Starting the final 16 game stretch of the season, the Texas Rangers could be forgiven for starting out 1-2 and maybe even 0-3. After all, they began the stretch on the road in Los Angeles with less than perfect timing. In other words, the Angels rotation was set up perfectly. Texas would have to face the Angels top three starters: Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and Zach Greinke.
If the post-season were to start today, the Rangers were countering with their Numbers 3, 4 and 1. In other words, starting pitching matchups favored the Angels in their home ballpark.
The Rangers got to Weaver early in Game 1, taking a 3-1 lead into the 4th, but Ryan Dempster had command problems all night. They finally caught up with him in the 4th when the Angels exploded for 8 runs en route to an 11-3 pasting.
Game 2 wasn’t shaping up any better, with the Rangers two best power hitters, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre, both held out of the game. Hamilton remains out, as sinus problems are contributing to depth perception problems. Beltre has intestinal issues that haven’t been going away. Even without Beltre, Texas took a quick 3-0 lead on CJ Wilson, then tacked on a 3-spot late in the game to take home a 6-2 win.
The Angels precarious position was evident with the quick hook given to Wilson in the game. LA can’t afford to lose any games, so they’re in full-blown panic mode. Pull the pitcher if he doesn’t start well, can’t get too far behind. Albert Pujols made two huge mental errors in the same game, which could be attributed to that same panic mode.
And what more can be said about the series finale, an incredible pitchers’ duel between Yu Darvish and Zach Greinke. The Rangers got a 1-0 lead early. The Angels tied it up in the middle innings. Then the intestinally bothered Beltre, back in the line-up, showed intestinal fortitude by muscling an Ernesto Frieri pitch over the fence in the 9th to give Texas a 3-1 win in the finale.
Yu Darvish continues a masterful September. Darvish has pitched four games and 30 innings this month and given up all of 11 hits while striking out 32. The most amazing thing about this run is despite the astounding WHIP of 0.56 in that span, Darvish has actually given up at least one run in each of the four starts. Hardly anyone is reaching on him, yet someone still manages to cross the plate.
Darvish didn’t have his best stuff last night, but he still allowed only four hits and a walk in eight innings. He’s also assaulting the record books, something he’s said doesn’t concern him in the least. Darvish now holds the rookie record for most wins by a Japanese pitcher with his 16th. He now ranks second for most strikeouts by a rookie in the AL with 205.
The Rangers were outscored in the series 14-12, but they won the series 2 games to 1, adding a game to their AL West lead over Oakland in the process.
A good start to the home stretch, especially with key pieces missing games. The finish line is in sight.