Tagged: Arthur Rhodes

Denied. Again. Cardinals 6, Rangers 2

Anger. Disappointment. Frustration.

I admit it. Mere minutes after watching my beloved Rangers drop Game 7 of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, I can’t help but feel negative thoughts about this great group of 25 young men who came within an eyelash of being World Champions themselves. Anger at watching the offense once again fall victim to a finesse pitcher who looked very hittable in every one of the six plus innings he pitched. Disappointment in a pitching staff who looked more like they were trying to keep from losing than actually confidently going for a win. Frustration in knowing in my heart that my team was the better team but once again fell short of the prize they had worked all year for.

I’ve cited one Ron Washington before and I’ll cite him again. Wash always says it’s not about who has the best team but who plays the best baseball. In the case of this World Series, maybe that’s not even correct. The Cardinals didn’t play the best baseball, they played better baseball. Neither team played their best, really.

I hated seeing Chris Carpenter throw an assortment of junk and baffling the Rangers hitters, while at the same time thinking he probably deserves to be the Series MVP.

It’s hard watching a team celebrate their well-earned victory while knowing that, with the exception of the first baseman, I don’t know if they have any position players I’d rather have than their current Rangers counterpart (I really love Yadier Molina, though. Just wouldn’t swap him for Napoli considering the year he had this year.). I felt the same way about the Giants last year. Offensively, the Rangers have been the superior team going into the Series two years in a row. Two years in a row, the opposition’s offense found more ways to do the job, while their pitching staff figured out how to slow the Rangers down. Incredibly frustrating.

Nobody wants to believe this. I don’t want to believe it, but it’s time for American League folks to realize the National League has superior pitching. The Giants had it last year. The Cardinals had it this year. It sometimes seems baffling, because I see pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, who’ve been hit around when they were in the American League, resurrect their careers in the National League. In fact, four of the Cardinals pitchers were pitching in the American League earlier this season. One of them, Arthur Rhodes, pitched for the Rangers and did so poorly they had to release him. Naturally, he pitched well in the Series against Texas.

I had to watch a Game 6 in which both teams made really unnecessary and ugly errors, but it was the ones my team made that came at the most critical juncture of the game. I could live with the errors if they were honest ones. The ones Texas made late in the game came out of bad decisions, something I’ve rarely seen this team do: Elvis Andrus not throwing to second for a force-out, only to see Matt Holliday beat his throw to first; Michael Young thinking for a split second about throwing to second, then bobbling the ball and not even getting the out at first; Nelson Cruz apparently misjudging either how far away the wall was or where the ball was, resulting in David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th inning. I saw our starting pitchers, so good in the regular season, struggle night in and night out, with one glaring exception in Derek Holland. In Game 7, I could sense the fear in Matt Harrison’s eyes.

For two games, I got incredibly tired of the Cardinals scoring runs while hearing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver say “without a ball leaving the infield.” A World Series record number of walks. Not to mention the hit batters. Not pretty at all.

I’ve just heard David Freese announced as the MVP. Just as deserving as Carpenter, I suppose, but my goodness, that boy needs to work on his defense.

The good news for Texas is most of this team will be back in 2012. CJ Wilson may or may not be back, but he’s about the only critical piece. I just read today that pitching coach Mike Maddux may be considered for the Red Sox managing job. I hope that doesn’t happen. He’s been the best pitching coach in the history of the franchise.

One year ago, it was good to be there. Losing to the Giants in 5 games wasn’t fun, but for fans like me who’d never experienced it before, we were proud of our boys. This year, there were real expectations, and they almost came to fruition. One strike away. Twice. Like every other fan, and like every Rangers player, I’ll get over it soon enough. When late February comes around, I’ll have that same sense of optimism when the boys head to Surprise, Arizona for Spring Training. I also fully expect the Texas Rangers to be right back in the World Series hunt and maybe this time, they’ll get that final strike to put it away.

At this moment in time, though, this hurts. This hurts a lot. As much as it pains me to do so, in all sincerity I say congratulations St. Louis Cardinals. You deserved it. You really did.

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Gut Check: Rangers 2, Cardinals 1

It took 17 2/3 innings for the Texas Rangers to take their first lead in the World Series. With an offense even more tepid in Game 2 than it had been in Game 1, Texas entered the ninth inning of play three puts away from going down 0-2 in their second consecutive World Series.

