Tagged: Cliff Lee

Garzantuan? Garzilla vs. The Evil Empire? What Play On Words Will Work?

Cliff Lee July 10, 2010

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

9              9              6              6              0              2              3              6.00

Ryan Dempster August 2, 2012

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

4.2          9              8              8              3              6              2              15.42

Matt Garza July 24, 2013

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

7.1          5              1              0              0              5              0              0.00

Guess which one of these three Rangers fans took to right away? Besides the obvious love of getting the win, besides the fact Garza gave up no earned runs, Matt Garza’s debut was notable in one other way. It was the first game since May 30th in which the Rangers pitching staff didn’t give up a walk, a span of 47 games.

Another noteworthy accomplishment: Ron Washington is known for assigning innings to his relievers. Closer Joe Nathan pitches the 9th inning beginning to end. Thus it was surprising to the Rangers faithful to see Wash go against the grain Wednesday night, keeping Neal Cotts in to face (and retire) the first two batters of the inning. Nathan was then brought on to get the third and final out of the inning and the game.

Matt Garza had an incredibly successful debut as a Ranger, the most successful since John Burkett tossed a shutout in his first Texas start in 1996. What does he get for an encore? A match-up against Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels Monday night. Should be fun.

Garza & Count

 

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!

New Beginnings, New Endings

Here’s what I love about Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers front office- they are full of surprises!

You can read all you want about Hot Stove activity, listen to MLB radio, have ESPN and MLB TV attached at your hip on your Smartphone and still be totally surprised at the announcements that come from the Rangers.

A year ago, when the baseball world was intent on the Rangers’ pursuit of Cliff Lee, out of nowhere came the trade with the Blue Jays that brought Mike Napoli to Texas.

In 2011, while all the talk has been focused on Texas’ efforts to re-sign CJ Wilson and whether or not the Rangers are serious players for either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, again Jon Daniels pulls a rabbit out of his hat and announces the signing of former Twins closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal with a third year option.

The trickle-down effect is immediate. Nathan has been signed to be the closer, putting former closer Neftali Feliz on a collision course to being one of the Rangers’ starters in 2012. Texas also announced Alexi Ogando will not be returning to the bullpen in 2012. Thus, the Rangers already have a starting five, even if they don’t ink Wilson to a new deal: Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Ogando and Feliz.

Moving Feliz into the rotation was discussed a year ago. In fact, Feliz was stretched out as a starter throughout Spring Training before the brass decided they needed him more in the bullpen. With Nathan’s signing, that obstacle has been removed.

Nathan’s 2011 stats don’t look that impressive after returning from Tommy John surgery: a 4.54 ERA and only 14 saves for the Twins. They look a lot better, though, if you take April out of the equation. Nathan ended the first month of the 2011 season with an ERA of 10.00 and two blown saves. From May through September, though, he was 11 for 12 in Save Opportunities with a 3.53 ERA, 7 walks and 36 strikeouts in 35.2 innings, with a .213 Batting Average Against and a 1.01 WHIP. Even if Nathan struggles out of the gate in 2012, Mike Adams will provide able back-up as a closer.

I would bet the Rangers are hoping Derek Holland is ready to step up and be the #1 starter after his outstanding World Series performance, with Lewis #2 and so on. Scouts have said Feliz could have #1 starter stuff, but he’s going to have to prove it and will probably start the year in the #4 or #5 slot.

This isn’t to say Texas won’t be signing another starter. Wilson could still come back, although it appears less likely right now. I still hold out hope for Mark Buehrle to come the Rangers’ way, but I don’t know if that will happen or not. If Texas signs another starter, it could mean Matt Harrison would be traded. Or it could give Texas the luxury of letting Feliz start 2012 at the AAA level to get used to being a starter before bringing him up for the second half of the season.

Whatever the end result will be heading into Spring Training, I’m willing to bet there will be more surprises coming. Maybe that’s why the Rangers have Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona.

So This Is What It’s Supposed To Look Like: Rangers 5, Tigers 2

In Game 3 of the Koji Uehara-Mike Adams era, Texas Rangers fans finally saw what the present is SUPPOSED to look like.

For the first time, everything went as planned. Texas got out to the lead, added on as the game progressed and got strong pitching from their starter, in this case Alexi Ogando. When Ogando tired in the 7th, it was bullpen time. First it was Darren Oliver getting the second out in the 7th with the tying run at the plate. Oliver gave way to Uehara, who took care of the final out. Adams came on in the 8th and retired the Tigers on just 8 pitches. Neftali Feliz took care of the 9th, getting the save with two of the three outs on strikeouts.

Rangers fans haven’t seen such an efficient bullpen all season. Add two daytime hits for Josh Hamilton, whose struggles in day games have been epic in 2011, and things are starting to look rosy again in Big D. Yes, it’s just one game and the Rangers are still a mortal 6-9 since their 12-game winning streak ended (including 1-2 with Uehara and Adams on board). However, if the bullpen performs like that, the way it was envisioned when the trades were made, this is going to be one plenty dangerous team to face down the stretch.

It is disappointing to have dropped two of three to the Tigers, even on the road, if only because they didn’t have to face Justin Verlander in the series. Thursday’s win kept Texas from having its worst road trip of the season and they limp home having gone 2-4. Interestingly, the Tigers finished the season series with the Rangers at 6-3. All three losses were to Ogando.

