Results tagged ‘ Ron Washington ’

It’s Time

Star of the Week

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

I started this blog in 2010, the year the Rangers first went to the World Series. The original name of the blog was “The Futility Ends Here”. After about a week, I knew it wasn’t a very catchy title so I changed it to “World Series 40 Rangers Fan 0″. Much better. And it made it sweet when the season ended with the Rangers going to the World series for the first time in my then 40 years of Rangers fandom. For the Rangers, their marketing slogan for the 2010 season was, “It’s Time.” A more prophetic baseball slogan was never made.

Flash forward five years. Here at the All-Star break, the shell that remains of the Texas Rangers hobble into the break with baseball’s worst record. Where once I wrote of the exploits of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and even David Murphy, now all that remains is Beltre, Andrus, Rios, Choo and a bunch of young and/or underperforming offensive players. A pitching staff that once included Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, a younger Colby Lewis and one of the top relief corps in baseball is now composed of Yu Darvish at the front end, Joakim Soria at the back-end and very little of consequence in between.

So bad the Rangers situation has become, they limp into the All-Star break losers of 19 of their last 22 games. Texas (and the Washington Senators that preceded them) has had some pretty bad teams in their 53 years of existence but NONE of them have been as bad as losing 19 of 22 games. Honestly, if I didn’t know it from reading the box scores every day (it’s become too painful to even watch more than a handful of games on TV), I wouldn’t believe it possible. After all, even without all the injured players, the Rangers still have talent on this team: Beltre, Andrus, Alex Rios, Shin Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Darvish and Soria. There have been historically bad teams in baseball for whom you’d be hard-pressed to find even two names worthy of putting on the list of talented players. For example, can anyone name more than two Houston Astros from 2o12-2013 worth mentioning? Still, this is where the Rangers find themselves.

Having a bad team does not make it harder to write about a team. Sometimes it can lead to more story ideas than a winning team provides. Among the thoughts I’ve had in recent weeks: spinning an old Paul Simon tune into a treatise on 50 Ways To Lose A Ballgame (“Give up a slam, Sam, Walk in a run, Son…”), wonderful words about the defensive work of catcher Robinson Chirinos, asking if should Jon Daniels get the blame for 2014 or is this a fluke season, talking about the newest Ranger to make his big-league début, Jake Smolinski, riffing on how great the Rangers farm system has been record-wise in 2014, opining whether Ron Washington should pay the price for the poor season, talking up minor league prospect Joey Gallo (who made headlines at the All-Star Futures game), scattershooting trade possibilities at the July deadline, etc. See? No shortage of ideas here.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a phrase from that 2010 Rangers marketing campaign. It’s Time. Time to retire the blog that I’ve devoted so much time to for the past five seasons. It isn’t because the Rangers are losing now. It’s because coming up with 500+ words to say on a regular enough basis to keep readers coming back is getting more and more difficult to do. Life has a way of throwing things in the way of the things you like to do in your spare time and my spare time has had an “S” added to it: spare has become sparse. I’m in the process of relocating to a different part of the state (and job hunting is part of that process). The desire to write about the Rangers hasn’t abated. The time to do it has.

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by "One Strike Away...Twice!"

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

So, rather than put out a piece once every two or three weeks, I’m just going to shut it down for the rest of the season. Maybe I’ll have more time to devote to Rangers writing in 2015. My devotion to the team will not change, only the writing about it. You can still find me on Twitter (@Rangersblogger) where I’ll send out in-game comments when I can. This space, however, is going dark for the foreseeable future.

I thank everyone who has been a regular reader of this space, including The Angels Ace and This Is A Very Simple Game; The Wrigley Regular; all the Rangers fans who have followed me; and especially my son Erik, who has shared in my love for the Texas Rangers since childhood and it remains a constant source of conversation between us. To you and all the others I haven’t mentioned (and never got a chance to know), I’m grateful you took the time to read my sometimes meandering prose.

Post All-Star break will see the returns of Geovany Soto, Jim Adduci and Derek Holland. Hopefully that makes the season’s second half better than the first. Whether it does or not, I still say: GO RANGERS!!!

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 6/2-6/8

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game and Full Week):

Nobody in the Rangers line-up is more necessary offensively these days more than Adrian Beltre. The Rangers must rely on the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse and team now that most of the potential power in the line-up has been lost to injuries. Over the past week, Beltre has not disappointed. Adrian gets the Star of the Week for the full week on the basis of a 6-game split of .478/.458/.957. Beltre scored six of the Rangers 27 runs for the week and claimed responsibility for 8 of Texas’ RBI for the week. Adrian also gets the Star of the Week for a single game for his exploits during the Rangers 6-5 loss to the Orioles. Beltre accounted for all 5 Texas runs on two home runs, a 3-run shot off the Orioles’ Bud Norris in the first inning, followed by a 2-run poke in the 5th off Norris again. If anyone keeps the Rangers contending over the long hot summer to come, Beltre’s your guy. Here are Beltre’s two bombs from Wednesday’s game:

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

The week turned out miserably for the Rangers pitching staff. Joe Saunders led the starters in ERA at 3.18 but also gave up 17 hits in only 11 1/3 innings. Yu Darvish had a gritty performance on a night when his stuff wasn’t great but still allowed a 3-run home run for the first time in his MLB career. Even the bullpen had it rough. Tanner Scheppers returned from the DL and gave up home runs in each of his first two appearances. Robbie Ross Jr. had one great relief appearance against the Orioles but then had a rough outing against the Indians. Through all this, there was one picture of steadiness on the Texas pitching staff: the old veteran Jason Frasor. The former Blue Jay appeared in four games over the past week and the 38-year-old allowed only a single hit and no runs in four innings of work. For the year, Frasor has the lowest ERA on the pitching staff at 1.64 over 22 innings and 25 appearances. He hasn’t given up a run since May 17th and hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 14th.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Another week, another injury or two, another way to look at this team and say, “Is this REALLY the Texas Rangers? Come on, Donnie Murphy is your starting first baseman? And Joe Saunders is your #2 pitcher? This is a joke, right?”

Rangers fans wish it was a joke. But this is what the Rangers are going to look like pretty much the rest of the year, so we might as well get used to it. The players on the DL are better than the players actually participating in the games. Here’s your DL line-up now:

1B  Prince Fielder

2B  Jurickson Profar

3B  Kevin Kouzmanoff

C   Geovany Soto

DH  Mitch Moreland

OF  Jim Adduci

OF  Engel Beltre

SP  Derek Holland

SP Matt Harrison

SP  Martin Perez

OK, we’re missing a shortstop, an outfielder and an entire bullpen but you get the picture. The 2014 Texas Rangers are going nowhere fast and, seeing that the Houston Astros are starting to make a little noise, it’s now totally conceivable for the Rangers to finish in LAST place in the AL West. Let that sink in. LAST PLACE. The last time the Rangers were cellar dwellers was 2007, the first year of the Ron Washington era. I know, I know. The Rangers are a respectable 31-32, only a couple of games out of the Wild Card berth. True, but you can see the train wreck coming from a mile away. Wash is a great motivator of talent. He’ll get them to play at a very high level but eventually, the talent level shows. It happened a year ago when Nelson Cruz got suspended for the last 50 games. Texas came out like gangbusters at first but whimpered through September and were lucky to force a one game added regular season playoff with Tampa Bay for the right to play in the Wild Card game. This team is considerably worse than that team, talent-wise. The starting pitching is Yu Darvish and 4 guys who are, at best, #4 in the rotation pitchers. And that’s being kind. Derek Holland will return after the All-Star break but there’s no guarantee he’ll look like a #3 from the first start.

With the latest injury, Mitch Moreland’s ankle, Texas truly has no options at first base. There are a couple of guys at AAA being worked out at first base but none with regular experience there: Brad Snyder, Jim Adduci and J.P. Arencibia. Adduci just jammed the finger he broke and was rehabbing from so he’s not available right away. Arencibia had a very offensively unproductive month and a half with the Rangers and Snyder, while a power hitter, is also a strikeout machine. On the big league level, Murphy played the corner Sunday, while catchers Chris Giminez and Robinson Chirinos have both played first in the minors. None of these are very good options. I’m reasonably sure Jon Daniels is going to have to work out a trade with someone and he’s going to give up more than they should because the other GM’s know they’ve got him over a barrel. I suppose longtime fans could hold out hope for Michael Young to come out of retirement and man first base the rest of the year. Even if that were to occur, Young would need to ramp up and wouldn’t be available until the All-Star break at the earliest. Even then, as inconsistent as the offense has been, I honestly think Texas needs starting pitching help even more. You can’t have any hope of winning when four of your five starting pitchers are giving you only a hair more than 5 innings per start.

So, the Rangers got through the last week at 2-4, dropping two of three to the Orioles followed by winning only Yu Darvish’s start in three weekend games with the Indians, all at home. This week isn’t any better. After closing the 4-game set with Cleveland on Monday, Texas closes out the homestand with two against the surprising Miami Marlins. Then it’s on the road again for the West Coast swing that likely will seal the fate of the Rangers for 2014. It starts with three in Seattle against the third place Mariners, followed by three in Oakland against the first place A’s and ending with three in Anaheim with the second place Angels. Meanwhile, the resurgent Astros have their next two weeks filled with the Arizona Diamondbacks (last in the NL West), the Washington Nationals (3rd in the AL East) and 7 games with the Tampa Bay Rays (last in the AL East, worst record in the AL). It’s not a far out thought that the Rangers could be in the AL West cellar two weeks from today.

Scoreboard watching has definitely lost its flavor to me this season.

