Results tagged ‘ CJ Wilson ’

Former Ranger Gets Foot In Mouth Disease

Our top story: Jon Daniels is a “sleazeball.”

That, of course, according to the dearly departed Ian Kinsler, now plying his wares for the Detroit Tigers. In a story for ESPN: The Magazine, Kinsler was quoted as calling Daniels a sleazeball and expressed his hope the Rangers would finish 0-162 this season.

Needless to say, it was bound to make the national headlines because of the old axiom: “Thou shalt always complain when athletes and managers use manager-speak but thou shalt complain even louder when a player or manager doesn’t use manager-speak.”

We fans just love to complain about everything and our wonderful media folks are more than happy to feed our appetite for complaining. Ian Kinsler, thus, was a gift from God.

But really? This is all we have to complain about?

Sure, Kinsler said his comments about Daniels were taken slightly out of context. That was proven as bunk when his exact words were played back today on Buster Olney’s podcast. Still, what’s the big deal here? I like the job Jon Daniels has done in building the Texas Rangers franchise to a year-in, year-out contender. Daniels is not 100% infallible, though. He subscribes to the notion you should get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late. Thus he’s burned bridges with quite a few players over the years: Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli. All felt disrespected by the Rangers GM when their times came. It’s the nature of the job. So when someone who signed a club-friendly long-term deal, only to get traded in the middle of it, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them miffed at their former boss. Maybe he shouldn’t have called him a sleazeball publicly, but I’ll bet there’s no shortage of players in major league baseball who haven’t felt the exact same way about a GM they once worked with.

Then there’s the wish for the Rangers to go 0-162. So what? I’m a Rangers fan and I would love to see the Angels finish 0-162. The Mariners, A’s and Astros too. Probably the Yankees as well. It ain’t gonna happen but it’s a fun thing to wish for.

Kinsler opened another tempest in the article, putting himself square on the side of Nolan Ryan and against Jon Daniels and said it was Daniels’ ego that caused the rift that eventually led to Ryan’s departure from the Rangers. That brought both sides of fans on that debate back into the open debating each other and calling each other names. For what? Why is it so hard for Daniels fans to acknowledge that Ryan had at least a little to do with the growth of the Rangers organization to where they are today. And why can’t the camp of Ryan supporters give props to the work of Daniels and the scouting department for their role as well? I like Daniels, I liked Ryan. They both did and have done great things for the Rangers. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

If you’re a Rangers fan, what you should really get upset about with Kinsler is the comments he made about Michael Young‘s leadership, the change in the clubhouse in 2013 and his own lack of desire to fill the leadership void left by Young’s departure. I get that there are some people for whom mentoring and leadership come naturally. For others it’s hard. For Kinsler it was hard. Ian won’t ever be a Michael Young type in the clubhouse, but to say he just wanted to focus on playing hit me the wrong way. Josh Hamilton was (and probably still is) the same way. Every team needs at least one person who helps bring the group together. Michael Young was once that player- always mentoring, comporting themselves in a professional manner and even motivating others by example by getting the absolute most out of his physical abilities day in and day out. Kinsler didn’t like that role. The problem with that is, if everyone has that attitude, there’s nothing to help glue it all together. If that’s truly the way Kinsler feels, I’m kind of glad he isn’t a Ranger anymore. I don’t want someone who refuses to switch positions for the betterment of the team. Be upset about it, sure. Even tell us you don’t like it. But be a TEAM player in the end. Someone helped you when you got to the bigs. Pass it on. ESPECIALLY when it’s best for the team.

I don’t blame Kinsler for his feelings about Jon Daniels or his wish for his former team to fall apart without him. Just don’t tell me you don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a veteran. That’s the area where Ian Kinsler needs to grow up.

