Tagged: Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 6/2-6/8

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.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game and Full Week):

Nobody in the Rangers line-up is more necessary offensively these days more than Adrian Beltre. The Rangers must rely on the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse and team now that most of the potential power in the line-up has been lost to injuries. Over the past week, Beltre has not disappointed. Adrian gets the Star of the Week for the full week on the basis of a 6-game split of .478/.458/.957. Beltre scored six of the Rangers 27 runs for the week and claimed responsibility for 8 of Texas’ RBI for the week. Adrian also gets the Star of the Week for a single game for his exploits during the Rangers 6-5 loss to the Orioles. Beltre accounted for all 5 Texas runs on two home runs, a 3-run shot off the Orioles’ Bud Norris in the first inning, followed by a 2-run poke in the 5th off Norris again. If anyone keeps the Rangers contending over the long hot summer to come, Beltre’s your guy. Here are Beltre’s two bombs from Wednesday’s game:

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

The week turned out miserably for the Rangers pitching staff. Joe Saunders led the starters in ERA at 3.18 but also gave up 17 hits in only 11 1/3 innings. Yu Darvish had a gritty performance on a night when his stuff wasn’t great but still allowed a 3-run home run for the first time in his MLB career. Even the bullpen had it rough. Tanner Scheppers returned from the DL and gave up home runs in each of his first two appearances. Robbie Ross Jr. had one great relief appearance against the Orioles but then had a rough outing against the Indians. Through all this, there was one picture of steadiness on the Texas pitching staff: the old veteran Jason Frasor. The former Blue Jay appeared in four games over the past week and the 38-year-old allowed only a single hit and no runs in four innings of work. For the year, Frasor has the lowest ERA on the pitching staff at 1.64 over 22 innings and 25 appearances. He hasn’t given up a run since May 17th and hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 14th.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Another week, another injury or two, another way to look at this team and say, “Is this REALLY the Texas Rangers? Come on, Donnie Murphy is your starting first baseman? And Joe Saunders is your #2 pitcher? This is a joke, right?”

Rangers fans wish it was a joke. But this is what the Rangers are going to look like pretty much the rest of the year, so we might as well get used to it. The players on the DL are better than the players actually participating in the games. Here’s your DL line-up now:

1B  Prince Fielder

2B  Jurickson Profar

3B  Kevin Kouzmanoff

C   Geovany Soto

DH  Mitch Moreland

OF  Jim Adduci

OF  Engel Beltre

SP  Derek Holland

SP Matt Harrison

SP  Martin Perez

OK, we’re missing a shortstop, an outfielder and an entire bullpen but you get the picture. The 2014 Texas Rangers are going nowhere fast and, seeing that the Houston Astros are starting to make a little noise, it’s now totally conceivable for the Rangers to finish in LAST place in the AL West. Let that sink in. LAST PLACE. The last time the Rangers were cellar dwellers was 2007, the first year of the Ron Washington era. I know, I know. The Rangers are a respectable 31-32, only a couple of games out of the Wild Card berth. True, but you can see the train wreck coming from a mile away. Wash is a great motivator of talent. He’ll get them to play at a very high level but eventually, the talent level shows. It happened a year ago when Nelson Cruz got suspended for the last 50 games. Texas came out like gangbusters at first but whimpered through September and were lucky to force a one game added regular season playoff with Tampa Bay for the right to play in the Wild Card game. This team is considerably worse than that team, talent-wise. The starting pitching is Yu Darvish and 4 guys who are, at best, #4 in the rotation pitchers. And that’s being kind. Derek Holland will return after the All-Star break but there’s no guarantee he’ll look like a #3 from the first start.

