I am on the road this weekend and find it difficult to write lengthy diatribes via a Smartphone, so this will be brief.
The No Prospects Game: Celebrating Fathers Day tonight with 19 Year Ranger Fan by taking in a AAA game at Round Rock. The main draws for a Rangers fan to see would be Roy Oswalt or top prospects Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, Tanner Scheppers or Leonys Martin. None of the starting pitchers of Oswalt, Ramirez or Perez are pitching tonight. Scheppers was called up when Ogando went on the DL, and now Martin is in Arlington while Josh Hamilton is on the shelf. Don’t expect much of a scouting report from me tomorrow.
Rangers Are The New Evil Empire: Now I know what it’s like to be a Yankees fan. Now that the Rangers are two time AL Champions, they now lead at several positions in All-Star voting. So imagine my surprise when I saw a blog post on Monkey With A Halo, an Angels blog. The post implored its readers not to vote for Angels Mark Grinning or Mike Trout, calling them wasted votes. Instead, the author encouraged its readers to vote for whoever is in second place behind the first place Rangers. Over 40 years of being a fan of this team and this is the first time I’ve ever seen the Rangers viewed as the bad guys in such a way. Like the old saying goes, everyone loves you when you get to the top. Then they’re just as anxious to cut you back down again.
Happy Fathers Day, one and all.
2: Number of consecutive complete game victories for Colby Lewis.
8: Number of runs (out of 9) the Rangers scored with 2 outs in the inning.
9: Win total sought by Matt Harrison tonight vs. the Diamondbacks.
9: Number of Rangers in the starting line-up to get at least one hit last night.
10: Number of days since the Rangers had gained a game in the standings on the Angels.
Rangers Win. Heat Lose. Angels Lose. It was a pretty good sports night for me last night.
After Saturday night’s loss to the Angels, Ron Washington had had enough. A closed-door meeting immediately followed the game. The results were on display Sunday.
The Rangers started doing the things that they had stopped doing. Elvis Andrus had a bunt single in the first. Mike Napoli went from second to third on a fly ball to right field, just beating the throw. The offense worked counts. They stole bases. They challenged outfield throwing arms. The Rangers played defense with a purpose, evidenced in particular by two incredible deep in the hole plays by Andrus.
The results weren’t immediate. Texas still wasn’t converting scoring opportunities. A David Murphy sacrifice fly made it 1-0, but the first four innings seemed to be much the same as many previous games had gone: get runners on base, don’t get them home.
It started coming to fruition in the 5th when a Michael Young single plated the second run of the game. At last, a hit with a runner in scoring position. Once that happened, it seemed to open the floodgates. Another run scored in the sixth, albeit on a groundout. Two more would score in the 7th on the longest home run hits in the majors this season, this bomb by Nelson Cruz:
Then two more in the 9th on base hits by Mike Napoli and Andrus.
The Rangers really needed this win. An Angels sweep would have put the Halos only 2 1/2 games behind Texas. Instead it’s 4 1/2 and Texas still has a little breathing room. Matt Harrison joined Yu Darvish in the 7-win club, best in the AL. Harrison pitched much better than his final stat line showed, with four perfect innings before the Angels started chipping away a little.
Nobody played better than Andrus, who took well to Washington’s collective kick to the behind. Besides the two excellent defensive plays, Elvis had a bunt single, a double, a two run single and a sacrifice at the plate.
As much as the Angels have improved over the past few weeks, here’s a positive the Rangers take out of the weekend, even though they lost two of three: 0-7, 1-11, 1-8. That was the weekend showing of Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales against Rangers pitching this weekend. The Angels did a great job of taking advantage of just about every opportunity they had, but they still only six hits in each of the three games. The Rangers had lots of opportunities and didn’t cash them, the Angels had few and cashed almost all of them. Long-term, though, the second place Angels still have a ways to go offensively.
Weird week for your author this week, as there will be very little baseball seen. All the Rangers games this week are on the West Coast, at Oakland and San Francisco with a lot of late night starts, so I doubt I’ll see much Rangers baseball until Saturday. I just hope the Rangers feel those Ron Washington boot marks on their rumps for a while and keep playing the way they did Sunday.
Wow, is this team playing tight or what?
Even the Rangers know it. Following Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Angels, the team held a closed-door meeting to talk about it, and it’s no wonder. Saturday’s game was a microcosm of everything that’s been wrong in Rangers Land over the past three weeks.
Runners in scoring position? Can’t cash ’em in. Bad defense? Where do I begin? In this case, the pitching was good, maybe even more than good. Certainly it was good enough to win and should have been good enough to win but in the end, it wasn’t.
