Tagged: Bengie Molina

Looking Ahead To 2015: Catcher

Heading into 2010, the year the Texas Rangers first went to the World Series, if there was one position the front office wasn’t worried about for the present and the future, it was catcher. Texas enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in the catching department. At the major league level, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be the every day catcher for the first time. Backing him up would be University of Texas phenom Taylor Teagarden, who would supply some needed power. Down on the farm, Max Ramirez was the emergency guy at AAA Round Rock and coming up in the system was well-regarded Jose Felix in AA Frisco.

Saltalamacchia lasted for all of two games and five at bats. He had the game winning hit in the season opener but suffered an injury and didn’t tell manager Ron Washington about it. When it came up after Game 2, Salty went on the DL, Wash publicly chastised him for not speaking up and added he had a lot of growing up to do. Saltalamacchia never returned to the Rangers. During rehab, he developed a case of the “yips”, causing his throws back to the pitcher to sail. He got sent off to the Red Sox in the trade that netted Texas Chris McGuiness and Roman Mendez.

 

Robinson Chirinos

Robinson Chirinos

Meanwhile, it didn’t take long before the Rangers determined Teagarden, for all his power potential, wasn’t able to hit consistently. His long swing led to 34 strikeouts in just 85 at bats. Five of his 11 hits went for extra bases but a .155 average was all he could muster. Before anyone knew what hit them, Teagarden got sent down, Ramirez came up and the Rangers’ starting catcher was someone they picked up at the end of training camp, Matt Treanor, who turned into a godsend. Treanor wasn’t any great shakes, but he gave Texas quality at bats and handled the pitching staff well for 82 games, until the Rangers picked up Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants to handle the heavy work down the stretch.

Since that 2010 season, the Rangers have gone through Yorvit Torrealba, Mike Napoli, Teagarden, Treanor, Geovany Soto, Luis Martinez, A.J. Pierzynski, J.P. Arencibia, Chris Giminez, Tomas Telis and Robinson Chirinos and there’s still no true starting catcher in sight for 2015.

Phenom Jorge Alfaro is still at least a year away. In the meantime, the Rangers enter 2015 with the aforementioned Telis and Giminez at AAA Round Rock, if something happens to Chirinos or new arrival Carlos Corporan.

Chirinos was as much a godsend for the Rangers in 2014 as Treanor was in 2010. With Rangers hitting the DL almost every other day, including Soto in pre-season and  Arencibia hitting a pitiful .133 on May 16th, Chirinos came up big time, posting a slash line of .239/.290/.415 with 13 HR and 40 RBI. Adding to his importance was his defense. Chirinos came out of nowhere to lead the American League in throwing out would-be base stealers at 40%. His 2.4 WAR ranked 5th among AL catchers. Chirinos’ performance earned Soto a trade to the A’s once he returned from the disabled list.

Carlos Corporan

Carlos Corporan

This year, Chirinos enters the season as the clear #1, although there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to match any of his 2014 numbers. Last year was his first full season in the majors and his performance could go in either direction. The plan is for Chirinos to catch about 100 games, just a few more than he caught a year ago. Injuries aside, his expected back-up for the other 62 games will be Carlos Corporan, who comes over from the Houston Astros.

Jon Daniels told the crowd at FanFest that they did due diligence on Corporan, talking to a number of Astros pitchers about him. One of them, former Ranger Scott Feldman, praised Corporan and credited him for elevating his game in 2014.

The Rangers aren’t looking for great offense from the catcher position. The top priority is catchers who work well with the pitching staff. Still, Corporan has a little pop in his bat and if the Rangers get a combined 3.0 WAR out of the two of them, they’ll be happy.

Spare Parts

When you talk about the first World Series run by the Rangers, the names that come to mind are Josh Hamilton, American League MVP; Cliff Lee, mid-season acquisition and Yankee Killer in the ALCS; Michael Young, the long-time “Face” of the franchise; and Nelson Cruz, who can carry a team on his back for two-week stretches, including the playoffs.

