October 2010

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Refreshing The Batteries For Game 3

One of my earliest readers, a devoted Pirates fan, has spent most of the past two decades watching and cheering his team on through thin and thinner (there has been no thick) to the point where it’s amazing he can still come back for more. It’s amazing how masochistic we fans can be.

Anyway, as much despair as I have been in over the final results of the first two games of the first World Series my lifelong favorite team has played in, it took a fan of 2010′s worst team to put the smile back on my face and the optimistic spring back in my step.

Here’s what he sent me in an e-mail yesterday (and Russell, I hope you don’t mind my quoting you today):

1960 World Series.  Yankees outscored the Pirates by an obscene margin, but the Pirates won the Series in 7.  In 1971 the Pirates lost the first two games to Baltimore and came back to win the Series in 7.  In 1979 the Pirates were down 3 games to 1 and came back to win the Series.  1985.  The Royals lost the first two games at home, but came back to win the Series in 7.  Rangers will come back and win this. 
 The Rangers are NOT out of this thing yet and they won’t be out of it until the Giants have secured a 4th win. I am ready for tonight to be the Rangers 1st win. Thanks for the confidence boost, my friend!

Monty Python Revisited: Giants 9, Rangers 0

For 7 1/2 innings, baseball fans were treated to a game worthy of the World Series. The Giants clung to a 2-0 lead (2-1 if not for either 2 inches or a lucky bounce off the top of the wall). No blame to assign. The Giants first run was a home run on a pitch out of the strike zone, so it wasn’t a mistake pitch. The second run came home on a bloop single- just one of the breaks of the game. It was a classic in the making.

Then came the bottom of the 8th and it felt like the return of a Monty Python sketch for Rangers fans.

“We apologize for replacing Darren O’Day with Derek Holland. In hindsight we can clearly see that Mr. O’Day had been doing an effective job and had secured two outs with no runners scoring. We apologize for bringing Mr. Holland into the game.”

“We would like to apologize for the previous apology. It is now clear to us that, although Mr. Holland failed to retire a hitter and, in fact, walked one batter home, it was clearly an error on our part to replace him with Mr. Lowe. For it is now clear to us a pitcher who walks a batter is clearly superior to a pitcher who gives up hits. Again, we apologize.”

“We would like to interrupt the previous apology for a new apology. We now would like to apologize for ever having put Mr. Lowe on the World Series roster. We apologize for bringing him into a game for the second night in a row to enjoy the same success he enjoyed the first time we utilized him. Please, accept our apology…and the apology before that…and the apology before that. Thank you.”

For those who have followed this blog throughout the season and have learned about the Texas Rangers from me because you were not able to see or hear much about them where you live, I would like to offer my apologies. I’m sorry the team you are now able to see in the World Series is not in any way, shape or form resembling the team I’ve been faithfully telling you about these past six months.

If it had ended a 2-0 game, or even 3-0, I would have easily accepted this one. Matt Cain was a superior pitcher for the Giants. CJ Wilson matched him almost pitch for pitch. There would have been no shame in either team losing this one. The 8th inning, however, was as putrid a display as I have seen this team have in all of 2010.

This one is so bad I refuse to even look at the message boards of the Rangers fan sites. It would only depress me further.

Derek Holland, who seemed to turn such a corner in the ALCS against the Yankees, couldn’t find the strike zone. Mrs. Mariner Fan-Ranger Fan was watching him and feeling sorry for him, because she could see the fear in his eyes. Lowe just never should have been added to the roster for the Series. Dustin Nippert or Scott Feldman would have been better options and even they aren’t that good this year. Michael Kirkman, bless you for finally getting the last out of the 8th, even though you didn’t pitch much better.

I could understand not going to Neftali Feliz at first. When Holland walked in the first run, it was still only 3-0. If the Rangers came back in the 9th, the closer would still be needed. Once it got to 6-0, though… Come on, Ron Washington, bring in Feliz and stop the bleeding! Instead we had to suffer… and suffer some more… and suffer even more.

Off day today, back to Texas for the next three (at least I hope it’s 3 and not 2).

For those who think this is a down post, I apologize…

This I Guarantee: Giants 11, Rangers 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 250th Post

Game 1 of the World Series is 60 minutes away. I have goosebumps already. GO RANGERS!

World Series Eve

As the Rangers prepare for Game 1 with the Giants Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some baseball history. Seeing the Giants with all of their bearded relief pitchers reminded me of this team from the past:

House of David.jpgThe House of David was a baseball team was a Jewish religious colony that started in Benton Harbor, Michigan. They had a barnstorming baseball team that played fundraising games across the country off and on from 1920 through the mid-50′s. Their teams were famous for their bearded players and their long hair.

Gearing Up For Wednesday

So it’s the Rangers and the Giants for all the marbles and here’s a new twist- my beloved Rangers are going into a playoff series as the FAVORITE!