Those who follow my musings in the Twitter-verse and a good friend of mine sure knew where my mind-set was after eight innings of play. Plain and simple, I probably wouldn’t qualify to be part of a Ron Washington team. They never give up, they believe they can come back and just keep working, having confidence everything will work out in the end.

I, on the other hand, mentioned I had no fingernails left, that I was feeling like the e-Trade Baby (“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”) and how much I hate being so pessimistic about my team.

The Rangers, though, kept working. Waiting for their chance. They finally got it in the ninth inning.

Trailing 1-0, with only three outs to work with, Ian Kinsler opened the inning with a little flair off Cardinals closer Jason Motte that just managed to find the right place in the outfield to drop in for a single. Elvis Andrus, who had an incredible night defensively tonight but has not been very good offensively in the post-season, came to the plate. I was just asking myself, “Will Wash give up an out in the 9th to get Ian to 2nd?” when it appeared that’s exactly what Wash was planning on doing. Elvis squared, but took ball one.

What followed was a prime example of both guts and how inches and split seconds can determine a ball game. Kinsler took off with the pitch, Andrus waved at it. Yadier Molina gunned it to second. And Kinsler got in just ahead of the throw. I’m willing to bet the difference was less than half a second between the time Kinsler’s hand hit the bag and the tag hit him. Safe he was, though. All of a sudden, there was no need for Andrus to bunt.

Fox analyst Tim McCarver then became prescient, predicting Andrus would go to right to try to move Kinsler over. Five seconds later, Elvis was smacking a pitch into right for a single, sending Kinsler to third. Third base coach Dave Anderson threw the stop sign up. The throw from right glanced off Albert Pujols’ glove on its way to Molina. That gave Andrus the split second he needed to take off for second. Molina’s throw to second once again came a hair too late. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out, bringing up the incredible hurting groin, aka Josh Hamilton.

Tony La Russa aka “The Infallible Genius” decided it was time to bring in Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. Rhodes succeeded in that role in Game 1. I just prayed that Hamilton, whose groin injury has sapped him of much of his power, would be able to get just enough oomph on the ball to send a medium depth fly ball to the outfield. On Rhodes’ first pitch (not surprising for Hamilton), Josh complied with my wish, sending one out deep enough to right to score Kinsler with the tying run. More importantly, it was just deep enough for Elvis to tag at second and make it to 3rd base with one out.

Goodbye, Arthur Rhodes. Hello Lance Lynn. At that point, I almost didn’t care if the top of the 9th ended in a 1-1 tie. The odds now solidly favored the Rangers. Texas had burned through most of the Cardinals bullpen while only using two bullpen pieces themselves. Michael Young, however, decided it was time to complete the comeback, lofting another medium depth fly to score Andrus with the go-ahead run. 2-1 Rangers going into the bottom of the 9th.

Neftali Feliz didn’t make it easy, walking Yadier Molina on five pitches to start the inning. Feliz’ fastball got Nick Punto to foul off two bunt attempts before striking him out for the first out. Feliz got a second strikeout before Rafael Furcal flied to right to end the game.

What an incredible finish and what a disappoint for both Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia, both of whom pitched well enough to win. I was discouraged from the start when the Rangers went down in order each of the first three innings. I mentioned in a post a couple days ago that Garcia is just the type of pitcher the Rangers have a hard time with if they’ve never faced him before. Sure enough, Garcia was poison to the Rangers bats all night. On the other hand, Colby Lewis was nails for the Rangers and finally gave Texas a quality start, their first since Lewis did it in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. It was a start the Rangers very badly needed and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Here we are, tied at one game apiece after two games. Tied at four runs apiece after two games. It’s now a best of five series with three of the five games in Texas.

Texas was staring at the abyss and found their way out of it. Game 2 was drama at its best.

No Offense: Cards 3, Rangers 2

What a shame. A very winnable game turns into a loss and, once again, the Rangers are looking at a must win on the road to avoid starting the World Series in an 0-2 rut.

CJ Wilson: Not great but good enough to win on most nights. Bullpen: Exceptional again. Unfortunately, the first batter for St. Louis to face the Rangers bullpen got a hit and that was the difference in the game.