Final Reminder: A Father’s Day Gift Idea

Back in my college days as a Radio/TV major, I had the pleasure of knowing a classmate who went on to portray a character who, while only spending  a few short minutes on the screen at the end of the movie, left an indelible mark with many baseball fans. His name is Dwier Brown and he portrayed Kevin Costner’s father at the end of the classic “Field of Dreams.” I recently discovered Dwier has published a book called “If You Build It- A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams”. He is now on a Midwest book tour, appearing a minor league stadiums and the like. It’s both memoir and stories people have told him through the years about what the movie meant to them and their own relationships with their fathers. One of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members, The Hall of Very Good, has done a 2-part interview with Dwier about the movie and the book. You can read both parts of the interview here:

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-one.html

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-two.html

The book sounds like a great Father’s Day gift as well. You can order it at his website, dwierbrown.com.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/26-6/1

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

These days, when Texas gets some offense it’s coming from all sources. Thus it’s hard to come up with a single game Star of the Week at times. The biggest RBI day came from Shin-Soo Choo, who knocked in the first three runs of one game against the Twins with a second inning bases loaded double. While impressive on the face, I’m giving this week’s award to a guy who knocked in only one run and qualifies as another of those unlikely stars we’ll see from the Rangers this year. Donnie Murphy started the season as part of the second base platoon with Josh Wilson. Then in one fell swoop, Murphy went on the DL, Wilson got demoted to Round Rock and they got replaced by Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. Murphy got activated from the DL when Prince Fielder was lost for the season and Sunday, he had to do something he’s never done before: play first base on the major league level. Murphy not only played the position flawlessly, he had three hits batting behind Adrian Beltre at 5th in the order (!) and knocked in the key insurance run in the 8th that gave Yu Darvish a little more of a cushion to work with. The three hits brought his season average up to .238.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Overall, the Rangers bats have been a bit warmer of late, with the exception being the power numbers that remain better than the Kansas City Royals but hardly anyone else. Sunday’s Leonys Martin homer over the right field wall in Washington was the Rangers first in seven games. In other words, it was the only round tripper the Rangers hit ALL WEEK! Still, there were no fewer than six Texas players who batted .300 or better over the week. The overall Star of the Week goes to catcher Chris Giminez, a player who only joined the Rangers organization at the end of Spring Training, so close to the start of the regular season that Texas had to place him on the Opening Day roster without ever appearing in a Rangers uniform during the exhibition season. Giminez got sent to AAA Round Rock in short order and didn’t appear in a game for the Rangers until his recall two weeks ago to replace a completely ineffectual J.P. Arencibia. Over the past week, Giminez has garnered seven hits in four games, which is one less hit than Arencibia managed in 20 games with Texas. Overall, the stat line for Giminez was .438/.438/.625 with three doubles and 3 RBI. Giminez has also become the personal catcher when Yu Darvish is on the mound and it’s pretty clear Yu doesn’t have any problems with that arrangement. The proof is coming next.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

If there’s a Rangers fan who doesn’t love Yu Darvish, then they are a fan of the New York Rangers hockey team. Meanwhile, Texas Rangers fan love Yu just fine, thank you very much. Sure, there’s the occasional debate of whether he’s earned “Ace” status yet and we sure don’t like the number of times he has a stiff neck and gets scratched from a start. When he takes the mound, though, any start begins with the possibility of magic happening. He’s flirted with no-hitters on several occasions and he leads the majors in double-digit strikeout games over the past three seasons. Sunday, Yu’s assignment was to slow down a Nationals offense that had battered Rangers pitching for 19 runs in the first two games of the series. Darvish was more than up to the task, going eight strong innings on only 102 pitches, giving up only five hits and two walks while striking out a dozen Nationals. Had the game not been played in Washington, where the pitchers come to bat, Darvish likely would have gone out for the 9th and attempted to finish off his first complete game and first career shutout. But, since Texas only had two runs on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, Ron Washington decided to send up a pinch hitter for Darvish to try to score an insurance run. Joakim Soria secured the save and Darvish had his fifth win of the season.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Until Darvish spun his gem on Sunday, the weekend got off to a miserable start when the Nationals won Friday’s game 9-2 and added a 10-2 thumping on Saturday. Still, there’s nothing for Rangers fans to complain about. They finished the week 4-3 and they finished their longest road trip of the season going a combined 7-4 against the Tigers, the Twins and the Nationals. Yeah they’re still only a game above .500 and as close to last place as they are to first in the AL West (5 1/2 games), but they’re only a game out of the Wild Card at this point so there’s plenty to hope for.

This is a team with a lot of deficiencies: outside of Darvish, the four other starters are as likely to give you less than 5 innings as they are to even get to 6, the defense is still not anything close to what Rangers fans are used to seeing and the always aggressive running game has resulted in way too many caught stealings. A great case in point is right fielder Alex Rios. By all accounts, Rios is having a good season, hitting .320 and leading the Rangers in RBI with 29. Still, while Rios has 11 steals to his credit, he’s been caught an ugly seven times already. He may own the Rangers RBI lead but he’s also MLB’s leader for grounding into double plays with 15 at just the 1/3 mark of the season. And though he’s a far better right fielder defensively than his predecessor Nelson Cruz, he has three errors on the season and should have had a fourth on the missed pop-up that got changed to a David Ortiz hit that broke up a Yu Darvish no-hitter.

