Results tagged ‘ Nelson Cruz ’
“Ho ho ho! MERRY…..”
“Oh. It’s you again. Listen, dude, you just saw me two days ago and I delivered Fielder to you on a silver platter so do me a favor and…”
“But I have to amend my list now for what else I want you to get me. Since you sent Ian Kinsler away, there’s nobody for left field yet. And since you brought me Prince Fielder, you don’t have to get me Justin Morneau anymore!”
“But you asked me for a big out of nowhere trade and I delivered. That concludes our business.”
“Not really. You brought Prince to me over a month before Christmas. Technically, that doesn’t make him my Christmas present.”
“All right. Lay it on me. But DON’T expect anything else from me until at least Christmas!”
“Deal. And speaking of deals, here’s what I want for my Texas Rangers Christmas now that we have Fielder on board. First…”
“Let me guess. You want Robinson Cano.”
“Forget Cano, Santa. We’ll be paying through the nose for seven years of Prince. Sign Cano and the Rangers lose all kinds of flexibility in the future!”
“Well, that’s a very grown up attitude…”
“I am 57. We went over that last time.”
“No, I was thinking something more like Carlos Beltran. He’s old, so we could probably just go two years on him with an option for the third.”
“Carlos Beltran, check.”
“And I still want Brian McCann. Same deal. Two years, option for third. By then, Alfaro will be ready.”
“Beltran. McCann. Got it.”
“And I still wouldn’t mind getting Nelly Cruz back for another couple of years.”
“So you’re saying, even after I gave you Fielder, you want THREE more players? You do know there are teams out there that won’t even get one player this winter?”
“I don’t care about them. Baseball is a selfish sport.”
“Well, what if I can’t get you three more players? What would you be satisfied with?”
“Okay if I can’t have everything I want, I guess I would settle for one of Beltran, Cruz and McCann. Provided we can package Mitch Moreland in a deal to get us some bullpen help. Oh, and can you maybe convince Colby Lewis to sign on for another year? I know he’d rather sign with a team that gives him a better chance to make the starting rotation, but I think he could be our #5 starter easy!”
“OK, kid. Your amended list is in my hands. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Now I want you to do ME a favor.”
“Sure, big guy, What is it?”
“GET OFF MY LAP!!! And if I see you here one more time before Christmas, I’m going to slap a restraining order on you!”
(Thinking to himself. Imagine this with slight echo): “Was that really Santa? Seemed more like The Grinch to me.” (Stops and speaks aloud. No echo.) DANG! I forgot to tell him I still wanted the new hamstrings for Adrian Beltre!”
“Aren’t you a little old to believe in Santa?”
“Fair enough. So, what would you like Santa to bring you this year, little…uh…boy.”
“Hold on there, fella. You know Santa can’t bring you ALL of those things, don’t you?”
“But I’ve been a VERY VERY good boy this year, Santa!”
“Yes, but there are lots of other VERY VERY good boys this year and they want some of the same things you do.”
“You’re not including the Astros are you, Santa? Because they weren’t very good at all this year.”
“Yes, but we have to be fair to everyone. So what do you REALLY want Santa to bring you this year?”
“Forget being fair. This is about WINNING!!! I want Price and Stanton and McCann and Cruz and Napoli and…”
“Let’s try this from a different direction, kid. You know the drill. It still has to fall within your parents’ budget. So let’s be a tad more frugal here.”
“My folks are REAL rich. That’s why I don’t understand why they didn’t bring me back Josh Hamilton last year. Although, in retrospect, I guess they had a pretty good reason and it wasn’t something that I would’ve wanted to play with after all. Anyway, why not everything? They can afford it!”
“Needs, kid, NEEDS. Remember what the Stones said? You can’t always get what you want, but you usually get what you need. You want Price, you gotta give up Profar for sure, Holland probably and two of your top five prospects on top of that. And the Marlins say they’re keeping Stanton come hell or high water and he’ll cost you more than Price anyway. So let’s get rid of that pie in the sky Price and Stanton crap and get down to brass tacks. What does this Rangers fan NEED to be happy in 2013?”
(2 minutes of pouting ensues. Finally, Rangers fan replies)
“You’re not at all the way I remember you 50 years ago.”
“Yeah, well corporate cut my pension plan, I’ve had to downsize to six reindeer and there’s an elf accusing me of…Wait. Where were we?”
“What do I NEED to be a happy Rangers fan in 2013.”
“Right. Go ahead. Spit it out.”
