Results tagged ‘ Jered Weaver ’

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.

Garzantuan? Garzilla vs. The Evil Empire? What Play On Words Will Work?

Cliff Lee July 10, 2010

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

9              9              6              6              0              2              3              6.00

Ryan Dempster August 2, 2012

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

4.2          9              8              8              3              6              2              15.42

Matt Garza July 24, 2013

IP            H             R             ER           BB           SO          HR          ERA

7.1          5              1              0              0              5              0              0.00

Guess which one of these three Rangers fans took to right away? Besides the obvious love of getting the win, besides the fact Garza gave up no earned runs, Matt Garza’s debut was notable in one other way. It was the first game since May 30th in which the Rangers pitching staff didn’t give up a walk, a span of 47 games.

Another noteworthy accomplishment: Ron Washington is known for assigning innings to his relievers. Closer Joe Nathan pitches the 9th inning beginning to end. Thus it was surprising to the Rangers faithful to see Wash go against the grain Wednesday night, keeping Neal Cotts in to face (and retire) the first two batters of the inning. Nathan was then brought on to get the third and final out of the inning and the game.

Matt Garza had an incredibly successful debut as a Ranger, the most successful since John Burkett tossed a shutout in his first Texas start in 1996. What does he get for an encore? A match-up against Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels Monday night. Should be fun.

Garza & Count

 

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.

Voting For The Post-Season Hardware

Before delving into dissecting the 2012 season for the Texas Rangers and looking ahead to potential off-season moves by Jon Daniels and Company, it’s time to cast my votes for the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season honors. Seeing as this blog concerns itself for the most part with the American League, my votes will be cast strictly for the American League honorees.

 

CONNIE MACK AWARD (Best Manager)

 

Four weeks ago, I was totally prepared to waste my vote. I had a litany of reasons why Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers should finally get his due. After the last four weeks and even more specifically the last four games, there’s no way my rationale applied anymore. There are three other candidates: Buck Showalter of the Orioles, Bob Melvin of the A’s and Robin Ventura of the White Sox. At season’s start, I had all three of those teams pegged to finish at or near the bottom of their divisions. The White Sox faded at the end, which is about the only reason I eliminated Ventura from the discussion. From a Rangers perspective, I have reasons to vote for both Melvin and Showalter. What swung my vote in the end was how one pitching staff kept going, no matter the obstacles thrown in their way. Starter suspended? Plug someone else in. Ace gets cracked in the skull by a line drive? Here’s another guy. The guy coming back from the DL goes back to the list after five starts? No problem! My vote goes to Bob Melvin.

 

WILLIE MAYS AWARD  (Ouststanding Rookie)

 

Mike Trout

Mike Trout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

You know, if I really wanted to drive up traffic on my site, this would be the easiest way to do it: Come up with a heartfelt, at least sane-sounding argument why Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels WASN’T worthy of this award because of the accomplishments of (Insert A Rookie Player’s Name Here). Then watch the sparks fly as reader after reader blasts that choice, then tweets all his or her friends to send their vitriol my way as well. Yep, sure-fire way to increase traffic to the site.

 

Not gonna do it. No doubt. Mike Trout. But feel free to tweet all your friends and tell them to visit my site anyway.

 

GOOSE GOSSAGE AWARD (Outstanding Reliever)

 

You know what? My man Joe Nathan had himself a pretty darn good year in 2012. He only blew three saves all year. It sure didn’t help that the last one he blew turned out to be at the worst possible time, in the last week of the season. So I have to go with Fernando Rodney of the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet another guy that comes out of the blue in Tampa and regains his past glory. Outstanding season.

 

 

 

Jered Weaver

Jered Weaver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WALTER JOHNSON AWARD (Top Pitcher)

 

Lots of choices here. Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Jered Weaver of the Angels. David Price of the Rays. Earlier this season, I sang the praises of Matt Harrison and bemoaned the fact he wouldn’t get much serious consideration for the award because he’s not a strikeout pitcher and argued those type of pitchers should get MORE consideration because it makes it even harder to make that upper echelon. Well, you know what? Weaver doesn’t have that blistering fastball either and his K rate isn’t where Verlander’s and Price’s are and he did just fine too. My friends Kristen and ICE will be happy with my second vote towards an Angel this year. Jered Weaver is my vote here.