I don’t think the Rangers have EVER been favored in a playoff series, unless they were tabbed to win their first ever appearance in 1996, a year in which they beat the Yankees in the regular season.

The question is, how will the Rangers respond as the favorites?

Being picked to win can sometimes have an adverse mental effect on a team. It can allow them to get overconfident and just expect to win instead of going out and doing the work to make it happen. Some say that’s what happened to the Yankees in the ALCS.

For this group? I don’t think so. To a man, this team talks about the last game being over, it’s time to focus on this one.

Another adverse effect is the “First Time World Series” syndrome. This is when a team is so star struck by being in the championship round they get sidetracked by all the media attention. Examples here would be the Astros in 2005, the Rockies in 2007 and maybe even the Rays in 2008. All were on hot streaks going into the WS and were disposed of in short order in the Big One.

I would be more worried about this if the Rangers were playing the Phillies, since they’d be the big boys in the Big Show for the 3rd straight year. Instead, it’s the Giants who are here. That’s not meant to disparage the Giants, it just puts them in the same boat as Texas. As a result, I don’t think we’ll see either team in awe of their surroundings.

From a TV standpoint, this is the worst of the 4 possible scenarios for World Series participants. We just have to accept that Yankees-Phillies is what Fox was most hoping for, followed by Yankees-Giants, Phillies-Rangers and Rangers-Giants. It’s true. Ratings nationwide would have been higher for Yankees-Phillies than they’ll be for this one. But at least Fox can be grateful it didn’t end up a Twins-Reds Series. That would have been ratings poison. Again, not throwing darts at other teams. They all are talented and earned playoff berths. They just don’t translate right now into nationwide ratings winners.

On the face of it, the Rangers should be favored. Offensively, they have a lot more firepower than the Giants. Starting pitching is pretty equal, if not in favor of the Rangers slightly. Defense is about equal. Relief pitching gives a slight edge to the Giants.

Pitching and defense, they say, win championships. I think the Rangers have enough of both to win it all, but I do have great respect for the Giants pitching. Seeing their relief corps throw six plus innings of scoreless ball against arguably the National League’s most potent offensive team sure makes you take notice.

Tim Lincecum-Cliff Lee in Games 1 & 5 could be all time classic duels.

Texas will also be at a disadvantage when they play in San Francisco. The choice is either to sit Vlad Guerrero with no DH or play him in right field, where he’s not bad, just slow enough to be a bit of a liability. This also leaves a capable left-handed bat in David Murphy on the bench.

This will not be a cakewalk. Still, I have to go with my boys and say Rangers in 6.

The Morning After

alcsnumber6204.jpgAll photos from The Associated Press.

After a celebratory night, I can now write a little bit about Friday night’s pennant clinching victory.

During the course of the day, I was astounded by how many people told me emphatically that the Rangers would win Game 6. People at my office, people at my wife’s office, my kids, everyone seemed more sure than I of a Rangers win.

Being so used to this team not performing to expectations, I was having visions of Phil Hughes pitching the way he has before against Texas instead of the way he pitched in Game 2. And, I had seen Colby Lewis so many times in July and August get little run support and end up giving up the first runs. Those runs often turned out to be the winning runs. All I could do was hope against hope for a similar result to Game 2.

It started right off the bat, with an Elvis Andrus double, a Josh Hamilton single and a Vlad Guerrero groundout, his first RBI of the ALCS, in the bottom of the 1st.

I started feeling better. Unfortunately, the Rangers stopped hitting after that. Hughes didn’t allow any hits in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Lewis was matching Hughes, actually having a no-no through 4. Still, the Yankees were hitting some incredible shots, just right at people. Andrus skyed like Kobe Bryant to snag one sure double to end an inning. Ian Kinsler scooped up a hot Robinson Cano shot to turn an inning-ending double play and there were a couple of warning track shots as well.

When it was still 1-0 going to the 5th, I was getting worried. It didn’t help my mood that Michael Young came up twice to that point with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs and not only couldn’t cash in the run, he couldn’t advance the runner, either. Then the Yankees started intentionally walking Hamilton, daring Guerrero to beat them instead. Vlad failed to deliver.

Finally, the Yankees got some hits and tied the game at 1 in the 5th. Texas had Derek Holland warming in the pen. It looked like Lewis might be done. That sinking feeling was hitting me big time. Cliff Lee or not, I really didn’t want there to be a Game 7, but it was looking like the defending champs were gaining momentum.

Lewis managed to work out of the jam with no further scoring when he struck out Marcus Thames with a runner on second. Tie game.

Now the question was, could Phil Hughes have a shutdown inning? He hadn’t given up a hit since the first. Mitch Moreland started it off with a grounder deep in the hole to Cano. Hughes didn’t get to the bag in time and Moreland was on. An Andrus groundout with Moreland going put a runner on second with one out. Again, Michael Young came up with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs. Again, Young didn’t get a hit. Again, an intentional pass to Hambone to bring up Vlad.