With the latest injury, Mitch Moreland’s ankle, Texas truly has no options at first base. There are a couple of guys at AAA being worked out at first base but none with regular experience there: Brad Snyder, Jim Adduci and J.P. Arencibia. Adduci just jammed the finger he broke and was rehabbing from so he’s not available right away. Arencibia had a very offensively unproductive month and a half with the Rangers and Snyder, while a power hitter, is also a strikeout machine. On the big league level, Murphy played the corner Sunday, while catchers Chris Giminez and Robinson Chirinos have both played first in the minors. None of these are very good options. I’m reasonably sure Jon Daniels is going to have to work out a trade with someone and he’s going to give up more than they should because the other GM’s know they’ve got him over a barrel. I suppose longtime fans could hold out hope for Michael Young to come out of retirement and man first base the rest of the year. Even if that were to occur, Young would need to ramp up and wouldn’t be available until the All-Star break at the earliest. Even then, as inconsistent as the offense has been, I honestly think Texas needs starting pitching help even more. You can’t have any hope of winning when four of your five starting pitchers are giving you only a hair more than 5 innings per start.

So, the Rangers got through the last week at 2-4, dropping two of three to the Orioles followed by winning only Yu Darvish’s start in three weekend games with the Indians, all at home. This week isn’t any better. After closing the 4-game set with Cleveland on Monday, Texas closes out the homestand with two against the surprising Miami Marlins. Then it’s on the road again for the West Coast swing that likely will seal the fate of the Rangers for 2014. It starts with three in Seattle against the third place Mariners, followed by three in Oakland against the first place A’s and ending with three in Anaheim with the second place Angels. Meanwhile, the resurgent Astros have their next two weeks filled with the Arizona Diamondbacks (last in the NL West), the Washington Nationals (3rd in the AL East) and 7 games with the Tampa Bay Rays (last in the AL East, worst record in the AL). It’s not a far out thought that the Rangers could be in the AL West cellar two weeks from today.

Scoreboard watching has definitely lost its flavor to me this season.

Final Reminder: A Father’s Day Gift Idea

Back in my college days as a Radio/TV major, I had the pleasure of knowing a classmate who went on to portray a character who, while only spending  a few short minutes on the screen at the end of the movie, left an indelible mark with many baseball fans. His name is Dwier Brown and he portrayed Kevin Costner’s father at the end of the classic “Field of Dreams.” I recently discovered Dwier has published a book called “If You Build It- A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams”. He is now on a Midwest book tour, appearing a minor league stadiums and the like. It’s both memoir and stories people have told him through the years about what the movie meant to them and their own relationships with their fathers. One of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members, The Hall of Very Good, has done a 2-part interview with Dwier about the movie and the book. You can read both parts of the interview here:

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-one.html

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-two.html

The book sounds like a great Father’s Day gift as well. You can order it at his website, dwierbrown.com.

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Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/19-5/26

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.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

The Rangers have both the youngest and the second youngest players in the big leagues and they’re platooning at second base. Luis Sardinas is the second youngest but he only plays about 25% of the games at second base. The other 75% goes to the youngest player in the majors, Rougned Odor. While he did wow Rangers fans with an upper deck shot for his first major league home run a couple of weeks ago, he was still hovering at the Mendoza line at the start of the week. But oh what he did on Saturday gave fans their first real inkling why the kid with the funny name (and the younger brother with the same funny name) is one of the top prospects in the Rangers’ system. In the top of the fourth inning, with the Rangers leading 2-1, Odor smacked a line drive that went just over the glove of Miguel Cabrera and down the right field line. By the time the Tigers’ Torii Hunter got it back to the infield, Roogie was standing on third base with a triple and two RBI to make it 4-1. Three innings later, Odor faced highly touted rookie Corey Knebel, making his major league début. With the bases full of Rangers, Odor went deep to right, just missing a home run and ending up with the same result, a triple. This one plated three runs. In the ninth, Odor blooped a double to left off knuckleball throwing utility player Danny Worth and came home to score on a Michael Choice double to close out a 12-2 Rangers victory. Odor’s final line: 4 for 5 with a run, an infield single, a double, two triples and 5 RBI. Meanwhile in Arizona, injured second baseman Jurickson Profar must have felt a chill go down his spine. Here’s the video of Odor’s big day:

