July 2011

Dutch Treat: Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0

Short and sweet this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: Davis, Hunter Sent To O’s For Uehara

While all eyes were on the Rangers in their pursuit of the PadresHeath Bell, the asking price from San Diego might have been too high. Instead of Bell, the Boys From Arlington instead went to the AL East today and picked up Koji Uehara in exchange for two major leaguers, Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter.

Uehara is a soft thrower, but has a 7.75 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio and opponents are hitting a miniscule .152 against him this year. Since Hunter is involved in the trade, a roster move won’t be necessary to make room for Uehara. Indeed, the trade actually opens up another roster spot on the offense.

While I understand they were both expendable in terms of the overall make-up of this Rangers team, I will miss both Hunter and Davis, especially Chris Davis. Tommy Hunter has a place in my heart because he was the starting pitcher in the first World Series game I ever got to attend, picking up the loss in Game 4 against the Giants. He was a major factor for the Rangers in 2010, winning 13 games in 17 decisions. Still, Hunter started 2010 on the DL before coming back in June. This year, he was all set to be the 4th starter in the rotation when he pulled a groin muscle in his last spring training start. Then, he pulled the same muscle again while on a rehab assignment in Round Rock. By the time he finally came back, Alexi Ogando was firmly entrenched in the 4 hole and Hunter was relegated to the bullpen. Hunter’s overall fitness regimen has been questioned, not surprising because he is a heavyset young man.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Chris Davis

Davis is one of those guys you can’t help but root for, even when he drives you nuts with the pitches he chooses to swing at (the closest equivalent for a Rangers fan would be Pete Incaviglia). I’ve always liked Chris, but he’s in the situation he’s in because he couldn’t take advantage of his opportunities. Davis torched his way through the minors and forced his way onto the big league roster in 2008 with his prodigious power. He teased us with his potential. When he came to Texas at the midway point of the season, Davis hit .285 in 80 games with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 55 RBI. Yes, he struck out a lot (88 K’s vs. 84 hits on the year), but one could live with the K’s if power like that continued.

Davis entered 2009 as THE choice to man first base for the Rangers and hopes were high entering the season. Sadly, Davis played himself right back into the minors. It’s not that he did horribly- in 113 games, he hit .238 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. The thing is, that’s how the season ended. When Davis was sent down to the minors on July 5th, he was down to .202 with 52 hits and 114 strikeouts with just 17 walks. When he came back in late August, Davis hit over .300 the rest of the way to recover to that .238 final. Again, a teaser to make Rangers fans hopeful for 2010.

Last year, hopes were high for a Rangers AL West championship, with Davis anchoring first base on a potent offensive team. Defensively, Davis was getting very favorable reviews as one of the better first basemen in the league. Offensively, things kept getting worse. This time it would take less than a month for Rangers brass to make a move. Hitting a lowly .188 on April 22nd with no homers and just 1 RBI, Davis was sent back to the minors to make way for highly regarded prospect Justin Smoak.

Smoak didn’t make anyone forget Davis’ defense, but offensively he was an improvement, albeit not by much. Davis’ career with Texas may have been over at that point, except Smoak became the linchpin in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to the Rangers July 10th. Davis came back up to the cheers of the Arlington faithful (seriously, you should have heard the applause he received in his first at bat when he came back). With another chance to prove himself, Davis spent the month of July doing almost exactly what he did in April- a .189 average, 0 homers and 2 RBI. Again, he was sent down, this time in favor of rookie Mitch Moreland.

Since that date, Davis has been unable to do anything to change the Rangers’ mind on him. To his credit, he has done everything the Rangers have asked him to do. He’s kept his head up and worked hard to earn another chance. The problem this time has been that Moreland has done nothing to merit having the first base job taken away from him. Davis has burned up AAA Round Rock this year and had three different stints with the parent club, one lasting all of one game. The most recent was a week ago, when he was recalled to play third base with Adrian Beltre going on the DL.

Still, Davis’ days with the Rangers had appeared to be numbered, the only question being when he would become part of a trade. That trade happened today.

I truly hope Davis makes the most of his opportunity with the Orioles. He works hard, plays a mean first base and has the power potential to make a mark on the league. Maybe playing for a club that still has a way to go before being in playoff contention will help, as he’ll probably be given more of a chance to prove himself.

As for me, I hope Uehara makes me forget about Hunter and Davis quickly.

