Results tagged ‘ Mike Trout ’

Post-Season Hardware

After your team’s eliminated, it sure is hard getting back to evenings with no Rangers baseball to watch. Sure I follow the playoffs and football is always there as a distraction, but night-to-night living is completely different. Fortunately there are still things like the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season awards to think about and write about to take some of the edge off.

BaseballBloggersAlliance

There are five awards announced annually by the BBA and, being a blogger about an American League team, that is the only league for me to vote. Just as well, because I really don’t know enough about the season in the NL to vote with certainty. I would, however, feel strongly that Clint Hurdle should get honored for his work with the Pirates and Paul Goldschmidt, being a Texas boy, has at least staked a claim as the league’s best player this year. But enough about things I know not nearly enough about. Here are my picks for the American League honors.

 

English: Connie Mack, in ballpark grandstand, ...

Connie Mack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Connie Mack Award (Manager)

I don’t hate honoring a manager, but I do hate the game that’s played for that honor. Face it, the manager who receives this award annually is more often than not the man whose team had either a surprising year or they had the biggest turnaround of the year. Thus managers like Joe Girardi or Ron Washington, whose teams have been consistently good for several years, will seldom get any recognition and when they do, such as when Ron Gardenhire won it for the Twins in 2010, it really should have gone to someone more deserving (Wash should have won in 2010). I voted for Girardi a couple of years ago because of how well the Yankees did despite several key injuries. I think Washington should get strong consideration this year for his work with the Rangers, considering the injuries to the pitching staff and how much weaker they were offensively due to no fault of his own. Through all that, he still managed Texas to 91 wins and within an eyelash of the official playoffs. Still, as much as I love the Rangers and as much as I respect Ron Washington, there’s no doubt who will win, and probably should win this year. It’s the Red Sox’ John Farrell. While he was once pitching coach for the Sox, this was his first season as a manager and he turned Boston from worst to first in one year’s time. Maybe that’s a sign of how bad a fit Bobby Valentine was a year ago, but I’m willing to give Farrell his due. Terry Francona gets an honorable mention along with Wash, not because of the overall turnaround for the Indians, but the fact he did it with a starting rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir, two pitchers who were on the verge of being put on the junk heap a year ago.

WINNER: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Willie Mays Award (Rookie)

This was not the strongest rookie class in the world. Offensively, there wasn’t a rookie in the AL who topped 60 RBI. Only one scored as many as 60 runs. Fourteen home runs was the top power number and 18 steals was the tops in the speed department. Most rookies considered for a top honor will put up numbers in one of those categories that resembles a fulltime starter. This year’s class had numbers befitting platoon players at best. So instead of Wil Myers or Nick Franklin, I’m looking at pitching this year. There I see two more deserving candidates: Dan Straily of the Oakland A’s and Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers. Both players won ten games for their clubs, tops among all rookies. Both were pretty even in ERA: Straily at 3.96, Perez at 3.62. The edge, though, goes to the guy who had a better WHIP (1.24 vs. 1.33) and led all rookies in innings pitched. Rangers fan that I am, reluctantly that means the guy with Oakland.

WINNER: Dan Straily, Oakland A’s

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever)

I’m going to concede the odds are long that the guy I vote for here is going to win. That’s because I’m going strictly on stats for this one. The guy who most likely is going to win had a great year in 2013. It was also his last year before retirement, so I suspect a lot of people are going to vote for him as a goodbye honor, kind of a Lifetime Achievement Award that will last the five years it takes before he’s enshrined in Cooperstown. The thing is, I don’t like Lifetime Achievement Awards like this. The Hall of Fame will be award enough. Fact is, the best reliever this year didn’t play in the Bronx. He played in the worst possible market to play in in the American League. We’re talking Kansas City here, folks. Greg Holland was filthy good for the Royals this year. 47 Saves, better than everybody except one. A 1.21 ERA. I thought Joe Nathan was outstanding for Texas with a 1.39, but Holland outdid him. Then you add in 103 strikeouts in only 67 innings of work, a 0.87 WHIP, and only 40 hits allowed. That is one ornery closer my friends. Mariano Rivera deserves all kinds of accolades for the career he had, as well as the way he came back in 2013 from a serious injury to post the numbers he posted. They don’t top what Holland did for the Royals, though and Holland shouldn’t get penalized because a guy who didn’t match his numbers is retiring.

