Never thought I’d make an Andrea True Connection connection in a Rangers blog, but stranger things have happened. In fact, they seem to happen with regularity these days in a Rangers game.
This time it was the game-tying pickoff play and Mitch Moreland was right in the middle of it.
Moreland, who for the second time in three games tagged two home runs to keep the Rangers in it, this time was on base thanks to an 9th inning walk with the Rangers down 4-3. Bengie Molina, who has been hitting the ball well lately, sent Moreland to third on a single. Esteban German immediately was sent in to pinch run for Molina to help prevent the double play. Following a Julio Borbon out the Rangers were down to their last out.
With Elvis Andrus at the plate, Angels reliever Fernando Rodney had German picked off, which should have ended the ball game. Except German is a smart baserunner. He knows if Mitch Moreland can score from third before the tag is placed on him, the game is tied. So he bluffs one way and then the other. Rodney is trying to decide which base to go to, while also trying to keep an eye on Moreland. Finally he decides to go to first. Moreland breaks to the plate. The throw goes from first to catcher. Moreland does a little jump, Tag missed. Rangers score and force extra innings. Moreland has a steal of home to go with two home runs. Another new wrinkle in the Rangers offensive arsenal.
Alas, it was for naught as the Angels eventually took the game in 11 on Juan Rivera’s second dinger of the night, but it did make for an exciting game.
Josh Hamilton was 0-3 in his return and was forced to A) make a dive in the first inning for a ball and B) run full out to try to beat out an infield tapper. He seemed to show no ill effects from his rib injury in either instance, which is a good thing.
Tommy Hunter, who will now be the Game 4 starter in the ALDS instead of Cliff Lee on 3 days rest, pitched five strong innings, allowing only a Rivera homer. Lots of consternation in Rangers Nation about this decision. The stats freaks are insistent that Lee on 3 days rest would be better than Hunter. I think it should be Hunter if the Rangers are up 2-1, but I can see using Lee on short rest if we’re down 2-1 and facing elimination. If we’re up 2-1 and Hunter loses, we have a fully rested Lee in Game 5, which I think bodes better for the Rangers. I understand both sides of the argument. There probably isn’t one “best” solution.
No chance of reaching the “Ryan Goal” of 92 wins now, so these last two regular season games will probably start to resemble late spring training games. We’ll see a lot more of Andres Blanco and Esteban German than we will Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. Hamilton will most likely play all game both games (Saturday at DH, Sunday in the field), but the other regulars will most likely play a few innings, then chill out the second half of the game. I’d still like us to reach 90, just because it would make this year’s Rangers only the 4th in team history to do it, but there’s a bigger picture to look at now.
Time to make sure everyone’s ready for the ALDS on Wednesday.