4 Games, 34 Runs…And Only 2 Wins: Rangers, Twins Split

Thursday’s win by the Rangers over the Twins was needed. Much needed. After trouncing Minnesota 20-6 in the opener of the 4-game set, Texas had gone down to defeat the next two nights by counts of 9-8 and 7-2. Meanwhile, the second place Angels were surging once again, narrowing the gap in the West to just two games. After a win over Cleveland Thursday, the Angels were threatening to pull within a game of the front-runners if Minnesota pulled off yet another win.

Things weren’t looking good at the outset. Closer Neftali Feliz had two miserable games against the Twins Monday and Tuesday, prompting both his manager, Ron Washington, and his team President, Nolan Ryan, to publicly question his focus, his drive and his demeanor. Ace CJ Wilson had one of his rare poor games Tuesday night and Colby Lewis was merely average Wednesday when the Rangers offense went to sleep. Minnesota was a good bet to take three of four on the road by throwing Scott Baker in the finale. Over the past three years and five starts, Baker was 5-0 with a 3.05 ERA, 8 walks and 31 K’s over 35+ innings against Texas. Baker started out the game just as well, allowing two hits and no runs over the first three innings.

Texas finally broke through with a run in the fourth, then added another in the 5th to go up 2-0. Minnesota trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the 6th. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison, one of this team’s revelations in 2011, pitched another strong game, matching Baker pitch for pitch. Harry worked out of a couple jams, giving up three hits in both the 5th and 6th innings, but allowing only one run to score.

The much-maligned Rangers bullpen came through on this night. Nursing a 2-1 lead, Yoshinori Tateyama came on with one out in the 8th after Harrison walked Joe Mauer with one out. Tateyama struck out Michael Cuddyer on a 3-2 curve. Arthur Rhodes, whose ERA shot up a full run when he gave up three runs in one inning of work Monday,  got Jason Kubel to fly out to end the 8th.

Still, with the anything but automatic Feliz set for the 9th, a 2-1 lead didn’t seem very safe. Fortunately, Texas broke through with two runs in the bottom of the 8th to take a 4-1 lead. This time Feliz came through, retiring the Twins in order and showing some of the “fire” his superiors thought he was missing in picking up his 21st save.

A key road trip begins now, with the R’s in Toronto to face the Blue Jays Friday through Sunday, followed by three in Detroit, while the Angels are in Detroit this weekend followed by a home series against the Twins.

Speculation is rife that by the end of this weekend, one or more of these players will be on the Texas roster: Heath Bell, Leo Nunez, Brandon League, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Mike Adams. The question now is: Which will be pulled off first, a Rangers trade or the Debt Ceiling agreement in Congress? I hate to say it, but I’ll go with the Rangers trade first, and by at least a 24-hour margin!

 

Winning Ugly: Rangers 20, Twins 6

The ESPN’s of the world will tell you all the superlatives about Monday’s thrashing of the Minnesota Twins. There are quite a few “highest this” and highest thats” to be read, as well as a number of “only the 8th time since 1920″ and “only the 20th time since…”.

Instead, I will point two interesting positive stats before bringing up the REAL subject of the column. First, despite having more of the “No Name” pitching staff, the Rangers are the only team in baseball right now with four ten game winners (CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando). With last night’s win by Derek Holland, Texas also boasts the only staff in the bigs with five 9-game winners. That shows A) Texas starting pitchers are pitching deep into ball games and B) despite the woes of the bullpen, they generally win games they have the lead in for the starters.

Now for the REAL subject. Monday was one ugly win. Lost amid the three hit and four hit games of most of the starting offensive line-up, there was a lot of ugly to be seen by the winners. There were four errors committed in the game by the winners. Two of the errors went to 3rd baseman Chris Davis, who also suffered the brutal legacy of being the only Rangers starter not to get a hit at 0-6 with two strikeouts. With Adrian Beltre on the DL, this is Davis’ last chance to impress the fans and Rangers brass and he just did not have it last night.

Embarrassing, too, was the performance of the Rangers bullpen, particularly Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes is already skating on thin ice and giving up a three run home run and throwing over 30 pitches in an inning of work did not help his cause. In addition, Scott Feldman and Neftali Feliz also gave up runs in relief. I think if the game had gone 14 innings, the Twins just might have come back!

Still, it was a big win and Texas picked up a game on the Angels as well. I just wish it had looked better than the final score indicated.

For Whom The Beltre Tolls

So let me get this straight. The VERY DAY I post my first ever somewhat negative comments about Nelson Cruz and how his season to date could make him a part of a trade package this week, he goes out Friday night and goes 4 for 4 with 8, count ‘em, 8 RBI??? Nelson, did you take exception to something I wrote or what???