I could rail about the patently absurd second out call on Adrian Beltre in the 9th inning, but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the game anyway. I just don’t understand how an experienced umpire can’t tell a ball has hit a player before entering the field of play. If nothing else, a player can’t fake being hit as quickly as Beltre reacted. For all I know, Beltre would have been out on the next pitch. Nonetheless, for an umpire that was an inexcusable error.

My total amount of time spent watching the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 before tonight probably comprised a total of an hour and a half of time and most of that was in the playoffs. After one game, here are my impressions: 1) David Freese may be a good hitter, but as a third baseman he makes Michael Young look like Adrian Beltre in comparison. 2) Albert Pujols deserves every ounce of respect he’s given. 3) I was very surprised by Chris Carpenter’s body language. After reading Zach Greinke’s comments about how Carpenter’s mean look being an act, I never saw a mean look out of Carpenter tonight. If anything, his facial language looked negative most of the evening. 4) Yadier Molina’s arm is as good as advertised.

The Cards were good tonight. Credit to them. The Rangers pitching was good tonight. The Rangers defense was good tonight. The Rangers offense was not good tonight.

I know Carpenter is a good pitcher, but Texas really blew it against him tonight. I place this loss firmly on the Rangers offensive line-up. The Carpenter that pitched tonight was a pitcher Texas usually handles well and they didn’t, except for Mike Napoli and his no doubt shot over the right field fence.

Curious move of the night: Why did Ron Washington choose to send Esteban German to the plate as a pinch hitter for Ogando? The man hadn’t stepped to the plate since September 25th. Why not Yorvit Torrealba? I’d rather see Matt Treanor in that spot than German. I read a tweet that said statistically it wasn’t such a bad move, but I just can’t go along with it. I understood Gentry pinch-hitting the at bat before that. With one out, he was a speedy guy who’d be less apt to ground into a double play. German, though…Just don’t get it.

Longtime Rangers fan Pessimism Onset: Fans like me who have rooted for this team through over 40 years of mostly mediocrity get fits of positivity periodically: the positivity that we’re about to go down to defeat. Tonight’s point of positivity? When Arthur Rhodes came in to face Josh Hamilton in the 8th. Rhodes began 2011 with the Rangers. He failed miserably as a Ranger. He was released when Koji Uehara and Mike Adams were acquired. So naturally, the guy who was such a poor fit in Texas, took care of last year’s MVP with an easy fly out. I could blame it on Hamilton’s strained groin, which will likely affect his hitting throughout the Series, but it’s easier to chalk it up to another example of what being a long-time Rangers fan is like. The other shoe always seems to drop.

The onus is now on Colby Lewis to right the ship. Actually the onus is on the Rangers offense to perform like they should be performing. I’ll be the first to admit Game 2 has worried me since before the Series began. Jaime Garcia is the type of pitcher that has given the Rangers fits the last couple of years: a guy they’ll be seeing for the first time who may be more of a finesse pitcher than power pitcher. If that happens, Game 3 will find Texas in an 0-2 hole at the outset.

I still have confidence in my team. I just know that right now, as I write this, the Rangers team has more confidence in themselves than I have.

Coping With The Narrative

It’s hard to keep an even temper going into the World Series. Everywhere you turn, people spout their opinions on the Cardinals and the Rangers as the official “narrative” for the series shapes up.

Up to now, most of the discussion, since the end of March, as it applies to my team, the Rangers, has been done on the local and regional scale. What national talk there was focused mostly on how the Division race was shaping up and how an injury might affect the team. Very general in nature, not much in the specifics.

Now the sports talk stations and networks are focused on just two teams and it is irritating to hear these national guys when they are just flat-out wrong about things they’re saying about the Rangers or bring up a negative about the Rangers while neglecting to mention the same could be said about the Cardinals. Cardinal fans, you’ve probably noticed some of those things as well as it applies to your team. Upset as it can make me, I know what’s really going on. Every single one of these people is doing their darndest to … make good radio.

The Vegas oddsmakers apparently have made the Rangers heavy favorites to win it all. You can report that, but it does nothing to make the World Series compelling. Even odds from Vegas would make it compelling. Since it isn’t, new narratives need to occur.

