Spending the evening in a beautiful ballpark in Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by trees and what can only be described as a perfect night for baseball: maybe 84 degrees at gametime and into the 70’s by the end of the game and low humidity. That’s my Visa commercial for “Priceless”.
Seeing the team you wanted to win lose a game they should have won while their parent team loses in similar fashion: Disappointing.
I caught not one pitch of the Rangers game with the A’s, but reading recaps and going over play by play, I had three reactions: 1) I’m worried about Darren Oliver. This is two straight games he’s had ugly line scores. Granted, his defense didn’t help him at all errors by Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz gave the A’s extra bases and an unearned run), but he didn’t help himself, either. Maybe he just needs a few extra days off. I don’t know, but I sure want him back to what we saw in the first half of the season soon. Very soon.
2) Much to my surprise, I read the news that Ian Kinsler is DL-bound. Everything I’ve read seems to treat this as not serious and more precautionary to make sure Ian’s ready for the stretch run and the playoffs. Again, I sure hope so. Andres Blanco is a good defensive replacement for Kinsler, but that bat will certainly be missed. Kins has had a very good year with the bat this year.
3) This lack of offense is getting worrisome. I know the A’s have good arms and, as a result, I’m probably just being too pessimistic. But I sure would like to see us put seven or eight runs on the board for a 3-4 game stretch to put my mind at ease.
So on to the game I actually watched. What a great time! We had great seats three rows behind the Spokane Indians dugout. When we took our seats, I was immediately greeted my a group of Indians fans who drove all the way down from Spokane to see their team. They were all wearing Rangers “Road To The Majors” T-shirts with the logos of both the Rangers and the Indians. They could tell by my Josh Hamilton shirt that I was one of them. One of the group was a woman who houses three of the Indians pitchers and has been housing future Rangers for the past eight seasons.
First round draft pick Jake Skole was the star of the night for Spokane. He hit a bases loaded double to bring in the first two runs of the game in the top of the 4th (the potential 3rd run was thrown out at the plate). In the 6th, Skole added a run-scoring single to stretch the lead at the time to 3-1. The other big star was starting pitcher Ben Nelson. While he didn’t have the power fastball big clubs look for, he put in a very Tommy Hunter-like performance through the first four innings. After 4, Nelson had not given up a hit, struck out two and recorded all the other ten outs on ground balls. It was beautiful to watch.
Like the Rangers, though, defense let the Indians down. After giving up his first hit, Nelson’s errant pickoff throw to first allowed the Emeralds player to advance to second. He ended up going to third on a fly out and came home on a single. In their two-run 6th inning, Eugene took advantage of an error by Spokane shortstop Kevin Rodland, on what should have been the last out of the inning, to score the tying run. In the 8th, another error by Rodland, trying to throw a runner out at third, ended up bringing home the game-winning run.
In the end, the three players mentioned yesterday in this space were Skole, who was 3 for 3 with 3 RBI; Mike Olt, who was 1 for 4 and played well at 3rd base; and Jurickson Profar, who did not play. I also thought right fielder Josh Richmond played well- solid outfield play and a really good throwing arm. He was 3 for 3 at the plate with two runs scored.
I asked the Indians fans in attendence who else they liked and they mentioned second baseman Santiago Chirino as another player with good potential. I also asked them about Profar. They said he started out really well, especially defensively, but has started having defensive problems and that, in turn, has affected his hitting.
I also was greeted by a Eugene fan sitting in front of me who noticed my Hamilton jersey. He said he had a Hamilton rookie card he wanted appraised last year and the dealer told him Hamilton was already washed up (this was Hamilton’s injury-plagued 2009 season). He told me how much he loves what Hamilton’s doing this year and wants him to keep it up just so he can rub it in this guy’s face! He also pointed to his girlfriend and proudly said they had both gotten online and put in their maximum number of votes for Hambone for the All-Star game.
This is the Emeralds first year in this ballpark, PK Field (also home to the Oregon Ducks). It is a beautiful ballpark for A-ball. It was great having someone who took orders for concessions and delivered them to you. My wife was even given a flower upon entering the ballpark. My only gripe was the PA system wasn’t loud enough. Apparently, that’s been a season-long problem. It’s either too loud or too soft. Last night it was too soft.