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

For the first time in three weeks, there was some competition for the Offensive Player of the Week. The middle of the line-up, Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre, both performed in above average fashion, hitting above .400 with an OPS above 1.000. Still, there’s a lot to like about how the bottom third of the Rangers order hit and even more to like about the change made at catcher. At the start of the week, the Rangers optioned J.P. Arencibia to AAA Round Rock after only managing to accrue eight hits in 60 at bats over the course of 20 games. Even for a player with power potential, a .133 average isn’t going to cut it in the big leagues, especially if you add two passed balls, seven wild pitches allowed, two errors and just an 18% caught stealing rate. Texas recalled Chris Gimenez, a journeyman catcher playing for his fourth big league team in five years. All Gimenez did was get five hits in his first three games, 62.5% of the total Arencibia managed in 20. While Rios and Beltre played more games with bigger success in all departments, Giminez added instant offense to a position that woefully lacked all season long, getting 5 hits in his first 13 at bats with a double and two RBI. Gimenez got himself a lot of new fans and Twitter followers over the past seven days.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

The toughest part about the last couple weeks of Rangers baseball is knowing that beyond Yu Darvish, it is doubtful a Rangers starting pitcher is even going to make it to six innings, let alone seven. Colby Lewis, considering his age and the injuries he’s coming back from, is probably six innings max on a good day. Robbie Ross Jr. was getting shelled and got moved back to the bullpen, Scott Baker got a start and will get replaced this week by Joe Saunders, Nick Tepesch just got recalled from Round Rock and hasn’t yet established what we can expect from him. And then there’s Nick Martinez. Following two early season starts, Martinez went to the bullpen for five games, then returned to a starting role due to the season-ending injuries to Martin Perez and Matt Harrison. His first two starts back in the rotation have been against two of the highest powered offenses in the American League. Against the Blue Jays May 18th, the rookie gave up only a single run in five innings of work. Saturday, he drew the start against 7-1 Rick Porcello and the Detroit Tigers, featuring three of the AL’s top hitters in former Ranger Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. While Porcello was getting shelled for the first time this season, Martinez more than held up his end, going six strong innings and giving up just a single run. Martinez has yet to top six innings in any start but he’s shown no fear of big league hitters despite never pitching above AA ball before this year. His performance Saturday was just one of the shots in the arm the Rangers have needed:

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Talk about taking the bad with the good or the good with the bad. Just a few days ago most folks, including a high percentage of Rangers fans, were ready to write the season off after the announcement that Prince Fielder would be the latest Rangers player to miss the rest of the season due to injury. On the same day, Rangers brass announced Jurickson Profar had re-aggravated his shoulder injury and would miss significantly more time than expected and might not appear with the Rangers until 2015. Add them to the aforementioned losses of Perez and Harrison and you’ve got the makings of big trouble.

So what did the Rangers do? First, they made several roster changes. Gone was Arencibia, replaced by Gimenez. Fielder got placed on the DL and utility infielder Donnie Murphy got activated. Ross went to the bullpen, Baker was given his next start. And then, to the surprise of just about everyone but their manager, the Rangers started winning again.

It started humbly enough, gaining a split at home with the Mariners before heading out for the longest road trip of the season, 11 games starting with four a AL Central leading Detroit. Despite having been swept in Cleveland, the Tigers already had a big lead in the Central due to a strong starting rotation and an offense that could beat you with both power and speed. Despite long odds, the Rangers went into Detroit and not only took three of four from the Tigers, they beat them into submission by a combined score of 35-15. Along the way, they beat 7-1 Rick Porcello 12-2 and then followed it up by pounding Justin Verlander for nine runs en route to a 12-4 pasting on Sunday. The Claw and Antlers, a staple of the 2010 World Series team, appeared again in the series and Texas got incredible production from the lesser names like Gimenez, Odor, Leonys Martin and Michael Choice.

