Tagged: Matt Treanor

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.


Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 6/9-6/15

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Position Player Star Star of the Weekof the Week (Single Game):

The Asian connection was most responsible for the Rangers’ 6-0 win over the Miami Marlins Wednesday. Yu Darvish provided the pitching with his first career complete game shutout while Shin-Soo Choo provided the offensive fireworks. Choo was having a miserable homestand going into the game. While he was still drawing walks on a regular basis he had only one hit in his previous 27 at bats going into Wednesday’s homestand finale against Miami. After flying out to center in the first, the second time he faced Jacob Turner, the bases were loaded with Rangers and this time Choo lashed a double to right that plated all three runs. In the bottom of the fifth, Choo added a run-scoring single to his line. For the season, Choo’s average is down to .258 but his on base percentage continues to hover around the .400 mark. Even in a slump he manages to contribute. Here is Choo’s 3-run double:

Position Player Star Star of the Weekof the Week (Full Week):

There has been no bigger revelation for the Rangers this year than Robinson Chirinos. If Geovany Soto had been available from Day 1 it’s doubtful Chirinos would even be in the majors today. While his overall batting average hovers around the area of Matt Treanor in 2010 his contribution has been just as big if not bigger. Treanor took over when Jarrod Saltalamacchia went down two games into the season and proved invaluable when Taylor Teagarden couldn’t handle the job offensively. Chirinos has done a great job as a catcher, especially in gunning down would be basestealers. Chirinos caught stealing percentage isn’t in Pudge Rodriguez territory but it’s awfully close and is, in fact, among the tops in all of baseball this year. Over the past week, Chirinos was an offensive force as well. In four games he contributed a slash line of .333/.286/.917 with two home runs, a double and 5 RBI. When Soto is ready to go in another month, it will be interesting to see if it’s Chirinos or Chris Gimenez who becomes the odd man out. Since Chirinos plays first base, another area of need for Texas, it’s possible all three will stay with the big club. Here’s Chirinos’ second homer of the week in Saturday’s game against the Mariners:


Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Nick Tepesch sure picked a bad week to throw his best game as a major leaguer. That’s because Yu Darvish did him one better. After flirting with the accomplishment a few times, Darvish finally got his elusive first MLB complete game as well as his first shutout. Darvish went all the way Wednesday in besting the Miami Marlins 6-0. Darvish allowed six hits and walked three but also struck out ten Marlins on the way to his seventh win of the year. Only one Miami player reached second base on the day and that was in the first inning. Darvish also struck out the side in the 8th. Tepesch gets the honorable mention for his performance in the Rangers’ 1-0 win over Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners Friday night. Tepesch went the first six and a third innings and didn’t get the decision but he allowed only two hits and struck out five in his outing.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Texas seems to have decent weeks followed by bad weeks. Consider the past week one of the decent ones. After going 2-14 against Baltimore and Cleveland the week before, the Rangers went 3-3 which included three straight wins from Wednesday through Saturday. The Rangers can either give you a good ball game or they’ll get blown out. These days you won’t see the Rangers on the positive side of a blow-out. After a Monday embarrasment against Cleveland, a 17-7 pasting, the Rangers gave up another eight to the Marlins in a 3-run loss. So of course that’s followed up by back to back shutouts. This is one of the most bipolar teams around.

This week is crucial for Texas if they have any chance of competing for a Wild Card spot (which I’m not confident enough to predict). Six games this week, all on the road and all against the two teams on top of the AL West. Monday through Wednesday, the Rangers are in Oakland to battle the first place A’s. Then it’s on to Anaheim for three against the Angels Friday through Sunday. Neither team is going to take the Rangers lightly. The A’s have a comfortable lead in the West and want to keep it that way. The Angels have been the Rangers’ whipping boy the last two years and I expect they want to heap abuse on the Texas pitching staff. Even a Yu Darvish win is not a given. Darvish faces the A’s on Tuesday and Oakland has more success against him than any team in baseball. Darvish is a miserable 1-7 with a 4.73 ERA against the A’s. There’s no predicting this week. Texas has been a better road team (including a 3-game sweep in Oakland earlier this season) than home this year, but they could go 0-6 just as easily as they could go 4-2. A week ago, I said the Rangers could find themselves in last place at the end of this week. I hope I’m wrong but let’s see how it plays out.

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!

Sizing Up The Free Agents

The Hot Stove League has begun and, if you know anything about the Texas Rangers, it is this: Whatever you’re hearing in terms of buzz, it’s mostly speculation. Because once the Rangers make a move, it tends to be a surprise to everyone.

Last year in the off-season, the speculation was whether Cliff Lee would re-sign with the Rangers. Texas put on a hard-court press to get Lee to re-up with them. That IS what was reported. What nobody saw coming was what followed losing out on the Lee sweepstakes: the trade with Toronto that brought Mike Napoli to Texas and the signing of Adrian Beltre to a 5-year contract when just about every media source pegged Beltre as going to the Angels.