After 11 games on the road, the Rangers get a day off Monday, then spend the week at home against the Baltimore orioles and the Cleveland Indians. That has more than passing interest to Rangers fans, since the Orioles boast ex-Rangers Cruz, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter (not to mention ex-manager Buck Showalter), followed by an Indians team whose uniform is worn by ex-Ranger David Murphy. Cruz would have been more than happy to stay a Ranger but Jon Daniels wasn’t willing to pony up the money to make it happen. Too bad because Cruz is having a career season for the Birds so far this year. Even Murphy has more RBI than Rangers team leader Alex Rios. Record-wise, all three teams are bunched together. The Rangers are 29-28, the Orioles 28-27 and the Indians 27-30. The Orioles get the benefit of not having to face Darvish. With no help coming to the roster via trade in the foreseeable future, a 3-3 record on the week is about what we might expect from a team that has played at about a .500 level all season.

A Father’s Day Gift Idea

Back in my college days as a Radio/TV major, I had the pleasure of knowing a classmate who went on to portray a character who, while only spending  a few short minutes on the screen at the end of the movie, left an indelible mark with many baseball fans. His name is Dwier Brown and he portrayed Kevin Costner’s father at the end of the classic “Field of Dreams.” I recently discovered Dwier has published a book called “If You Build It- A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams”. He is now on a Midwest book tour, appearing a minor league stadiums and the like. It’s both memoir and stories people have told him through the years about what the movie meant to them and their own relationships with their fathers. One of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members, The Hall of Very Good, has done a 2-part interview with Dwier about the movie and the book. You can read both parts of the interview here:

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-one.html

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-two.html

The book sounds like a great Father’s Day gift as well. You can order it at his website, dwierbrown.com.

Coming To Grips

In 2010, I had hopes the Texas Rangers would finally make a name for themselves in the American League. They exceeded my expectations and went to the World Series.

In 2011, I KNEW the Rangers had a championship caliber club and hoped they’d prove it. They came tantalizingly close to sealing the deal.

In 2012, Yu Darvish came along and I thought the Rangers could make another run for the elusive title, but a massive Josh Hamilton slump and the loss of Colby Lewis midway through the season translated into a late-season meltdown and a one game and done Wild Card appearance.

In 2013, Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young all departed, Lewis missed the entire season and Matt Harrison went down for the year after only two starts. Then Nelson Cruz got suspended for 50 games and Adrian Beltre‘s hamstrings sapped him of his power in the stretch run when needed most. Despite that, Texas managed to get all the way to the end and forced a one game “regular season” playoff against the Rays to earn a spot in the Wild Card round. The Rays won.

Martin Perez: Tommy John Surgery Bound Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Perez: Tommy John Surgery Bound Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, the writing was on the wall early. Derek Holland tore his meniscus when he fell over his dog and down the stairs. Joseph Ortiz had his foot run over by a motorcycle. That was just the beginning. Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto had injuries that have kept them out of the line-up and they’re still not back. Yu Darvish missed the Opening Day start to neck stiffness. Opening Day starter Tanner Scheppers is now on the DL and #5 starter Joe Saunders followed him shortly afterwards. Now comes word the Rangers will likely be without #2 starter Martin Perez for the rest of this year and maybe next year as well, while Matt Harrison, who recently returned from the DL, now has back issues so severe he might never pitch again.

The Rangers now have a better rotation on paper residing on the DL (Harrison, Scheppers, Saunders, Holland) than they do on the active list (Darvish, Lewis, Robbie Ross Jr., Nick Tepesch and Nick Martinez). Profar and Soto aren’t back for another month at least, nor will Holland. Prince Fielder, while hitting better in May, still isn’t hitting balls out of the park at the rate he’s expected to hit them and Texas no longer has an extra active starter on their 40-man roster.

Let’s face it: In 2014, I have NO expectations of a playoff appearance for the Texas Rangers.

I hate saying that. There’s still talent on this team. Shin-Soo Choo. Darvish. Beltre. Alex Rios. Fielder. Leonys Martin. Joakim Soria. Jason Frasor. There really is talent on this team. What one can’t escape is, outside of Darvish, this is not a strong starting rotation. Lewis will have some outstanding performances but he’ll also have a lot of clunkers on the way and one can’t expect more than six innings out of him in any start. Martinez and Tepesch are young and have good ceilings but because they’re young they’re going to take their lumps as they learn how to pitch in the big leagues. Ross has talent and started the season well but has failed to impress in his last three or four starts. Just one week ago, it looked like Tepesch was ready to take Ross’ rotation spot. Now Ross is still in the rotation by default, because there’s nobody else available.

Matt Harrison: Career Over?

Matt Harrison: Career Over?

Even when Derek Holland returns, there’s no guarantee he’ll pitch the way he did in 2013. Scott Feldman had microfracture knee surgery and it was over a year before he started pitching well again. By then, he was with the Chicago Cubs and not the Rangers.