Super Streak, Super Streak, They’re Super Streaky

It must be because the Texas Rangers front office is trying to appeal to the bi-polar community. How else to explain what goes on in the realm of Rangers baseball these days. There’s no telling what team will show up. First there’s the Rangers team that came out of the All-Star break and proceeded to get swept by the Orioles, split four with the Yankees, then got swept again by the Indians. Now you have a Rangers team who does the sweeping, taking three in a row from the Angels, each one in walk-off fashion. First there was Monday night, when Texas trailed 3-2 going into the 9th, promptly tied it on an A.J. Pierzynski home run and, two outs later, sealing the deal with this shot from Geovany Soto:

Tuesday night, it started with Adrian Beltre hitting a 2-out, 2-strike single to bring home the tying run in the 9th, sending it to extra innings when it was Leonys Martin‘s turn to set off the fireworks:

Finally, Texas celebrated my birthday by having Beltre lead off the 9th in a 1-1 game:

Three wins, all by walk-off home runs, the first time that feat has happened in MLB since 2004. Yes, it was a sweep over the Angels, who have now sunk into 4th place with the loss of Albert Pujols for the season, but consider this. With the exception of C.J. Wilson‘s pitiful performance on Tuesday, everything pointed to this being a good series for the Angels. 1) Jered Weaver and Jerome Williams provided two excellent starts- a combined 14.2 innings pitched with only 2 runs given up; 2) Mike Trout was even more Mike Trout than usual: 6 for 6 with 4 walks in the first 2 games alone; 3) Josh Hamilton actually resembled the Josh Hamilton the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. Hamilton went a combined 5 for 11 with a double, a home run, 7 RBI and 3 walks; and 4) the dominant Rangers bullpen was extremely ordinary on Tuesday, getting torched for 5 runs. The Angels got all that and they were still swept.

By the way, I know Hamilton has been bad, but you can’t prove it by the Rangers. Against every other team in MLB, Hamilton is hitting .209. Against his old team, the Rangers? .389 with a .978 OPS.

Also of significance, Texas for the first time in a month gained ground on the front-running Oakland A’s, going from 6 games behind to 4, with a big weekend series coming up in Oakland. The August schedule favors the Rangers, so this race could be getting tighter again after what appeared to be a Rangers free-fall.

Oh, and the best part? Not only did I get to enjoy a Rangers sweep of LA this week, my beautiful wife surprised me at work with this piece of edible art for my birthday:

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Sure, there are storm clouds on the horizon. All indications are Nelson Cruz faces a suspension soon in the Biogenesis scandal, though some reports indicate he will appeal; Lance Berkman is contemplating retirement as his knees continue to be a problem; Manny Ramirez is not considered major-league ready and may find himself released in the next couple of weeks; and Texas found no willing partners at the July 31st trade deadline and can only hope they can grab some players through waiver wire transactions in August. For a team as offensively challenged as Texas has been for long stretches, this is not a good sign, especially if Cruz is lost for the season. Still, this is MY team and I’ll cheer them on regardless. I’m just glad they’re back on an upswing again.

Rangers-Angels: Business Or Personal?

The Ballpark in Arlington home of the Texas Ra...

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home Opener. Rangers vs. Angels. What a great way to start the season!

I know I’m only going to be lucky enough to see maybe one of the three games on TV, which will be the already highly anticipated pitching match-up of Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver, but still I’m looking forward to the series as a whole. Even though it’s only games 4-6 in a long haul of a season, the Angelenos will get their first chance to see if the revamped Rangers have talent enough to compete with their heavily favored selves in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Rangers get their first chance to see if their pitching staff can neutralize the vaunted Angels offense to any great degree.

For the teams, it’s strictly business. For Rangers fans, though, this weekend will be personal.

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not that Rangers fans have really hard feelings about Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels. Sure it didn’t help he went to a rival in the West. What we didn’t really do is begrudge Josh the money. Most of us know the Texas front office didn’t want to give Josh the number of years the Angels did. Most of us agreed with the front office on this one, too, that anything over four years was a risky move.

No, what many of us Rangers fans took offense with was Josh (and his wife) dogging the front office in the media. Then Josh compounded the problem when he didn’t choose his words carefully and appeared to dis Rangers fans as being spoiled and not being a real baseball town.

