calhoun.
After joining the Rangers as the prized-prospect in a trade for Yu Darvish, Calhoun wasn’t amongst the first September call-ups and it appeared his season was over. But roughly a week later he got his opportunity, and he’s been soaking up every minute in the Rangers clubhouse.
“Just being around everyone and getting comfortable in this type of environment. It’s definitely giving me a real head start on next year’s spring training,” Calhoun said. “I feel like this is my spring training being around them.”
Overall statistical success has been limited for Calhoun -- he’s only batting .158 -- but Rangers manager Jeff Banister said that’s not overly concerning.
“Any success that a young player has, it’s a plus. But more than anything the lack of success in this point of the season isn’t hindering to the payer at all,” Bannister said. “Any time you have any type of success at a major league level is great.”
Calhoun will have more opportunities for success this week as the Rangers close out their season against the Oakland Athletics. And after getting his first home run things are only looking up for the 22-year-old.