Those players deservedly got a lot of the press, but another key to the Rangers first run to the pennant were the spare parts. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went on the DL after just two games. Enter last-minute Spring Training acquisition Matt Treanor. Treanor held down the fort so well until the July acquisition of Bengie Molina, Saltalamacchia never again wore a Rangers uniform. Salty was optioned to AAA after coming off the DL, then went to the Red Sox in a September deal.

The Rangers had a winning record during Nelson Cruz’ three trips to the DL in 2010, thanks to the emergence of David Murphy as a viable 4th outfielder. Murphy remains an integral piece of the Rangers today, though speculation grows he’ll become part of a deal sometime this summer.

Ian Kinsler also had two DL stints in 2010. Again, Texas survived just fine, especially in mid-August when Andres Blanco filled in for 19 games and hit .333 with 8 doubles and .818 OPS, playing sterling defense as well.

The pitching staff also had its moments. Rich Harden and Scott Feldman, expected to be the top two rotation pieces, never panned out. It was new acquisition Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, who helped keep the Rangers above-board until the trade for Cliff Lee. Likewise, the bullpen got a boost when Alexi Ogando was recalled from Oklahoma City. All Ogando did was earn wins in his first three relief appearances and ended up being the Rangers 7th inning go-to guy.

The pattern repeated itself in 2011. When center fielder Julio Borbon went down in May with an injury, Endy Chavez was called up from Round Rock, hit .301 in 83 games and banished Borbon to the minors, where he remains today. Ogando again served as a vital piece, this time moving into the starting rotation when off-season signee Brandon Webb proved not ready to go out of Spring Training. Ogando thrived as a starter, making the All-Star team. Yorvit Torrealba was expected to be the primary catcher, until Mike Napoli had an offensive year that nobody saw coming.

The stars propel teams, but the spare parts are often the ones that give winning teams the extra edge. The previous 400 words were all written with Robbie Ross in mind.

Robbie Ross, Texas Ranger

Just a year ago today, Ross was pitching for High-A Myrtle Beach. The Rangers 2nd round draft pick in 2008, Ross compiled a 9-4 record with a 2.26 ERA as a starter  to earn a late season promotion to AA Frisco. In 6 games with Frisco, Ross was 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Those stats earned Ross an invite to big league camp for Spring Training in 2012.

Ross was expected to do what most rookies his age (21) do. Stick around big league camp for a couple of weeks, mop up a few games, then return to minor league camp, where he would most likely start the season at Frisco, maybe Round Rock if he was lucky.

Ross, however, didn’t recognize his long odds. He just did what he’d been doing since being drafted. He threw strikes. Because he threw strikes, he got outs. There were veteran southpaws in the Rangers camp this year, looking to fill the role vacated by Darren Oliver when he departed for the Blue Jays, chief among them Joe Beimel. He didn’t pitch badly, but a late camp injury ended his chances. Michael Kirkman, who contributed key late-season innings in 2010 but slipped in 2011, was another prime candidate. Kirkman struggled from the outset and has continued to struggle at Round Rock in 2012.

By the time Spring Training was over, Ross had leap-frogged everyone and earned a spot on the Rangers roster. He was expected to be brought around slowly, used in mop-up roles to get his feet wet. Most thought Ross would just hold down the fort until the Rangers either re-signed Mike Gonzalez or traded for another lefty in the pen.

All Ross has done is succeed, in whatever role the Rangers have asked him. Sunday, he was asked to replace another famous spare part, Alexi Ogando. Ogando, who was made a starter again when Derek Holland went on the DL, threw three hitless innings, then strained his groin legging out a bunt single that was supposed to be just a sacrifice bunt. Ross came in and this time threw four innings of 1-hit ball at the Giants and earning the victory. Ross is now 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA. If Ogando goes on the disabled list, Ross could be the Rangers starter this Saturday against the Astros.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t even projected to be in the big leagues until next year at the earliest. Let’s hear it for spare parts!

Welcome Back!

Yesterday the rumor mills were ablaze with possibilities of Lance Berkman joining the Rangers.

Didn’t happen.