All you need to know about this tightness Texas is playing with appeared in the 7th inning of a 1-1 game. After the Rangers tied the game at one in the top of the 7th, Erick Aybar led off the bottom of the 7th with a bunt single Yu Darvish couldn’t come up with cleanly. Personal opinion was the scorekeeper was generous in giving Aybar the hit. If Darvish fielded it cleanly, I think he would’ve been out at first. Mistake #1. Aybar proceeded to steal second. Mike Trout then hit a ground ball past a running Aybar to Elvis Andrus at short. Had Andrus thrown to first, Trout would have been out. Instead, Andrus decided to complain loudly when the umpire ruled Aybar hadn’t been hit by the batted ball. Andrus apparently thought the ball had clipped Aybar’s jersey. Whether it had or not is immaterial. Andrus should have thrown to first for the out, then complained about Aybar. Mistake #2. Trout then stole second to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Alberto Callaspo then singled to right, plating Aybar and making it a 2-1 game and sending Trout to third. A walk to Albert Pujols loaded the bases and ended the night for Darvish. Koji Uehara came on to face Kendrys Morales, who lofted a fly ball to right. Trout tagged and came home. The throw to the plate appeared in time to get the out, Yorvit Torrealba turned and applied the tag and th umpire ruled he didn’t get the tag in before Trout crossed the plate with the third run. Torrealba was livid, was ejected rightly for his tantrum and may face a suspension for his actions. Mistake #3.
I saw the replay several times and while I thought Trout indeed was out at the plate, I also know it was such a close call you can’t say definitively the ump got it wrong. Just no excuse for Torrealba to go off like that after the play, but it said a lot about how little things have been mounting on this team for a while and it took something like this to release the pressure valve and get this team playing again the way they’re capable of playing. Maybe Aybar would have made it a 2-1 game regardless of the Trout at bat, but if Elvis had done his job, Trout never would have been in position to score that third run, which proved to be the decisive one.
Texas can still take some positives out of Saturday’s loss. They became the first team to score a run off of Scott Downs this season, even if it was of the unearned variety, keeping Downs’ ERA at 0.00. And they became the first American League team to get a hit off of Ernesto Frieri in 14.1 innings of work, when Mike Napoli got a clean single to lead off the 9th. At the same time, seeing Josh Hamilton strike out with the bases loaded in the top of the 9th was as disheartening to me as David Freese’s walk-off in Game 6 of last year’s World Series.
I’m sure all these things were discussed in that closed-door meeting following the game last night, as well as a few things I’m not even aware of. Hopefully, this club plays with a renewed focus this afternoon, because the focus hasn’t been there for a few weeks now.
The second showdown of 2012 is more in line with what most Rangers and Angels fans thought it would be: a series between the top two teams of the AL West.
The first time, in Texas, the Angels were not playing well, while the Rangers were. Texas took two of three from the Angels in Arlington.
Now the two teams are in streaks heading in opposite directions. The Angels have won eight of their last nine while the Rangers are coming off two straight losses to the Mariners in which they gave up a combined 31 runs.
The Rangers don’t have to worry about facing Jered Weaver, who’s on the DL after suffering back spasms in his last start. They will, however, face Dan Haren, who’s having his start moved up a day so he can face Texas on Sunday. I don’t know if that’s a move I’d make in a series in early June. The Angels tried it during the stretch run a year ago with Weaver and he had two or three bad starts in a row after going once on short rest. Doing the same with Haren in a June series shows what kind of hole the Angels dug for themselves early. They’re already treating this series as a must win in their quest to dethrone the Rangers in the West.
I won’t be overly concerned (yet) if the Angels take two of three at home this weekend. If Los Angeles gets a sweep, though? That would put an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind.
The best news though? It’s the weekend. The best time for a West Coast series. I can catch the game and not have to worry about the alarm clock going off at 5:30 AM. Lewis, Darvish and Harrison vs. Williams, Wilson and Haren. Should be a good one!
For all the build-up, Mother Nature made it a no big deal affair.
It was Darvish vs. Wilson in name only. The rains came with one out in the bottom of the first and when play resumed two hours later, CJ Wilson was already done for the night.
Wilson was roundly booed when he popped out of the dugout to start the bottom of the first. I’m not one who agreed with that initial reaction. After all, Wilson did help bring the Rangers to the World Series the past two years. But I do understand the reasons some Texas fans would choose the negative approach.
If you look at baseball like TV’S “Survivor”, CJ is the guy you love to have on your tribe. He’s good at challenges and helps you earn rewards. The thing is, he doesn’t play the social game well. When the game becomes an individual one, you don’t mind taking CJ to the end because you know he won’t get the votes to be the overall winner. The people on the jury just don’t like him.
CJ said the Rangers never really made him an offer in the off-season. That may be true. On the other hand, you’d have a hard time convincing me Wilson would’ve re-signed if the Rangers had matched or slightly topped the Angels offer. Wilson’s a California guy and I think once the Angels entered the bidding he had what he wanted most: the chance to go home. Add in the whole Mike Napoli Twitter scandal and the fact the Angels are division rivals and the atmosphere was as ripe for boos as the gathering clouds were for an outpouring of rain at game time.