The road trip continues all this week with a four game set in Minnesota against the surprising Twins (and the original Washington Senators) followed by three in the Rangers’ original home of Washington DC as the Senators reincarnated against the current team residing there, the NL East Nationals. The good news is the Rangers have three day games remaining in the week. Last week, all four of their wins came during the day and Texas is now 11-5 in day games following their Memorial Day win over the Twins to start this week. Texas only needs two more wins to garner a winning record for the road trip. If they manage that, which would put them at 3-4 for the week at the least, I think most fans would be happy considering the shape of the current roster.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/12-5/18

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.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

How forgettable was the Rangers’ last week. So unforgettable there really wasn’t one single game outstanding performance. Texas went 2-4 on the week and no player had more than two RBI in a game. Adrian Beltre had a three hit game once but there just wasn’t anything for anyone to write home about. The best performance for the Rangers came with High Class A Myrtle Beach, where Joey Gallo went 4 for 4 with three home runs and five runs batted in against Potomac on May 16th. Gallo leads the minors in home runs with 18 on the year and has been the Carolina League Player of the Week three times already in 2014. Here’s the last of Gallo’s three dingers:

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

It only figures the Player of the Week for all games is a guy who missed half of the six games to injuries. Yes, we’re talking about Prince Fielder who, although he is the POW, had a pretty mild stat line. In three games, Prince went 4 for 10 with a double, 2 RBI and an intentional walk before missing the Houston series with neck issues. While the ball still isn’t leaving the park at the rate Rangers fans or management would like (he has only 3 on the season), May has been much kinder to Prince than April. In the season’s first month, Fielder never managed to beat the defensive shift and entered May with a pitiful slash line of .206/.331/.644. And that includes nine intentional walks. Things are turning around for the Royal One in May, though. Fielder enters play May 20th at .333/.421/.879 for the month. If he gets it going, the Texas offense might start improving on their meager four runs per game average.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

I was originally going to give this to Nick Tepesch, who arrived from Round Rock and gave the Rangers 5.1 innings of work a day after Matt Harrison went down less than two innings into his start. Tepesch gave the bullpen a bit of a breather and struck out 8 Astros in the process. Still, there was only one truly outstanding performance for the week and, for the second consecutive week, it belonged to Yu Darvish. In a loss to the Blue Jays, Darvish again flirted with a no-hitter before a single led off the fifth inning. Because of a weak Rangers offense, Darvish lost the game 2-0, but he struck out eleven Blue Jays and gave up only two runs on five hits in eight innings of work. Darvish lost four games 1-0 a year ago and this is the third time this season Texas hasn’t put a run on the boards while he was in the game. The Rangers have one of the top pitchers in all of baseball but his Win-Loss record doesn’t begin to show how good he’s been. Now I know how the Mariners have felt all these years with the job Felix Hernandez has done.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Last week, I said it was sad that a 3-3 record on the week for the Rangers would make me happy. The week ended with me not being very happy at all. In what could be the worst week in Rangers history, and that’s not hyperbole, the Rangers not only limped home with a 2-4 record on the week, they A) dropped a series to the Astros for the first time in six years; B) lost Prince Fielder for three games to a neck injury; C) lost Martin Perez for the next 1-2 years to Tommy John surgery; and D) lost Matt Harrison to back issues which may result in him NEVER PITCHING AGAIN. EVER.

Yep, it was definitely a week to forget in Rangers baseball and the road ahead doesn’t get any easier. This week, Texas has a brief two game set at home with the Mariners, followed by a four game road trip to the team with the best record in baseball, the Detroit Tigers. Perhaps frustrating us Rangers fans the most is seeing our team struggling while five pieces of the 2013 team (Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, Ian Kinsler, Craig Gentry & A.J. Pierzynski) are enjoying excellent starts to their 2014 with new clubs. The off-season was one in which Job Daniels wanted to rebuild the offense and now, the pieces he let go are doing better than the pieces he picked up.