Jon Daniels could go out and trade for a pitcher but there’s a good chance the other GM’s he deals with will try to fleece him. After all, the Rangers must look desperate to get starting pitching today. If I were an opposing GM, I’d want to take advantage of that and see how high JD’s willing to go with his prospects to make a deal happen. As a result, I don’t think Daniels is in a rush to get a deal made.

On the other hand, if he doesn’t make a deal, I think he’ll be admitting the Rangers aren’t a playoff team this year. There’s no harm in that because NOT making a deal also means he’s sticking with his long-term plans to keep the Rangers competitive for the foreseeable future. In basketball, the Spurs had a bad year once when Tim Duncan missed significant time due to injury. The Spurs didn’t over-react. They held steady, let the bad year go by and came back as good as ever the next season. If Daniels stays pat, it’ll be frustrating to the fan base but understandable. I’ll just grit my teeth, watch the Rangers win some, lose some and never seem to gain any traction while looking forward to next year.

Then again, Ron Washington strikes me as the type of guy who feels more comfortable in the underdog role. There’s always the possibility he’ll take this injury-laden Rangers teams to heights nobody thought they could reach. If he does, I hope it shuts up for good the contingent who think he’s too Old School to succeed.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/5-5/11

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

In a forgettable week, a Ranger who had thus far been having a forgettable season started coming to life again. Elvis Andrus has been a mainstay in the #2 hole for the Rangers for several years now. This year, though, things had gotten so bad with Elvis he’d been moved down towards the bottom of the order. Ground ball out after ground ball out, Elvis slowly saw his average dip to a low of .229 when Ron Washington decided it was time to take some pressure off him. Elvis had a couple of games hitting seventh and a few hitting eighth. He started putting together a few good at bats but his return to #2 in the line-up was more because the players who replaced him didn’t do any better a job. Wash tried the now departed Josh Wilson there. Then Leonys Martin. Then came Michael Choice. Finally Elvis went back to #2 and he’s started hitting again, no more so than during Yu Darvish‘s 8-0 pasting of the Boston Red Sox. In that game Friday night, Elvis became the first Rangers player to get four hits in a game, going 4-5 with a double and three runs scored. Elvis undoubtedly stay back at the top of the order for the foreseeable future.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

The game against the Red Six was no fluke. Overall for the week, Andrus was on fire so he gets both Offensive awards this week. In seven games, Elvis went 11-26 at the plate, with four of those eleven hits going for doubles. The fact he only garnered one RBI and three runs (all in the Friday game) is indicative of how woeful the Texas offensive attack was in the past week.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

If anyone but Yu Darvish got this award for the past week, I’m sure you would have me referred for psychiatric testing. Over the course of seven days, the starting pitching has sucked. EXCEPT for Yu Darvish. The relief staff has had some major hiccups as well. But what Darvish did Friday night against the Red Sox was something to behold, even thoughy I was not able to behold it. Unfortunately, Friday night Rangers games are only available in the Dallas area, so poor little old me had to settle for listening to the game via the radio Play-by-play of this year’s Ford Frick Award winner Eric Nadel. Darvish was dominant early. The line on Darvish is you can beat him if he doesn’t have his fastball command. If he does have it, watch out. He had fastball command Friday night. At one point, Darvish struck out six consecutive Red Sox batters. When Yu has flirted with no-hitters or perfect games, it has mostly been against the Astros. Pitiful as Houston has been these past few years, one could understand an asterisk being placed next to Yu’s name for his performances against them. This, however, was not the Astros. This was Boston, with one of the most potent line-ups in the American League and Darvish carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Through six innings, the Red Sox didn’t even sniff a hit. Even the seventh started out well with a soft fly to center and a groundout. Then David Ortiz hit the bloops to end all bloops. Alex Rios and Rougned Odor went out for the ball. Rios should have had the ball but didn’t call for it. At the last second Odor dove for it but the ball fell between them. The play was ruled an error, which set off a massive Twitter debate as to whether it was a hit or if it would be ruled a hit in any other case besides a no-hitter. Had Darvish finished off the no-no, I’m sure the debate would be continuing today. It was ruled an error, though and hasn’t been changed since. What it did accomplish was getting Darvish to lose some of his mental edge. A walk followed the error before Darvish got Grady Sizemore to fly out for the last out. Darvish gave up another walk to lead off the 8th but got out of the inning unscathed once again. With three outs to go and Darvish running out of gas, he got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to third, then got Shane Voctorino swinging for his 12th and final K of the night. Up strode Ortiz, who slapped a 2-1 fastball past Elvis Andrus, beating the shift and earning Boston’s lone hit of the night. Darvish’s Game Score of 92 is reported to be higher than any no-hitter in baseball history. Yu’s final line was 8.2-1-0-0-2-12. It was the second time Darvish lost a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th inning.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Last week, optimistic me said if the pitching staff settles down, a 4-3 week is realistic and 5-2 is even possible. So much for optimistic me. The Rangers got outscored by a collective 29-5 by the Rockies in the first three games of their 4-game home and home series before finally shutting down the Rockies 5-0 in the series finale. Following Darvish’s bid for baseball history Friday, Texas again stumbled through the rest of the weekend, losing by scores of 8-3 and 5-2. Texas ended the week with a 2-5 record and find themselves starting the week in 4th place in the AL West. Outside of Darvish, Rangers starting pitching was horrible. Martin Perez was hit hard twice, as was Robbie Ross. Colby Lewis got shelled once and Matt Harrison, while not allowing any runs, couldn’t make it through six innings. Adding insult another injury to injury, Perez is headed to the 15-day DL with what the Rangers consider minor elbow inflammation. The good news is that allows the Rangers to bring Nick Tepesch up from AAA, where he’s been dominating at Round Rock. The bad news is it’s to replace Perez instead of Robbie Ross who, despite recovering from a rocky 1st against Boston, hasn’t shown many signs of giving the Rangers more than six innings every start.