 Now it’s time to go home and face the Cleveland Indians, with a heady assignment right off the bat- newly acquired Ubaldo Jiminez. On the other hand, the Indians have to go on the road and face Derek Holland, who’s tossed three shutouts in his last five games. Derek could have extra motivation as well. Cliff Lee threw his fifth shutout of the year last night against the Giants, so Derek has to throw one tonight to move back into a tie!

Trivia Tidbit: Rangers sites the past couple of days have focused on a couple of things in Rangers history. One is the first anniversary of the auction process that led to the new ownership group headed by Nolan Ryan. The other was the anniversary of the famous Ryan-Robin Ventura headlock picture (Ventura will NEVER live that down!). The one they didn’t focus on yesterday, though, was the 41st anniversary of the shortest start in Rangers history. I wrote about it earlier this season. You can read up on it here: http://40yearrangerfan.mlblogs.com/2011/06/28/the-shortest-start-in-rangerssenators-history-august-4-1970/

Just When The Dam Stops Leaking In One Place…

Read the words of all the scribes and pundits. Listen to the talking heads on your favorite sports network, radio or TV. The overwhelming majority of them will say this: the Texas Rangers made the best trade deadline maneuvers of any team in baseball. In one fell swoop, they turned the biggest problem area of the team, the bullpen, and not only made it stronger, but maybe made it the best one in the game.

So leave it to the team to make the fans excited about these developments become squirming nervous pieces of vegetation (I know, it makes no sense, but it sounds good) by going 0-2 in the first two games since the trades were made. The #1 and #2 starters both had games to forget, except for two things: 1) The #1 starter has now had two putrid starts in a row; and 2) the #2 starter has been this inconsistent with his command all year long. And oh yeah the #2 starter now leads the league in home runs given up by a wide margin (6 more than the next guy, I believe). Classic “BOY PUTS FINGER IN DIKE! NEW LEAK DEVELOPS!” story.

Making matters worse, the Rangers came back from Colby Lewis‘ miserable start and tied a game they were well on their way to losing, only to see the Tigers get a home run in the bottom of the 8th to regain the lead and win the game. The home run was off the newest bullpen piece, Mike Adams, one of the guys hailed as among the best in the game. It was the first home run he’d given up to a left-handed hitter in a year and a half. On a change-up, a pitch he hardly ever throws.

It could be worse and, in fact, was a year ago. As Jamey Newburg painfully reminded me in his column today, Cliff Lee‘s first Rangers start was a shelling at home to the worst team in the AL at the time, the Baltimore Orioles. Lee gave up three homers in that game and was gone by the 6th. That trade still ended up working out pretty darn good, so I’ll forgive Adams for this debut, especially since it occurred during a rainstorm.

With the Angels winning and cutting the Rangers West lead to a single game, now is not the time to be seeing problems in the starting rotation. Matt Harrison gets the job of plugging the new leak tonight as he takes on the Tigers’ new acquisition Doug Fister. It’s getting a little too uncomfortable right now.

Dutch Treat: Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0

Short and sweet this time.

It took Derek Holland less than 100 pitches today to accomplish a number of things:

1) He got his 4th shutout of the season. Only Cliff Lee of the Phillies has that many this season.

2) He got his 10th win, becoming the 4th Texas Rangers starter to accomplish that feat in 2011 (the 5th, Matt Harrison, has 9 wins)

3) He pretty much took his name off the table in any trade deadline discussions. Holland’s name was attached to a rumor today in a deal with the White Sox for Matt Thornton, but the Rangers said they’d have to throw in a starter like John Danks for them to trade a starter away.

4) He let Rangers fans forget how, once again, this highly thought of offensive team can look entirely mediocre against a pitcher who can’t even reach 90 on the radar gun. Granted, the line-up was missing Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, but there was still some firepower in the line-up.

Way to go, Dutch. Keep up the good work!

The Shortest Start In Rangers/Senators History: August 4, 1970

Texas Rangers beat writer for MLB is TR Sullivan. He has a column posted on the Rangers’ web site on the 50 shortest-lived Rangers in their 50-year history. You can read it here: http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110626&content_id=21064102&vkey=news_tex&c_id=tex

Most people will stick with those at the top of the list, like Cliff Lee, David Clyde and the like. My most vivid memory as a fan, though, came with the very last person on Sullivan’s list- George Brunet.

George Brunet

Brunet’s main claim to fame is what he did after leaving major league baseball. He pitched for a lot of years in the Mexican League and is, in fact, a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in Monterrey.

What Sullivan says is true. Brunet had a short time with the Senators, playing only in 1970. As Paul Harvey would say, now the rest of the story.

Brunet not only had one of the shortest stints with the Rangers/Senators, he also literally had the shortest start in team history. On August 4, 1970, the Senators were in Detroit to face the Tigers. Brunet was the scheduled starting pitcher. The Senators had taken a 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st on a 3-run homer by Aurelio Rodriguez off Denny McLain. Ironically, Rodriguez was one of the pieces in the off-season trade that brought McLain to the Senators the following year.

In the bottom of the first, Brunet was taking his warm-up tosses when he injured his arm. I was a 14-year-old kid listening to the game on the radio at the time and I don’t remember exactly what the injury was, but I remember that, under MLB rules at the time, he had to actually appear in the game because his name was pencilled into the starting line-up. So Brunet threw one pitch to Mickey Stanley of the Tigers, then gave way to Jackie Brown.

Brown would end up going 5 1/3 innings, striking out 6 and giving up one run to get the win in relief of Brunet, who would never start another game for the Senators. After a couple relief appearances, the Senators traded him to the Pirates.