In one respect, I understand what Josh was saying. The Dallas area is a football town overall. The Dallas Cowboys rule the sports conversation by a wide margin over the Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. But when he goes on to say that any fan that boos him at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington isn’t a real fan and just doesn’t get it, you’ve just made a major misstep, my friend, no matter what city you just left.

If Josh hadn’t said anything, I think he would have received a healthy dose of applause his first time up as a thank you for what he meant to this franchise over the past five years. Instead, he said things (as CJ Wilson did the year before) guaranteed to spur a negative reaction from the home crowd.

For the Rangers, this weekend is business. For the fans, it’s personal.

I’ll be interested in hearing the reaction this afternoon on the radio feed of the game when Josh steps to the plate for the first time. There’s been a movement afoot to try to get the crowd simply to not react at all when Josh steps to the plate. Silence. No applause, no booing. I don’t know if it’ll be pulled off, but it’d be a hoot if it happened.

Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Wash decides to do with Josh. Will he have his pitchers treat him like any other player or will he defer to his former star and do something like intentionally walking him if the game is on the line? Yesterday, Hamilton came to the plate against the Reds with two outs in the 9th and the tying run at second. The Reds pitched to him and Josh struck out to end the game. Will Wash pitch to him in the same circumstances? Later on in the season, he might take the same approach as the Reds. This weekend? In front of the home crowd? I’m not so sure. It may be business as usual for the Rangers, but if they’re to lose a game in the opening series at home, I’m not sure if Wash wants Hamilton to be the difference maker.

Preparing For A Future Without Josh-ing

Nothing becomes official, of course, until after the World Series concludes. I know the score, though.

The day after a new World Series Champion is crowned, free agency begins. Everyone knows Josh Hamilton will become a free agent. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has already announced Texas will “allow” Josh to shop for the best deal instead of Texas trying to make him a preemptive offer to stay in Arlington.

Josh’s agent has further allowed that after Hamilton has done his shopping, they’ll give the Rangers a chance to top the best offer.

But come on. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. The odds are 99% in favor of Josh Hamilton wearing someone else’s uniform in the 2013 season.

Like CJ Wilson before him, it’s a pretty sure bet the Rangers brain trust already knows the top dollar and  contract length they’re willing to give him. More than likely the scenario will be this: The annual dollars won’t be the issue, the length of the contract will be.

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton: Outta here? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Texas would love to have Hamilton back, but I doubt they’re willing to offer him more than four years, unless the fifth year and beyond are for lower dollars with heavy performance incentives. Texas could very well be willing to pay Josh $90 to $100 million over the next four years. But someone else is going to offer five or six years at $110-$125 million. Guess which one he’ll take.

Nope, the Rangers are already preparing for life without Josh. They started the other day by hiring Dave Magadan away from the Red Sox as the new hitting coach. Magadan is very much a Ron Washington philosophy type: do what the game asks you to do. Magadan’s Red Sox teams were known to be patient and took a lot of pitches, something the Rangers stopped doing in 2012, especially Josh Hamilton. He also has a reputation for getting the best out of young batters coming up. This lends credence to the possibility of Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt being on the roster for Opening Day 2013 and pretty much a certainty that Leonys Martin will be on that roster too.

While he wasn’t the only one for whom this was said, Hamilton has never been one to worry too much about instruction. He doesn’t watch much video, he loves swinging at the first pitch. He likes being the guy with the big bat, so much that he’d rather swing for the fences all the time than settle for a solid single even when the game situation calls for the base hit.

This isn’t to hate on Josh because he’s been the spotlight guy that’s led Texas to two World Series appearances. He’s put up MVP numbers in the past and still may in the future. If and when he goes, I won’t tear up or throw away my Josh Hamilton jerseys. Whoever signs Josh, though, know this: When his decline starts (and who knows, it may have started this year), I don’t think it will be pretty. Josh has succeeded because of his pure athleticism. He plays the game all out, which is good. On the other hand, because he trusts his athleticism, he’s also slow to make adjustments. When the inevitable decline comes, it could be a much steeper drop than most players have. But that likely will be someone else’s problem, not the Rangers.