24 hours later, two deals DID happen, all to provide the Texas Rangers with insurance as we head closer and closer to the post-season.

 

Matt Treanor at Rangers Fan Fest January 2011

Texas re-acquired Matt Treanor from the Kansas City Royals, apparently in a straight cash transaction. Treanor was a key member of the 2010 AL Champions who filled in valiantly when Jarrod Saltalamacchia fell out of favor with the organization and Taylor Teagarden struck out more than he put wood on the ball. Treanor was the Rangers’ regular catcher until the acquisition of Bengie Molina. Treanor’s a grinder who gets the utmost from his talent, which is major league minimal, but he’s a great influence in the clubhouse, he’ll work a pitcher for long at-bats and is familiar with the pitching staff. Treanor probably will sniff a Rangers post-season roster only if Mike Napoli or Yorvit Torrealba suffer a late-season injury. Meanwhile, he’ll be able to provide them with the occasional rest day down the stretch.

Acquisition #2 is Orioles southpaw relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez. Again, this is just an insurance policy for the most part. Gonzalez will serve as a left-handed specialist for the next month. He will only make the post-season roster if A) Darren Oliver gets hurt; or B) if the team they’re facing in the playoffs is particularly vulnerable against lefthanders. Otherwise, maybe he’ll make Koji Uehara feel more comfortable being a Ranger, since they were teammates just a month ago. Gonzalez was acquired for the very popular Player To Be Named Later.

Two deals giving the Rangers for post-season options. Now all they have to do is make it to the post-season.

The Perfect Set-Up: Rangers Sweep A’s

If the last seven days of baseball had been scripted for Texas Rangers fans, it pretty much followed said script to the letter.

After nine, count ’em, nine consecutive days of having the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim staying a mere game behind the Rangers in the AL West, the week of August 8-14 stood as the best chance for Texas to put some more space between them and their closest competitors. While the Rangers were set to close their home stand with three games against last place Seattle, followed by three on the road with third place Oakland, the Angels were facing a six game road swing through Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Sure enough, the Rangers took two of three from the Mariners while the Yankees took two of three from LA, putting the Texas lead back up to 2. Then the Atleticos (they put the Spanish name for the team on their unis in Sunday’s game) cooperated fully, letting Texas sweep them for the second consecutive series. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays came from behind to win the rubber match with the Angels in extra innings Sunday to take their series 2-1. Thus the crucial week played just as it was hoped, with the Rangers gaining three games on the week to end the week 5-1 and with a 4-game margin over the Angels.

How important is this? It’s huge, considering the first and second place teams square off against each other for a four game set in LA beginning tomorrow night. Bottom line is, even if the Angels manage to sweep this upcoming series, Texas will still leave California Thursday night no worse than tied for first place. HUGE!

Game 1 of the Oakland series was a no doubter. New A’s Public Enemy #1, CJ Wilson, who made a few comments about Oakland that were a lot milder than the way they were taken, pitched six strong innings in pacing Texas to a 9-1 pasting of the A’s. The middle game of the set, a 7-1 final, was a lot closer than the final score indicates. Colby Lewis and Trevor Cahill matched 0’s for six innings, with Cahill tossing a no-hitter through 5. Texas finally broke through with two runs, followed by the A’s cutting the lead to 2-1. It wasn’t until after Cahill left the game that Texas teed off on the A’s relief corps, plating 5 insurance runs to run away with the decision.

Sunday’s finale should have been easy. Facing former Ranger Rich Harden, the Rangers struck for 3 in the first due to Harden pitching like, well, the Rich Harden who pitched for the Rangers in 2010. By the time Harden was gone (over 100 pitches in just 4 innings), the Rangers were comfortably ahead 6-0. Consistent Matt Harrison was on cruise control when, suddenly, the A’s decided to make a game of things. Taking advantage of well-timed hits sandwiched around a couple Rangers errors, Texas suddenly found the game tied at 6 heading into the 8th inning. A 1-out Mitch Moreland walk in the 9th, followed by a stolen base by pinch-runner Craig Gentry, set up David Murphy’s game winning 2-out single. Three Neftali Feliz-thrown outs later, the Rangers had their sweep and their four-game lead over the Angels. 