 

Adrian Beltre

All kidding aside, The Texas Rangers will need Cruz to start coming through in a big way more than ever now. In the very game he went nuts against the Toronto Blue Jays, All-Star 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre was pulling up lame and headed for a minimum two week stay on the DL. The only good part about Beltre’s injury during the game is it gave Omar Quintanilla his first action in a Rangers uniform. Who’s Omar Quintanilla, you say? He’s the utility infielder called up from Round Rock when Andres Blanco went on the DL. Despite being with the big club for over two weeks, this was the first game Quintanilla had gotten into in all that time. Shows how much the Rangers really need that last utility infielder.

With Beltre on the shelf, Chris Davis has gotten the call for the third time this season to try to re-establish himself as a bona fide major leaguer. Davis has been tearing up AAA pitching this year to the tune of 22 HR’s and 68 RBI, as well as chipping in three longballs and five RBI for the parent club. Davis and Michael Young will share the third base duties while Beltre is out, unless Davis is involved in a trade. I was worried Beltre’s injury would take Davis out of the picture as a possible trade piece, but scribes with more inside knowledge of the Rangers than I feel he’ll still go if the piece Texas gets in return is that good.

 

Chris Davis

Still, Davis, Young and Cruz are all going to have to step up in Beltre’s absence. Adrian was leading the club in RBI’s and providing great protection for Josh Hamilton in the three hole. Young moves into the clean-up spot for now with Cruz moving up to 5th.

Texas took two of three from the visiting Blue Jays over the weekend, easily taking the first game 12-2 behind Cruz’ 8 RBI and Colby Lewis‘ outstanding pitching. Game 2 was a 5-4 squeaker that looked like a Rangers loss until the ultimate in small ball did the Jays in.

Trailing 4-3 entering the bottom of the 9th, Mike Napoli led off with a walk. Mitch Moreland, who had ZERO sacrifice bunts in his major league career entering the at bat, laid down a bunt and managed to reach first safely when the throw to the bag was wide. With runners on first and second, Ian Kinsler went for another sacrifice bunt. This one was fielded cleanly for the first out, putting runners at second and third. Craig Gentry then replaced Napoli at third. Not to be outdone, Elvis Andrus laid down the squeeze bunt. Gentry scored the tying run and a real heads-up play got Andrus out at first to put a runner on third with two outs. The Jays intentionally walked Hamilton, bringing Young to the plate. Michael hit a fly to right that was misjudged and dropped in at the warning track, plating the game winner.

Going for the sweep on Sunday, the Rangers faced their first southpaw since Beltre went on the DL in Brett Cecil. Things did not go well. Cecil stymied the R’s on four hits and the Jays scored 3 against Alexi Ogando in the 6th to come away with a 3-0 win to salvage one win in the set. It was kind of surprising to see the lefthanded Davis in the line-up against Cecil at DH. I figured Texas would go with Napoli at DH and Yorvit Torrealba at catcher, but it was not to be. It will be interesting to see if Texas will struggle against lefties more with Beltre out.

All in all, a decent weekend. Texas maintains a three game lead against the second place Angels. Now the Twins are in town for a four game set. Trade deadline is Sunday. Who’s about to become a Ranger? Heath Bell? Mike Adams? Carlos Beltran? Tune in next time, same “bat” channel!

Trade Targets

As the trade deadline fast approaches, I’ve read all kinds of speculation of who the Rangers are going after. Among the prominent names are Mike Adams and Heath Bell of the Padres, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, maybe even a starter along the lines of Matt Garza of the Cubs. Carlos Beltran of the Mets has been mentioned as an offensive possibility, but it appears doubtful the Rangers have any interest in changing up their offensive line-up.

A lot has also been written about the minor league players the Rangers are likely to give up in making any trade. Among those names listed as “untouchable” among Rangers prospects are Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez.

What’s been mentioned less and what may bear looking into is this: are there any players on the current Rangers 25-man roster who could be leaving in the next two weeks in a trade?

Minor leaguers are sure to be changing hands, but chances are at least one major league player will be leaving Arlington. It happened a year ago when Justin Smoak was the player that ended up bringing Cliff Lee to Texas instead of sending him to the Yankees.

The idea of losing a member of the major league roster was less likely a couple weeks ago, when Julio Borbon was being talked about as a major bargaining chip while he was rehabbing in Round Rock. Unfortunately, Borbon has just had ankle surgery and is unlikely to be anything but a minor piece of any trade, if at all. Chris Davis is also down on the farm in Round Rock and the odds are pretty good he’ll be included in a trade, with San Diego a definite possibility as a destination.