CJ didn’t come back out after the rain delay, but apparently is now going to start Game 2 Saturday. I can’t remember officially how long it has been since the same pitcher started two games in a row, but I recall knuckleballer Wilbur Wood started both ends of a doubleheader for the White Sox sometime in the early 70’s.
As to Friday night’s game, it was all Rangers. Another two home runs for Hamilton (I think Hamiltonian is a great way to describe Josh’s blasts). Another oh-fer for Albert. Another win for Yu. An 8 game lead at the end of the night.
The question is, what will CJ do for an encore today?
A while back, I broke down the first half schedule for the Rangers and Angels, predicting a half game Rangers lead. Here’s what the schedules look like after the All-Star Game.
This would be a GREAT place for the Rangers to make a bigger move in the AL West. Texas closes July with eight straight road games to start the post-break, BUT the first five are at Seattle and Oakland, followed by a three game set in Anaheim. In addition, Texas has an off day between each series. The Angels, meanwhile play three games at New York, followed by a four game set in Detroit before coming home to face the Rangers. Again, this would be a GREAT bet for a Rangers move. Texas then closes out the month at home with three against the Red Sox, three against the White Sox and the first two of a four game set with the Angels. During that stretch, LA entertains Kansas City for three and Tampa Bay for three before heading to Texas for a showdown in the Lone Star State.
The first half of the month gets dicier for Wash’s boys. After opening the month polishing off the four game set with Anaheim, it’s back on the road for three in Kansas City and a three game set at Fenway. Following an off day, Texas has a quick three game home stand with the Tigers, then it’s right back to the road for four games at Yankee Stadium and three at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. A ten game home stand follows against the Orioles (3) the Twins (4) and the Rays (3) before closing out the month with the first of a three game series against the Tribe in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Angels open the month in Texas and continue on the road for six more games at Chicago to face and White Sox and at Oakland. Seattle (3), Cleveland (3) and Tampa Bay (4) highlight a ten game home stand. Off days begin and end a six game road swing to Boston and Detroit before coming home for their own one series home stand against the Red Sox. The Angels end August on the road for the opener of a three game set at Seattle.
The stretch drive begins with the Rangers on the road for nine games, finishing off the Cleveland series (2), followed by four games at Kansas City and three at the Trop in Tampa Bay. After the Rays series, though, the Rangers have a very favorable close to the season. Outside of the six games against the Angels, the other 16 games scheduled to close the season are against expected non-playoff contenders: Cleveland (3), Seattle (6) and Oakland (7).
Anaheim has five games on the road in Seattle (2) and Oakland (3). An off day leads to a 7-game home stand against Detroit (3) and Oakland (4). Unless the Royals are making a playoff push, the Angels also have a favorable end to 2012, with only the six games against the Rangers being against probable playoff contenders. The rest come against KC (3), the White Sox (3) and Seattle (6).
July (Post All-Star Break)
Rangers 9-7, Angels 8-9
Rangers 16-12, Angels 16-12
Rangers 17-14, Angels 18-12
Rangers 95-67, Angels 94-68
Rangers win by one game in this scenario. This is actually a pretty rudimentary look that assumes both teams win three games series at home against virtually any team and split the 4-game series against postseason contenders. It also assumes both teams beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and play pretty even against everyone else. This NEVER happens in baseball. There are hot stretches, cold stretches, teams that should be tough that aren’t and teams that should be easy and aren’t. And of course, injuries will ALWAYS change the equation. Still, all things being equal, I see (and why wouldn’t I?) the Rangers coming out on top by a game.
Looked at in a different way, I see Texas actually winning the West by three games. Here’s why:
1) Division Play: Texas has the schedule advantage within the division. Texas has 30 of their 57 games against the AL West at home, the Angels only 28 of their 57. Two game advantage there.
2) Interleague Play: Texas has the advantage of having six games against the still-weak Houston Astros, while the Angels play a much more representative Dodgers team for their “rivalry series”. (SIDEBAR: This leads to the interesting question- When the Astros move to the AL West in 2013, who will become the Interleague “Rivalry Series” for the Astros and Rangers?). At least a one game advantage there.
3) Playoff Contenders: Of the teams considered the strongest contenders for post-season slots entering the season, Texas has a very slim advantage: 59 games against contenders, 31 at home. The Angels have one more game against the contenders, with 31 at home. Probably a wash here, but again the schedule slightly favors Texas.
As a Rangers fan, I’m obviously picking my team to win the West in 2012. Unlike a year ago, I won’t go out on a limb and guarantee it. These are two teams very close to each other in ability. Barring severe injuries, I will go out on a short limb and predict both these teams make the playoffs in 2012. Which one will win it is still anybody’s guess. It’s just that my guess is Texas.