If there’s any week in May for Texas to right the ship somewhat, this would be the week. The Rangers travel to Houston for three games with the Astros. After a day off Thursday, it’s back home for a 3-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Astros have played a little better lately and gotten some decent pitching, even though they’re coming off series losses to the Tigers and the Orioles. The Blue Jays are problematic. They have a history of hitting well against Texas pitching. The rotation is getting realigned thanks to the off day. Tepesch will be making the start originally scheduled for Perez while Ross will skip his next turn in the rotation to the off day. Thus the Astros get Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Darvish, while the Blue Jays will face Tepesch, Lewis and Harrison. After being so optimistic a week ago, I will be anything but this week. At this point, I think I’d be happy for a 3-3 record, which I find really sad.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/28-5/4

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

After the 3-game debacle that was the home series against the Oakland A’s, it was beginning to look doubtful the Rangers would have ANY Star Players of the Week in ANY department. The offense wasn’t hitting, the defense wasn’t playing well and the pitching was woeful. Then the Rangers took to the road to play the Los Angeles Angels and all was right with the world again. In taking two of three from the Angels, the Rangers not only got back on the winning track, the offense showed a few signs of life again. Even J.P. Arencibia got into the act Sunday with a two-hit performance that raised his batting average up to a whopping .116 (his OPS went from .271 to .420 in the game). Still the Single Game Star of the Week goes to one of the rookies in the line-up, Michael Choice. In Sunday’s 14-3 pasting of the Angels, Choice led a balanced offensive attack with two hits in five at bats, including a 3-run blast to left center that broke the game wide open. Choice ended the day with 4 RBI, giving him 12 for the season. The two honorable mentions for the week came from the same game as Choice’s winner. Prince Fielder had his first 3-hit game as a Ranger, with two doubles and 3 RBI. And the aforementioned Arencibia came within an eyelash of hitting a grand slam his first time up, only to have the ball caught in a leaping grab at the fence. Had that one cleared, the Rangers catcher would have sat on a 3-hit, 2-home run, 6 RBI game. Baseball is a game of inches, though, and seeing as that first ball was inches short, Choice gets the award by inches.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

In the series at Oakland, Shin-Soo Choo went down with a badly sprained ankle trying to beat out an infield hit and proceeded to miss the next six games. What Choo has done since returning to the Rangers line-up is nothing short of sensational. In the just-completed series with the Angels, Choo came to the plate 15 times and reached base 12 of those 15 times. That’s an On Base Percentage of .800 over a 3-game stretch. For the week, Choo went 8-16 at the plate with a home run and 3 RBI. He also walked six times, two of those intentionally, was hit by a pitch twice, stole a base and scored four runs. For the week, Choo hit .500 with a .667 OBP and an OPS (On-Base plus Slugging Percentage) of 1.354. If The 2-3-4 hitters in the Rangers order (Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder) start producing the way they have in the past, this Rangers line-up will be plenty dangerous in the weeks and months to come.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