 

STAN MUSIAL AWARD (Top Player)

 

There are constant arguments here on an annual basis and 2012 is no exception. The main question is this: How do you define this award? I always ask this because I do find a distinction between calling someone the Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. The year he won 27 games, Steve Carlton was easily a Player of the Year. Some would say since his team finished in dead last place that didn’t qualify him to considered the Most Valuable Player (let alone because he was a pitcher). So it is with this award. There are tribes in two camps. There’s the Mike Trout camp and the Miguel Cabrera camp.

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trout had a rookie season for the ages in 2012 and accomplished things in combination that no rookie had ever done before. Cabrera was Cabrera, which means the best player in baseball over the past five years. Trout has a higher WAR. Cabrera plays for a team in the post-season. Trout accomplished what he did despite starting the season in the minor leagues. Cabrera was hotter in September when the playoff push came. Trout was a better defensive player. Cabrera had more power. I could go back and forth all day. In the end, putting your team over the hump for the playoffs when they were all but dead just three weeks from the finish line won out. Miguel Cabrera gets my vote. If Anaheim had made the post-season, my vote would have been different.

 

Jealousy

I’ve been following baseball just about my entire life. For a few years, I was a radio sportscaster, covering high school games, college games and American Legion games, even slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball games. In all my 40+ years as a baseball fan and sportscaster, there is something I’ve never witnessed, either in person or even on TV: a no-hitter.

I just finished reading Kristen’s post on being at Jered Weaver’s no-hitter last night and darned if that red-headed monster known as jealousy reared its ugly head. I’m jealous that she got to see this rare occurrence in person, but I’m also jealous of every single person who got to witness the feat on television too.

As a Rangers fan living eight hours away from where the Rangers play, it has taken until this year to finally be pretty assured that I can watch a Rangers game on TV any night of the week except Friday (when it’s only broadcast on a local Dallas TV station). It’s been better the past two years since my cable company added the second Fox Sports Southwest channel to the line-up. In 2010 and 2011, Rangers games were usually on the second channel, but sometimes they’d be dropped in favor of a San Antonio Spurs or Dallas Mavericks game. Prior to 2009, seeing a Rangers game on TV usually meant the Astros had an off day or one of the teams had a day game when the other didn’t.

As a result, diehard Rangers fan that I am, I did not get to see Nolan Ryan’s sixth and seventh no-hitters. Kenny Rogers perfect game? I actually didn’t realize the game was on the air that night and only happened upon it for the last few outs. Still not the same as seeing the entire thing.

No, the closest this guy has come to witnessing something remotely close was in my days as a sportscaster. About thirty years ago, I was covering an American Legion game in Gering, Nebraska. The kid on the mound was a teenage finesse pitcher. He didn’t throw heat, but had pretty darn good off-speed stuff for his age and very good control.

He was mowing them down that night. 1-2-3 inning after 1-2-3 inning. His breaking stuff was fooling everyone and he was getting whiff after whiff. I was getting more excited the longer the game went on. Like any good fan and broadcaster, I didn’t say the words out loud. The closest I got was to say, “For the 5th straight inning, no runs, no hits, no errors and nobody left on base.”

He still had perfection in his sights entering the seventh and final inning. If I recall correctly, he got the first out of the 7th. The crowd, which probably numbered 100 at best, was as loud as a hundred people could get. Then, the unthinkable. A batter decided to lay off the breaking stuff and coaxed a walk. You could hear the entire crowd sigh as one as the batter took first base, the perfect game gone.

One pitch later, the man was on second, having stolen the base. A couple of pitches later, it was over, as the next man up hit a clean single to right center, bringing home a run. In a span of two batters, the perfect game was gone, the no-hitter was gone, even the shutout was gone.

To this day, it’s as close as I’ve come to witnessing what Kristen and most Angels and Twins fans saw last night. Enjoy your memories of Jered Weaver’s gem. One day I hope to have a memory like that of my own.

Off Day: Food For Thought

Trevor Cahill. Gio Gonzalez. John Danks. Ervin Santana. Jered Weaver. James Shields. Felix Hernandez.

These are among the pitchers I can point to when I state my firm belief that the World Series will end in Game 6 with the Texas Rangers hoisting their first World Championship trophy.