All in all, a great night to be a baseball fan, except the wrong teams won! For the Rangers, it’s CJ Lewis tonight hoping to give the Rangers the 2-1 series victory, while I leave Eugene with fond memories.
Continuing my vacation in the great state of Oregon, the wife and I got to see a true classic last night in the world of music- Jackson Browne. So I was enjoying classic sounds while Rangers fans were enjoying a classic Cliff Lee performance: 9 innings, 5 hits, 1 unearned run, 0 walks and 13 strikeouts. The Rangers also got a classic walk-off win, with a Nelson Cruz two-run bomb in the bottom of the 10th providing the win to Neftali Feliz.
Combined with the Angels loss to the Red Sox, the Rangers are now 8 1/2 games up in the AL West. In true Jackson Browne form, I daresay the Rangers can no longer be considered “The Pretender” in the West race. In fact, it might be getting close to time to saying the defending champion Angels are “Running On Empty.”
Just because I can’t resist the tie-ins, I guess the current situation with the Rangers bankruptcy and sale has to be a case of “Lawyers In Love”. All right, all right. “Take It Easy”, I’ll stop!
On a more somber note, it has to be noted that, even while the Rangers are winning, the number of runs they are scoring has been down lately. Part of this is attributable to facing good pitching, but the Rangers have also not dominated the lesser pitchers. They’ve done OK against them, but now how they were doing earlier in the season. Maybe it’s just because Vlad Guerrero has been in a little slump. The offense is still playing well enough to win, but it’s getting close to time for Cliff Lee to sue for lack of run support.
Lee’s situation right now (the Rangers have scored 7 runs in his first four games while he’s been on the mound) reminds me of a similar situation over 30 years ago. Tom Seaver was the bona fide ace of the Mets but his won-loss record suffered his last couple of years there due to an anemic offense. When he was traded to the Reds, everyone was waiting for Seaver to win 28 games pitching for the Big Red Machine. Didn’t happen. Lack of run support. Sometimes I think a pitcher can be so good, even his own teammates just watch in awe and thus lose focus on their offensive game. Just a theory.
Tonight for the Rangers it’s Colby Lewis time, while tonight for me is time to see the newest players in the Rangers chain, the Spokane Indians, as they take on the Eugene Emeralds.
Here are the names you should know: Jurickson Profar (17-year-old shortstop), Michael Olt and Jake Skole (this year’s 1st round draft choices). They’re the main ones I’ll be watching. The Indians on Sunday clinched the 1st half Northwest League division title while Eugene finished the first half in the basement of their division.
In the great tradition of minor league parks having great promotions, tonight is “Wine and Whine Night” at PK Park in Eugene, with local wine samples and a promise that fans can whine about anything they want to. My whine is that I couldn’t arrange to get an interview with Indians skipper Tim Hulett, because the team’s PR guy doesn’t travel with the team. Bummer.
Oh, by the way. The Eugene Emeralds ballpark is located on Martin Luther King “Boulevard”. Didn’t think I could get another Jackson Browne reference in, did you?
Ho hum. Another stellar Tommy Hunter performace. It’s really getting tiresome, isn’t it?
When the Cliff Lee trade was first bering discussed, there were rumors that Tommy Hunter would have to be one of the pieces needed to make the trade happen. Thank God it didn’t come to that. I can’t imagine how one could trade a piece of the puzzle like Hunter, even if it meant getting a Cliff Lee. It just wouldn’t be that much of an upgrade. It would kind of be like the Angels trading Joe Saunders to get Dan Haren in return. Oh, wait. That’s what the Angels did!
Yes, I want to discuss the Angels trade, and their last trade before that as well. The purpose of a trade is supposed to be to improve your team, if not this season, then looking forward into next season. I can’t help but feel the Angels are already wrapping up this season and looking to next instead of truly trying to catch the Rangers in the West.