Jon Daniels is a cagey GM who is constantly thinking three moves ahead. If Plan A doesn’t work out, Daniels already has Plans B, C and maybe even D in mind. He also has a penchant for hammering out double moves, such as two years ago when he shipped Kevin Millwood and much of his salary to the Baltimore Orioles and used the salary savings and immediately signed Rich Harden to a one-year deal.

With new ownership having deep pockets and a team that’s been to back-to-back World series, it’s inevitable the Rangers are considered to be in the mix for just about every free agent out there this off-season. Already, Texas is being mentioned as a suitor for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, two of the biggest names out there. It makes sense from the standpoint that first base is the Rangers’ weakest offensive position. I’m almost willing to bet we will NOT see Pujols or Fielder in a Rangers uniform.

Even with more money to work with (ownership has already as much as committed to a $100 million plus payroll in 2012), I’m pretty sure Daniels is smart enough to know it’s still all about spending money smartly and that doesn’t always translate into the big-dollar guys.

First, let’s take a look at the Rangers’ own free agents and the likelihood of being re-signed.

Endy Chavez: Chavez was  a great comeback story, returning from two years of injuries to ably replace Julio Borbon when he went on the DL in May. Chavez probably did better in 2011 than Borbon would have had he not been injured. Still, Chavez is unlikely to return to the fold. The Rangers still have Craig Gentry as a back-up outfielder, Borbon will be back and Cuban defector Leonys Martin is already knocking ont he door waiting for his chance to roam center field. Good luck, Endy. Hope you get a good contract from someone.

Mike Gonzalez: The lefty was acquired from the Orioles and was on every Rangers post-season roster. Odds are pretty good Texas makes him an offer to stick around and, if Gonzalez wants a chance to win instead of the most dollars available, he’ll be glad to ink a new contract.

Darren Oliver: The Rangers’ designated LOOGY and the old man of the bullpen at 42, Oliver lives in Dallas and has indicated he’s leaning towards returning instead of retiring. If so, I’m positive he’ll re-up with Texas at a hometown discount to give himself one more shot at a World Championship.

Matt Treanor: I was a Treanor fan in 2010 and was happy when he came back for the stretch run in 2011. However, Treanor won’t be back unless Texas decides to part ways with Yorvit Torrealba, which I hope they don’t. Maybe he’ll sign a minor league deal with Texas, much like the one that brought him the Rangers way in 2010.

CJ Wilson: This is the multi-million dollar question. Will CJ come back or head for much greener pastures. Wilson is a West Coast guy, so speculation is rife for the Angels to be after him. Obviously the Yankees are going to be in the mix and will likely offer him the most money. Reports also have the Nationals interested, which I understand. He’d be a nice complementary piece to Strasbourg. I put the odds at 50-50 for Wilson to return. texas wants him back, but even with more money to play with, they don’t want CJ to break the bank.

That brings us to everyone else’s free agents. If Texas doesn’t go after Pujols or Fielder, who will they court? Here’s how I look at it. This year’s free agent class isn’t the strongest to begin with. In addition, Texas has VERY big decisions to make after the 2012 season, when Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Colby Lewis can all walk away to other teams. I think the Rangers are going to play small ball this year in the free agent market, looking for bargains and trying to fill specific needs. With that in mind, here are a few under the radar types I think Texas could be very interested in.

Mark Buerhle: This would be the highest dollar guy Texas could go for. Buerhle is a proven innings eater who would fit in well with the rangers pitching staff. I don’t think texas would sign both Wilson and Buerhle, so I’d say if they don’t get Wilson, they put their cards on the table for Buerhle.

Octavio Dotel: If you can’t beat ’em, get ’em to sign with you. Dotel has a World Series ring, a high strikeout rate and would be a great ROOGY for the Rangers.

Casey Kotchman: This is one of the most intriguing names out there. If the Rangers aren’t sold on Mitch Moreland as the answer at first base, they could package him in a trade and sign Kotchman. He might not have the sock potential of Moreland but he’s a great defensive player at first with just enough pop to make for a good fit in the Rangers line-up.

Roy Oswalt: He has Texas ties, he’d be very popular with the fans. He also has a history of back issues and is no spring chicken at 34. There is a possibility Texas will go for him, but I don’t know if they’re willing to pay the dollars Oswalt probably wants.

Jose Reyes: I don’t think this will happen, but it would be a classic Daniels move to trade the popular Elvis Andrus and pick up one the game’s most exciting players. The only reason I don’t really see this happening is because teen phenom Jurickson Profar may only be a couple of years away from the bigs, so texas wouldn’t want to commit more than two years for Reyes.

Joel Zumaya: This is another prime Jon Daniels possibility: signing a former All-Star who’s had physical problems to a low dollar contract. If he comes back to close to his former self, it’s a great investment. If not, you’re not out a lot of money.

There are a few other names out there Texas could conceivably have interest in: Todd Coffey, Kerry Wood, Heath Bell, Jonathon Papelbon, Matt Capps and maybe Hiroki Kuroda. The ones above, though, are my best bets to get strong interest from Texas.