Texas Rangers: The Next Generation

Mike Olt, Next Generation Ranger

Mike Olt, whose name had constantly been brought up in trade deadline discussions, will join the Rangers tonight for the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels. With AA Frisco, Olt was hitting .288 with 28 homers and 82 RBI. Olt was a first round supplemental pick in the 2010 draft and moved rapidly through the Rangers farm system. His power in the Arizona Fall League last year earned him the promotion to Frisco this year. While strikeout prone, Olt has a good eye at the plate, drawing 60 walks in 95 games this year.

Olt will be replacing Brandon Snyder, who was optioned to AAA Round Rock. This is a case where Snyder didn’t do anything wrong, hitting .281 with 3 homers and 9 RBI as a part-time player. No, Snyder didn’t do anything wrong. Olt has just done a lot of things right and Snyder was the odd man out.

The implications of the move are huge. Olt was drafted as a third baseman and is said to be an outstanding defensive third baseman. The Rangers, however, have the game’s best defensive third baseman already in Adrian Beltre and will have him for the next four years. So there isn’t room for Olt at third. He has played some first base, so here’s where it gets tricky.

Mitch Moreland is the Rangers first baseman, at least against right-handed pitchers. Moreland just returned from the DL and has hits in each of his first three games back. Moreland isn’t going anywhere. So Olt is blocked at third and you can’t imagine he’s being called up simply to be used like Snyder, meaning rarely. No, Olt is being brought up to get some at bats. Those at bats can only be coming two ways: as a platoon first baseman or as a designated hitter. So guess who the Rangers are currently using in that role? None other than the oft-described “Face of the Franchise”, Michael Young.

Michael Young, Current Generation Ranger

Young is having what is easily his worst year as a fulltime player. His batting average is hovering around .270. He has only three extra base hits since the All-Star break and no home runs since late May. Largely in the 5 spot of the batting order, Young has only managed 40 RBI. His walk rate has also declined drastically. Even when he hits the ball, he’s had a lot of weak ground balls over the past couple of months.

I don’t see any other way Olt is going to get at bats other than by getting them at the expense of Michael Young. Olt will probably see his first action tonight against CJ Wilson, either as the DH or the first baseman. Young will most likely play tonight as well at whatever position Olt doesn’t play. But what happens after tonight?

I think Olt becomes the platoon first baseman or DH when a left-hander starts. Against righthanders, Young will take a seat on the bench occasionally while Olt plays third and Adrian Beltre gets a DH day. He might DH when Young gives Ian Kinsler a day off to play second. But what happens when Geovany Soto gets the start at catcher? Young could ride pine then as well, so the Rangers can use the power bat of Mike Napoli at DH while Olt plays first.

The Next Generation of Texas Rangers is here. Today it’s Mike Olt. Next season, he will probably be joined by Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez. With last night’s move, even with another year left on his contract, there is no other way to view this than the Rangers have started preparing for a life without Michael Young.

Spare Parts

When you talk about the first World Series run by the Rangers, the names that come to mind are Josh Hamilton, American League MVP; Cliff Lee, mid-season acquisition and Yankee Killer in the ALCS; Michael Young, the long-time “Face” of the franchise; and Nelson Cruz, who can carry a team on his back for two-week stretches, including the playoffs.

Those players deservedly got a lot of the press, but another key to the Rangers first run to the pennant were the spare parts. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went on the DL after just two games. Enter last-minute Spring Training acquisition Matt Treanor. Treanor held down the fort so well until the July acquisition of Bengie Molina, Saltalamacchia never again wore a Rangers uniform. Salty was optioned to AAA after coming off the DL, then went to the Red Sox in a September deal.