Trade #1: The Angels acquire Alberto Callaspo from the Royals for Sean O’Sullivan. Let’s see. The Angels were short-handed with their starting pitcher when Scott Kazmir went on the DL so they brought up O’Sullivan, who tosses a great game against the Yankees. Then, before O’Sullivan can start against the Rangers, they pack him up and ship him out for a 3rd baseman. Hmmm. Kinda strange to me. Without O’Sullivan, the Angels start Trevor Bell on Sunday against Texas. He doesn’t do well and the Rangers make it three out of four (6-3 on the season) against the Angels.
Trade #2: The Angels pick up Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Joe Saunders. This one may make sense next season, but for this season it appears to be a wash. Both Saunders and Haren are having poor seasons. In fact, their ERA’s are pretty close to each other. That doesn’t sound like good news for the Angels this season. When you consider National League pitchers generally have lower ERA’s than American League pitchers due to the lack of a DH, having an ERA almost as high as an AL pitcher could mean even worse results in the AL. Time will tell. Haren probably has more upside in the future than Saunders, but that just tells me the Angels are betting he’ll revert to his better form next year rather than count on him to keep them in the race this year.
All in all, a couple of questionable moves as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, back in Arlington, the Rangers keep rolling along- now 8-3 since the All-Star break. For those expecting the fictitious “July collapse due to the heat in Texas”, it doesn’t appear to be happening. By the way, it’s just as hot up here right now in Eugene, Oregon as it is down in Texas. Just saying.
Josh Hamilton has another three hits. And look out, Chris Davis is starting to contribute offensively. Two walks, a double, an RBI and a run. This club is on another roll right now and even a trip to the DL for Matt Treanor isn’t stoppimg them.
Another by the way, I’ve got to admit scratching my head at first over the Rangers decision to replace Treanor with Taylor Teagarden instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Max Ramirez. Teagarden has sunk all the way to Double-A and still hasn’t improved his hitting. I understand the reasoning now, though. Bengie Molina will be the full time starter while Treanor is out. If he ever has to be replaced with a pinch runner, Teagarden is the best back-up the Rangers has when it comes to stopping another team’s running game. Other teams would steal with abandon against Salty or Ramirez so, in that regard, the move makes sense.
Finally, a day off on Monday, then the arrival of the only other threat to a Rangers playoff bid, the Oakland A’s. We’re off to a good start on this 16-game stretch against division rivals at 3-1. Keep this up and, dare I say it, the race may be as good as over before we even hit September.
I can’t believe how good I’m feeling about our chances right now. It’s starting to feel like 1996 again.
The wife and I have started a week-long vacation- a working one for her, all R&R for me (except for my duties to the blog). You’ll see a lot of references to the Pacific Northwest over the next week of reports, as well as impressions of the new talent in the Rangers pipeline when I see them in Eugene on Wednesday.
The win went to CJ Wilson. Thanks for the win should go to Cliff Lee.
I only got to listen to portions of Friday’s win over the Angels, but it was one of CJ Wilson’s best pitching performances ever. Here’s what was telling about it- zero walks and only three strikeouts. Both figures are very un-Wilsonlike. There’s a reason, though.
Since his arrival in Arlington, cameras have, on several occasions, shown Cliff Lee and CJ Wilson talking in the dugout. CJ has found himself a mentor and it looks like it paid off in Game 2 with the Angels.
Wilson pitched to contact, just like Lee does and just the way Mike Maddux and Ron Washington have been espousing. Lee apparantly got the lesson to sink in with Wilson.
Meanwhile, Michael Young delivered his second first inning solo home run in as many nights. This one held up the entire night and ended up the only run of the entire game.
Add another Neftali Feliz save and the Rangers have now stretched the AL West lead to a ******** seven games. The weekend will end with no worse than a split and the Angels no closer than they started the series. Of course, I’m greedy. I want a third win out of the series. Get it Saturday and I’ll want a 4-game sweep.
For now, I’ll settle for Scott Feldman doing something, anything Saturday night that would cause me to have some faith in his abilities again. Some more offense would be nice as well.
Tonight, I’m just glad Cliff Lee is paying dividends as both pitcher and mentor.