WINNER: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)

Wins don’t mean anything. That’s what the SABR crowd says. They’re probably right. After all, all kinds of great pitchers get tagged for losses they don’t deserve. Yu Darvish lost four games this year 1-0. They also get credited with wins they don’t deserve. When you give up six runs in five innings but your teammates put up nine, you may have gotten the win but you won’t necessarily sleep well because of it. A couple of months ago, the debate was already beginning to form because the numbers of Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and even Yu Darvish were right up there with Max Scherzer, but Max was the guy with all those W’s on his ledger compared to the other guys. The thing is, the other three guys all started having their problems shortly after the debate started. Hernandez in particular got shelled by the Rangers to the tune of nine runs (8 earned) in only three innings of a late August start. From August 17 on, King Felix was a pedestrian 0-5, 6.46. Darvish was only 1-4 over that span but with a decidedly better 3.38 ERA. Chris Sale was 3-3 with a 4.02 the last month and a half. And Scherzer? He closed out with a 4-2, 3.08. There may have been a debate in mid-August, but only one of the four players in the debate made it count down the stretch. In this case, the guys with the most wins gets the award AND he deserves it too.

WINNER: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)

One year ago, another traditional vs. new era debate raged and it concerned the top player in the league. Traditionalists loved Miguel Cabrera, who was the first to win the AL’s Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960′s. On the SABR side was the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout who, according to WAR, had one of the best seasons anyone in baseball history has ever had. Cabrera won the vote of the sportswriters so the traditional won out. In the blogosphere, however, Trout was the decisive winner over Cabrera in the BBA vote. So what happened in 2013? Cabrera had an even better batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage than he had a year ago. Trout nearly doubled his walks from a year ago from 67 to 110. He also had a higher on base percentage and OPS. Then there was a new guy in the mix: Chris Davis of the Orioles, who exploded for 53 home runs. There was also a bit of love for the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, who had a torrid July and August and helped ease the loss of the suspended Nelson Cruz. A year ago I voted for Cabrera myself because I like my top player playing for a contender, plus Cabrera had a much stronger September than Trout did and that counts for something. So let’s compare Septembers for my top four in 2013:

Cabrera: .278 BA  1 HR  7 RBI

Trout: .281 BA  4 HR  15 RBI

Davis: .216 BA  6 HR  16 RBI

Beltre: .262  2 HR  10 RBI

Cabrera was battling injuries the last month, Beltre’s hamstring issues caused him to lose his power stroke in the late stages, Davis hit for power but not much average. That leaves the guy who missed out in the sportswriters vote a year ago. Yeah, he still wasn’t playing for a contender but he was a big part of a late surge that nearly brought the Angels back to .500 with a lousy pitching staff, no Albert Pujols and a mostly ineffective Josh Hamilton. I’m not as conflicted this year as I was a year ago.

WINNER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

There you have it. I may be a homer when it comes to the games, but none of my Rangers quite measured up in the end for the post-season hardware. As 29 teams always say on the last day of their seasons, there’s always next year!

The logo for the American League.

How To Come Back In 10 Days or Less

AL West Standings July 29, 2013

AL West Standings July 29, 2013

From June 28th until July 29th, a span of 32 consecutive days, the Texas Rangers failed to gain any ground on the Oakland A’s. In 17 if those 32 days, the Rangers did no better than holding their ground. The other days, they lost ground. By the time the streak of more than a month was over, the Rangers had gone from a half game up in the AL West to a season’s worst six games behind. Texas was in disarray. The offense was dead. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the team looked dead in the water, losing eight of 10, including sweeps at the hands of Cleveland and Baltimore.

Compare that to the last 10 days. In little over a week, Texas has gained back all but a half game of that ground, winning nine of ten and waking up this morning to a tie in the AL West standings with Oakland. The last three wins came without any help from their leading run producer on the year, forced to bow out for the rest of the regular season by Major League Baseball for doing something he shouldn’t have done.

It’s one thing being a fan and trying to stay positive about your team, but I don’t think you’d find many Rangers fans who can honestly say they fully expected the Rangers and A’s to be tied atop the standings just 10 days after being six games behind.

AL West Standings August 8, 2013

AL West Standings August 8, 2013

What’s been really cool to see the past few nights is the new Rangers way of winning games. Without Nelson Cruz, the long ball can no longer be the main offensive force. Texas has to get a little more creative to score runs. The Angels were the first to discover the new emphasis on the running game. The Rangers put the pressure on the Angels from the start of the game to the end. The last two wins in their 3-game sweep featured 13 stolen bases against the fading Angels. Leonys Martin swiped 6 bases in two games by himself, one of which came even when the Angels called a pitchout to stop him. Elvis Andrus had 5 swipes and Craig Gentry added the last two. In both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games, Texas best exemplified the new way of scoring runs in the first. Tuesday, it went like this: Martin had a single and promptly stole second. Elvis Andrus hit a grounder to second and a nonchalant throw to first didn’t get him in time, putting runners on the corners. An Ian Kinsler sac fly brought Martin home. Andrus went to second on a wild pitch. Then Elvis stole third. Following an Adrian Beltre pop-out, another wild pitch plated Andrus with the second run. Wednesday was even better. Martin was hit by a pitch. Andrus walked. A double steal put runners on second and third. After a pop-out, Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked. A Mitch Moreland sac fly plated a run. This time, speed allowed a run to score without benefit of a hit.

Angels manager Mike Sciosia squarely put the blame on his pitchers for the 6 steals on Tuesday. Wednesday, he couldn’t really do that. Tommy Hanson seemed to throw more balls over to first base than he did to the plate, trying to slow down the running game. It didn’t work.

Texas won with defense too, especially Tuesday. First there was Jurickson Profar robbing Mike Trout of a sure double, which you can see following this link: http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=29483275

Then there was Elvis Andrus making lemonade out of a lemon when he tumbled on this attempted steal:

There was also this outstanding play Martin made in right field Wednesday, throwing out Erick Aybar attempting to go to third on a single. There didn’t seem any way to get Aybar out at third, yet not only was he out, it wasn’t particularly close.

Texas will face better pitchers and catchers down the road who will negate the running game somewhat, but while it lasts, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

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:

1375293910996

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.

The Only Faced The Rangers All-Stars 2013

all-star_game-primary-2013

Anyone can vote for the All-Star team. It’s a pretty easy process. Most fans stuff the ballot boxes at their home ballparks and online with votes only for players on their favorite team. Others, like me, vote for who we feel are the most deserving, despite our fanhood. Before going further, here are my picks for this year’s AL All-Star team:

1B: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (and former Texas Ranger)

2B: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (sorry, Ian)

SS: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (sorry, Elvis)

3B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (VERY sorry, Adrian)

C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

LF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

CF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

RF: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (FINALLY!)

DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

See? That was pretty easy. And most of the picks would get little argument, except from die-hard fans of other teams.

What I love to do here every year is pick a different kind of All-Star team. This is a team picked strictly on the basis of how they’ve done this year against the Texas Rangers. No Rangers allowed on this team. This year, no Baltimore Orioles player stands a chance either, as the Rangers have yet to play the Birds in 2013. The fun part of this exercise is at times seeing the most unexpected names that just happened to have had inordinate success against the Rangers. Against everyone else, they settle back down to the mediocrity we’ve come to expect from them.

MLB_All_Star_Game_2013-300x237

Herewith is the AL All-Star team, based only on their 2013 results against the Rangers:

1B: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays  

Lind’s been injured this season and many have labelled him as one of those players who’s never going to consistently play up to his potential. You could have fooled Texas with that assessment. Lind has blistered the Rangers to the tune of a.433 BA with 3 HR and 10 RBI , 1.188 OPS.

2B: Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels  

Kipnis has done well in limited AB’s vs. Texas, but Kendrick, who has been a pest against Texas for a few years now, in more AB’s has 2 HR, 6 RBI and a 1.052 OPS.

SS: Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros  

This position was pretty equal top to bottom. The now minor-leaguer Gonzalez gets extra points for the 9th inning single that broke up Yu Darvish‘s perfect game bid. Over a .400 hitter vs. Texas in 10 AB’s.

3B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers  

No doubt about this one matching up with reality. Cabrera has torched Texas pitching for a .563 BA with 3 HR, 6 RBI and an astronomical 1.861 OPS.

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox  

Former Ranger Salty is hitting .294 against his former team with a home run. The likely true AL All-Star, Joe Mauer, is 0-15 this year against Texas.

LF: Seth Smith, Oakland A’s  

Smith has been a thorn in the Rangers’ side in 2013, blistering Texas pitching for a .368 BA with four doubles, a home run and 5 RBI.

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox  

Nope, not Mike Trout, who has mostly played CF against the Rangers. He’s hitting a meager .130 against Texas in 2013. Ellsbury, on the other hand, is at .421 with a couple of doubles and a stolen base.

RF: Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees  

Believe it or not, Josh Hamilton had this one locked down with a .360 mark against Texas (albeit with 0 HR and 0 RBI) until the Rangers visited New York this week. Ichiro looked like the All-Star of old, going .462 with two home runs and 3 RBI in 3 games against Texas.

DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

Travis Hafner had the better batting average at .375, but Ortiz gets the nod at just .250 because it came with power: 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs, along with 8 RBI. Ortiz made every hit count against Texas: 5 of his 6 hits were for extra bases.

There you have it. Only two of nine positions are players that are likely to represent the AL this year in the All-Star game. Of the other seven, probably only two of them will even make the All-Star team as a substitute. That’s two at best. Thanks to ESPN for providing the splits to compile these stats.

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.

 

Playing Tight

Wow, is this team playing tight or what?

Even the Rangers know it. Following Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Angels, the team held a closed-door meeting to talk about it, and it’s no wonder. Saturday’s game was a microcosm of everything that’s been wrong in Rangers Land over the past three weeks.

Runners in scoring position? Can’t cash ‘em in. Bad defense? Where do I begin? In this case, the pitching was good, maybe even more than good. Certainly it was good enough to win and should have been good enough to win but in the end, it wasn’t.

All you need to know about this tightness Texas is playing with appeared in the 7th inning of a 1-1 game. After the Rangers tied the game at one in the top of the 7th, Erick Aybar led off the bottom of the 7th with a bunt single Yu Darvish couldn’t come up with cleanly. Personal opinion was the scorekeeper was generous in giving Aybar the hit. If Darvish fielded it cleanly, I think he would’ve been out at first. Mistake #1. Aybar proceeded to steal second. Mike Trout then hit a ground ball past a running Aybar to Elvis Andrus at short. Had Andrus thrown to first, Trout would have been out. Instead, Andrus decided to complain loudly when the umpire ruled Aybar hadn’t been hit by the batted ball. Andrus apparently thought the ball had clipped Aybar’s jersey. Whether it had or not is immaterial. Andrus should have thrown to first for the out, then complained about Aybar. Mistake #2. Trout then stole second to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Alberto Callaspo then singled to right, plating Aybar and making it a 2-1 game and sending Trout to third. A walk to Albert Pujols loaded the bases and ended the night for Darvish. Koji Uehara came on to face Kendrys Morales, who lofted a fly ball to right. Trout tagged and came home. The throw to the plate appeared in time to get the out, Yorvit Torrealba turned and applied the tag and th umpire ruled he didn’t get the tag in before Trout crossed the plate with the third run. Torrealba was livid, was ejected rightly for his tantrum and may face a suspension for his actions. Mistake #3.

I saw the replay several times and while I thought Trout indeed was out at the plate, I also know it was such a close call you can’t say definitively the ump got it wrong. Just no excuse for Torrealba to go off like that after the play, but it said a lot about how little things have been mounting on this team for a while and it took something like this to release the pressure valve and get this team playing again the way they’re capable of playing. Maybe Aybar would have made it a 2-1 game regardless of the Trout at bat, but if Elvis had done his job, Trout never would have been in position to score that third run, which proved to be the decisive one.

Texas can still take some positives out of Saturday’s loss. They became the first team to score a run off of Scott Downs this season, even if it was of the unearned variety, keeping Downs’ ERA at 0.00. And they became the first American League team to get a hit off of Ernesto Frieri in 14.1 innings of work, when Mike Napoli got a clean single to lead off the 9th. At the same time, seeing Josh Hamilton strike out with the bases loaded in the top of the 9th was as disheartening to me as David Freese’s walk-off in Game 6 of last year’s World Series.

I’m sure all these things were discussed in that closed-door meeting following the game last night, as well as a few things I’m not even aware of. Hopefully, this club plays with a renewed focus this afternoon, because the focus hasn’t been there for a few weeks now.

The Tarnished Gem: Angels 1, Rangers 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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