Robbie Ross is still struggling as a piece of the rotation but thanks to the Perez and Harrison injuries, he’ll likely continue starting for the foreseeable future, unless Texas decides to try Scott Baker out the next time Ross’ spot comes up. The Rangers today sent J.P. Arencibia to AAA Round Rock, replacing him at catcher with Chris Gimenez. Arencibia was horrible offensively and not any better than horrible defensively. Still, in a 5-year career, Gimenez hasn’t been proven as a superior option. He comes to the Rangers with a career slash line of .199/.292/.585. The only positive that can be said for the Rangers catching corps in 2014 is that Robinson Chirinos has been excellent in throwing out would-be basestealers. His 45% mark is second in the AL and third in all of baseball.

What will make me happy this week? Nobody getting hurt is the best I’ve got. As to the record, I’ll be surprised if Texas does better than 2-4 for the week. It gets sadder by the day.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/21-4/27

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.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

In six games, there was not a single over the top outstanding performance that warranted a Player of the Week (Single Game). From a “What’s Going To Happen?” perspective, Michael Choice seems like a good pick this week. Shin-Soo Choo went down with a badly sprained ankle in the first of the 3-game set against the Oakland A’s. It was up to the rookie Choice to not only fill Choo’s shoes in left field but also replace his bat at the top of the Rangers order. Choo has already won over Rangers fans with his patience at the plate and finding ways to get on base. Could Choice do the job? That question got answered in his first game at the lead-off spot. In five at bats, Choice saw a total of 19 pitches, turning that patience into reaching base three times in those five plate appearances: two walks and a single. Choice scored the first run of the game in the first inning and drive in the winning run with a 9th inning single. I don’t see Choice as quite ready for everyday playing status yet but he has been a more than adequate replacement while Choo’s ankle mends.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Choo, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre are the players expected to produce the most power. Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin are in charge of the speed. It’s easy to forget the Rangers have one guy in their line-up who provides a little speed, a little pop and pretty good defense as well. Alex Rios could quietly put up the overall best numbers of any Rangers player in 2014. Rios is on a hot streak right now. Over the last six games, Rios hit .375 with 9 hits in 24 at bats, including a double, a triple and a stolen base. Rios got a rap for being a lazy player when he came to the Rangers from the White Sox. When you watch him, what you eventually realize is Rios is fast. He’s tall at 6’5″, so when he runs, he looks like he’s taking it easy. The next thing you know, he’s already taken the extra base. His defensive play in right field is a vast improvement over his predecessor, Nelson Cruz. Like his running, Rios may not have stats that stand out in most weeks but by season’s end you’ll look and realize he had a pretty darn good year. This week, he did good enough to lead the pack.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Unbelievable. Only four weeks into the season and Martin Perez has won 75% of the Pitching Star of the Week Awards. In consecutive weeks no less. Another week, another 3-hit shutout. Ho hum. This time, Perez tossed the gem against the Oakland A’s, which is even more impressive than the 3-hitter he tossed against the White Sox his last time out. The A’s are a notoriously patient team. Perez not only shut them down on only three hits, he finished his second straight complete game in just 109 pitches, an average of just 12 pitches per inning. He walked two, struck out three and only allowed one runner to get to second base. As usual, Perez had the double play ball working for him. Two of the A’s five baserunners for the game were immediately erased thanks to ground ball double plays. Can Perez keep up the pace throughout the season? Maybe. Since August of last season, nobody has more wins in baseball than the 23-year-old. Thanks to his success, Texas now appears well on its way to a pretty formidable starting rotation.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

