SEATTLE -- The Rangers were good in 2009. Their 87 wins are tied for the sixth most in club history. They went from last to eighth in pitching and their defense gave up the third fewest runs in the American League. They still need to get better. They're going home, not to the playoffs. That's the message the Rangers took with them as they head into the offseason after a 4-3 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field on Sunday. They managed just four hits against starter Felix Hernandez and three relievers and lost for the 15 time in their last 23 games.
"We certainly put our name out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We proved we can pitch in Texas and we proved we can catch the baseball. Now we have to get more consistent. Everything from this point on gets tougher. It doesn't get easier. "We certainly have the talent and the personnel in the clubhouse. Now each of us have to take a look at ourselves this offseason and see what we can do to help make us better." The Rangers finished with the fourth best record in the American League after winning eight more games than in 2007. They were one game better than the Twins and Tigers, who are having a 163rd game in the AL Central. But they were 10 games behind the Angels, who won the division going away with 97 wins. "We've got things to work on," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Just being over .500 doesn't get you anything in this league. We have a lot of work to do and a long ways to go. Hopefully everybody understands that and next year we can make a real good run at the playoffs." Kinsler scored twice on Sunday and finished with 101 runs on the season. But the Rangers played their last game in much the same manner as most of their games in September: with a depleted lineup. Michael Young, who led the Rangers in hitting this year with a .322 average, went back to Texas on Sunday morning because his wife, Cristina, was getting ready to give birth to a second child. Nelson Cruz, the club's home run leader, was once again sidelined with a sprained ankle. Marlon Byrd led the Rangers in RBIs but sat on Sunday because of some stiffness in his hip the day after a night game. Throw in outfielder Josh Hamilton (back) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (shoulder surgery) and the Rangers staggered to the finish line missing five of nine starters from the Opening Day lineup. Hank Blalock did play at first base after missing three games. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored what is almost certainly his last game with the Rangers. He is a free agent after the season and will not be re-signed. "I'm not sentimental about a lot of things," Blalock said. "The Rangers drafted me in 1999. It's the only uniform I've ever put on and I had a special time with the Rangers. I appreciate everybody supporting me. I had a great time and developed some great relationships. I'm just starting the second chapter of my career." Rangers starter Scott Feldman's career with the Rangers is only just beginning to take off, but he was denied his 18th win of the season by the Mariners. Instead he ended up 17-8 with a 4.06 ERA after allowing four runs on six hits and a walk while striking out four in six innings. Feldman had a shot at a 20-win season but needed to win his final three starts. Instead he lost all three and was 1-4 with a 7.96 ERA in his last five starts. "Obviously, if somebody had told me back in the first couple of weeks of the season when I was in the bullpen that I was going to win 17 games, I would have been excited," Feldman said. "I wish the end would have been better -- I struggled in my last couple of starts -- but overall it was a real good season. It's something to build on for next year. I have a good foundation. Hopefully, I can put together a better season next year." The Rangers as a pitching staff finished with a 4.38 ERA, almost a full run better than the 5.37 ERA in 2008 and their lowest since a 4.28 ERA in 1993. "It was a great season," reliever C.J. Wilson said. "I look forward to us being better next year. It's possible." It is their mission.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.