After the Oakland series it was doubtful the Pitching Star of the Week was going to come from the starting rotation. Yu Darvish had the shortest outing of his MLB career on Monday and started his second start of the week against the Angels by giving up solo home runs to two of the first three hitters he faced. Previous 2-time winner Martin Perez came down to earth by a patient A’s line-up that ballooned his ERA northward by over a run in a single outing. Robbie Ross Jr. had his second consecutive poor outing. Colby Lewis did prove pretty effective against the Angels but Matt Harrison laid an egg in his second start off the DL Saturday. The Rangers bullpen had to do an awful lot on the week, accounting for almost half of all the innings pitched for the week. Which brings us to another rookie making a name for himself with Texas: Nick Martinez. Coming into the season, Martinez had pitched only 32 innings as high as the AA level when he earned a starting nod in the Rangers’ 5th game of the season. He returned to AA Frisco after the start, pitched two games and less than ten innings, then returned to the Rangers to fill in as the long reliever, at least until Joe Saunders returned from the DL. After the last week, the question is does Saunders have a place with the Rangers when he’s ready to come off the disabled list? In two games this week against the A’s and the Angels, Martinez threw 7.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only four hits and three walks while striking out four batters. The first game was especially welcome to Ron Washington. Yu Darvish had only gone three and a third against the A’s in the first of a 3-game set. Any bullpen breakdown would put the Rangers at a major disadvantage for the rest of the series. After Aaron Poreda finished off the fourth inning for Darvish, Martinez came on and took care of the last five innings of work, allowing the A’s only two hits. He followed that up by again relieving Darvish yesterday and taking care of the last two and a third, falling an out short of qualifying for the rare 3-inning save. Martinez could still find himself back in Frisco soon as the Rangers may prefer he get regular work instead of the inconsistent role of the middle reliever. For now, though, Martinez gets his time in the spotlight here.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Ending the week at 2-4 is probably more than most of us fans expected after Oakland decimated the Rangers in Arlington, outscoring the guys in the white hats (well, actually the red and sometimes blue caps) by a combined 25-4 score. In Arlington, no less. Texas then went on the road and righted the ship somewhat, taking two of three from the Angels to end the week in second place in the AL West, two games behind the A’s. Had the Rangers lost Sunday’s finale against the Angels, they would have fallen to third place, but a 14-3 smackdown ensured second place for at least another day.

This week just about everyone in MLB plays their “rivalry” interleague series. For the Rangers, this year’s rivalry is with the Colorado Rockies. Texas plays two games in Denver, followed by two games in Arlington. The week ends with three games at home against the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, including former Rangers Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and A.J. Pierzynski.

The Rockies are a surprising 19-14 on the season and have a lot of offensive fireworks in their line-up, including Troy Tulowitski, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Morneau and Charlie Blackmon. The Rangers also will have no DH in the first two games, relegating Mitch Moreland and Michael Choice to the bench. If there’s a bright spot, I really like the way Wash had the starting rotation set up to enter this series. The games in Denver features starts by Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, Jr., two pitchers who get a lot of ground ball outs. In the rarefied air of Coors Field, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish would find pitching at Coors more problematic. In terms of pitching, the rotation is set up for more success in Colorado. Lewis and Matt Harrison will face the Rockies in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will have to face both Darvish and Perez. A 4-3 record or even a 5-2 record on the week is possible if the rotation is as successful as they’ve been set up for.

Elsewhere in the division, the A’s are at home all week against the Mariners and Washington Nationals, the Angels have three at home against the Yankees followed by a 3-game set in Toronto, the Mariners travel to Oakland for 4 then return home for another 4-game set against the Royals, while the lowly Astros take to the road all week with four in Detroit and a 3-game set in Baltimore.

Bad Moon Rising

Adrian Beltre 2Just when it looked like things were settling down for the Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre shakes everything up again. As Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Everything was going swimmingly well for the Rangers Tuesday night. The offense was churning out hits and scoring runs at will against the Red Sox, even with a different type of line-up for Ron Washington. Michael Choice got the start in center field, leaving Leonys Martin on the bench. Mitch Moreland also got the night off against the left-hander. Wash had both ends of the second base platoon, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy, in the game and had Beltre occupy Moreland’s DH slot. So of course, on a night when he doesn’t have to play the field to save wear and tear on his body, one of Adrian’s quads tightens up and he pulled himself from the game in the fifth inning. Beltre won’t play today’s finale, either. He’s already jetted back to Texas to get examined by the Rangers’ team doctor.

I’d love to say this is a precautionary measure and Beltre will be back in the line-up Friday night when the Astros come to town. After all, he’s dealt with bad hamstrings the last two seasons and stayed on the field. Going back further, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody tougher than Beltre, as described in a pre-season article on ESPN.com:

Years before Beltre headed north, Welke discovered how tough the slugger could be when he visited him in the Dominican Republic shortly after an offseason gone awry prior to the 2001 campaign.

“His appendix burst and he nearly died,” Welke said.

The wound from the surgery done in the Dominican Republic also didn’t heal properly. He had to have a second surgery during spring training that year to close it, and he lost about 30 pounds. Yet he was determined to return to the field as soon as possible.

“He tried to play games with a colostomy bag attached to him under his uniform,” Welke said. “Can you imagine? That’s how badly the guy wanted to play.”

That’s what makes this early departure troublesome. Maybe it is just one of those, “We’re just two weeks into the season, let’s make sure he’s ready for everything to come” type of deals. The pessimistic me says, “Nope. This is something more.” After all, Adrian Beltre wants to play baseball. He loves to play baseball. If Wash schedules him for a day off, the odds are better than 50-50 Adrian will talk him out of it and he’ll play. This time, however, he pulled himself from the line-up in the middle of the game and apparently agreed pretty quickly to go get it checked out in Texas. That tells me this is something Adrian is REALLY worried about.

If Beltre goes on the DL, there are no really good options for Texas. Kevin Kouzmanoff had a good spring and could be brought up to replace him but face it: Nobody can replace Beltre’s defense on the field and not many can provide his offense either. A Kouzmanoff MIGHT prove adequate for a 15-day DL stint but not much more than that. Without Beltre, there’s not a lot of protection for Prince Fielder in the line-up. I can see Alex Rios moving from fifth to fourth and that will help somewhat. It will also make the bottom half of the Rangers order even weaker.

