Winning road trip: Check.
Winning the series with the Angels: Check.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Yet somehow one can’t help but realize the Texas Rangers now have firm control over their playoff destiny. On a night where CJ Wilson found himself in a quick 2-0 first inning hole and squaring off against one of the league’s hottest 2nd half pitchers in Ervin Santana, once again the guys in the cowboy hats (apologies to former Angels owner Gene Autry) pulled out the victory and ensured they’ll leave Anaheim with no less than a six game lead with only 37 to go. If the Rangers play just .500 ball the rest of the way, the Angels are going to have to play at something like a .650 clip just to force a one game playoff. The way their offense has been playing these first three games makes it highly unlikely they can pull off such a feat.
Wilson recovered from the first inning glitch to toss six shutout innings the rest of the way, retiring 9 Angels in a row at one point. Santana didn’t have his good stuff, but kept working out of danger and entered the 5th with a 2-0 lead. The Rangers managed to score one in the fifth to cut the lead to 2-1. Mitch Moreland opened the 6th with a monster shot over the right center field wall to tie it up. As soon as the tie was secure, it felt like this was going to be another Rangers victory. The bullpen acquisitions at the trade deadline had me feeling that confident.
The Angels were also in a fix. After burning through their bullpen each of the previous two nights, it was important for Santana to give them a lot of innings. That he did, but Mike Scioscia kept Santana in for one batter too many. In the 7th, the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out, yet Santana still remained in the game. Scioscia’s confidence looked like it was going to pay off when Santana proceeded to strike out Yorvit Torrealba and Endy Chyavez in consecutive at bats. He then got Ian Kinsler, who had gone 0-9 since Monday’s 4-5 performance, into a 1-2 hole. The decisive pitch was actually a pretty good one. Santana certainly didn’t groove one. Kinsler, though, managed to punch the offering perfectly in between the shortstop and left fielder for a bloop single, plating two runs and staking the Rangers to a 4-2 lead.
With only 6 outs to play with and the new Texas bullpen triumvirate ready and available, suddenly winning the game became a tall order for the Halos. Koji Uehara came on in the 8th and, unfortunately, gave up his third home run since joining the team from Baltimore, cutting the lead to 4-3. Things were feeling a little dicier for rangers fans when Neftali Feliz came on in the 9th and gave up a lead-off single to Mark Trumbo, the first time the Angels had ever gotten a hit off Feliz in their home park. Trumbo would go to second on a grounder to first, then advance to third on the second out. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Feliz coaxed one more grounder to first to end the game.
Refreshing sight: When Uehara came on in the 8th, I perked up and took notice quickly. Uehara is one of the fastest workers on the mound I’ve seen in quite some time. Just about every time he got the ball back from the catcher, it took only ten seconds before he was throwing the next pitch to the plate. I think 15 seconds is the longest I timed him at between pitches with a low of 8 seconds. Imagine how quickly a ball game would be played if every pitcher took after Koji.
International Writer: I can’t believe how quickly and easily this writer got into the habit of writing the names Koji Uehara and Yoshinori Tateyama without thinking of how to spell them.
A 10-game road trip and the Rangers have already secured a winning record with four games to go. For the non-mathematically inclined, that means this road swing has started out at 6-0. Never thought I’d say this, but the Rangers go for the four-game sweep at Anaheim tonight. It’ll be a tall order- Colby Lewis vs. Jered Weaver. Colby bested Trevor Cahill in Oakland his last time out. Promises to be a second consecutive pitchers’ duel.