“I’ll go ahead and drop Price and Stanton from my list. Reluctantly. But that’s only because we’ve got a pretty strong rotation already and we need more help with the offense. So here goes. I want the Rangers to sign Brian McCann to be the catcher until Jorge Alfaro is ready to go.”
“Hey, this won’t cost anything but a little pride. I want Ian Kinsler to agree to move to left field so Jurickson Profar can become the full-time second baseman.Oh, and a brand new set of hamstrings for Adrian Beltre!”
“Kinsler may be doable. Beltre’s hamstrings aren’t in my department.”
“Then I want Texas to sign Justin Morneau to play first base. Jon Daniels said a lot of teams expressed interest in Mitch Moreland. Make him part of a trade package for another piece, maybe a #5 starter. Then we should re-sign Nelson Cruz as our DH in 2013.”
“You want three free agents, huh? That’s a pretty tall order for any team except maybe the Yankees and Dodgers, son.”
“You could give me Price and Stanton. Do that and I’ll live with Moreland at first for another year.”
“Three free agent signings it is, then. Is that all? I’ve got a line of kids a block and a half long yet to see.”
“Well, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. How about a trade that nobody’s thought of yet. Kind of like a rabbit JD pulls out of his hat and surprises everyone with, even the writers who’ve started every possible trade rumor anyone could imagine?”
“That might take some doing, but maybe my friend the Sandman can whisper a thought into his head. Now, if that’s all, see that nice elf over there for a candy cane and have a…”
“WAIT!!! One last thing, Santa! Do you think you could make 2014 the year the Rangers finally win it all?”
“I’m just Santa Claus, kid. I deliver the gifts. I don’t control what happens to them after they’ve been opened. For all I know, you’ll break everything I give you in the first week of Spring Training.”
In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.
In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.
In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.
Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.
Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.
The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.
If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.
If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.
- Unflappable Koji nets ALCS MVP honors (mlb.mlb.com)
- HBT: Koji Uehara is your ALCS MVP (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Koji Uehara Receives Champagne Shower During Red Sox’ Celebration After Advancing to World Series (Video) (nesn.com)
I had modest hopes. To me, a World Series appearance wasn’t in the cards for the Texas Rangers in 2013, but entering the extended regular season finale, I had hopes my boys would be able to extend their winning streak to nine to get a shot at the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. David Price put in a gutty performance and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Rangers’ season at 163 games.
Still, it was a helluva year. Who would have thought the Rangers would be capable of winning 91 games in a season where:
2) Berkman was a bust and the team’s best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, got suspended for the last 50 games of the year.
4) #2 starter Matt Harrison only managed two ineffective starts before going down to injury for the year.
6) The big pitching acquisition, Matt Garza, had many more poor performances than good ones.
The Rangers handled all this adversity and still won 91 games. They did it with a new infusion of youth that will only get better in the next few years, particularly Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, who all showed signs of being major contributors.
Meanwhile, there are some players who won’t return for another round in 2014. David Murphy will most certainly be allowed to leave via free agency. Adam Rosales will also go. The pitching staff may say goodbye to Jason Frasor and even Joe Nathan leaving is a possibility.
Others are iffy. Nelson Cruz will be a free agent. He has stated often over the years he wants to stay in Texas, yet management never saw fit to make him an offer these past three years. Still, they may relent and bring him back as the team’s designated hitter because this team desperately needs some power. I’d love to see utility man Jeff Baker return. AJ Pierzynski could be gone as the Rangers keep getting linked to a free agency pursuit of Brian McCann. After his year ended so poorly, I can’t see Mitch Moreland as part of the plan for 2014. Whether that means Texas will ask Ian Kinsler to move to first (which also opens up second base for Jurickson Profar) or they pursue a free agent like James Loney remains to be seen. And, of course, there could be trades in the future that could see others leave the organization. Maybe the aforementioned David Price could come Texas’ way via trade.
This off-season I expect the Rangers to address their offensive needs as there are only a couple of modifications needed for the pitching staff. Four starters and at least five bullpen pieces are already set. Then I expect Texas will be a better team than they were in 2013. The window isn’t closed yet. It still has a few good years of being open left.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 7-0
Overall: 91-71 (2nd Place AL West) (-5)
Craig Gentry .391/.462/.435, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases
Alex Rios .346/.357/.654 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 8 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases
Mitch Moreland .200/.333/.200
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Alexi Ogando 3 Runs, 8 Hits Allowed in 5.1 Innings Pitched
The Texas Rangers have not qualified for the post-season, but thanks to an incredible last week of the season, they are guaranteed a 163rd game.
Say what you will about Texas getting to stay home the entire last week of the season to face the only two teams they dominated all season, they still needed every one of the seven straight wins they put together on the week to qualify for even this 163rd game. The Monday night match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays is not officially a play-off game, it’s actually a regular season game, with all stats counting towards the regular season total. Win tonight and THEN the Rangers can say they’ve made the post-season for the 4th year in a row.
Even with a 7-0 week, the Rangers weren’t the hottest team in the American League. That honor went to the Wild Card bound Cleveland Indians, who will take on the winner of tonight’s Texas-Tampa Bay game on Wednesday while riding a 9 game winning streak. The Indians dominated their week against the two lowest-ranked teams in the AL Central and Minnesota in particular seemed to just roll over against the hot Tribe. By the way, I want to meet the guy who could have said with certainty four months ago that the Indians would make the playoffs sporting a rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir.
Thanks to the Rays dropping two of their three games with the Blue Jays, the Rangers get to play the Rays tonight with rookie Martin Perez getting the start against David Price. The game will see the return of Nelson Cruz, who has now finished serving his 50-game Biogenesis-related suspension. Cruz will likely be the DH against the Rays. If Texas loses tonight, Cruz will be back for one game and then possibly no longer be a Ranger, as he heads into free agency after the season.
Seven days ago, I didn’t think I’d have anything more to write about in terms of play on the field after today’s wrap-up of the week. I am happy to say I will have more to write, at least for another day.
It’s the end of the season, the Rangers did themselves no favors by going cold to begin the month of September and now find themselves not assured of a playoff spot with a mere ten games to go in the regular season. The AL West title is clearly out of the question with Oakland up 6 1/2 with 10 games to go. If the Rangers go 10-0, Oakland would still win the division by going a mere 4-5. Mathematically it’s possible, realistically fuhgeddaboutit.
This, of course, means the silly season has started in the DFW area. Columnists are busy opining as to what kind of blood bath will occur within the Rangers organization after the close of the season. After all, Texas “collapsed” for the second consecutive year. SOMEONE HAS TO PAY WITH THEIR JOB!!!
Already, camps have begun to pop up in the media. Some have begun to speculate on Ron Washington‘s future with the team. On the other side of the coin, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Randy Galloway has firmly established himself in the “Fire Jon Daniels” camp, saying the Rangers’ season wasn’t Wash’s fault, it was JD’s for not giving him a good enough team to work with.
My question is, why should anyone get fired?
Yeah, the season has been a disappointment in many regards. The showing of the team in September has not been good and there’s a very real chance Texas won’t be in the playoffs come the end of next week. Based on schedule, the Rangers and Indians have the most favorable odds but getting shut out of the post season is a real possibility.
Still, let’s look at this logically.
For those in the “Fire Wash” faction, think about how 2013 squad composition compared to the 2012 team. Gone for the entire year from that team were Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young. Those three players alone combined for 75 home runs and 251 RBI worth of offense. In their place, essentially, were A.J. Pierzynski, Lance Berkman and Leonys Martin who, as of 9/19, have combined for 31 game runs and 139 RBI offensively. David Murphy slid from 15 HR and 61 RBI in 2012 to 13 HR and 44 RBI in 2013. And Nelson Cruz, the biggest power threat on the team, got suspended for the last 50 games of the regular season after posting 27 home runs and 76 RBI in the first 112 games.
Meanwhile, on the pitching side, Texas lost Koji Uehara and Mike Adams from the bullpen. Colby Lewis never pitched in 2013 after posting six wins in 2012. Matt Harrison had only two starts in 2013 before being shelved for the year following an 18 win 2012 campaign. The pitching staff actually improved in 2013 despite these departures. Martin Perez established himself as a legitimate starter and the bullpen hasn’t missed a beat with Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers replacing Uehara and Adams. Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz boosted the pen when they came back in August & September from lengthy injury rehabilitation.
Considering how vastly different this team is from the 2012 team, not only should Wash not be fired, he should contend for AL Manager of the Year for where he has this club in the standings. He won’t win. John Farrell of the Red Sox will probably get the honor, but Wash has done an outstanding job considering the injuries he’s had to contend with as well as the Cruz suspension. Texas is tied for the Wild Card lead despite, at one point, fielding a rotation that consisted of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf.
Then what of General Manager Jon Daniels? Maybe Galloway is right, Jon Daniels should pay with his job for not giving Wash better pieces to work with.
Nonsense. All Daniels has done is put together a team that contended for the division title up until the last three weeks of the season and did it without breaking the Rangers budget or crippling the team for the future. Look at the off-season of 2012. The Rangers were in hot pursuit of two players in particular: Zach Greinke and Justin Upton. They had hopes of re-signing Josh Hamilton. They weren’t saying no to a Mike Napoli return either. Adams and Uehara they were resigned to losing, since JD doesn’t want to overpay for bullpen pieces. Texas was supposedly ready to part with Mike Olt and Elvis Andrus, perhaps even Martin Perez, to get Upton. Arizona didn’t bite. Upton in 2013 has put up 2.9 WAR for the Braves. Andrus and Perez have combined for a 4.1 WAR, while Olt ended up being a piece of the trade that brought Matt Garza to Texas. Greinke signed with the Dodgers. Texas put up an attractive offer, but LA topped it and Greinke admitted he went with the best financial offer. Guess what? If JD had sweetened the offer, the Dodgers would have topped it again.
Since Texas lost out on both Upton and Greinke, Daniels had to get a little more creative. He tried to get James Shields from the Royals. The Rays’ ask was too high. Finally, Daniels signed Lance Berkman as the team’s DH. It was a calculated risk, but if Berkman and his creaky knees came anywhere close to what he did for the St. Louis Cardinals, it would be a steal. He then signed Pierzynski as the everyday catcher. He had already signed the injured Joakim Soria to a two-year deal, even though he wouldn’t be ready until mid-season at the earliest. Finally, Daniels went more low-key and signed Jason Frasor to a 1-year deal to help the bullpen and Jeff Baker as the club’s back-up to Mitch Moreland at first base, David Murphy in left and Adrian Beltre at third. Then, with Texas contending at mid-season, JD went and got both the best hitter and the best pitcher available at the trade deadline in Matt Garza and Alex Rios. He possibly overpaid for Garza, who not only has been somewhat of a disappointment for Texas, he also will be a free agent at year’s end. On the other hand, Rios cost Texas just Leury Garcia and he’s still is under contract for 2014.
All these moves and Texas might miss the playoffs in 2013. On the other hand, take a look at what Daniels has accomplished. On the pitching side, the starting rotation for 2014 is already 4/5 complete with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and a returning Matt Harrison. There’s always a possibility for Colby Lewis to return as well, which would complete the rotation. Meanwhile, Nick Tepesch remains as a viable rotation candidate for next year as well, along with Josh Lindblom, obtained in the Michael Young trade. In the bullpen, if Joe Nathan returns and the club re-signs Frasor, the entire bullpen could return intact in 2014, which is practically unheard of these days.
There is work to be done with the offense. David Murphy will undoubtedly be allowed to leave. Nelson Cruz could depart as well. Yet, the Texas offense is not that far away from being potent yet again. Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin had their first full years in the bigs in 2013 and are sure to put up better numbers in 2014. Texas will probably need to sign another catcher to replace Pierzynski and could take a stab at Brian McCann. Kinsler could be asked to move to first base or left field and Texas will look to obtain a replacement at whichever position Kinsler doesn’t move to. Still, if Daniels were to re-sign Cruz as the everyday DH, move Kinsler to first, sign McCann and then find a new left fielder with some pop, this will be a contending club again in 2014. That will have been accomplished by a GM who kept his top position prospect (Profar) and pitching prospect (Perez) and still has a top 5 minor league system to work out more trades down the road.
Fire Jon Daniels? I think not.
If anyone is to leave at the end of the season, it would be on the coaching staff. Texas made a lot of baserunning blunders in 2013, but they also have three of the top basestealers in the AL, so Gary Pettis‘ job should be safe. Dave Magadan has a great reputation as a hitting coach so I don’t see him as a one year and done coach. Jackie Moore as bench coach? Considering Wash has a history of curious moves, that could be a possibility and even that could be framed as a retirement and not a firing.
In the end, who will get fired? I ask again, why should ANYONE be fired? This is still a very good team with very good leadership. If Texas doesn’t qualify for the post-season, it doesn’t mean the wheels are off the wagon. They’re just momentarily slowing down to fix the wheels to get better traction a year from now.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 3-3
Overall: 71-53 (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)
Adrian Beltre .450/.560/.500 1 Double, 4 RBI, 5 Walks
Craig Gentry .333/.467/.417 1 Double, 3 RBI, 3 Walks and 2 Stolen Bases
Elvis Andrus .167/.167/.250
Alex Rios .192/.192/.192
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Derek Holland 7 IP, 0 ER, 6 Strikeouts, 0.71 WHIP
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Matt Garza 6.35 ERA, 4 ER in 5.2 IP
Alexi Ogando 5.68 ERA, 4 ER in 6.1 IP
The 10-game winning streak didn’t happen. The Rangers made it to 8 in a row before dropping a game to Milwaukee with Alexi Ogando on the mound. That led to an overall lackluster week of baseball: a win to finish off a sweep of Houston, a split in two games against Milwaukee and dropping two of three, at home no less, to the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers managed to end the week holding on to first place in the AL West, but by a meager half game over the Oakland A’s.
One elephant in the room: the two newest Rangers have performed a bit below expectations. Since throwing seven shutout innings against the Yankees in his Rangers début, Matt Garza has gone 0-2, giving up 15 runs in less than 28 innings of work. The upside? He’s never given up more than four runs and, except for his last start, has gone 7 innings just about every time out. Meanwhile, Alex Rios, who made a great splash in his opening weekend with the Rangers, is at a decent but not overwhelming .273. He’s got a couple stolen bases and he catches the balls Nelson Cruz couldn’t get to in right field, but without Cruz’ cannon of an arm. Rios has only been on board for a week and a half, so I’m still reserving judgement on him, but Garza needs to step it up starting tonight against the Astros.
While losing two of three at home to Seattle is disappointing, especially when the one win was against Felix Hernandez, the Mariners have been just about the biggest thorn in the Rangers’ side all season. Texas has a winning mark against them at 9-7 but none of it has been easy. Kyle Seager especially has been an AL MVP, if only stats against the Rangers were counted. Seager had the deciding hit in Sunday’s loss and leads all hitters against Texas with 13 RBI this season. The Mariners just do well against Rangers pitching. Three of the top four RBI hitters against Texas in 2013 are Mariners: Seager, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez. Seager, though, is in another stratosphere. He has 11 doubles against Texas. The next closest is Jose Altuve with 5. He and Ibanez are the only players with 4 home runs against Texas this season. Only Miguel Cabrera has a better OPS against the Rangers than Seager. He’s like this pesky gnat that keeps flying around your ear that you can’t get rid of. Fortunately for Texas, there are only three games remaining against the Mariners this season.
The next week favors Texas, with three home games against the Astros and three on the road at Chicago against the White Sox. The two teams with the worst records in the AL. Anything less than 4-2 would be shocking. The A’s get three at home with Seattle followed by three in Baltimore. The Mariners have done even better against Oakland than Texas (8-5 thus far), while Baltimore is 3-1 against the A’s in 2013. Look for the Rangers to add a couple of games to their lead this week, hopefully more than a couple.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 6-0
Overall: 68-50 (1st Place AL West) (+1)
Adrian Beltre .435/.536/.739 1 Double, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 Walks
Alex Rios .571/.625/1.000 1 Double, 1 Triple, 2 RBI, 3 Runs Scored in 2 Games
Joey Butler .500/.600/1.000 2 Doubles, 2 Runs, 1 Walk in 5 Plate Appearances
Ian Kinsler .200/.276/.280
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Martin Perez 2-0, 1 Complete Game, 1.76 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 15 K in 15.1 IP
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Only Robbie Ross and Matt Garza had ERA’s over 4.50 for the week, but both get a pass as Garza won his game, striking out 8 while walking only 1 and Ross only pitched 2/3 of an inning for the week. No Frios por la semana (for the week).
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. On Monday, the axe fell on Nelson Cruz, the Rangers’ top run producer for 2013. Instead of bowing their heads and feeling sorry for themselves, the Rangers went right ahead like they didn’t miss him at all. How does a season long 7-game winning streak hit you? Without Cruz, but admittedly with the benefit of playing the AL West’s bottom two teams, the Rangers swept the week at 6-0 and went from 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland A’s to a game on top in the AL West.
Regular readers of this blog know Texas just shifted its focus against the Angels to a speed game and ran at will on the LA pitching and catching staff. The Astros were a little different animal. Houston just isn’t a very good team and even when their starting pitchers did their job, the bullpen ensured the Rangers would come out on top.
I put two players in the Jalapeno Caliente column this week even with limited at bats. Alex Rios came over in a trade from the Chicago White Sox and immediately paid dividends. In his first game Saturday, Rios walked his first time up, then singled and hustled into second on a throw to third in his second plate appearance. In the 8th, with Texas trailing 4-3, Rios tied the game with a triple, then came home on a grounder, knocking the ball out of Jason Castro‘s glove at the plate to score what proved to be the winning run. For Sunday’s encore, Rios scored the Rangers first run following a single in the 5th, added an RBI double in the 6th to make it 2-0 and scored in the Rangers’ 4-run 9th. For someone who came to Texas with a reputation for not hustling, Rios sure didn’t look like the guy the scouts were talking about. Maybe it’s playing on a club with playoff aspirations for a change. Rios tweeted after Sunday’s game he’s never encountered a team with as much energy as the Rangers. It appears to be catching.
The other honorable mention went to Joey Butler. At the advanced baseball age of 27, Butler finally made it to the big leagues for the first time, being recalled following Cruz’ suspension. He was to be the right-handed hitting complement to lefties David Murphy and Leonys Martin in right field. That platoon lasted all of five days when Texas acquired Rios. Butler only got to start one game for Texas before being sent down to AAA Round Rock, but he made the most of it, mashing two doubles and scoring twice off Houston’s Eric Bedard. I hope Butler gets to come back up as a September call-up. Everyone loves to cheer for those types of underdogs.
Another week facing sub-.500 teams, a streak that won’t end until Labor Day. This week, it’s one game with the Astros Monday to close out the 4-game set. Tuesday, an 8-game homestand begins with two against the Milwaukee Brewers followed by three against the AL West foe the Rangers have had the hardest time with in 2013, the Seattle Mariners (8-5). If Texas wins the first three games this week, be prepared for a different looking Jon Daniels. The Rangers GM, along with Dallas radio personalities Ben & Skin, have promised to shave their heads to look like Ron Washington for charity if Texas wins 10 in a row. Here they are side by side. Just imagine what Daniels will look like:
- Can Alex Rios Replace Nelson Cruz’s Bat in Texas Rangers Lineup? (bleacherreport.com)
Just announced: The Texas Rangers have acquired Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Speculation is he PTBNL is Leury Garcia. who started the season as the Rangers’ utility infielder. Since Garcia is on the 40-man roster, he’d have to clear waivers first to go to the White Sox now. By waiting until season’s end, the waiver requirement is no longer necessary.
Hey, Rios isn’t the best bat around, but he’s one of the best ones available now. He’s a righthanded bat, which the Rangers sorely needed. He’s signed through next season so if David Murphy, Nelson Cruz or both Murphy and Cruz depart at season’s end due to their free agency, there’s already a reasonably productive piece already in place. Rios has a salary a bit on the high side, but for the remainder of this year it’s offset both by some cash the White Sox threw into the deal and the salary Cruz isn’t being paid due to his suspension. Best of all, if the Rangers make the post-season, Rios and Cruz will both be available for post-season play.
On the downside was this tweet from the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Gil LeBreton, who noted “scouts say Rios moves at one speed…and it’s not all-out.” Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News was quick to retweet LeBreton’s tweet. I responded to both, “If anyone can get to him, though, it’ll be Wash.” Both scribes quickly agreed with my assessment.
Wash doesn’t work with everyone. He certainly could do nothing with Cristian Guzman in 2010. Guzman didn’t even make the post-season roster. Wash, though, has a way of getting the best out of his players. There was never a bigger example of that than 2008, two years before the Rangers’ World Series run. That year, Jon Daniels surprised just about everyone in the baseball world by signing world-class malcontent Milton Bradley. Everyone thought JD was crazy. Wash took Bradley under his wing. Throughout the 2008 season, he only had one potential incident, which Wash helped defuse before anything bad could happen. On the field, Bradley had the best season of his career, hitting .321 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI and a .999 OPS. Bradley was also named to his first and only All-Star team. As many know, Bradley signed a big free agent deal after that with the Cubs and was never the same player again. His anger ended up getting the best of him and he’s now facing prison time for a domestic violence charge.
The point is Wash got through to Bradley. On the field it’s easy to see when Wash gets through to Elvis Andrus and Derek Holland. Both respond to the “in your face” approach to motivation. The lives of every Rangers player is full of what Ron Washington terms “teaching moments.” For every player, those moments take different forms. While Wash is not the best baseball strategist on the block, what he does exceptionally well is handle the men in his charge, sizing them up, figuring out the best way to get through to them, then watching it translate on the baseball field. Not everyone will respond. Those are the ones that usually find themselves ex-Rangers. That well could happen next year to Alex Rios. On the other hand, if Wash figures out what makes him tick, this could end up being a very good acquisition for Texas for the next season and a third.
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.
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.