The Kids Are Alright

Five days later…

As a fan, the sting of losing Game 7 is gone. Sure, it’s disappointing. I told a Cardinals fan I know that Game 6 made me feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy pulling the football back at the last second. Twice. I still can’t quite find the desire to turn on a lot of Sports Talk radio, for fear of hearing pundits lay into my Rangers for the way they let this one get away, but I still have a wife who loves me (most of the time), children and grandchildren who love me (most of the time) and two dogs that love me all of the time (as long as I walk them and feed them), so life is good.

The off-season has begun and with it, the makeover of the Texas Rangers to put them in the best position possible to make yet another assault on a World Series Championship. Honestly, this may be as boring an off-season for Rangers fans as there will be.

Here’s the big drama: Will CJ Wilson be back and will the Rangers succeed in signing Japanese phenom pitcher Yu Darvish? Other than that, anything else that would happen to this Rangers team will qualify as a surprise.

Wilson is the only free agent of note for Texas. According to an ESPN.com report, CJ says there’s a “great chance” he’ll return to the Texas fold in 2012. Other reports have said the Rangers plan to cut ties with the lefty and proceed heavily towards getting Darvish in the fold. In this case, I’ll trust CJ’s actual words for now. Who knows, maybe both Wilson and Darvish will be part of the 2012 rotation. The Rangers are also said to be one of the favorites to get Darvish, a 25-year-old who compiled a 1.44 ERA in the Orient this past season.

I read something interesting today concerning Darvish and Japanese pitchers in general. Over in Japan, apparently, they still stick with a 4-man rotation instead of the stateside five. Darvish is said to have as many as ten different pitches at his disposal. The interesting point made was comparing Darvish to Daisuke Matsusaka. The article (in Baseball Prospectus) said when the Red Sox got Daisuke, they made him whittle his repertoire down to five pitches. It went on to speculate the combination of this and giving him four days rest between starts instead of the three he was used to could help explain Matsusaka’s underwhelming Red Sox career. If so, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers treat Darvish differently than the Red Sox did Daisuke (assuming the Rangers get Darvish, of course).

Texas exercised the option in Colby Lewis’ contract, as well as reliever Yoshi Tateyama. The latter signing could mean the end of the road in Texas for Darren O’Day, who is a sidearming righty like Tateyama (albeit with much more zip on the ball).

There will be some arbitration battles coming up. Obviously, Mike Napoli is going to garner a huge payday whether it goes to an arbitrator or not. There could be speculation the Rangers will cut ties with Yorvit Torrealba thanks to Napoli’s strong season. Torrealba is only going to be making a little over $3 million in 2012, so I have a feeling they’ll keep him.

Other than that, this team is pretty set. Most players are under contract already. There could be some second tier players released, like Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco, but those won’t change the makeup of this team very much.

Speculation has been raised about the rangers going after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to fill the one weak spot on the field, first base. I just don’t think Texas is going to get involved in those high dollars, preferring to use them on pitchers like Wilson and Darvish.

There are other items I could throw out there, but all in all, this shouldn’t be as dramatic an off-season as last year was.


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.

Thank You Seattle Mariners: Rays 4, Rangers 1

With a mere 27 games remaining on the 2011 schedule, anything that gets the Texas Rangers one step closer to clinching a playoff berth is welcome. Certainly, fans would prefer the Rangers take the drama out of it and just clinch a return trip to the playoffs by winning, winning again and winning some more.

Nice as it would be, it is not realistic. So on those days when the Rangers don’t win, a well-placed assist is always welcome. Such was what occurred Wednesday night, when the Mariners helped the Rangers out with a 2-1 come from behind victory over the Angels. It helped take the sting out of the Rangers 4-1 defeat by Tampa Bay and maintained the Rangers’ 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West.

Outside of the first inning, when they loaded the bases with one out, Texas never had much of a chance against James Shields. Some games you just lose because an outstanding pitcher throws an outstanding game and this was one of them. Shields was magnificent, throwing eight shutout innings and getting out of the aforementioned first inning by inducing an inning ending double play grounder from Mike Napoli.

Of more concern was the horrific performance of Alexi Ogando and the continued struggles of newly acquired Koji Uehara. Ogando lasted less than three innings, giving up only three runs but looking just awful out on the mound. Last night only confirmed my suspicion that Scott Feldman will replace Ogando in his next scheduled start Monday at the Trop. Uehara, meanwhile, came on to pitch the 8th and again gave up a home run, his 4th since joining the Rangers and in only 10 2/3 innings.

On the positive side of the ledger, rookie Mark Hamburger came on in the 9th, making his major league debut and tossing a scoreless inning. By the way, I will not make any Hamburger puns, as I’ve seen enough of them over the past two days to realize it’s already become trite. Matt Harrison, who took a rotation turn off, tossed two hitless innings and appears ready for his next start Sunday against the Red Sox.

 Series finale tonight with Adrian Beltre back in the Rangers line-up. Also activated is utility infielder Andres Blanco. The Rangers have also called up two players, now that rosters have expanded: infielder Esteban German and pitcher Merkin Valdez.  Mike Gonzalez and Matt Treanor also join the team tonight, while the Rangers have sent AAA reliever Pedro Strop to the Orioles to complete the trade for Gonzalez. More players will join the Rangers later, but will wait until Round Rock and Frisco complete their respective playoff series.