I daresay between the Tuesday night win over the Tigers and Thursday’s win over the Angels, we may have seen two of the best defensive games the Rangers have ever played.
In what can only be described as a playoff-type atmosphere in front of a crowd of almost 40,000 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers pulled off no less than five sterling defensive plays and one that just missed and, believe it or not, none of them involved Elvis Andrus.
Two came in the 4th inning: a line drive to Nelson Cruz that he caught with his back to the plate and one step away from slamming into the right field wall. The very next play, a grounder deep in the hole was not only stopped by Ian Kinsler, he somehow managed to spin around and peg a strong throw on one knee to get the out at first.
Two more came in the 9th: Josh Hamilton just got to the left field line in time to grab the first out of the inning (ending Cliff Lee’s night). One out later, Cruz struck again, making a sliding catch on a fly to right for out #2.
Michael Young also had a couple of good plays on liners, as did Cliff Lee short-hopping a low liner. Very nearly a great play was the hit that scored the first Angels run. After an amazing long run just to try to catch up to the ball, Josh Hamilton stuck his glove up and the ball hit the side of the glove thumb and rolled off. Oh so close.
This was a pitchers duel that lived up to expectations. Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver both were bringing it. Weaver was a little lucky. as Julio Borbon, Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz all nearly hit home runs (in all fairness, the Angels almost had another one as well). Michael Young’s dinger put the Rangers up 1-0, the Angels tied it in the fifth, the Rangers broke the tie with two in the 6th and the Angels got a home run to make it 3-2 Rangers in the 7th. This is what pennant race baseball is all about!
It is so great to experience this feeling for the first time in eleven years. Yes, the Rangers were in a pennant race last year as well, but this year is different. Last year was kind of like the movie “Major League”, where midway through the season we all started saying, “Hey they don’t suck that much!” This year, you can tell the fans can tell this is a good team with potential. What I wouldn’t give to be in Arlington for these games this weekend! Ah, well, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with writing about ’em.
The lead is up to six now, seven in the loss column. Angels picked up Alberto Callaspo from the Royals today for Sean O’Sullivan, who I think was supposed to start Sunday’s game, so the Halos have to come up with another starter. The TV crew tonight said Callaspo has had good success against the Rangers. I just don’t seem to recall it, maybe because we’ve handled the Royals so easily this year, you couldn’t tell who hit well for them. Anyway, Callaspo should be playing Friday’s game.
CJ Wilson goes Friday against Joe Saunders, who does not have a good history against the Rangers, especially in Arlington. Call me cautiously optimistic on this one.
OK, was this just a question of bad mechanics or was Jose Valverde of the Tigers trying to even the score?
I don’t know the answer to that question, only Valverde does, but the home plate umpire seemed to think it was just bad mechanics.
In case you don’t know what I’m referring to, Valverde, the Tigers closer with a 1.12 ERA coming into the game, was sent out to pitch the 9th inning of the Rangers loss to the Tigers.
On Monday night, Scott Feldman of the Rangers, who struggled with his command all night, hit Brandon Inge with a pitch which ended up breaking his hand and sending him to the DL.
Valverde opens the 9th facing Ian Kinsler. First pitch is a change-up that comes close to hitting Kinsler in the head. Second pitch is way low. Third pitch nearly nails Kinsler in the head again. Fourth pitch sails wide for a four pitch walk. Up steps Vlad Guerrero. Pitch one is low. Pitch two is low. Pitch three nails Vlad in the shoulder. Josh Hamilton comes to the plate next and Valverde starts to settle down, but he does get one pitch inside so much it almost hits Hamilton. Nelson Cruz also gets close to being hit with one pitch. Valverde got out of the inning with one run scoring, spoiling what might have been a Tigers shutout, but still allowing the Tigers to end their seven game losing streak.
Again, I don’t know if this was retaliation or not. If it wasn’t, it’s a prime example of how important mechanics are to a pitcher. Do one thing differently than usual and anything can happen.
Max Scherzer pitched a great game against the Rangers last night. Josh Hamilton said the Rangers were a little flat. That may be, but Scherzer still did the job. The Rangers can still feel good about a 5-2 road trip at parks in which, going in, they’d gone a combined 3-19 since 2008.