On the current major league roster, though, there also exists a possibility of 4th/5th outfielder David Murphy being moved. Murphy was a valuable part of the 2010 team and remains valuable today, although the performances of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry has meant less need for Josh Hamilton to play center and that has lowered Murphy’s playing time.

Yorvit Torrealba‘s name could come up in a trade. He’s a proven starting catcher and, while he’s performed fairly well for Texas in his first year here, Mike Napoli has performed much better than expected behind the plate, he has more power and a much higher on-base percentage than Torrealba. Thus, the R’s might be willing to let him go and, instead of the current 60-40 playing arrangement, make Napoli the regular catcher with Taylor Teagarden as strictly a back-up.  

It would be a surprise, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Nelson Cruz become part of a deal. Cruz has 21 HR and 58 RBI this year, yet most regular watchers would agree Cruz just hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate most of the year and is striking out much more frequently.

On the pitching side, Derek Holland‘s name has come up in trade talks. Holland has great potential, as judged by his two consecutive shutouts recently. He’s also been inconsistent with his command all year, making it possible the Rangers would be willing to part with him if they got the right starter in return. I’d hate to see it, but would understand the reason if it were to happen.

Other than those four, I don’t see any other Rangers being part of a trade package. Texas is looking to upgrade the bullpen especially, so it’s doubtful another team would want any of the Texas relievers not named Feliz, although maybe Scott Feldman or Tommy Hunter, both bullpen parts who have had some success starting could be of possible interest. Darren O’Day, currently at Round Rock, is another pitcher with previous major league success that could go elsewhere. Feldman and O’Day in particular have higher priced contracts, thus lowering their trade potential.

Those are the players on the current roster who could go elsewhere in a trade. The next question would be, who are the most likely players to get dropped from the roster to make room for new players coming in? That’s a subject for another day.

The Tarnished Gem: Angels 1, Rangers 0

Good old-fashioned pitchers duels don’t come along as regularly as they once did. Yet major league baseball has seen two dandies this week alone.

The first was the Tim Lincecum-Clayton Kershaw match-up between the Giants and Dodgers a few days ago. The second was yesterday, when CJ Wilson went up against Jered Weaver in Anaheim, with the Angels  prevailing over the Rangers 1-0.

Obviously, this scribe was disappointed in the final outcome. From a sheer fan perspective, however, this was one of the outstanding games of 2011. It had constant drama, all the way to the last out and one could even say the better pitcher in the game was the one who lost the game.

The Rangers made only three mistakes the entire game. Unfortunately, all three came in the same inning, the 2nd, and they all contributed to the only run of the game scoring.

Endy Chavez gets the blame for the error that allowed Howie Kendrick to cross the plate with the lone run of the game. Wilson, though, made the other two mistakes that put Kendrick in the position to score in the first place. Kendrick reached first because he was hit by a Wilson pitch. Judging by the radio play by play I heard, one could debate whether the pitch actually hit Kendrick or not (there was a delayed ruling and not even Kendrick seemed to indicate he’d been hit), but he was awarded first. Mark Trumbo then struck out, but the pitch went past the catcher for a wild pitch, sending Kendrick to second. Without those two things happening, Chavez’ booting of Mike Trout‘s fly ball wouldn’t have brought about the result it did.

 Wilson ended up allowing only two hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out 8. Weaver allowed his share of hits, but most of them came with two outs and the bases empty.

The Angels ended up taking two of three from Texas, but the Rangers maintain a three game lead over their nearest rivals. As much as it would have been nice to see Texas take the series 2-1, they still had a 5-2 road trip, which any team would be happy with. Now they have to take care of business at home.

Some might look at the Texas schedule and think the wins will be easy to come by with seven home games against the Blue Jays and the Twins followed by three at Toronto. Both teams, though, have given the Rangers fits the past couple years. Texas is 1-2 at Minnesota in 2011 after going winless at Target Field a year ago and they’ve already dropped three of four home games against the Jays this season. I actually was worried about the Rangers and Twins possibly matching up in the playoffs a year ago. I was more worried about that pairing than the Yankees or the Rays.

This the R’s first home series since the All-Star Break. Sounds like a good reason to start a new winning streak.

No Baker’s Dozen: Angels 9, Rangers 8

If the Rangers had won Wednesday night, Twitter followers already know how this story would open up: with a reference to a baker’s dozen cooked up in the “Dutch” oven- signifying a Derek Holland win.

