For The Rangers and Matt Bush Redemption Eludes One of Them

One of the more common tropes in the world of sports is that of redemption. The lovable loser is, well, lovable. The entire city of Cleveland has been a punchline for as long as I have been conscious of sports. Even if the Cavaliers repeat and Lebron is Superman again, it’s still Cleveland. Cute little Cleveland.

But what about the unlovable loser? That one athlete or team that represents something less forgivable than futility in sport. By now even the most casual of Rangers fans know the story of Matt Bush. The thirty-year-old rookie with a past marred by disappointment and tragedy. The thirty-year-old rookie who single-handedly kept the Rangers alive against the Toronto Blue Jays in game three of the ALDS.

Bush exited the bullpen on May 13 for the first time in a Major League uniform and in seventeen pitches he retired Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnación, and José Bautista — in order.

Sure, it was a low-stress situation in a game that eventually ended in a 5-0 loss but the season was young. What mattered about this innocuous mid-May loss is that Matt Bush’s stuff looked good. Really good. Two days later Bush took the mound again and recorded his first ever Major League win. Of course, we all remember Bush’s involvement in the Rougned Odor punch heard ’round the world. What that moment did was endear him to the Rangers faithful.

Bush finished his first month in the Majors with 10 IP, 11 H, 9 K’s and one win. Over the next few months he proved a reliable setup man and as the closers job became murkier by the day, many wondered if he was the eventual guy to take over the role. After taking a quick glance at Bush’s game log for the season, it’s easy to see why he is a strong candidate to take over as said closer — eventually. He has a unique fastball/curve combination that can certainly get the job done with efficiency.

On games Bush took the mound the Rangers record was 43-15 in the regular season.

In games Bush took the mound, the Rangers recorded a 43-15 record in the regular season.

As Bush’s season and success continued, his story was told time and again. One that sounded all too familiar to Rangers fans after the redemption story that is (or was) Josh Hamilton seemingly defined this team for years. With no Home Run Derby to show his powers, redemption seemed a tall task for this thirty-year-old rookie pitching in relief. However, Bush consistently showed his value as the season continued and this team proved a legitimate contender.

On October 9, the Rangers found themselves in a two-game hole in the ALDS against the very team that knocked them out last season. This Rangers team that was on such a roll in the regular season was suddenly cold. After surrendering two homers in the bottom of the 1st things looked grim but they battled back as they so often do and found themselves tied at six at the end of the 6th. After Keone Kela kept things quiet in the 7th, the team turned to Bush for the 8th inning.

He struck out the side. Cool as ever.

Rangers fans watched the 9th come and go with their eyes shielded as Bush saved them from a walk-off heartbreak to end another season. All the while the TBS crew marveled at how strong he looked, and of course, mentioning his unique story along the way. But redemption has a funny way of eluding those that need it most.

With two on, no outs and villain José Bautista coming to the plate, the story was all but written. It was a bad sports poem with a predictable ending.

But it didn’t happen.

In the highest pressure moment of his short career Matt Bush delivered. Bautista went down swinging. And for that moment the entire Texas Rangers organization and fanbase leaned on the rookie. As Russel Martin stood at the plate next he hit a bouncer to Elvis Andrus and we all thought Bush had saved us again.

And he had.

A patented Rangers double play was on the way. But you know the rest.

Ultimately the record books will have an “L” next to Matt Bush’s name for Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. If this were fiction, I suppose its author would have written it this way. The most tragic character throws his best stuff of his career and puts his team in position to stay alive but somehow still gets pinned with the loss.

But if I had to guess, Matt Bush, the over-aged rookie with a checkered past, is not searching for some singular moment to achieve his own version of redemption. He doesn’t have to anymore because his team is working towards the same thing. As the season comes to an abrupt halt, this organization still searches for redemption. And it will find it eventually. Hopefully Matt Bush will be there to enjoy it.

Oh, and by the way Cleveland, good luck in the ALCS. Maybe you aren’t so cute anymore.

Cole Abston
I write. I climb rocks. And I will do the occasional impersonation.


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