Now it’s time for what could be the most important two and a half weeks in the last decade for the Rangers. The next 16 games are against the AL West, including seven against the Angels. Go 10-6 in the next 16 and my optimism for a playoff berth will increase exponentially. Go 6-10 and it’s guaranteed to be a dogfight that could go down to the last week of the season.
Believe it or not, I will probably not see or hear as many as five of the seven games against the Angels as I’ll be out of town for a week of R&R. The trusty blog will stay updated whether I catch the games or not, but it feels weird to possibly miss some of the biggest games of the season. At the same time, I will be seeing three of the Rangers’ top prospects next week- both of this year’s first round draft choices and hotshot Latin prospect Jurickson Profar when I catch the Spokane Indians playing the Eugene Emeralds. That will make up for it- a little.
But that’s next week. The crucial stretch begins tonight with the first of four against the Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This has got to be one of THE pitching match-ups of the year in the American League: Cliff Lee vs. Jered Weaver. This just might be one of those “Honey don’t even try to talk to me” nights.
6- Number of Runs the Angels scored today in a losing effort.
6- Number of games the Rangers will lead the Angels by if they complete a sweep of the Tigers tonight.
Come on, six!
As ugly a win as Monday night’s extra inning affair with Detroit was, Tuesday’s win over the Tigers can only be described as a masterpiece.
As pitiful as the Rangers defense was Monday, they perhaps played their best game of the season on Tuesday. Elvis Andrus was superb at short, making great play after great play. Especially sparkling was the Rangers 6-4-3 double play in the first, when Andrus flipped the ball to Ian Kinsler, who barehanded the catch and, in one continuous motion, completed the twin killing with his throw to first.
As woeful as Scott Feldman was on Monday, Tommy Hunter more than made up for it on Tuesday. Seven innings of 3-hit shutout baseball on a mere 92 pitches. Hunter was in a zone last night. Even when Miguel Cabrera hit a double off Hunter, he was pitching so well you felt like the run wasn’t going to score anyway.
Then the 9th inning- the one inning the Rangers haven’t done well in all season. Four big insurance runs scored to bust it wide open, causing even my casual fan spouse to remark, “Wow, they’re really something else this year!”
Out of 94 games played, I have watched or listened to probably 90 of them and I am very tempted to say this was easily the best game the Rangers have played all season long.
Here’s an amazing thing: I read the message board on one of the sites I link to here and the first comment on last night’s game (from a Ron Washington hater, it should be said) questioned why Washington had Julio Borbon lay down a sacrifice bunt in the 9th with nobody out and Chris Davis on 2nd. I say why not? Yeah, with a four run lead you didn’t have to, but it’s not like that’s such a horrible time to do it either. Secondly, and I mentioned it once before earlier this season, I just don’t understand how a real team fan can take a win like this and immediately find fault with it. If the Rangers end up winning it all (and I’m not ready to go there yet), I just get the feeling this guy won’t even enjoy it because he hates Washington so much. That’s really sad.
While he once again failed with runners in scoring position last night, it was good to see two hits, including a double, from Chris Davis. Not trying to justify my preference for Davis over Justin Smoak (well, OK, I really am), but from time to time I’ll try to throw a comparison out at you, since this is the first time we can compare apples to apples on a big league level.
Smoak vs. Davis since the Cliff Lee trade:
Smoak: 8-30, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI 0 BB 14 K
Davis: 6-33, 1 2B, 1 RBI 3 BB 5 K
Smoak has been a little more productive, but I guarantee nobody would have said, even after just 9 games, that Smoak would have more strikeouts than Davis (by a wide margin) and Davis would have more walks than Smoak. Honestly, Davis has had some good at bats with bad luck since he’s been back. He’s had a few bad at bats, but no more than any other Ranger the past two weeks. Even Michael Young’s had a couple of bad looking K’s in that time.
By the way, Tommy Hunter became the first Rangers pitcher EVER to start a season 7-0. And he hasn’t looked bad in any of his starts either.