They are among the select few pitchers the Texas Rangers have had to face twice in a span of two weeks over the course of the season.

Sixteen times in 2011 Texas faced the same pitcher twice within a two week span of time. Three times they faced the same pitcher 5 days apart, three times six days apart, twice seven days apart, the other eight times between 10 and 12 days apart.

The opposing starting pitchers’ composite line the first time they faced the Rangers:
Wins: 5 Losses: 6 Earned Run Average: 3.88

The opposing starting pitchers’ composie line the second time they faced the Rangers:
Wins: 4 Losses: 8 Earned Run Average: 5.24

This line would look even worse, except Gio Gonzalez lucked out and had his second line washed out due to rain on May 11th. In that game, Gonzalez was tagged for a grand slam by Mitch Moreland. Texas was romping, but the weather wiped out the win and all the stats for the game.

What struck me looking at these stats were the walks and strikeouts. The composite line the first time around showed 41 walks and 73 strikeouts in just under 100 innings. The second time around, with only seven less innings pitched, the Rangers only walked 24 times, but they also only struck out 49 times. Meanwhile, their hits went up from 101 in 99 2/3 innings to 108 hits in 92 2/3 innings.

Conclusion: The Rangers are a much more patient team the second time around for a pitcher. Jaime Garcia is going to be very hard pressed to duplicate his Game 2 pitching line in Game 6.

I’m not going to say take a win to the bank. I believe it will happen but I don’t guarantee it. I will say Garcia doesn’t throw goose-eggs again. My team is too good to let that happen twice.

The Walter Johnson Award

Every year, the Baseball Bloggers Association honors MLB’s best pitchers in the NL and AL with the Walter Johnson Award.

As an AL team blogger, it’s my privilege to place my votes for the AL version of the Johnson Award.

This year it’s not even close. In fact, with a required five pitchers on the ballot, it’s actually kind of tough to fill out the 4th and 5th this year. Quite frankly, they’d be so far below #1 you might scoff at some of them.

At best this was a two pitcher race. In the #1 slot is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Verlander was head and shoulders above the pack in the AL, achieving the pitching Triple Crown: leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Verlander won six more games than CC Sabathia, the AL pitcher who finished second in wins. His 250 strikeouts was 20 better than #2 James Shields and his 2.40 ERA just nosed out Jered Weaver’s 2.41. Add in an opponents batting average of just .192 against a pitcher who threw 251 innings and a WHIP of 0.92 and you’ve got the makings of an award winner, probably by unanimous consent. Verlander is the easy choice for #1.

The closest to achieving what Verlander did, in my mind, was my #2 pick Jered Weaver. He barely lost out to Verlander for the ERA crown, compiled an 18-8 record and a 1.01 WHIP. Had Mike Scioscia not deemed it necessary to pitch Weaver on three days rest on a couple of occasions down the stretch in an attempt to catch the Rangers in the AL West, Weaver may have won the ERA title in 2011. The three days rest thing didn’t work for him too well.

The third through fifth positions could easily be restacked and reconfigured, because I think they’re all just about equal.

Number 3 on the list is the Comeback Pitcher of the Year: James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays. Shields had a miserable 2010. Even though he had a respectable 13 wins, his ERA was a sky-high 5.18, leading the AL in the negative categories of hits allowed and Earned Runs allowed. To say he turned it around in 2011 hardly does Shields justice. He had three more wins and three fewer losses, finishing at 16-12. He threw 46 more innings than he did in 2010 while giving up 51 LESS hits and a whopping 39 LESS earned runs. He struck out 225 batters, threw 4 shutouts and led the AL with 11 complete games.

In the 4 spot, I put a pitcher that had a much better year in the end than I expected him to have: CC Sabathia of the Yankees. While Sabathia is a workhorse year in and year out, I’ve never really thought of him as a low-ERA kind of guy. And yet, there he was at the end of 2011, with an ERA right at an even 3.00, second in the league in wins with 19 and second in strikeouts with 230. A pretty good year. It will be very interesting to see if Sabathia decides to opt out of the last year of his Yankees contract in the off-season.