AMAZING STAT: Heading into Sunday’s finale, Texas stood at 68-52 on the season. One can easily say the Texas offense is nowhere as potent as it was in the World Series year of 2010. Josh Hamilton isn’t hitting for as high an average or with as much power as his MVP year. Ian Kinsler is having a down year with the bat. Elvis Andrus has regressed defensively. Yet Texas entered Sunday’s game with a better 120-game record than the 2010 team (they were 67-53 at this point). The reason? A better rotation in the #3-#5 slots than a year ago and a LOT more offense out of the catcher position with Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba compared to Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor.

Four games in LA coming up. Reasonable expectation? Missing Dan Haren’s spot in the rotation works in the R’s favor and gives Texas a good chance to go at least 2-2 and maintain the 4-game lead. Too bad I won’t see every inning of every game. Can’t stay up that late and function well at work the next day like I used to. Having a lead when it’s time to retire for the night would be nice, though…

By the way, thank you Robinson Cano, for beating the Angels Thursday and thank you, Edwin Encarnacion, for your game-winning hit for the Blue Jays today!

 

One Incredible Year

I became a fan of the Texas Rangers before they were the Texas Rangers:

 

Senators Jersey.jpgMy very first post outlined my allegiance to the Rangers from the time we both resided on the Eastern Seaboard. My first baseball game ever was a Washington Senators game and, as of this moment, my most recent baseball experience was a Texas Rangers game, Game 4 of the World Series.

I have seen a lot of miserable seasons in 40 years and a few good ones. But I have never encountered what 2010 brought to me as a fan.

When I began this blog just before the start of the 2010 season, I’m not going to claim I didn’t expect all of this. Actually, I had a pretty strong feeling the Rangers could win the West, which is truly why I started it. I wanted to chronicle not only the games, but the feelings I had leading up to winning a Division Championship for the first time in 11 years. Beyond that, I certainly had hopes that the futility of first round playoff losses would also come to an end. Again, that came to fruition.

If you had told me at the start of the season that my Rangers would not only accomplish those two things, but they would go beyond and get into the World Series? Well, I probably would have said, “Thanks for thinking so highly of my team, I hope you’re right.” And while I was saying it, I would have been thinking, “Golly, wouldn’t that be amazing if they did? Nah, this is the Rangers we’re talking about!”

As I look back on the season, I can’t imagine a scenario like the one that played out. The team’s two catchers at the start of the season were nowhere to be found at the end of the season. The same could be said about the Rangers’ two first basemen who started the season and two other first basemen who took over in the middle third.The same could be said again of the team’s top two starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, the Texas closer lost his job a mere two weeks into the season and was the set-up man on the DL at the end of it (Frank Francisco sure could have helped in the World Series, that’s for sure!).

If that wasn’t enough, the Rangers qualified as one of the last two teams alive with a team that featured an All-Star second baseman who had two separate trips to the DL costing almost two months of playing time, an All-Star right fielder who had three DL trips while still managing to knock in almost 80 runs, and an All-Star Left fielder/center fielder who missed most of the last month of the season and still will probably be the league MVP.

A magical season indeed. Even if they come back next year and win the whole thing, I’m not sure it would top what every Rangers fan got to experience this year because, as much as every one of the faithful has dreamt of seeing the Rangers in the World Series, I think very few of us ever really expected it to happen. Now that we see it can happen, will we as fans become jaded and expect it every year?

For that matter, will this experience change the players on this Rangers team? Several are coming up on their first arbitration year and will be getting a hefty pay increase in the off-season. Will success and more money spoil them and soften the edge they played with in 2010? So far, they seem to be answering correctly and indicating this year only makes them hungry for more in 2011. But success affects people in different ways. This will be Ron Washington’s challenge next year, to keep his team hungry and playing just as hard as they did this season.