Folks like MLB Network, ESPN Radio et al need people to be interested, involved and invested in the World Series because, if they’re not, the airwaves will be boring for the next week and a half. The only way to get there sometimes is to manufacture controversy. Thus we have “important” discussions like “Since Nolan Ryan picked the Rangers to win in 6, will that become bulletin board material for the Cardinals?” and “How do you think the Rangers will take (ex-Ranger) Arthur Rhodes saying he wanted to sign with the Cardinals because they were a team with heart?” Non-stories both of them, but all they need is for one of those stories to resonate and they’ve got hours of broadcast drama. Keeping the ratings and interest up requires an equal mix of Rangers and Cardinals fans and detractors. Hear from nothing but Rangers fans and Cardinals fans will tune out and vice versa. Thus, I’m certain you have “experts” on the airwaves who don’t think the Cardinals have a chance who are publicly picking the Cardinals. Got to get those Rangers fans riled up.

I mean no disrespect to Cardinals fans. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be the underdog. I’ve followed my team for 41 years now with almost nothing to show for it until the past two years. I’ve been a part of broadcasting and I know how it works. The narrative Monday morning was the Rangers are heavy favorites. The narrative had to change to keep the interest and the phones lighting up. Solution: Make it sound like the tide of opinion is turning the Cardinals way.

Look, the Cardinals may indeed win it all. As Ron Washington says, the World Series is not about who has the best team. It’s about who plays the best baseball over the next 4-7 games. It could be St. Louis. It could be Texas.

I can handle an even mix of opinions. What I hate is a broadcaster on a national level saying “definitive” things that only show their ignorance of the team they’re talking about. I heard one guy today talk about how the Cardinals special chemistry was what was going to take them over the top. Inference: the Rangers have no real chemistry as a team.  He didn’t seem to have a clue that anyone who has followed the Rangers the past two years invariably will talk about how tight the Rangers clubhouse is as well. 

Another took CJ Wilson to task for his 8+ post-season ERA and talked as if Wilson was an abject failure in all three of his post-season starts. Not quite true. Wilson indeed stunk it up in the opening game of the ALDS. In the ALCS opener, however, he was outpitching Justin Verlander when the first rain delay came. He tried to come back after the 45 minute layoff and probably shouldn’t have. In fact, most starting pitchers would’ve been pulled at that point. When the second rain delay came he was gone. Not really a miserable outing, just an unfortunate one. In his last start, he matched Verlander through five innings, going into the sixth with a 2-2 tie. He lost his focus after a double play grounder instead hit at just the wrong spot at the third base bag and took a bad hop into left field. I’ll fault him for losing focus after that but he’d turned in a pretty credible performance up ’til then. Wilson hasn’t been great this post-season, but he hasn’t exactly sucked his last two starts either.

Lastly, two different announcers spotlighted how poorly the Rangers starting pitchers have done as a whole. Inference: Cardinals starting pitchers have been outstanding. Again, they failed to mention the Cardinals starting pitching hasn’t exactly been lights out in the playoffs either. Their starters’ ERA’s and the Rangers starters’ ERA have been pretty close and both teams have struggled to get six innings out of their starter.

I hate hearing these things. It makes me want to call them up and call them out on the air. Which is exactly what they want me to do. That’s what makes good radio. And good ratings.

In other words, don’t believe everything you hear. Even when it comes from an “expert”.

4 Games, 34 Runs…And Only 2 Wins: Rangers, Twins Split

Thursday’s win by the Rangers over the Twins was needed. Much needed. After trouncing Minnesota 20-6 in the opener of the 4-game set, Texas had gone down to defeat the next two nights by counts of 9-8 and 7-2. Meanwhile, the second place Angels were surging once again, narrowing the gap in the West to just two games. After a win over Cleveland Thursday, the Angels were threatening to pull within a game of the front-runners if Minnesota pulled off yet another win.

Things weren’t looking good at the outset. Closer Neftali Feliz had two miserable games against the Twins Monday and Tuesday, prompting both his manager, Ron Washington, and his team President, Nolan Ryan, to publicly question his focus, his drive and his demeanor. Ace CJ Wilson had one of his rare poor games Tuesday night and Colby Lewis was merely average Wednesday when the Rangers offense went to sleep. Minnesota was a good bet to take three of four on the road by throwing Scott Baker in the finale. Over the past three years and five starts, Baker was 5-0 with a 3.05 ERA, 8 walks and 31 K’s over 35+ innings against Texas. Baker started out the game just as well, allowing two hits and no runs over the first three innings.