Texas pitching is on a three-week trajectory to settling down. Colby Lewis returns Saturday, Matt Harrison is about three weeks away from a return himself. The last thing the Rangers need is troubles on the offense (and defense). Losing Adrian Beltre for any amount of time could be disastrous for the Rangers chances in 2014.

The Friday/Saturday Sundry: 4/4/14

Not much to discuss today, but here are a couple of links worth the look.

TR Sullivan did a great piece on Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington for MLB.com. As big as statistics are to baseball fans, Wash shares his food for thought on what it takes to compile those stats. Basically, he believes if you play the game right the stats will come instead of the opposite.

There’s also this: The rehabbing Derek Holland answers “Rangers player most likely to…” questions.

Martin Perez turns 23 years old today.

Lastly, there’s this photo taken at the Season Opener for the Rangers’ AA affiliate the Frisco RoughRiders. The game got postponed in the third inning. Looking at the picture, I think you’ll know why:

Frisco 4-3-14

Here’s tonight’s schedule:

RANGERS (2-1) at Tampa Bay (2-2)  Joe Saunders vs. Jake Odorizzi

AAA Oklahoma City(Astros) (1-0) at ROUND ROCK (Rangers) (0-1)

AA NW Arkansas (Royals) at FRISCO (Rangers)

High-A Salem (Red Sox) (1-0) at MYRTLE BEACH (Rangers) (0-1)

Low-A HICKORY (Rangers) (1-0) at Greensboro (Marlins) (0-1)

The Good & The Bad Of Replay Reviews

Sorry, Ian Kinsler. The Texas Rangers won’t go 0-162 in 2014. They ensured that with a walk-off 3-2 win over the Phillies Tuesday night in Arlington.

The Call? Safe. The Appeal? Call Reversed

The Call? Safe. The Appeal? Call Reversed.

Among the highlights of the Rangers first win was Ron Washington winning his first challenge of a call. In the 6th inning of the scoreless game, the Phils had runners on first and second when Martin Perez wheeled around and threw what appeared a perfect pick-off throw to second. Donnie Murphy slapped the tag down on Ben Revere who the umpire declared safe on a bang-bang play. Wash asked for a review and got it. The sequence is available on MLB.com here.

Most reviews during the testing phase in Spring Training tended to last for a minute to a minute and a half. This one went for two minutes. It was a very close play but it confirmed Murphy got the tag down before Revere’s hand reached the second base bag. Good news for the Rangers, right?

Not necessarily. Perez had been in a groove most of the night and the two-minute delay seemed to throw him off his game. Once play resumed, Perez gave up a single and a double, giving the Phillies their first runs of the game. Perez didn’t get out of the inning. Jason Frasor came on to get the last out.

This brings up an interesting wrinkle to the review process. How will it affect the pitcher on the mound? It could be this threw Perez off because he’s still young and learning. A seasoned pro like Felix Hernandez may not get bothered by it at all. Still, pitchers have a rhythm in which they operate and a two-minute delay can disrupt that rhythm. It bears looking at as replay reviews go forward. Maybe a manager will decide not to appeal a play because of how it would impact his pitcher.

In other news, as bad as Opening Day was, last night’s win over the Phillies was a great look at how we want to envision the 2014 Rangers. There was Shin-Soo Choo working counts and getting on base. There was Adrian Beltre bringing him home. Leonys Martin stole a base, Robinson Chirinos gunned down a potential base thief and the pitching staff performed the way we fans expect them to. Perez, Frasor, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria all started their seasons on a good note. Yu Darvish threw 86 pitches in a sideline session, inching towards a return to the rotation next week. Colby Lewis went five plus innings in a minor league exhibition and is about to force the Rangers into a decision. They could recall him for this weekend to become a regular in the rotation or ask him to make one more minor league start. If the front office chooses the latter, they have to recall Lewis after that next start or he can opt out of his contract and look for a better deal elsewhere. Let’s not forget Matt Harrison either. He’ll be ready to go within the next two weeks as well. All these potential moves have implications for Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jr., Joe Saunders, Nick Martinez, Pedro Figueroa and Shawn Tolleson. One or two may get moved from the rotation back to the bullpen, one or two could go back to AAA and a couple could find themselves out of the organization in the next two weeks.

That can wait for another day. For now, let’s savor the season’s first win.

By the way, much to my surprise, I learned today my humble blog got a mention on a Dallas Morning News blog which listed various Texas Rangers and general baseball blogs worth reading.I’m humbled this space was one of only four Rangers blogs mentioned in the post. Thanks to author Phillip Morales for the shout out!

It All Comes Out With The Wash

Just seeing Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington in this promo today on MLB.com has me pumped up for some Texas Rangers baseball:

Opening Day. March 31. Rangers-Phillies. I’m ready.

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