Washington’s been rewarded with a two-year contract extension. The Rangers have already cut ties with Rich Harden, Cristian Guzman, Brandon McCarthy (who never appeared with the big club in 2010) and Esteban German. They have declined the mutual option on Vlad Guerrero’s contract, making it a 50/50 proposition the Rangers’ leading RBI man will be back next year. Bengie Molina is contemplating retirement. Cliff Lee is a free agent. As is Jorge Cantu, although there is virtually no chance he will be back. It is also doubtful Jeff Francoeur will be offered arbitration, so he is probably gone as well.

Still, a healthy core remains and if the Rangers succeed in resigning Lee, there’s a good chance Texas goes into the 2011 season as the favorites to win the West once again.

As for this blog? One of my early readers pointed out it will be tough to come up with a new name as catchy as the original of “World Series 40, Rangers Fan 0”. But change it must should I decide to continue on. I’m open to suggestions for a new name so send them my way! Until I make my final decision, I will do some off-season postings on signings, trades and the like.

I do know, if I continue to expose the world to my mostly inconsequential thoughts, that recapping every game may be difficult to accomplish two years in a row. It took incredible discipline to post day in and day out when juggling it with a demanding real-life job and giving quality time to the family while watching or listening to games almost every day and/or night. So that part of the blog may change a bit. What won’t change is my love of Texas Rangers baseball and it will continue to be the focal point of every post made in this space.

To my family, I thank you for not only supporting me in my fandom over the years, but for supporting me and even encouraging me in putting those words down for the world to see. To 17-Year Ranger Fan and Ranger Fan-In-Law, I thank you for posting during days when I was indisposed or you got to attend the game. To my eldest, a lifelong Mariners fan, I thank you for not only tolerating me over the years but actually joining the bandwagon at the end of the season. And to Mrs. Mariner Fan/Ranger Fan, your support and love is what keeps me going every day. I couldn’t have done this blog without you.

To my loyal readers and those who discovered my musings late in the regular season, I thank each and every one of you for the moments of your time you have given me. Whether you have commented or not, I appreciate each and every one of you.

I actually thought when I started this blog that I would mostly hear from fellow Rangers fans and we would commiserate back and forth over the course of the season. What was so surprising was discovering the majority of you are fans of other teams! Truly unexpected. That’s what a love for the game of baseball can do. To you, I hope you have come to appreciate the players, their attitude and the way they play the game as much as you appreciate your own teams. Who knows? Maybe I converted a couple of you along the way.

Last but not least, I thank the Texas Rangers for giving me a season worth talking about. Hardly a day went by that I couldn’t find something new to talk about with this team. I am proud to call myself a Texas Rangers fan and I will be a Texas Rangers fan until I take my last breath.

But note to family: When that last breath is taken, a Rangers casket (or urn) will not be required. We can draw the line there. 

Nothin’ Beats Texas Home Cookin’: Rangers 4, Giants 2

Rumors of the demise of the Texas Rangers bullpen have been greatly exaggerated.

 

The Texas Rangers rode two home runs and great relief pitching to become the first team in Texas ever to win a World Series game at home. The 4-2 win cut the Giants lead in the Fall Classic to 2-1.

 

My game preparation Saturday consisted of driving from the Rio Grande Valley to the Austin area, a five hour haul, about three of which were spent listening to MLB Radio on XM, where we proceeded to hear talking head after talking head tell us about every single facet of the game the Rangers have failed at in the first two games.

 

I realize Texas has gotten spanked in both games, but I also know sometimes the scores aren’t indicative of the whole story. I heard about how the Rangers weren’t hitting so far. Well, I guess they conveniently forgot Texas hit well enough to score 7 runs in the first game. They just didn’t hit against Matt Cain.

 

I also heard how the Giants were pasting the ball offensively against the Rangers. True enough in Game 1, but in Game 2, they didn’t do much against CJ Wilson. And even in scoring 9 runs, they only got 8 hits.

 

Of course I’m a homer. I’m going to see more roses for the Rangers than others. I know overall the Giants played better in the first two games, and I especially give them kudos defensively. But I still say this series is closer than the first two box scores have shown.