All in all, nobody can complain too much about a 4-2 road trip, especially when it involves a 3-game sweep of your main rivals in their own house. An excruciating loss on Sunday to the Mariners only led to “What could’ve been…” thoughts. Still, it was a successful week and one in which the Rangers returned two big components to the line-up. Following the sweep of the A’s, the Rangers activated Adrian Beltre from the disabled list. Two days later, Matt Harrison returned to make his first start in over a year on Sunday. Beltre still is treating his injured quad gingerly. He’s not running at 100% speed but his presence helped the line-up immediately. The downside was Texas lost Beltre’s more than capable replacement, Kevin Kouzmanoff, to back issues. The defending AL Player of the Week is on the DL and may miss significant time to a herniated disc. The Rangers should know soon whether Kooz requires surgery or not. In other words, Beltre now NEEDS to stay healthy as there’s not much help available with some offensive pop at third base if he goes down again. Harrison was brilliant early and got through six innings in pretty good shape against the Mariners and was in line for the win Sunday until the Rangers’ worst nemesis, Kyle Seager, launched a 3-run shot off Alexi Ogando in the 8th to propel Seattle to a 6-5 win and ended the Rangers string of four consecutive series won. Since the start of the 2013 season, Seager is hitting .381 against the Rangers in 105 at bats with 11 doubles, nine home runs and 22 runs batted in, including three homers and 7 RBI in 7 games this year. I don’t actively dislike many players but Seager is really starting to bug me. I even fantasize about the Rangers signing noted headhunter Vicente Padilla to a contract the day before the Rangers face the Mariners and Seager again.

This week continues the Rangers AL West tour. Texas is home for a quick three game set against the A’s, then it’s off to California for the second time in two weeks, this time for a first look at the Los Angeles Angels. The A’s will be looking for some payback after getting swept by Texas in Oakland a week ago. Still, even with the A’s and Rangers tied atop the AL West, Oakland is reeling a bit, having followed up their sweep by the Rangers by dropping to of three in Houston to the lowly Astros. Plus, the A’s have to contend with both Yu Darvish and Martin Perez in the series. The Angels have a lot of offense early and will pose a challenge to Texas pitching. Thus far, the Rangers have posted a 9-4 record within the division, the best mark in the AL West. They’ll need to keep it up this week to keep the pressure on their rivals.

 

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/14-4/20

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.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

 This is an important year for Leonys Martin. A few years ago, the Rangers spent a good deal of money on the Cuban import, although not as much as countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman, among others, received. Martin spent two seasons in the minors before breaking into the starting line-up in 2013. He went through one great hot streak in the middle of the season but overall hit a mild .260 with eight home runs and 36 stolen bases, but also over a hundred strikeouts. For the Rangers to compete for a pennant, Martin’s numbers must improve. So far, so good. Martin’s season has started at a .322/.385/.421 clip. His strikeout rate is about the same, but his walk rate has improved thus far from about once every 16 at bats to once every 9 at bats. In Friday’s 12-0 pasting of the Chicago White Sox, Martin fell a double short of the cycle, going 3 for 5 with a single, triple and home run, scoring twice and knocking in four runs. With Geovany Soto and Jurickson Profar out at least through May and the Rangers making do with Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson, Robinson Chirinos and J.P. Arencibia, Martin’s production is even more vital at the bottom of the order. Thus far, he’s doing the job.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Prince Fielder is off to a slow start as a new member of the Rangers. While Prince hit his first two home runs in a Rangers uniform in the past week, his power numbers are NOT why he’s being honored as the full week Star of the Week. No, it’s his PERCEIVED power that brings him the award. For the week, Fielder hit a mild .273, albeit with two doubles and two home runs among his six hits on the week. What really pops out on the week is the seven walks compared to only four strikeouts. Of those seven walks, five of those were intentional walks. With Adrian Beltre on the shelf, Fielder has no real protection behind him in the line-up. Add to that the fact Fielder entered the week without a single home run on his ledger, you would think pitchers wouldn’t worry too much about pitching to him. Guess again. I could give the weekly award to Kevin Kouzmanoff, who made opposing pitchers pay for walking Fielder by knocking home eight runs on the week. He would deserve the award, but not more than Prince Fielder. After all, pitchers intentionally walking the big first baseman changed the complexion of the games played and were integral to the Rangers’ 5-game win streak from Tuesday through Saturday. Fielder also was, surprisingly, a fielder on the week, with several outstanding defensive plays at first base. Here’s Fielder’s first home run in a Rangers uniform:

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Now for the first repeat winner of 2014. Thanks to the strong work of Martin Perez, Rangers fans haven’t been sweating as hard about the return of Matt Harrison to the rotation. Sure, Harry’s missed and is vital to Texas in 2014, but Perez has made Rangers fans realize he is a very good #2 to Yu Darvish. That will take a lot of stress off of Harrison’s back as he’ll only need to worry about being a decent #3. The 23-year-old Perez tossed his second complete game of his career and his first complete game shutout with a superb 3-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox on Friday. Perez got staked to a quick lead and never let the pile-up of runs affect him on the mound. Many pitchers lose focus when staked to a big lead, but Perez went the full nine on an economical 109 pitches in securing the 12-0 win. Perez has now tossed 17 consecutive scoreless innings.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

After going through a roller coaster of win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, the Rangers finally put together a string of wins. After dropping the opener of their series with the Mariners, Texas ripped off five wins in a row, all at home, with three coming against the Mariners and two versus the White Sox before falling to Chicago 16-2 in Sunday’s finale. With Kevin Kouzmanoff making teams regret intentionally walking Price Fielder and Robinson Chirinos staking a claim as more than just a platoon catcher, the Texas offense is starting to gel just a bit. Meanwhile, the pitching has been bi-polar. Most of the time it’s been very very good, but when it’s been bad, it’s been rotten. With this team, there aren’t a lot of 6-5 or 5-4 games. Either the pitching staff is throwing goose-eggs or they’re giving up runs in bunches.

Texas will be on the road the entire week and all six games will be against division rivals, starting tonight with a 3-game set in Oakland against the 2-time defending AL West champions. The Rangers send their two top pitchers, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez, against Oakland Monday and Wednesday. For the weekend series with the Mariners, the Rangers will welcome back Adrian Beltre, expected to get activated off the DL for Friday’s opener at Safeco Field. Matt Harrison could also return to the fold and start one of the games against the Mariners. Harry threw eight shutout frames of 3-hit baseball in his last rehab start for AA Frisco and is accompanying the team on the West Coast trip. The Rangers coaching staff will watch over his off-day bullpen session. If they like what they see, Harrison’s next start will be in a Rangers uniform this weekend. This team is coming close to resembling the Rangers team most folks were expecting at the start of the season.

 

Checking Out The Enemy Camp: Safeco Field

Back and refreshed from vacation. The wife and I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, spending three days in Victoria, BC and another three days in Seattle. My wife being the kind sort she allowed me to have two hours to support my baseball fix, so we went in 50 degree coolness to a tour of Safeco Field, home of division rivals the Seattle Mariners.

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I would love to include the sounds of Safeco Field a few weeks before Opening Day but sadly, that wasn’t in the cards. Who wouldn’t want to hear the sound of power washers going full blast? Our tour guide informed us that the Mariners were in full stadium preparation phase already and that included power-washing every brick, stone. iron and concrete in the stadium to get it clean as a whistle for the first game of the season. The loudest sound came when we were on the patio in the upper deck. Enjoy the view of this picture and envision the hum of engines and force-fed water at 100 decibel while doing so:

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Enjoying my new Smartphone, I enjoyed playing with the panorama setting which shows the stadium in all its glory:

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Down on the field, the bases weren’t in place yet. In fact, the infield was far from ready:

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But the grounds crew was already hard at work:

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What ballpark tour doesn’t love to show fans the luxury suites. I won’t show a shot of the owner’s suite, but here’s what greets every luxury suite attendee when they get off the elevator:

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The Press Box is the Press Box, except for one thing at Safeco: The windows are open and foul balls fly through on a regular basis because the netting behind home plate is lower than anyone else’s netting in the bigs. Every year Safeco has to patch up the walls there. However, they do have a frame they put over one dent that never gets fixed:

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Because I like the odd, I took this snap outside the umpires dressing room. You’ll find all kinds of official MLB policy signs posted at stadiums across the country. These are mostly rules the media has to follow as it pertains to umpires:

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The Visitors locker room is just about ready. The locker room itself IS ready. What you don’t see off to the left of this picture is where the visiting teams eat. That room was piled high with boxes when we were there:

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Here’s what the players see when they turn around at home plate:

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The unexpected fun part came when our guide was telling us about the retractable roof at Safeco. While he was talking, I looked up. It was almost imperceptible at first, but the longer I looked up the more I realized the roof was closing as he was speaking! This even took our guide by surprise. Turns out we were there on the day they were testing the roof for the first time. I got a bit of it on video. If you look at the actual roof, you probably won’t really notice it. Instead, check out the shadow as it covers up the pitcher’s mound:

Finally, I loved the sculpture at the left field entrance. As you can see, my wife is quite a catch!

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This was our third ballpark tour, following Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Fenway Park. All three have things the others didn’t. Safeco was the first that let us go into the locker rooms. RBiA used to do it but apparently once someone stole a jersey from Josh Hamilton‘s locker so they stopped allowing it. On the other hand, the RBiA tour included the batting cages, while Fenway let you see their Hall of Fame and sit in the Green Monster seats. I give the Mariners kudos on their ballpark tour.The guide was very knowledgeable and even in the off-season, the park is beautiful. The team is still probably no better than third place in 2014.

Now we’re just two weeks away from the regular season and I’d like to announce a couple changes/additions. I’ve changed the URL for the blog so I can tie everything together a little better. The new URL is: mlblogsonestrikeawaytwice.wordpress.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @RangersBlogger and I now have a Google + page called One Strike Away…Twice! Follow me anytime and get ready to PLAY BALL!

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 21

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Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 4-2

Overall: 75-55  (1st Place AL West) (+2.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Adrian Beltre   .350/.480/.750    2 Doubles, 2 Home Runs, 4 RBI, 5 Walks

Ian Kinsler .364/.400/.500  1 Home Run, 6 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Jurickson Profar  .188/.350/.313

Leonys Martin  .222/.391/.222

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

5/7 of the Rangers Bullpen (Neal Cotts/Robbie Ross/Joakim Soria/Joe Nathan/Jason Frasor): 11 Games, 11.2 IP, 5 Hits, 0 Runs, 2 Walks, 16 Strikeouts  2-0 with 1 Save

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Matt Garza  5.93 ERA  9 Earned Runs (10 Total) in 13.2 Innings Pitched


It was a wasted week. 
You might think that strange considering the Rangers had a winning week at 4-2 and went from a half game up in the standings to two and a half up on the second place Oakland A’s, but it was indeed a wasted week. Why? Because Texas should have a three and a half game lead entering play today. The Rangers pushed the lead to 3 1/2 after Friday’s win over the Chicago White Sox, then couldn’t win either Saturday or Sunday with Yu Darvish and Matt Garza on the mound. The A’s went 1-1 in that span against Baltimore. It was a prime opportunity for Texas to add some space and they blew it. The offense could only score four runs over the last two games of the week and Garza turned in another lackluster performance to boot.

Every game counts in this stretch because the strength of schedule favors Oakland in the September stretch drive. Now is the time Texas has to go into overdrive because the A’s are certainly going to make another push soon. The Rangers have to take advantage against the Mariners this week while the A’s have to contend with the Detroit Tigers on the road. It won’t be easy for the Rangers, as they have to face both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the three game set, not to mention Rangers killer Kyle Seager, who has 11 doubles and four home runs against Texas this season. It doesn’t matter how difficult the chore, they have to take two of three at Seattle this week and follow it up by taking at least two of three at home against the Twins while the A’s host Tampa Bay. The lead is two and a half games now. It needs to increase to four or five games by Sunday. If it’s less than four, there’s still a very good chance the A’s will once again win the AL West. If it’s four games or more, the odds tip over to the Texas side of the ledger.