Rounding out the list, I’m going to mention a Texas Ranger: CJ Wilson. There are all kinds of other players I could mention at this point: Jose Valverde, Ricky Romero, Dan Haren, etc. As mentioned earlier, though, does it really matter? Nobody I put here would have any chance of finishing first in the voting. I don’t think anyone that ANYBODY puts in this position has a chance of finishing first. Or second. Or probably even third. So I’ll go with my team and name CJ. His post-season hasn’t been very memorable, but he put together a fine campaign with 16 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and over 200 strikeouts. So there, I said it and I’m not taking it back!

So there you go, my official ballot. To recap:

1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

3. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays

4. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

5. CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers

What’s Half A Million Bucks Between Friends?

When you hear about wacky insurance policies – a Hollywood actress insuring her legs, a company insuring their big event won’t get wiped out by a meteorite hitting the Earth – it’s pretty safe to say the insurance company was betting they’d never have to pay, thus pocketing the premiums for themselves. Wednesday night, the bet didn’t pay off.

A Dallas area carpet and countertop company began advertising in Texas Rangers games at the end of August, telling viewers if they bought their carpeting or countertops from them, it wouldn’t cost them a cent IF Josh Hamilton hit a grand slam in September. Hamilton delivered in Wednesday’s 9-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. It was his third career slam.

The owner of the company says customers are getting about a half million dollars worth of free merchandise from him thanks to the blast, presumably even the man who hit the home run, as the company apparently had been hired by the Hamiltons to do their home. Of course, the carpet store isn’t losing a half million dollars in all this, just the insurance company who took the bet that it wouldn’t happen. The carpet store just loses the premium they paid on the policy.

Still, it was fun to see something like that come through for people, much like the excitement one feels for the golfer who wins a car in a hole-in-one contest. More exciting was the win that inches the Rangers one small step closer to their second straight division title.

Derek Holland was right on the money again, allowing a single run in seven innings of work in securing his 14th win. Holland has the 2nd worst ERA among all the starters (even then it’s a pretty good 4.02), but he also has the best run support of any of the starters, And, as his four complete shutouts prove, he can at times be dominating.

 The win was needed, as the Angels had won earlier in the day over the A’s. When Oakland took a 1-0 lead over Anaheim and Jered Weaver early, I had modest hopes for an Oakland win. That was tempered with the realization the A’s were countering with Rich Harden. Sure enough, Harden eventually returned to his 2010 Rangers form, giving up 3 runs in the 6th, ensuring Texas would have to win to keep pace.

At this point of the season, every day the Angels don’t gain ground makes it that much more difficult for them to catch the Rangers. Now we also know, when there’s free carpeting involved, Josh Hamilton can be lethal. Just two days ago, this space expressed concern over Hamilton’s rather pedestrian numbers (for him) over the past month plus. Since then, Hambone’s hit two out of the park. I’d love to take credit, but it probably has more to do with Josh’s 4th daughter being born and everyone being healthy. Now he can relax again.

Nelson Cruz had his first AB coming off the DL. Struck out. He’ll be brought along slowly, especially since David Murphy is doing nothing to deserve being taken out of the line-up.

Wednesday’s win put the Rangers 21 games over .500 for the first time since 1999. They still have a chance of topping that team’s club record of 95 wins.

Texas is now 8-1 vs. the Tribe in 2011. The final game of the season series and the Rangers’ next to last homestand is tonight, while the Angels have the day off. A Rangers win puts the lead at 3 1/2 with only 12 games to go.

Free carpeting and countertops can’t make that happen anymore. Maybe someone can offer free trips to Tahiti for a Hamilton slam…

 

Halo Goodbye: Rangers Take 2 of 3 From Angels

The most beautiful hit of the weekend to me wasn’t any of the hits that led to Nelson Cruz‘ 6 RBI night Friday. It wasn’t the David Murphy grand salami Friday. Or the home runs by Yorvit Torrealba or Josh Hamilton on Sunday. No, much like I’ve always loved the runt of the litter, the most beautiful hit of the weekend was a bad bunt.

In the 7th inning of a 5-5 game, Elvis Andrus decided to sacrifice Ian Kinsler to second to put the go-ahead run into scoring position. Andrus got underneath the ball, popping the bunt in the air. Miraculously, the bunt went just far enough to elude three Angels hoping to catch it for the first out, landed on the infield and, with a nice little piece of backspin, died hugging the first base line. Fair ball. Base hit. End of the night for Jered Weaver. Three more runs would come around to score before the 7th ended and the Rangers won the rubber game of the three game set 8-5, extending their AL West lead to three games with 37 to go.