 

So when Jeff Joyce and Jeff Nelson said they wanted to hear from Rangers fans and if they still had faith in their team, Mrs. Mariner Fan-Ranger Fan called them up, handed me the phone and I proceeded to wax rhapsodic about my beloved Rangers for 2 minutes on national radio. That must’ve been the key to Game 3…

 

We arrived at our son and daughter-in-law’s just in time for the first pitch. It was worrisome right off the bat. Colby Lewis had a rough 1st– 20 pitches, a hit and a walk, but he got out of it with no runs scoring. The bottom of the first wasn’t much better when Elvis Andrus struck out swinging to start the Rangers first and Pat Burrell ended it with a catch against the left field wall on what I could have sworn was going to be a Vlad Guerrero home run.

 

The bottom of the second wasn’t getting much better for me. Nelson Cruz doubled and went to third on an Ian Kinsler groundout, but Jeff Francouer followed with an absolutely TERRIBLE at bat, grounding to 3rd on the first pitch and nearly doubling Cruz off third. Fortunately, Bengie Molina followed with a walk.

 

When Mitch Moreland worked Jonathon Sanchez through eight pitches, I was just telling the family how it was a positive at bat, no matter the outcome. Then came Sanchez’ 9th pitch. BOOM!!! Moreland deposited it over the right field wall for his first career homer off a lefty and a 3-0 Ranger lead! The whole family went nuts in the living room. Even the dogs wanted to share high fives.

 

Lewis took it from there, starting with a 1-2-3 shutdown 3rd inning and continuing with a 1-2-3 fifth as well. Lewis was magnificent through 7 2/3, striking out six and walking two, the only blemishes being solo home runs by Cody Ross and Andres Torres.

 

Sanchez’ night ended in the 5th when Josh Hamilton touched him for a solo shot over the right center field façade, making it 4-0 at the time. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Giants relief corps threw shutout ball from that point forward.

 

As for the Rangers relief, it was enough for Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to do everything but call for Ron Washington’s immediate firing, they felt it was mismanaged so badly. Why, it was OBVIOUS to them that Colby Lewis NEVER should have been allowed to face Aubrey Huff. Why, EVERYONE KNOWS that should have been Darren Oliver’s job. And after Huff, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING bringing in Darren O’Day. Now it’s time to bring in Neftali Feliz to try for a 4-out save. HOW COULD THE RANGERS BE SO STUPID, they seemed to say.

 

Except O’Day got Buster Posey to ground weakly to short to end the inning. And then Feliz threw some serious cheese in the 9th to retire the Giants in order and seal the win.

 

Have you ever noticed when a manager does something that doesn’t make sense to these guys, he’s a terrible manager, but if he wins he’s a great out of the box thinker? It amuses me to no end.

 

So we’re back in it. It wasn’t as pretty as I’d like- we could have used some more offense and I don’t know what Vlad Guerrero was thinking trying to steal second with two outs in the 5th. And the Giants defense finally proved to be human with Edgar Renteria’s error.

 

We’ve got a series now and I can’t wait to get to the ballpark tomorrow to see Game 4 in person! I have a feeling Tommy Hunter is ready to put the woes of his last two starts behind him. If not, I hope Derek Holland is ready to get over his Game 2 performance because he will be needed. Just about everyone, including a majority of Rangers fans, seem to feel Texas should go with Cliff Lee on three days rest, but the Rangers seem pretty intent on starting Hunter (they may have changed their minds if the Rangers had been down 3-0 going into Game 4). Honestly, if we can grab Game 4, I like our chances with Lee, Wilson and Lewis closing out the Series.

 

Arlington, Texas, here we come. WE’LL BE THERE! GO RANGERS!!!

 

 

This I Guarantee: Giants 11, Rangers 7

What’s this? A bold prediction coming from 40-Year-Ranger-Fan following a blow-out loss in Game 1 of the World Series? You bet! And here is that bold guarantee: I guarantee the ratings of Game 2 of the World Series will be lower than those of Game 1!

