SPORTS

With baseball's regular season over, here are the turning points of 2015

Wilmer Flores after clinching the NL East title Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Cincinnati.

Wilmer Flores after clinching the NL East title Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Cincinnati.

It could have been one of the most memorable comebacks in Los Angeles Angels history, but instead it will go down as a mere footnote.

When the Angels scored five runs in the ninth inning Saturday to beat the Texas Rangers 11-10, they kept themselves in the postseason race for another day and prevented Texas from clinching the AL West. Then on Sunday, Texas beat the Angels, wrapping up the division and ensuring that Houston, not Los Angeles, would end up with a wild card.

The sheer length of the baseball season makes it hard to tell the difference between a fleeting moment of glory and a true turning point. Fortunately, we now have the benefit of hindsight, so even though that amazing ninth inning by the Angels ended up being fairly meaningless, here are four other moments that really did change the 2015 season:

May 17 — Jeff Banister shakes up his bullpen.

Banister, the Texas manager, told his relievers before a May 17 game against Cleveland that there were no set roles in the bullpen any more. The Rangers were 15-22 at that point, and closer Neftalí Feliz had already blown three saves. Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth for Texas that day, and the Rangers won 5-1.

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A few days later, Tolleson earned the first save of his career. He would finish the season with 35 in 37 chances, adding stability to the late innings as the Rangers rallied to take the division by two games over Houston.

May 21 — Jaime García returns to the mound.

García made only nine starts in 2013 and seven in 2014. He had thoracic outlet surgery in July 2014 to alleviate numbness and tingling in his pitching arm and hand. So it was fair to wonder what the St. Louis Cardinals could expect from him this year, but in his first game back, he allowed only two runs in seven innings against the New York Mets, an encouraging sign for sure.

García ended up making 20 starts, going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA. For a team that lost Adam Wainwright early on, it's fair to suggest that García's performance was the difference between winning the NL Central and dropping to a wild card. The Cardinals won the division by two games.

July 3 — Miguel Cabrera injures his left calf.

The Detroit slugger would not play again until Aug. 14, and the team he came back to looked far different from the one he left. The Tigers went 15-20 in the interim and were in bad enough shape at the deadline that they traded stars David Price and Yoenis Céspedes. Price led Toronto to the AL East title, and Céspedes played a huge role for the New York Mets in their NL East championship.

Shortly after the deadline, the Tigers let general manager Dave Dombrowski go. He's now running things in Boston, so the butterfly effect from Cabrera's injury could last a while.

July 29 — The Mets don't trade for Carlos Gómez.

They'll be talking about this night in New York for years. Reports surfaced that Gómez was going to the Mets, and Wilmer Flores, who was expected to leave New York in the deal, was wiping tears from his eyes on the field during a game.

The trade was never completed, though. Instead, the Mets kept Flores and traded for Céspedes. From July 31 on, Flores hit .296 with six homers. Céspedes hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games for New York. The Mets outlasted Washington in the NL East, and there's no telling what changes await the Nationals as a result.

Gómez, meanwhile, was traded to Houston and hit only .242 for the Astros, who made the playoffs but fell short in their bid for the AL West title.

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