The Rangers had a winning record during Nelson Cruz’ three trips to the DL in 2010, thanks to the emergence of David Murphy as a viable 4th outfielder. Murphy remains an integral piece of the Rangers today, though speculation grows he’ll become part of a deal sometime this summer.

Ian Kinsler also had two DL stints in 2010. Again, Texas survived just fine, especially in mid-August when Andres Blanco filled in for 19 games and hit .333 with 8 doubles and .818 OPS, playing sterling defense as well.

The pitching staff also had its moments. Rich Harden and Scott Feldman, expected to be the top two rotation pieces, never panned out. It was new acquisition Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, who helped keep the Rangers above-board until the trade for Cliff Lee. Likewise, the bullpen got a boost when Alexi Ogando was recalled from Oklahoma City. All Ogando did was earn wins in his first three relief appearances and ended up being the Rangers 7th inning go-to guy.

The pattern repeated itself in 2011. When center fielder Julio Borbon went down in May with an injury, Endy Chavez was called up from Round Rock, hit .301 in 83 games and banished Borbon to the minors, where he remains today. Ogando again served as a vital piece, this time moving into the starting rotation when off-season signee Brandon Webb proved not ready to go out of Spring Training. Ogando thrived as a starter, making the All-Star team. Yorvit Torrealba was expected to be the primary catcher, until Mike Napoli had an offensive year that nobody saw coming.

The stars propel teams, but the spare parts are often the ones that give winning teams the extra edge. The previous 400 words were all written with Robbie Ross in mind.

Robbie Ross, Texas Ranger

Just a year ago today, Ross was pitching for High-A Myrtle Beach. The Rangers 2nd round draft pick in 2008, Ross compiled a 9-4 record with a 2.26 ERA as a starter  to earn a late season promotion to AA Frisco. In 6 games with Frisco, Ross was 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Those stats earned Ross an invite to big league camp for Spring Training in 2012.

Ross was expected to do what most rookies his age (21) do. Stick around big league camp for a couple of weeks, mop up a few games, then return to minor league camp, where he would most likely start the season at Frisco, maybe Round Rock if he was lucky.

Ross, however, didn’t recognize his long odds. He just did what he’d been doing since being drafted. He threw strikes. Because he threw strikes, he got outs. There were veteran southpaws in the Rangers camp this year, looking to fill the role vacated by Darren Oliver when he departed for the Blue Jays, chief among them Joe Beimel. He didn’t pitch badly, but a late camp injury ended his chances. Michael Kirkman, who contributed key late-season innings in 2010 but slipped in 2011, was another prime candidate. Kirkman struggled from the outset and has continued to struggle at Round Rock in 2012.

By the time Spring Training was over, Ross had leap-frogged everyone and earned a spot on the Rangers roster. He was expected to be brought around slowly, used in mop-up roles to get his feet wet. Most thought Ross would just hold down the fort until the Rangers either re-signed Mike Gonzalez or traded for another lefty in the pen.

All Ross has done is succeed, in whatever role the Rangers have asked him. Sunday, he was asked to replace another famous spare part, Alexi Ogando. Ogando, who was made a starter again when Derek Holland went on the DL, threw three hitless innings, then strained his groin legging out a bunt single that was supposed to be just a sacrifice bunt. Ross came in and this time threw four innings of 1-hit ball at the Giants and earning the victory. Ross is now 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA. If Ogando goes on the disabled list, Ross could be the Rangers starter this Saturday against the Astros.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t even projected to be in the big leagues until next year at the earliest. Let’s hear it for spare parts!