Texas finally broke through with a run in the fourth, then added another in the 5th to go up 2-0. Minnesota trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the 6th. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison, one of this team’s revelations in 2011, pitched another strong game, matching Baker pitch for pitch. Harry worked out of a couple jams, giving up three hits in both the 5th and 6th innings, but allowing only one run to score.

The much-maligned Rangers bullpen came through on this night. Nursing a 2-1 lead, Yoshinori Tateyama came on with one out in the 8th after Harrison walked Joe Mauer with one out. Tateyama struck out Michael Cuddyer on a 3-2 curve. Arthur Rhodes, whose ERA shot up a full run when he gave up three runs in one inning of work Monday,  got Jason Kubel to fly out to end the 8th.

Still, with the anything but automatic Feliz set for the 9th, a 2-1 lead didn’t seem very safe. Fortunately, Texas broke through with two runs in the bottom of the 8th to take a 4-1 lead. This time Feliz came through, retiring the Twins in order and showing some of the “fire” his superiors thought he was missing in picking up his 21st save.

A key road trip begins now, with the R’s in Toronto to face the Blue Jays Friday through Sunday, followed by three in Detroit, while the Angels are in Detroit this weekend followed by a home series against the Twins.

Speculation is rife that by the end of this weekend, one or more of these players will be on the Texas roster: Heath Bell, Leo Nunez, Brandon League, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Mike Adams. The question now is: Which will be pulled off first, a Rangers trade or the Debt Ceiling agreement in Congress? I hate to say it, but I’ll go with the Rangers trade first, and by at least a 24-hour margin!

 

Winning Ugly: Rangers 20, Twins 6

The ESPN’s of the world will tell you all the superlatives about Monday’s thrashing of the Minnesota Twins. There are quite a few “highest this” and highest thats” to be read, as well as a number of “only the 8th time since 1920” and “only the 20th time since…”.

Instead, I will point two interesting positive stats before bringing up the REAL subject of the column. First, despite having more of the “No Name” pitching staff, the Rangers are the only team in baseball right now with four ten game winners (CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando). With last night’s win by Derek Holland, Texas also boasts the only staff in the bigs with five 9-game winners. That shows A) Texas starting pitchers are pitching deep into ball games and B) despite the woes of the bullpen, they generally win games they have the lead in for the starters.

Now for the REAL subject. Monday was one ugly win. Lost amid the three hit and four hit games of most of the starting offensive line-up, there was a lot of ugly to be seen by the winners. There were four errors committed in the game by the winners. Two of the errors went to 3rd baseman Chris Davis, who also suffered the brutal legacy of being the only Rangers starter not to get a hit at 0-6 with two strikeouts. With Adrian Beltre on the DL, this is Davis’ last chance to impress the fans and Rangers brass and he just did not have it last night.

Embarrassing, too, was the performance of the Rangers bullpen, particularly Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes is already skating on thin ice and giving up a three run home run and throwing over 30 pitches in an inning of work did not help his cause. In addition, Scott Feldman and Neftali Feliz also gave up runs in relief. I think if the game had gone 14 innings, the Twins just might have come back!

Still, it was a big win and Texas picked up a game on the Angels as well. I just wish it had looked better than the final score indicated.

Definition Of A Well-Rested Bullpen

Below are the current members of the Texas Rangers bullpen and when they last pitched, as of 7/18/11:

Pitcher                                                Last Pitched

Arthur Rhodes                                      July 4

Yoshinori Tateyama                          July 6

Tommy Hunter                                    July 9

Darren Oliver                                       July 9

Scott Feldman                                     July 14 (Activated from DL. Hasn’t appeared in a game since activation)

Mark Lowe                                            July 17 (Only 2 2/3 IP since July 4)

Neftali Feliz                                          July 17 (Only 5 1/3 IP since July 4)

Only Lowe and Feliz have appeared in a game since play resumed after the All-Star break. All told, the seven members of the Rangers relief corps have only thrown 17 innings TOTAL in the last 14 days.  Rangers starters have compiled 82 IP in the same time frame.  In the last 11 games, all Rangers wins, the opposition has gone scoreless 4 times and scored just one run twice. Being a reliever for the Rangers is a good gig to have right now.