Getting back to the contrast between Monday and Tuesday night’s wins, here is your question for the day:
Which game says more about the 2010 Rangers: Winning ugly on Monday or winning pretty on Tuesday?
Here’s my answer: I actually think Monday’s win says more about the Rangers. To play as poorly as they did and still pull out the win shows how much this team fights and never gives up on a game. Tuesday’s win shows us just how talented this group of players is. Monday’s showed us how tough they are too.
I’m curious how you all see it. Send your comments my way. I always look forward to reading them (and I usually respond as well).
Going for the road sweep tonight with Colby Lewis on the mound. It would be great to go home to face the Angels with a 6-1 road trip under the belt!
First, a mea culpa. Yesterday I said the Rangers had lost 9 in a row at Detroit over the past three years. It was 11 in a row.
Second, when I suggested the other day that Dustin Nippert was a dead man walking, I didn’t expect the Tigers to take it seriously and try to finish the job.
Nippert took a line drive off the side of his noggin Monday night. Thank God he walked off under his own power and CAT scans proved negative. Actually, this incident could prolong Nippert’s career with the Rangers. Here’s why.
Nippert already was looking to be the odd man out when Rich Harden is ready to come off the DL, which should be after his minor league rehab start on Wednesday. Matt Harrison’s performance in last night’s game probably helped seal that deal. Now, thanks to that line drive, the Rangers have a built-in reason to put Nippert on the DL for awhile and not release him. It’s also possible for Nippert to stick with the team while they put Scott Feldman on the DL for a reason similar to Harden’s “strained glute”. Either way, that line drive might have been a blessing in disguise for Dustin.
Meanwhile, on to the other parts of the game.
Scott Feldman: Scott Feldman did himself no favors last night. At first he gave up a couple of runs on a combination of cheap hits and shoddy fielding by the Rangers. Then he was hit. Hard. There’s no doubt in my mind anymore that we are never going to see anything that resembles the Scott Feldman of 2009 or even 2008. Something is just plain off with Scooter and the answer may be a trip to the DL or a reassignment to long relief. He just flat-out isn’t getting it done.
Chris Davis Watch: Chris had a miserable 0-7 last night and failed to come through three times with runners in scoring position. One of those was a terrible strikeout, swinging at a 3-2 pitch that was out of the strike zone. The other two times, though, Davis hit it right on the money but right at someone. I’m really pulling for the guy, but I don’t know if he’s just unlucky or pressing too hard. I just know that the longer he doesn’t hit, the more fans are going to say the Rangers traded the wrong first baseman.
Matt Harrison: Just as I’m pulling for Chris Davis and, for reasons unknown, I have always preferred over Justin Smoak, so too am I pulling for Matt Harrison and have always preferred him to Dustin Nippert, for reasons unknown. Harrison was a horse last night. If not for his four innings of work, the Rangers would have lost this game. It wasn’t pretty- he walked four batters in four innings- but he always made the great pitch when he neeeded to. Harrison deserved the win last night and I hope he sticks around, maybe even gets to start instead of Feldman against the Angels on Saturday.
The game as a whole: The first seven innings were ugly baseball by both sides. The last seven innings were what pennant race baseball is all about. Two teams with post-season dreams going at it, making big pitches, nobody wanting to lose. I truly thought the Rangers were done for in the 12th and 13th when it became apparant they were swinging at almost every pitch, trying to end it on one swing of the bat. In the 14th, though, Josh Hamilton finally slowed it down, took some pitches and set it up for Nelson Cruz’ game winning two-run shot that just made it over the right field foul pole fence. Neftali did his thing in the bottom of the inning and the Rangers clinched a winning road trip (with two games still to come) at the two venues they’ve performed the worst at over the past three years.
By the way, as bad as Scott Feldman’s numbers look this year, it was just three years ago that just about every starter the Rangers had was sporting numbers like that. It’s great to be griping about just one pitcher out of five instead of all of them!
Great match-up tonight: Tommy Hunter vs. Armando Galarraga. Can Hunter make it 7-0 on the season? Don’t know but I’ll be glued to the set!