Different result.

Guerrero sent a deep shot to left center, scoring Moreland and Hamilton and the Rangers were back on top 3-1. Phil Hughes’ night was over. David Robertson came in and, after five straight curveballs, threw Nelson Cruz a fastball that was promptly deposited into the left center field seats. 5-1 Rangers.

That sinking feeling was gone. We were really going to win this thing! Lewis worked a 1-2-3 6th inning. Feeling better.

I knew for sure it was over in the top of the 7th. Robinson Cano, who had killed Rangers pitching the entire series, not only struck out, he did it badly on a curve in the dirt. The life was gone from the 2009 champs.

Lewis came back for the 8th and, with one walk included, struck out the side to end his night: 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walks and 7 K’s.

Neftali Feliz came in to pitch the 9th and how fitting was it for Rangers fans for the game to end with Alex Rodriguez taking a called third strike?

alcsnumber6208.jpgA-Rod, whom the Rangers signed for that mammoth quarter billion dollar contract in 2003. The one who was supposed to take the Rangers to the Promised Land. To be fair, any player would have taken the contract. It was former owner Tom Hicks who overspent on A-Rod, thus handcuffing the team for years from making significant free agent investments. Still, Rodriguez’ comments when he left the Rangers about how it was him “and a bunch of kids” left a sour taste in Rangers fans’ mouths.

Well, guess what, folks? A-Rod really did lead the Rangers to the Promised Land. He just did it with a strikeout instead of a home run!

Hamilton was given the ALCS MVP award. He had a great ALCS and his 5 intentional walks in the series (3 in Game 6 alone) is certainly all the proof one needs for Josh to win the AL MVP Award this year. Still, I think I would have given the award to Andrus. Elvis was a key in every early offensive rally the Rangers had this series. He had a hit in every game, his baserunning disrupted the Yankees from the get go and he made some incredible plays defensively, including the force out at 3rd in Game 4 that kept the Yankees from having a big inning. I’m happy for Hamilton, though.

And how about the whole concept of “TEAM” shown in the post-game show. When they interviewed GM Jon Daniels about “HIS” success, Daniels immediately pointed to the scouts and advance men under his wing, singling them out for praise first. When Hamilton was awarded the MVP, you could see him mouth to someone (or to the entire team) “You deserve this.” He then thanked God and Jesus first, and made it all about the team second before even talking about himself. How refreshing in these days of spoiled athletes!

There’s only one thing I regret about the ALCS. It sure would have been nice to see Andres Blanco get into a game. Blanco has been with the team from the start of the season and really earned his spot on the post-season roster when he filled in for Ian Kinsler so ably on his second trip to the DL. I sure hope Blanco gets some AB’s in the Fall Classic.

All that’s left to decide now is who the Rangers will be playing. Both the Phillies and the Giants have great pitching staffs. The Phillies have the better offensive team. Despite the bats, though, I’d have to say my choice is Philly. The reason? Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Two possible Hall of Famers. Tough as they come. Still, the Rangers know both of those pitchers a lot better than they know the Giants Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and company. The Rangers have faced Halladay, Oswalt and Brad Lidge many a time over the years and will be able to game plan against them better.

In the end, though, it matters not who they face. What matters is THE TEXAS RANGERS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!

alcsnumber6203.jpg

We Did It!: Rangers 6, Yankees 1

Will post more tomorrow, but I think this will suffice for now. For the next four to seven days, please be advised that the name of this blog page has changed. It is now:

World Series 41, Rangers Fan 1!!!

Less Than 4 Hours To Game 6

Since last we posted, I am:

   1) Staying away from Sports Talk Radio, MLB Radio, even ESPN. OK, I’m still hitting all the web sites (mostly the Rangers friendly ones), but overall, I’m trying to avoid both over-analysis and Yankees lovers. 

    2) Catching up on the new Elton John/Leon Russell CD- you’re not going to hear any radio friendly hits, but you will hear some good songs by two masters of the craft. I reccommend “Monkey Suit”, “Hey Ahab” and “In The Hands of Angels”.

    3) Deciding that virtually everything I’ve been doing since Thursday morning will be added to my “Superstitions That Will Be Repeated Forever” list should Texas win tonight.

    4) Actually getting some work done at the office, much to the surprise and, dare I say, pleasure of my superiors.

    5) Having a conversation with my wife that does not include any mention of Josh Hamilton, pitching match-ups or misguided National Beat Writers, much to her surprise and, dare I say, delight.

    6) Lying about #5. Every conversation with her includes Rangers talk. She even initiates some of it!

    7) Trying to keep a positive frame of mind. 40 years has taught me to expect failure from my favorite team. I am SO ready for that streak to end!

We’re just a few short hours away from finding out.

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