Sadly, it was not to be. The second longest win streak in Texas Rangers history came to a sad end at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a game that just plain hurt.

It isn’t that the Rangers lost. I can deal with that, especially after such a lengthy winning streak. I can even handle that the R’s gave up nine runs in the game after only giving up only eight in the previous seven games combined.

No, what hurt about this one was the Rangers handled one of the two Angels aces in Dan Haren and still lost the game. When you face someone of the caliber of Haren and you send him to an early shower, you want to come out of the game with a W, but Derek Holland (and maybe even more so Tommy Hunter) couldn’t seal the deal. That’s what hurt.

Holland had his control but didn’t have his command last night and his consecutive scoreless inning streak came to a quick end when the Angels plated three in the first. Dutch settled down after that, throwing goose eggs from the second through the fifth. Meanwhile, Texas teed off on Haren. By the time the dust had settled, the Rangers were heading to the bottom of the 6th with a lead of 8-3.

 Then the wheels came off the bus. Holland only managed one out in the 6th, giving way to Hunter as the Angels creeped back to 8-6. In between the second and third outs recorded, Hunter allowed five straight Angels to reach base and the 6th ended the way the game did, with the home team on top 9-8.

While the game was still in progress, I went online to peruse how the Texas minor league affiliates were doing on the night. The last two nights, the farm clubs have been a combined 9-3. When I saw the Round Rock Express had given up a 7-spot in the 9th to lose 14-11, while the Frisco Roughriders lost a 1-0 heartbreaker, I got the feeling this wasn’t going to be the night for my boys.

Michael Young made it interesting in the 9th with a two out double down the line, while pinch runner Craig Gentry brought the tying run to 3rd on a wild pitch. The game ended, though, with a once-again slumping Nelson Cruz swinging and missing at strike three to end the game.

The series closes out with a day game and a great pitching match-up: CJ Wilson vs. Jered Weaver. Time for a new winning streak to start!

 

 

Make It A Dozen: Rangers 7, Angels 0

The numbers are now enough to make one’s head spin. An ERA of 0.40 over the last six games. A winning streak that now stands alone as the 2nd longest in Rangers/Senators history. Five wins by shutout, two by giving up only one run. Seven at home, five on the road. The longest winning streak in the AL this year and, I believe, the longest in the league in five years.

Here’s more: The Rangers have given up just two runs in their last six games. They’ve never done that before, not in their entire 50-year history. They have not lost to an American League team since June 16th. Tuesday night’s win puts Texas at 40-19 when Josh Hamilton is in the line-up. In the last twelve games, the Angels have lost five games in the standings (they were tied for first when the streak began), the A’s eight games and the Mariners a whopping 10 games.

Top it off with the fact last night’s 7-0 win should have been even worse for the Angels. Tyler Chatwood gave up the first three runs in his five innings of work, but were it not for a couple fortunate breaks, one could have easily seen the Rangers scoring five in those five innings. Texas had 11 baserunners in the first five but only converted them into three runs.

The fireworks actually occured after I retired for the night, with Endy Chavez, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre all going yard in the final two innings. Meanwhile, Alexi Ogando do what Alexi Ogando do, pitching eight innings of four-hit shutout ball in picking up his 10th win of the year.

Two more wins in a row would tie the Rangers consecutive win record at 14. If they can do it against Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, they will have earned that record. The quest for 13 is tonight with Derek Holland going for his third consecutive shutout against Haren.

Definition Of A Well-Rested Bullpen

Below are the current members of the Texas Rangers bullpen and when they last pitched, as of 7/18/11:

Pitcher                                                Last Pitched

Arthur Rhodes                                      July 4

Yoshinori Tateyama                          July 6

Tommy Hunter                                    July 9

Darren Oliver                                       July 9

Scott Feldman                                     July 14 (Activated from DL. Hasn’t appeared in a game since activation)

Mark Lowe                                            July 17 (Only 2 2/3 IP since July 4)

Neftali Feliz                                          July 17 (Only 5 1/3 IP since July 4)

Only Lowe and Feliz have appeared in a game since play resumed after the All-Star break. All told, the seven members of the Rangers relief corps have only thrown 17 innings TOTAL in the last 14 days.  Rangers starters have compiled 82 IP in the same time frame.  In the last 11 games, all Rangers wins, the opposition has gone scoreless 4 times and scored just one run twice. Being a reliever for the Rangers is a good gig to have right now.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 242 other followers

%d bloggers like this: