Results tagged ‘ Lance Berkman ’
I’ll start this out by saying what I’ve said in these pages many a time before: I’m NOT a major proponent of WAR. I understand the concept of it, I just don’t totally agree with it because of the subjectivity of the defensive metrics. I don’t “speak” sabermetrics, but a great sabermetric argument for the way I feel was published today, as a free article, on Baseball Prospectus.
A way I can use WAR, though, would be as a comparison tool that doesn’t involve delving into a lot of different stats. I thought it would be interesting to see, at the 1/4 point of the season, how the Texas Rangers might look, record-wise, had they decided to keep everyone from last year’s Rangers team, instead of adding the pieces they added. To do that, I examined the respective WAR of the departed Rangers to their counterparts from this year’s team.
For this study, I’m using essentially the Texas Rangers team that essentially comprised the Rangers following the July 31st trading deadline.
Here’s how the former Rangers are faring so far in 2013, based on bWAR (via Baseball Reference.com):
Mike Adams (Philadelphia) 0.4
Ryan Dempster (Boston) 0.5
Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs) 0.8
Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels) -0.6
Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Angels) -0.3
Mike Napoli (Boston) 1.0
Koji Uehara (Boston) 0.5
Michael Young (Philadelphia) 0.3
Now let’s look at this year’s Texas Rangers counterparts:
Jeff Baker 0.7
Lance Berkman 0.6
Jason Frasor 0.0
Leury Garcia 0.1
Derek Lowe 0.0
Leonys Martin 0.7
Joe Ortiz 0.0
A.J. Pierzynski 0.6
Nick Tepesch 0.0
The two biggest things that jump out at me: Leonys Martin‘s defense (the subjective part) has led to a much higher WAR figure than I thought, while, of the former Rangers, Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman have both far exceeded what I most Rangers fans would have expected of them. Overall, the former Rangers out-WAR the current Rangers, but only by .2. If you’d like to extrapolate that to an actual record, WAR suggests the Rangers would be just where they are, at 24-14 or maybe one game better at 25-13, had they just stood pat with last year’s team. Of course, they’d have that record for a significantly higher payroll than they currently have, which would be a discussion for another day.
Let’s see. Let Josh Hamilton go. Reluctantly let Mike Napoli go. Gladly let Michael Young go. And while we’re at it, let your best bullpen set-up guys, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara go. Then, once the season starts, have your Opening Day starter go on the DL after three ineffective starts, make sure your previously platooned left-handed hitting left fielder and first baseman get off to miserable offensive starts, especially against southpaws, and have two rookies fill up 40% of your rotation. Mix it all together and VOILA! you have a team tied for the AL’s best record as we near the end of the season’s first month.
The question is, how the heck are they doing it?
This year’s Texas Rangers are certainly not resembling what we’ve expected from Rangers teams in the past. No longer is the offense a home-run hitting machine. You would think the pitching staff is nothing to write home about. Not a lot of household names there. It certainly doesn’t get the press of the starting staffs of Oakland, Detroit or even Tampa Bay. Here the Rangers are, though, winners of five of their first seven series. The two series they didn’t win, they split. The longest losing streak Texas has had in the first 22 games? One. That’s right, they have yet to lose consecutive games in 2013.
The question gets asked again, how the heck are they doing it?
Pitching is certainly the biggest answer. Through 22 games, the Rangers are first in the American League in Earned Run Average and it isn’t even close. At 2.76, the Rangers’ ERA is almost a half run better than the 2nd place Chicago White Sox. Yu Darvish (as chronicled in yesterday’s post) is approaching Ace status as a starter, Derek Holland has been much more consistent in the early going and rookie Nick Tepesch, winner of last night’s 2-1 victory over the Twins, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tepesch has walked three batters in four starts. All three walks came in ONE INNING of his first start. None in the 19+ innings since. The bullpen features a 5’7″ rookie in Joe Ortiz whose first year is resembling the successful debut a year earlier by his teammate Robbie Ross. Tanner Scheppers has gone through 10 games and 11.2 innings without giving up a run, earned or otherwise. Texas is the only bullpen in the AL not to have blown a save yet on the season.
The pitching is paving the way. The offense, despite some good pieces, hasn’t come close to gelling as yet. They spend the early part of games making the opposing starter look good. To date, Texas has only scored 5 runs in the first inning and have scored in the 1st in only 3 of their first 22 games. In the first three innings of games, essentially the first time through the line-up, Texas has scored only 18 of their 102 total runs scored. The second time through? A different story. 52 runs scored in innings 4, 5 and 6.
While the offense has been inconsistent, there are good signs of things to come. Texas is showing a more discerning eye so far in 2013. Last year, they struck out 17.7% of the time. So far in 2013, that’s down to 15%. Meanwhile the walk rate is up from a year ago, from 7.7% to 8.6%. Part of it is due to the arrival of Lance Berkman, but the approach preached by new hitting coach Dave Magadan plays a large part as well. Taking more pitches is one thing. It’s staying patient while still being able to swing with authority that will come in time.
Meanwhile, backing up the great pitching has been pretty stellar defense. Thus far, Texas has only 8 errors in the first 22 games. How much has the defense improved? Well, when your Gold Glove-winning third baseman is the player with the most errors on your team, that has to tell you something. Yep, Adrian Beltre has three E’s for the Rangers. Who doesn’t have errors? Shortstop Elvis Andrus, for one. Not a single E-6 on his ledger. On the entire 25-man roster, only four different Rangers have been charged with errors. Not one of them is a pitcher or a catcher. The catching tandem of newcomer A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto hasn’t allowed a passed ball as yet. Rangers pitchers have only 5 wild pitches.
In the most telling defensive statistic of all, Rangers opponents have only stolen four bases in the first 22 games and been caught three times. A year ago, 80% of the steals against Texas were successful and opponents stole 108 bases in all. At the current rate (which of course won’t remain this low), that figure will be more like 30 by season’s end. I’m not going to say this is all Pierzynski, as he’s not known as one of the greats in cutting down would be thieves. Part of it is due to Rangers pitchers not allowing as many runners to reach base in the first place. Currently, Rangers pitching is giving up fully one less hit per 9 innings than they did a year ago. Fewer base runners fewer steal opportunities. Still, it is a dramatic improvement thus far over a year ago and one that bears remembering as the season progresses.
Pitching and defense winning games for the Texas Rangers. Whoever would’ve thought it possible?
- Nick Tepesch impressive in big league debut, leading Rangers to 6-1 victory over Rays (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
- Rookie Tepesch stymies Twins in Rangers’ 2-1 (sacbee.com)
15 games in. If it hadn’t been for Wednesday’s rain-out, we’d officially be at the 10% point of the season. We all know individual statistics are pretty meaningless this early in the season. But, if you look at the team as a whole, is there anything we can discern from the season’s first 15-16 games? I think it’s possible.
Take my Texas Rangers for example. A year ago, the Rangers had scored 91 runs over the first 15 games. In 2013, 15 games have netted Texas a mere 55 runs. On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have given up 47 runs so far, compared to only 40 runs allowed over the first 15 games a year ago.
Taking it a step further, Texas scored their 91 runs last year while facing Detroit, Boston, Minnesota, Seattle and the Chicago White Sox. This year, 55 runs have been scored against Houston, the LA Angels, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Chicago Cubs. This is why the early season returns concern me. The Rangers scored more runs and gave up less runs in the first 15 games a year ago while facing overall superior competition than they have faced thus far in 2013.
We knew the Texas Rangers were going to have a harder time scoring runs in 2013 than they did a year ago. You don’t lose the likes of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and, to a lesser extent, Michael Young, without that having some effect on your offensive line-up. Making matters worse is, with the exception of Ian Kinsler, just about every regular from last year’s line-up is off to a slow start this year. Elvis Andrus is at .224, Adrian Beltre .232, David Murphy is hitting .151, Mitch Moreland .163 and Craig Gentry is at .227. Nelson Cruz is at .298 but hasn’t been hitting for a lot of power so far. Outside of Kinsler, the best hitters in the Rangers’ line-up has actually been their two newcomers, Lance Berkman (.389) and A.J. Pierzynski (.289).
Keeping an optimistic tone, I haven’t seen any discernible differences in the way people are pitching to Beltre and Cruz now that pitchers don’t have to worry about Hamilton too. So there is hope the offense will be better than what they’ve shown so far. Overall, though, this is not a team that will be bashing a lot of teams this year. In the past three years, Rangers fans have come to expect their team to knock out a lot of starting pitchers before the sixth inning. Over the first 15 games this season, at best the Rangers have only “knocked out” two starting pitchers with their offense. Opposition starters have given up more than 3 runs to the Rangers only three times in the year’s first 15 games.
Texas pitching has thus far come close to matching the hot start of 2012, but storm clouds are already on the horizon. Matt Harrison is on the disabled list and his back has not been responding to treatment. No team can do without their #2 pitcher for any great length of time, especially when combined with a sputtering offense. Alexi Ogando has had problem with his command in each of his first three starts, Yu Darvish has been bothered by a blister in his last two starts and 40% of the starting rotation are rookies in Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm.
The restructured relief corps has performed overall better than expected. Rookie Joe Ortiz has been tough as nails and picked up two wins along the way. Tanner Scheppers looks ready to make the next step. Derek Lowe and Michael Kirkman don’t exactly fill Rangers fans with confidence but they’ve mostly gotten the job done as we wait for the return of Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz from injuries.
At 9-6, I’m not unhappy with the overall record so far, but I do have concerns. If the offense doesn’t pick it up and if Matt Harrison is out for a significant period of time, this is going to be a challenging season in Texas.
- Texas Rangers Wind up with Split Against Cubs (rattleandhumsports.com)
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 4-3
Overall: 8-5 (2nd Place AL West) (-1)
Jalapeno Caliente (Offense): Lance Berkman .313/.450/.438 3 RBI 4 Walks
Raspa Frio (Offense): David Murphy .143/.143/.179
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching): Joe Ortiz 2-0 0.00 ERA 5.2 IP 1 H .056 BAA
Raspa Frio (Pitching): Michael Kirkman 5.40 ERA in 3.1 IP
Texas ended their homestand by taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays, then travelled to Seattle where they split a 4-game set with the Mariners. Ask most Rangers fans and they’ll probably say they were a little disappointed the Rangers didn’t go 5-2 or even 6-1, as all four games with the Mariners were winnable. Instead, the offense has gone decidedly cold. Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz really haven’t provided the power punch in the early going, which in turn magnifies David Murphy’s typical slow start even more, not to mention the overall low results of Mitch Moreland and the center field combo of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry. The offense is scraping, which is too bad, considering the pitching has been excellent overall. Only Michael Kirkman had an ERA above 4.50 for the week. Yu Darvish gave up 3 first inning runs then nothing else the rest of the way, but Texas could only manage one run of their own in the game.
Upcoming: Another week of both road and home games- Monday off, followed by three games in Chicago against the Cubs and three at home against the Mariners. Don’t expect to see much of Lance Berkman in Chicago. Texas will have to go by NL rules, which means no DH. Berkman could start one game at first base. Otherwise, he’ll be strictly a pinch hitter, especially with cold conditions expected in the Windy City.
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 4-2
Overall: 4-2 (2nd Place AL West) (-0.5)
Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Lance Berkman .450/.542/.750 1 HR 5 RBI 4 BB
Ian Kinsler .333/.407/.708 3 HR 8 RBI
Raspa Cold (Offense): Mitch Moreland .095/.130/.238
Leonys Martin .077/.200/.077
Jalapeno Hot (Pitching):Yu Darvish 2-0, 1.98 ERA 20 K in 13.2 IP
Alexi Ogando 1-0, 0.00 ERA 10 K in 6.1 IP
Raspa Cold (Pitching): Matt Harrison 0-2, 8.44 ERA 1.97 WHIP
All in all, a decent start to the season at 4-2, yet areas of concern are already popping up. Matt Harrison has not had a good start to the season. The Rangers are not going to contend in the AL West without Harrison at least staying consistent with what he’s done the past two seasons. Harry hasn’t been able to get his fastball down. Without that sinking heater, he can’t induce the ground balls and double plays he’s known for.
On the other hand, Yu Darvish has had an outstanding start, coming within one out of perfection in his first game and gritting through five innings with blister problems against the Angels in picking up the win his second time out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Look for Darvish to be a Cy Young Award contender in 2013.
The newly built bullpen is a work in progress, hoping to do a decent enough job while waiting for Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz to return from injuries. What isn’t said is they need to come back from injuries and be as effective as they once were, which is no guarantee. Of the newcomers over the first week, Jason Frasor and Derek Lowe were busts, rookie Joe Ortiz was mediocre. Of the returnees, Robbie Ross was unscored on but hittable while Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers showed they might be credible set-up men to Joe Nathan until Soria and Feliz are ready.
This week, Texas has three at home against the Rays before hitting the road for four in Seattle. Rookie Nick Tepesch will make his major league debut on Tuesday.
Here’s what it’s like being a baseball fan. I find myself sitting in the office, checking in on Twitter so I know what’s happening in the first intrasquad game of the year.
The funny thing is, I don’t think of it as sinking so low. While I have never made the spring visit to Surprise, it is definitely in my plans to do so in the next couple of years. Until that time occurs, I hang on the news that Yu Darvish didn’t give up a hit in his inning of work (but he did allow an unearned run); that Nelson Cruz blasted his first bomb of the spring off Jake Brigham; and, on the negative side, A.J. Pierzynski allowed three stolen bases and Elvis Andrus booted his first ground ball of the spring.
None of this means anything in the grand scheme of things, of course. For the faithful diehards, though, it’s like seeing the first robin, the sign that Spring is indeed on its way. It gives us a chance to stop worrying about whatever fool thing that former Rangers player said about true baseball towns and true baseball fans. Instead, it’s time to start zeroing in on how the young kids look, whether the injured have nursed themselves back to health and to start debating who among the bubble players will get those last roster spots up for grabs.
We know #1 prospect Jurickson Profar has decided he wants to make the team badly enough he is willing to forgo his guaranteed spot for the Netherlands in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, that Adrian Beltre will miss the first round of said WBC because of a mild calf problem that wouldn’t keep him out of the regular season line-up and that the iffy-ness of Nelson Cruz‘ status has the Rangers’ rookie Mike Olt shagging more fly balls in right field than were originally planned for him.
The biggest news to me, though, hasn’t even been discussed much in the media. People chuckled when Lance Berkman admitted he’d left his glove at home. Ron Washington said there was no problem, since Berkman’s primary job is as the club’s DH. Wash also said Olt’s main duties this spring were going to be in right field and his natural position of third base. Why is any of this significant? Because it has always been assumed there would be a first base platoon in 2012 consisting of Mitch Moreland against righties and either Olt or Berkman against southpaws. No Olt
and no Berkman working out at first base seems to point to Wash giving Moreland a shot at being the fulltime first baseman.
This is a good thing and a bad thing. This is a critical year for Moreland. Like Chris Davis before him, I’m pretty sure this is Moreland’s last chance to prove himself as an everyday player. Both have been offensively inconsistent in their time with Texas, showing flashes of greatness followed by bouts of great mediocrity. Davis was never able to get into an offensive groove with the Rangers despite lots of chances. For Moreland, injuries have led to offensive inconsistency. If he doesn’t produce this year, whether injured or not, he will probably be headed for other pastures like Davis before him.
This spring also will be critical for Julio Borbon. It wasn’t so long ago Borbon was part of the first Rangers team to make it to the World Series and considered a vital part of the team’s fortunes. This year he enters spring training as the forgotten man, out of options and supplanted on the depth chart by Leonys Martin. His only shot appears as the Rangers’ fifth outfielder. This goes to show the Rangers depth in the minor league system. Borbon didn’t see a day of time in the majors in 2012, yet I think he has the talent to be on any team in the majors. Borbon’s problem is his defense. It hasn’t been good enough to make up for his lack of power. If the D isn’t there this spring, Borbon will be looking for a new organization to play for come April.
Almost 700 word, just to say Spring has sprung, the grass has ris and where I’d like to be is not where I is. Just a few days to the first exhibition game. I have a hankering for a hot dog and some nachos.
Ballplayers get at least three months off between end of season and start of spring training. I took three and a half weeks off between blog posts. Am I rested? I don’t know. Am I in shape for the 2013 season? Absolutely not!
I vegged out over the past three and a half weeks. I thought about posting some thoughts but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I spent more time playing with my Christmas presents than I did looking into the minutia of Texas Rangers baseball.
Most common statement I’ve heard from non-Rangers brethren since the off-season began and, more specifically, since Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels: “Bet it’s going to be hard to watch the Rangers this year. They’re going backwards.”
I agree it seems the Rangers have gone backwards going into 2013. Gone are Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be any help until the second half of the season at the earliest. Coming on board? Joakim Soria, who’s also disabled until after the All-Star break. Lance Berkman, who was limited by injury to less than 100 at bats in 2012. New bullpen pieces in Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. A new catcher in AJ Pierzynski. Not exactly a group that’s going to make you forget Hamilton, Young, Napoli, Adams and Uehara, right?
And yet, and yet. I am possibly looking forward to 2013 as much as I looked forward to 2010, when I began this corner of the webiverse chronicling a team that, for the first time in a decade, was possibly going to contend for a title. That team exceeded my expectations and made it to the World Series. And while I harbor no illusions of the 2013 squad being in the Fall Classic, I won’t totally discount the possibility either.
I am looking forward to seeing what the infusion of youth does for this team. Whether the names Leonys Martin, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will become as well-known to baseball fans as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young were for the past few years. I can’t wait to see if Yu Darvish builds on a successful rookie campaign to become a bona fide ace. Whether Derek Holland can put a pedestrian 2012 behind him and progress to be at the very least an above average #3 starter. I want to see if new hitting coach Dave Magadan transforms Texas from a team of sluggers to hitters who work counts and put pressure on the pitcher. Will the Rangers running game improve and will baserunning coach Gary Pettis be able to effectively do his job from the third base coaches box instead of his usual first base box? Will Berkman stay healthy enough to impact the team? Is Nelson Cruz going to rebound from a so-so 2012 both offensively and defensively to be the presence he was in 2010 and 2011? Can the new bullpen pieces quickly coalesce into a unit that consistently delivers a lead to Joe Nathan in the 9th?
Most important of all, how will Ron Washington handle the youth movement? Wash took a lot of flak last year for staying with his veterans, especially Michael Young, while Olt and Profar languished on the bench in September. And if he gets all the young guys to perform at a high level and the Rangers continue to compete for a division title, will he finally get some consideration for Manager of the Year?
OK, so Texas didn’t get Zack Greinke. Or Justin Upton. Or Hamilton. Or Napoli. Or James Shields, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Travis D’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia, all of whom Jon Daniels kicked the tires on during the off-season. Nor does it appear that Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn are Arlington bound. Yet I’m excited about the 2013 season.
Pierzynski and Berkman aren’t sexy signings, but the two of them have something the rest of the team doesn’t have- a World Series champion ring. I bet that counts for something, including what impact their work ethic might have on Olt, Profar and Martin.
For sure, this is a team with flaws. Just 20 days from Spring Training and there’s no clue who will be the utility infielder or fifth outfielder. It’s anyone’s guess who will be in the bullpen besides Nathan and Frasor. The fifth starter for the rotation has yet to be determined and none of the names in contention are likely to strike fear in the average major league line-up.
What gets me excited is this. If Wash can keep this team in contention through the All-Star break, the second half will see Feliz and Soria returning to the pen and Colby Lewis to the starting rotation. That would make for an intriguing stretch run.
Too bad it’s still 20 days from pitchers and catchers reporting and 66 days til Opening Day at Houston.
One strike away. Twice.
Disappointment reigns. All the signs pointed to the Rangers walking off the field as World Champions tonight yet, in the end, it was an exuberant Cardinals crowd cheering an extra innings victory on a David Freese home run.
Early on, it was a game nobody seemed to want to win. With fielding straight out of Little League, the unearned runs piled up as leads changed hands and ties were attained. The Rangers started out on top. The Cards would come back. The Rangers would retake the lead. The Cardinals would come back. First the runs scored on miscues by fielders. Then they started scoring on longballs. There was Adrian Beltre going yard. The Nelson Cruz made it back to back jacks. But here came the Cardinals, down to their last strike in the 9th, getting a 2-run triple when Cruz thought he was closer to the right field wall than he was and missed the catch, plating the tying runs.
An inning later, there was Josh Hamilton, going yard for the first time in the entire playoffs and putting the Rangers back up by two. But then there was Lance Berkman, tying the game with a single on a two-out, two-strike pitch, sending it to yet another extra frame and frustrating the Texas faithful.
Finally it was Freese, hitting a lead-off walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th to tie the Series at 3 games apiece and sending a drained Rangers fandom to bed with dreams of “What If’ dancing in their heads.
There were victims on both sides as well. Matt Holliday left the game with a severely jammed finger. Nelson Cruz looks like he tweaked his ever-problematic hamstring in the last inning, which probably accounted for Ron Washington’s strange decision to pinch-hit for Scott Feldman, his only long reliever. Mike Napoli almost went down when he twisted his ankle badly early in the game.
All night long, I felt confident this was the night. It kept looking that way. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan chastised me for starting a countdown in the 7th inning of outs needed to win it all. I was not deterred. Fans have their own superstitions. The countdown has usually been one of mine, but I trusted it was going to happen and I know this loss had nothing to do with my tweeting a countdown. Hey, I was wearing the same Rangers shirt I’ve worn for every win this Series tonight (now THAT was a superstition) and it didn’t work like a charm the way it did in games 2, 4 and 5. So, in a further slap int he face of superstitions, I’ll wear a different Rangers shirt for the decisive game Friday night.
More power to the Cards. They refused to die, just as the Rangers refused to die. I drink the Wash Kool-Aid now. I know exactly what he’s going to say at the post-game press conference. “We didn’t do it tonight. We’ll put it behind us, get a good night’s sleep and go do it again tomorrow and see if it works out better for us.”
The Rangers to a man believe that. I still believe it will, too.
My son, affectionately known here as 18-Year-Ranger-Fan, had the great privilege to attend not one, but TWO World Series games in 2011. Here is his account:
Howdy all, 18-Year-Ranger-Fan here. I thought about writing a synopsis of games 4 and 5 of the World Series, but decided that 41-Year-Ranger-Fan had done a great job that I couldn’t top. Instead I decided I would write more about the experience of being at two of the biggest wins in Rangers history.
To start with Game 4 was without a doubt the single greatest performance by a Rangers pitcher I have seen in my life. Derek Holland had perfect command all night and only allowed 4 baserunners…two of which were Lance Berkman (who seems to be all Rangers fans’ least favorite Cardinal.) The atmosphere at the ballpark was electric. The fans were into the game the entire time making noise and supporting the players. At one point there was even a Der-ek Holl-and chant going to the typical Rangers chant cadence. When Mike Napoli hit his 3 run shot to open up the lead the excitement in the ballpark was like nothing I had ever experienced. By the time the game was over I didn’t think there was anything that would top that experience for me. Little did I know the next night would be even greater.
I want to take a moment to thank a gentleman named Alberto, who I met at game 4. He ended up giving me a ticket to game 5. Game 5 ended up being even better due to the drama that led up to the 8th inning and what the win signified. For much of the game the Rangers trailed, tying it up in the 6th off a patented knee homer by Adrian Beltre. Up to that point the fans kept trying to get the Rangers into the game. If you want to talk about a crowd affecting the game, look no further than the Cardinals bullpen. According to La Russa it was due to loud fans that they didn’t have the right pitchers when they wanted. To say that is a testament to how great Rangers fans are.
As the top of the 9th started the level of excitement at the ballpark was on the breaking point. Feliz was on the mound and after he hit the first batter it brought up the mighty Albert Pujols representing the tying run. After Feliz ran the count full, it was obvious the hit and run was on as Craig kept running off first when Pujols fouled off 2 pitches. When he finally struck out and Napoli caught Craig stealing 2nd the crowd erupted in a way that I have never experienced. Random people were hugging me and we knew we were close. Once we got the final out to win and take a 3-2 series win, there was a feeling of euphoria among everybody as we walked to our cars.
This year has been the greatest season for me as a fan. I was able to go to the Rangers first road game while living in Baltimore and was able to attend the last home game of the year. I made it to 9 games this year, which is more than I had attended in the past 18 years combined. The Rangers lost the first one and won the next 8 that I went to. Hopefully, the Rangers can pull of one more win this year and truly make this the best year of baseball for me. All I can say now though is thanks for all the memories this year as a fan.
Saturday night, the Rangers had their worst pitching performance in their brief World Series history. Sunday night, they had their best.
Derek Holland came within two outs of becoming the first AL pitcher in 20 years to pitch a World Series shutout, tossing 8 1/3 innings of 2-hit ball in totally shutting down the same Cardinals attack that scored 16 runs just the night before, tying the Series up at two games apiece.
For awhile, I was afraid this was going to be a game in which the Rangers missed opportunities were going to haunt them. Texas had baserunners against Edwin Jackson every inning of the game, but through six innings, they had just a single first inning run to show for it on an Elvis Andrus single and Josh Hamilton double. Jackson wasn’t fooling many hitters. The Rangers sent countless balls deep into the outfield, but none of them had quite enough carry to make any difference. Jackson was even working his way around five walks through the first six innings.
The dam finally broke in the 7th, when Jackson walked his sixth and seventh batters of the night, finally forcing a pitching change. Mike Napoli proceeded to deposit Mitchell Boggs’ first pitch over the left field wall, in what looked like a home run that was a few feet higher than Albert Pujols’ second home run of the night Saturday night, making it 4-0.
Holland and Neftali Feliz did the rest.
It was easily the best pitching performance in the Rangers brief nine games worth of World Series history. Dutch allowed only two hits to Lance Berkman, walked two, struck out seven and was throwing harder in the 8th and 9th innings than he was in the first and second.
There were omens for me before the game even started. One year ago, on Halloween night, I attended Game 4 of the Series against the Giants. The Cowboys lost earlier in the day and so did the Rangers. In fact, they were shut out 4-0. A year later, the Cowboys won their home game in the afternoon (against St. Louis, no less). Good omen #1.
Good omen #2 was my first-born, 18-year-Ranger-Fan, who was in the stands for this one. The term stands is literal. He had a standing room only ticket. He plans to write a post for this space tomorrow. 18-Year has been to more Rangers games than I this year and he entered tonight’s game having witnessed six consecutive Rangers wins in his trips to the ballpark, the most recent with me at the next to last home game of the regular season. He now has a seven game winning streak. Could someone please get him a ticket for Monday night’s game???
This has been one outstanding World Series. The narrative changes after every game. Everything I heard from the time Saturday night’s game ended to the start of Sunday’s game was about the Cardinals outstanding offense and how it would be very tough for Texas to get back into the Series now that the Cards’ offense had been let out of the bottle.
Derek Holland shut the bottle back up tonight. It’s now a best of three series. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!