Anticlimactic

For all the build-up, Mother Nature made it a no big deal affair.
It was Darvish vs. Wilson in name only. The rains came with one out in the bottom of the first and when play resumed two hours later, CJ Wilson was already done for the night.
Wilson was roundly booed when he popped out of the dugout to start the bottom of the first. I’m not one who agreed with that initial reaction. After all, Wilson did help bring the Rangers to the World Series the past two years. But I do understand the reasons some Texas fans would choose the negative approach.
If you look at baseball like TV’S “Survivor”, CJ is the guy you love to have on your tribe. He’s good at challenges and helps you earn rewards. The thing is, he doesn’t play the social game well. When the game becomes an individual one, you don’t mind taking CJ to the end because you know he won’t get the votes to be the overall winner. The people on the jury just don’t like him.
CJ said the Rangers never really made him an offer in the off-season. That may be true. On the other hand, you’d have a hard time convincing me Wilson would’ve re-signed if the Rangers had matched or slightly topped the Angels offer. Wilson’s a California guy and I think once the Angels entered the bidding he had what he wanted most: the chance to go home. Add in the whole Mike Napoli Twitter scandal and the fact the Angels are division rivals and the atmosphere was as ripe for boos as the gathering clouds were for an outpouring of rain at game time.
CJ didn’t come back out after the rain delay, but apparently is now going to start Game 2 Saturday. I can’t remember officially how long it has been since the same pitcher started two games in a row, but I recall knuckleballer Wilbur Wood started both ends of a doubleheader for the White Sox sometime in the early 70’s.
As to Friday night’s game, it was all Rangers. Another two home runs for Hamilton (I think Hamiltonian is a great way to describe Josh’s blasts). Another oh-fer for Albert. Another win for Yu. An 8 game lead at the end of the night.
The question is, what will CJ do for an encore today?

The Ups & Downs Of Colby Lewis

Colby Lewis today turned in one of the truly weird pitching performances I’ve ever heard (hey, it was a workday with no cable in my office). Here’s what Lewis did in the Rangers Game 1 6-5 loss to the Orioles:

1st Inning: HR, HR, HR, Out, K, K.

2nd Inning: K, K, K.

3rd Inning: K, Out, K.

4th Inning: Out, K, K.

5th Inning: K, Out, Out.

6th Inning: K, Out, Out.

7th Inning: HR, W, HR, HBP, Out, Error, K.

So that’s back-to-back-to-back home runs to start the game, followed by 18 in a row retired, followed by two more homers, a walk and a hit batter.

In the end, Lewis gave up a career-high 5 home runs in the game. He also recorded a career high 12 strikeouts in the game. He’s the first Rangers pitcher since Charlie Hough in 1989 to have a start giving up only five hits, but all of them home runs. A truly weird game.

Also weird: The Rangers came into the doubleheader second in the AL in fielding. The Orioles scored all three of their runs in the second game in the second inning, due to three Texas errors in the inning. Fortunately, Derek Holland threw goose eggs the rest of the way, the offense picked it up in the late innings and Texas came out on top 7-3.

The Rangers ended this 10-game road trip at 5-5, pretty good considering they started it 2-4.

The bullpen was only needed for four innings tonight. That helps heading into the Angels series.

New Ranger Yu Darvish vs. former Ranger CJ Wilson tomorrow night. What a match-up, and I won’t be able to see it. Friday games are only available on local TV in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so I’ll have to be content with the radio feed. Big weekend coming up. More important for the Angels than the Rangers, but you can bet Texas will come out like they’re the ones with something to prove.

This One’s For Yu

It took four starts, but Rangers fans have finally seen the future, and the future is Yu.

Yu Darvish pitched his first gem as a pitcher in the United States, dominating the Yankees in a 2-0 win. Darvish got stronger as he went, getting all three outs in the seventh via strikeout. For the night, he gave up seven hits in 8.1 innings with two walks and ten strikeouts. Darvish’s fastball, in the lower 90’s most of the night, was hitting 95 in the 8th inning.

This was the pitcher the Rangers paid over $100 million for in the off-season and tonight he showed why Texas was willing to shell out that kind of money when they could have gotten CJ Wilson to come back for less.