It was a badly needed win and an improbable one, considering the Halos had staked their ace to a 4-1 lead with runs in each of the first three innings against Colby Lewis. A 3-run lead for Weaver usually means a W in the book for Anaheim. This time, pitching on only three days rest for the first time in his career, Weaver couldn’t hold it, giving up three runs in the 3rd to tie the game at four.

The Angels came back to make it 5-4 in their favor, where it remained until the fateful 7th inning. What was weird was how everything changed in the span of four pitches. The first pitch of the inning was a David Murphy double down the first base line. The second pitch a line single up the middle by Ian Kinsler. The inning’s third pitch was the aforementioned Andrus bunt single, ending Weaver’s night. And Scott Downs’ first pitch to Josh Hamilton made it to the outfield for a single, plating Kinsler with the go-ahead and, as it turned out, winning run.

The game was not without its setbacks. Nelson Cruz, Friday’s star, aggravated a hamstring in the 7th inning rally legging out a double and could be lost to the DL for awhile. Cruz had three DL trips in 2010 and one already in 2011 due to hamstring problems. Fortunately, Adrian Beltre starts a rehab assignment today and could return to the Texas line-up on Thursday.

The middle game of the set was easily CJ Wilson‘s worst pitching performance of the year and perhaps his career. Wilson gave up a career high five home runs as the Angels took the 8-4 decision. Only three days rest didn’t bother Angels starter Ervin Santana, four allowed just four hits, albeit in giving up four runs.

Game 1 was all Rangers, as Derek Holland pitched well and Dan Haren didn’t. Cruz, demoted to the 7 hole in the line-up, came through with 6 RBI and Murphy’s grand slam chased Haren as Texas bashed their way to an 11-1 lead before LA made it look more interesting with 6 runs in the last two innings.

Despite putting one more game of space between themselves and the 2nd place Angels, the next ten games are still a key to securing a playoff spot: three at home against the resurgent Rays, followed by three in Fenway Park against the Red Sox and another three at the Trop in Tampa. Off day today to get some much-needed rest before the Tampa series.

Still not optimistic about a return to the World Series, but feeling a little better about the chances of being in the playoffs again.

The Best Laid Plans: Angels 2, Rangers 1

One year ago, Colby Lewis was the Texas Rangers hard-luck starter. It seemed whenever Lewis was involved in a pitchers duel, he would be the first one to crack in the latter innings and take home a loss in a low-scoring game. A year later, Lewis has found himself involved in two classic pitchers duels in his past two starts. Both times the other guy cracked first.

Last night it was Jered Weaver who gave up the first run, a monster center field shot to his former catcher, Mike Napoli. Lewis followed with a shutdown inning. Mark Lowe looked as filthy as he had all year, mowing down the Angels with two K’s in the 8th. Texas was three outs away from their first EVER  4-game road sweep of the Angels.

Ron Washington was pushing all the right buttons. With closer Neftali Feliz showing a bad propensity for pitching poorly when asked to close three nights in a row, Wash made the logical decision: let newly acquired Mike Adams assume the closers role in the 9th. The man with the lowest ERA and WHIP of all relievers in baseball was the perfect choice to close the game.

Except it didn’t work. Torii Hunter led off with a clean single. Then, on a full count pitch, an Adams cutter went up in the zone instead of the intended down. Rookie Mark Trumbo swung and the ball screamed down the left field line, hugging the inside of the foul pole for a two-run walkoff homer. Goodbye 4-game sweep. Goodbye 8-game lead.

The Angels declared themselves still alive in the AL West pennant chase. Still, despite the dramatic fashion of the win, it rings as a somewhat hollow declaration, seeing as how Texas still has a six-game lead in the division.

As quickly as the lead ballooned to seven, though, it can reverse just as quickly. The next two weeks of baseball give the Halos a prime chance to make up ground again. While the Rangers face the White Sox on the road, the Angels get the lowly Orioles at home. The White Sox face the Angels while Texas hosts the Red Sox. Then, after facing each other for three games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas draws Tampa Bay’s Rays at home while the Angels draw the Mariners. The schedule the next two weeks definitely favors the Angels.

There’s only one way for the Rangers to keep that from happening. Just keep winning.

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