Seriously. The World Series is baseball’s showcase event, the one time of year when even the casual fan will check out what’s going on on the diamond. We rabid Rangers fans and the equally rabid Giants fans will be glued to TV sets tonight. The casual fans nationwide, the ones with no dog in the hunt, probably watched last night’s game and came away with one of these responses: “Those are the two best teams in baseball?”; “Those are two of the best pitchers in baseball?”; or “Is CSI on tomorrow night?”

If the World Series is indeed when baseball puts it’s best foot forward, the casual fan most likely came away completely underwhelmed. We were treated to lots of runs, true. We were also treated to mostly bad pitching, even more horrid defense (mostly by the Rangers) and a very poor barometer of the caliber of both of these teams.

For my Rangers, it really started out well. The single runs scored in the first and second innings were textbook Rangers playoff baseball. In the first, an Elvis Andrus single, a Michael Young walk, a groundoutto advance the runners and and infield single scoring the run. In the second, a Bengie Molina single (who, by the way, was given an AWESOME reception by the San Francisco fans during the player introductions), a surprise double by Cliff Lee after faking the bunt and a sac fly.

But there was trouble in paradise. I’m sure I’m not the only Rangers fan who noticed that Cliff Lee was struggling with his command in the first two innings. It got progressively worse in the 3rd, when Lee had to expend over 30 pitches to get out of the inning and by then, the Giants had managed to tie the score.

San Fran exploded in the 5th and chased Lee, making him look very human after two years of looking invulnerable in post-season action. Then, after chasing Lee, the Giants iced it with a three-run jack off of Darren O’Day, capping a 6-run fifth and staking the Giants to an 8-2 lead which they never relinquished.

Not that Tim Lincecum was the light’s out pitcher everyone was expecting either. Lincecum gave up his share of hits and, after being staked to a 6-run lead, couldn’t follow up with a shutdown inning. Lincecum didn’t make it out of the 6th, but still left up 8-4.

I like to give broadcasters the benefit of the doubt, having been one once myself. Sometimes you make a stupid mistake with a name or something. As long as you quickly correct it, no harm no foul. Still, I had to chuckle at Tim McCarver last night when he said Lincecum pitched a good game. Really??? Maybe in relation to Cliff Lee he did, but rarely if ever do you hear a broadcaster refer to four runs in 5 2/3 innings a good game. Nitpicky, I know, but I found it funny…

We did have two innings of solid baseball by both sides. Alexi Ogando had his strongest post-season outing striking out four in two shutout innings, while San Francisco’s relief corps dominated the Rangers bats during the same stretch.

The Rangers made it real ugly in the 8th. Mark Lowe, on the post-season roster for the first time these playoffs pitched so well I almost wanted to bring Rich Harden back. Vlad Guerrero proved all those naysayers about his defense in right field absolutely right by butchering not one but two plays. The combination of those two let the Giants score three more times to make it 11-4 headed to the 9th.

But here’s where I give the Rangers credit and why Game 1 is not necessarily an indication of Texas being out of it by any stretch. They still came out in the 9th and battled. Battled so much that the Giants even brought their closer in in a blow-out game to finish it off. And the Rangers did some damage against him as well. They fought back from the Giants’ 6-run 5th with a 2-run 6th of their own and the answered the Giants 3 in the 8th with 3 of their own in the 9th.

And Cliff Lee? Well, now we know he’s not perfect. If there’s one knock I have on Lee now that I’ve had half a season to see him, is he is all about his command. When he’s on, he’s lights out. When he doesn’t have the command, he gets knocked around. Other pitchers can go out there and not have their best stuff and can sometimes figure out how to be successful without it. With Lee, I haven’t seen that. He has it or he doesn’t and there’s not much in between.

Game 2 has CJ Wilson against Matt Cain. Cain is perfect in the post-season himself, even to the tune of a 0.00 ERA. Maybe the Rangers can prove that he’s human tonight. Whether they do or not, this I guarantee. It may be a better played game by both sides, it could even be one of those classic 3-2 affairs, but it won’t be seen by as many people as saw Game 1 last night.