The key to the game came early, in the third inning. Nursing a 1-0 lead, Eric Chavez got the Yankees first hit of the night with a clean single to right. Russell Martin followed with a walk. Derek Jeter proceeded to lay down a bunt down the first base side. Darvish started signalling for first baseman Mitch Moreland to field it, but by the time he realized the play was his alone, it was too late. Jeter was on first with a bunt single and the bases were loaded with nobody out. With a 2-2 count, Darvish threw a 78 mile per hour slider that froze Curtis Granderson in his tracks for strike three. One out. Two pitches later, Darvish got A-Rod to ground to third for a 5-3 double play. End of inning, end of threat.

The Yankees would get a runner to second in the 4th and the 5th, but the threat ended almost as soon as it began. One sequence to Nick Swisher in the 4th stood out. Darvish got a called first strike on a curve Swisher thought was out of the zone. The umpire disagreed and it set Swisher up for the rest of the at bat. Another curve had Swisher feeling he had to swing. He missed. Strike two. An almost identical pitch came next. Swisher swung and missed again for strike three.

When Darvish gave up a one out single to Swisher in the 9th, he left to thunderous applause from 47,000 plus fans. Joe Nathan came in, threw one pitch and got a game-ending double play for his fifth save and Darvish’s third win.

To be sure, the Yankees Hiroki Kuroda pitched a good game too. Only problem was, Kuroda gave up two runs, the first on an Ian Kinsler lead-off home run in the 1st.

In another highlight, Elvis Andrus’ behind the bag snare of a Russell Martin grounder followed by a full turnaround and strike to first was his 212th consecutive chance without an error, a new Rangers record for a shortstop. Elvis has been known to make mental errors leading to bad throws on easy plays, but he’s been mentally sharp all season long so far and has played flawlessly in the field.

Monday’s loss to the Yankees was tolerable because of the ceremonies honoring Ivan Rodriguez’ retirement. One night later, a rookie had his official coming out party. Life is good in Arlington, Texas.

 

 

Red Flag 1

It’s great getting off to a 5-2 start, ESPECIALLY when your expected closest competitor, the Angels, stumble out of the gate at 2-4.

But Rangers fans are glass half empty kind of people. There’s always danger lurking in the shadows. So it is that a nice successful homestand has the home fans happy, yet already worried about one thing: Joe Nathan.

The way they see it is this: Were it not for Joe Nathan, Texas would be 7-0 right now instead of 5-2. Nathan has taken both of the Rangers’ 2012 losses thus far and accounted Wednesday for their first blown save of the year. They will also turn to the fact Thursday’s afternoon finale against the Mariners had Mike Adams picking up the save and not Nathan as a sign the Rangers are already regretting their decision to sign the former Twins closer to a two-year deal.

While I’m not thrilled that both losses have come with Nathan in the game, I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button yet, the way the Rangers did two years ago when Frank Francisco blew his first two save opportunities and was replaced in the first week by Neftali Feliz.

In Francisco’s case, he had been somewhat inconsistent in 2009 as well, splitting closing chores with CJ Wilson. The Rangers were in their first year with high expectations and they were quick to pull the trigger on Francisco.

In Nathan’s case, while he has lost both the Rangers games thus far, he also has saved two games, both in impressive fashion. While Wednesday’s blown save and loss was a true clunker (3 runs in one inning pitched), his first loss was in a tie game with one misplaced pitch being punished. He wasn’t brought in to the 9th inning Thursday because it would have been three straight games for him to pitch, with the third being a day game after a night game.

A two-year contract means Nathan will be given some slack by Rangers management to get it together. Meanwhile, Adams and Alexi Ogando remain ready as quality back-up plans should Nathan continue to struggle. With solutions like that, this isn’t a bad problem to have.

The first road series of the year begins tonight in Minnesota. The Twins aren’t expected to do much in 2012, but playing in Minnesota has been problematic for these Rangers over the past couple of years, whether it be at the old Metrodome or the new Target Field. The Twins took two of three at home against the Angels, so Texas can’t take anything for granted.

If there’s a save to be garnered tonight, though, Joe Nathan will get first crack at it.

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