Jun 262012
 
YuJosh

Yu Darvish Dazzles as Hamilton and Kinsler Go Deep in 7 5 Win over Detroit

Hami is saying no to snuff, but continues to say yes to galactic moon-shots.

Yu Darvish picked up his tenth win of the year in typical Darvish fashion: he was frustratingly erratic early, then settled down enough for a solid start.

The victory puts Darvish in a tie with Matt Harrison for the most on the team. The game wasn’t as crisp as we’d like it to be, but hey, it’s a win. The Tigers are a tough team (just ask Grimm), and with the Angels winning last night as well, it keeps Texas ahead 4 1/2 games in the AL West.

Kinsler got the show started in the bottom of the first with a leadoff home run. Kinsler’s blast cut the Tigers lead in half, and was his first since June 8 in San Francisco. It marked the third time he’s hit a leadoff jack this season, and the 23rd of his career.

Even though the Rangers were trailing through the first three innings—and Darvish was a little wild—I never panicked or thought that Texas was in a poor position to win. The Yu is always—it seems—standing on shaky ground early on, but once he gets in a groove, he becomes nearly unhittable.

Darvish dealt back-to-back 1-2-3 innings twice last night—in the second and third innings, as well as the sixth and seventh innings. Take away the first and fifth and the dude might have thrown a no-hitter.

Thoughts from last night’s 7-5 win:

Cabrera’s Cabeza

• Tiger’s third baseman, Miguel Cabrera, came into last night with a sizzling .379 batting average at Rangers Ballpark. In his first at bat of the game, Darvish accidentally plunked him on the head with a 92 MPH fastball. Cabrera was 0-3 on the game…Evidently a heater to the noggin is Miggy’s Achilles’ Heel.

Darvish, the whirling dervish

• The term “effectively wild” is overused, but has their ever been a better embodiment of that phrase than Yu Darvish? Maybe not. He was all over the zone—especially in the first inning—but he only hit one batter (Cabrera) and walked just one as well (Austin Jackson.) From pitch-to-pitch you just never know where Darvish will put it, and that system worked well for him last night, as he surrendered just four hits and racked up 10 strikeouts.

Tough luck for the Napster

• Mike Napoli, who got the start at first base, was the only Ranger starter that didn’t record a hit. He barely missed a home run in the eighth inning though, and seems to be squaring up on the ball much better of late. Napoli might be close to getting locked in at the dish.

Josh Hamilton

• Much has been made about the slugging center fielder’s June swoon. After connecting last night for his 24th home run, Hamilton now has homers in back-to-back games for the first time since May. As we all know, Hamilton is talented enough to go from looking lost to suddenly putting on a Ruthian display. Don’t be surprised if Hami heats up enough to reclaim the major league lead in homers by next month’s All-Star Break.

The Tigers and Texas

• Remember when Detroit’s Comerica Park was a house of horrors for the Rangers? That all changed this past April when the Rangers rolled into Motown and took three of four games. Now, the Rangers are in a position to take their sixth-straight series if they can beat Detroit tomorrow night. The series is tied up one game apiece, yet the Rangers have actually been outscored 13-9. Over their first six meetings this year, the Rangers have outscored the Tigers 34-25.

Feeling Young again

• It’s no secret that “super utility man” Michael Young has struggled at the plate this year. Last night he rifled an RBI triple into the left-field gap that ignited the Rangers’ four-run fourth inning. Young wound up 2-for-4 on the night…He might be close to putting together a very MY-like hot streak.

Up Next:

The Rangers’ Roy Oswalt (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will make his second start of 2012 as he faces Detroit’s Doug Fister (1-4, 2.72 ERA), with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 (CT).

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Jun 152012
 
YuLyles

Yu Darvish Looks to Lead the Charge in the Final Leg of the Silver Boot SeriesThis is the final leg of the somewhat legendary Lone Star Series—the winners of which receive the magnificently mediocre Silver Boot.

The Texas Rangers want that boot. The Texas Rangers deserve that boot. In order to get it, they’ll have to take two-of-three from the lowly Astros this weekend.

It might not be pretty.

No, not the series…I feel confident the Rangers are going to shellack the Astros, I mean the actual removal of the Silver Boot from the Astros’ a**—where the Rangers stomped Houston until it stuck last month. The excavation, if you will, might not be too pretty.

Tonight, it will be The Yu versus The Who? as Texas looks to lay claim to the Silver Boot and the Lone Star Series for one final time.

A look at The Yu
RH Yu Darvish (7-4, 3.72 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 9.5 K/9)

Darvish has never faced the Houston Astros. I think he’s going to enjoy it. After all, The Yu has yet to lose at home during his MLB career. He’s 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Right-handed batters are hitting just .210 against Darvish with lefties batting .254. Darvish is coming off of the worst start of his big league career as he took the loss in Oakland after surrendering 6 earned runs on 6 hits with 6 walks. Yes, those three consecutive sixes were placed there intentionally to further illustrate the devilishly bad time Darvish had in Oaktown.

He was given two extra days of rest and will be looking to right his own ship tonight on seven days of rest.

Checking out The Who?
RH Jordan Lyles 1-2, 5.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.7 K/9)

21-year-old Jordan Lyles will be making just his seventh start of the season tonight. Lyles has already faced the Rangers once before and I’m pretty confident he’s not much looking forward to doing it again.

The Rangers’s slash line against the right-hander is: .391/.464/.565. The Rangers hit Lyles so well last month in Houston that in order to conserve space, I’m going to limit the list of Rangers that hit him well to just those batting over .500 against him…Josh Hamilton*(.571 HR), Colby Lewis**(.667 2 RBI), and David Murhpy (.500 HR).

*Josh Hamilton will not be in tonight’s starting lineup due to an intestinal virus. I’m sure that’s fine with Lyles.

**Yes, that’s right, Colby Lewis, the pitcher. Colyashi went Sgt. Kabuki-man all over Lyle’s ass…no word on if manager Ron Washington plans on sliding Lewis into the DH slot tonight…

Much like Darvish’s dreadful previous start, Lyles had his worst outing of his young major league career last time out. Against the White Sox he surrendered 7 hits, recorded no strikeouts, walked three and lasted just 4 1/3 innings, the shortest start in his career.

As previously mentioned, The Yu has not lost at home, and, that, coupled with the fact that Lyles has never won away from home, seems to favor the Rangers’ odds tonight. Lyles is particularly susceptible to left-handed batters, as they hit .333 off of him on the year. Righties are hitting .256 against the former first round selection from 2008 (38th overall selection).

Keys to a Rangers Victory:

Offensively, just jump on Lyles like last time. That should do it. The real question for the Rangers tonight surrounds Yu Darvish. Will it be “good Yu” or “bad Yu”? And how will he respond to seven days off and his second go-round with Houston?

My hunch is that Darvish will do just fine.

Prediction time:

Darvish strikes out seven, and walks just one. Leonys Martin is an apt temporary replacement for Josh Hamilton and the Rangers roll 7-1—inching that much closer to claiming final dibs on the silver boot.

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Jun 132012
 
HarriWade

Matt Harrison vs. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks and Rangers, a Game 2 PreviewEverybody loves home cooking, and in last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Colby Lewis served up every fans favorite dish: a 9-1 win.

Tonight it will be up to Matt Harrison to keep the good times rolling as the Rangers seek to push their modest win streak to three, while securing their fourth win in five games.

Here’s a look at tonight’s starting lineups:

Texas Rangers (36-26)

Matt Harrison vs. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks and Rangers, a Game 2 Preview

Kinsler went 3-for-5 with an RBI in last night's 9-1 Rangers win.

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
1B Mike Napoli
C Yorvit Torrealba
RF Brandon Snyder *
CF Craig Gentry

LH Matt Harrison (8-3, 3.87 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5.5 K/9)

This is Harrison’s first time to face the D-Backs at home in Arlington. He pitched against them once at Arizona’s Chase Field, and it didn’t go so well—he only lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs, all earned while walking four and striking out just two…thus he’s 0-1 with an obnoxious 17.18 ERA versus Arizona.

Hey, it’s a small sample size.

Harrison is 2-2 with a 4.45 ERA at home this year as opposed to 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA on the road. His road ERA is helped out considerably by his masterful performance against the San Francisco Giants last week—Harri pitched a complete game shutout while scattering just five hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

As is the case with most southpaws, Harrison prefers facing left-handed batters. Lefties on the year are batting a paltry .151 off of him whereas righties are hitting .309.

Harrison has won his last four straight games and a win tonight would give him the team lead with 9.

* This is Brandon Snyder’s first start of 2012 in right field for the Rangers. Nelson Cruz is still under the weather and Washington prefers to sit 1B Mitch Moreland against left-handed starters.

Arizona Diamondbacks (30-31)

Matt Harrison vs. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks and Rangers, a Game 2 Preview

Aaron Hill was the only D-Back with multiple hits last night.

SS Willie Bloomquist (.400 BA against Harrison)
2B Aaron Hill
RF Justin Upton (.500 1 HR 2 RBI)
1B Paul Goldschmidt (Texas State)
DH Jason Kubel (.250, 1 RBI)
CF Chris Young
C Miguel Montero
3B Ryan Roberts (L.D. Bell HS)
LF Gerrardo Parra

LH Wade Miley (7-2, 2.53 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 5.5 K/9)

This is Miley’s first time pitching at RBIA and the only current Rangers player he’s ever faced is utility man Alberto Gonzalez, who is 1-for-1 with an RBI against him.

Miley was a first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2008 (43rd overall pick) and has been quite a pleasant surprise for the Diamondbacks this season. He’s pitched like an ace at times, and has filled in nicely for Daniel Hudson who has had been injured most of the year.

Whether on the road or at home, Miley’s splits are quite consistent. He’s 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA at Chase Field and 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA when pitching para llevar.

Much like Harrison’s excellent previous start, Miley had a fine outing against the Rockies last week. He surrendered one run and little else, as he went the distance scattering just three hits while waling none and striking out five.

When Miley is on, he’s exactly the type of pitcher that can give the Rangers fits. He has great command of his off-speed stuff to keep hitters off-balance, and Texas has traditionally had trouble with southpaws in general.

Keys to a Rangers win:

In last night’s win, it took the Rangers a few times through the order to figure out Ian Kennedy. Once they started to lay off of his changeup, they forced him to throw more fastballs in the zone, which they subsequently pounded.

Look for a similar approach tonight from the Rangers against Miley. Miley isn’t exactly a soft-tosser, but if he gets too many heaters in the zone the Rangers should be able to jump all over him—granted they don’t let him get ahead in the count.

Likewise for Matt Harrison, it will be important for him to minimize the damage that Ryan Roberts (.279/.338/.471, 3 HRs) and Paul Goldschmidt (.379/.440/.712, 4 HRs) can impart on left-handers that get behind in the count.

Prediction time:

I think the Rangers bats are close to getting back into a consistent groove. I also feel that Miley might not like the unforgiving alleys—not to mention the infamous jet stream—that RBIA a true hitter’s paradise …Rangers win 6-3.

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Jun 022012
 

Costly Error and Wasted Opportunities Sink Rangers,  AL West Lead shrinks to 4 1/2That was a frustrating loss. I’m cynical by nature but even if I wasn’t, that lackluster performance would be ripe for the most sardonic of cynicisms.

I feel as though the quicker I wrap this up, the quicker we can get to Yu Darvish and (hopefully) our winning ways…So let’s jump on in:

Colby Lewis didn’t deserve the loss

• Over his 6 2/3 innings pitched—three of which were of the no-hit variety—Lewis scattered four hits around one walk while netting five K’s. His hits surrendered were untimely; it can be argued that he didn’t pitch well enough for the win, but he was unfairly hit with the loss.

• Two more unearned runs in this game (cynical hat tip to Ian Kinsler’s game-changing error). The Rangers now have 17 “unearnedies” in their last 17 games.

Silver lining awash in a Sea of Crap:

• The Texas Rangers are still in first place in the AL West by 4 1/2 games.

• Mike Napoli is continuing to improve—he was 1-for-3 with an RBI last night.

• Adrian Beltre continues to rake. He was 2-for-4 last night pushing his batting average to .323. He also has a 10-game hitting streak.

• Koji Uehara—easily my favorite player of all-time—continues to excel in relief. He worked a scoreless ninth inning, surrendering one hit and striking out one.

The door ding in the previously pristine Rangers-mobile

• The offense is continuing to struggle. Two runs plated against a team playing as well as the Angels have been lately isn’t going to win many—if any—ball games. You don’t go bow hunting with a slingshot.

• The defense. What the fu** is the matter with the gloves? Tonight it was Kinsler (and Cruz?). It’s been Andrus and Beltre recently.

One of the key things that has elevated the Texas Rangers to their current level of greatness has been their consistent excellence with the leather.

Whether it’s boredom, fatigue, or whatever—this shi@ has got to stop. No team is good enough to give away outs in exchange for base runners and expect to continue winning.

Hey Vernon, you feeling better yet? We need you back bud!

• The Angels are now 10-1 since Vernon Wells was placed on the disabled list. No word yet on if there is a 24-hour police watch to make sure Mike Scioscia doesn’t murder Wells.

Fake news report: “Vernon Wells has recently been upgraded to the permanent disabled list in the sky by manager Mike Scioscia.”

Mike Trout: One fish we’d love to put in a barrel

Costly Error and Wasted Opportunities Sink Rangers,  AL West Lead shrinks to 4 1/2

"Quick get the shotgun! That dang Trout just made eyes at my old lady!"


• The Angels’ recent surge has less to do with Wells’ departure than the arrival of Mike Trout. Now I understand why some feel he’s going to be better than Bryce Harper.

• Trout was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI batting in the leadoff spot. His most important statistic of the day though? ZERO LOB You dig, Mitch? (5 LOB).

The Angels’ Bullpen no longer Sucks

• Castaway closer (and North Texas resident) Jordan Walden has excelled in his non-ninth inning role. It solidifies the biggest weakness the Angels had during April.

Ernesto Freaking Frieri. Yep, the Angels now have a lights-out closer in Frieri. He picked up his 3rd save in dominating fashion last night by striking out 2-of-3 and slamming the door on the Texas Rangers.

Frieri’s ERA is now 1.09 with a K/9 ratio—18.8—that seems more fiction than fact. What’s the key to getting to this guy? Easy. Don’t let the Angels get the freaking lead.

Up Next:

The Texas Rangers will look to Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.25 ERA) to snap their current three-game skid. Darvish will have his work cut out for him as he opposes former Ranger and consistent douchebag C.J. Wilson (6-4, 2.77 ERA).

The first pitch is scheduled for 9:05 (CST), and as always, check back here for the pregame preview on BaseballDo, foo!

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Jun 012012
 

Texas Rangers Look to Reignite Winning Ways out West, vs. AL West Rival Anaheim AngelsAfter taking two-of-three from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last month in Arlington, the Texas Rangers now travel to the “Big A” to see if they can take another series from their hated division rivals.

For the Rangers (31-20) it may appear as though the time is ripe for a quick sweep of the ankle-biting Angels (26-26).

After all, the Angels just lost everyone’s favorite crooner, their staff ace, Jered Weaver, to a back injury. Despite the loss of Weaver, the Angels have been the hottest team in the AL not named the Chicago White Sox.

They’ve managed to win eight of their last ten games as Pujols was somehow plucked from his personal sea of suck.

Don’t take off that lifejacket yet, Poo, it’s a loooong season.

Over his last 10 games, “Captain Poo” has seen his batting average rise 31 points—all the way up to .243. He’s also hit five home runs over that span, giving him 8 on the year.

However, the Poo-meister has only managed a less-than-stellar .167 batting average against the Rangers with one solitary RBI during the regular season.

Rangers ready to take a bite out of the Angels:

Mike Napoli. He’s batting .362/450/.754 with 6 HRs and 10 RBI lifetime against the Halos. Naps also has 54 HRs and 140 RBI while playing in the “Big A.”

Josh Hamilton. This season, “Hambone” is batting .462 with 3 HRs and 6 RBI against LAA. In his career at the “Big A” he’s gone: .317/.372/.591 with 13 HRs and 48 RBI.

Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has always hit well in Anaheim. His .303/.389/.520 with 13 HRs and 44 RBI certainly validate that point. Although he hasn’t done much yet this year against the Halos, you get the feeling that this sleeping giant is about to awaken…and he might be pissed.

• This season, Nelson Cruz has had a series of ups-and-downs, slumps and mini-slumps. Throughout it all his favorite whipping boys have been the Angels, and he’s gone .545/.643/.909 with a HR and 6 RBI thus far. In his career, “Boomstick” has 14 HRs with 45 RBI against the hated Halos.

Tonight’s Matchup: RH Colby Lewis (4-3, 3.58 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 vs. RH Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.81 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, K/9: 5.8)

Lewis

Lewis is coming off a no-decision at home against Toronto in which he skirted trouble throughout his 5.1 innings pitched. He scattered 10 hits without issuing a walk and struck out 6.

This is “Colbyashi’s” first appearance against the Angels this season. However, the current roster is batting just .205 off of him over his career.

Loves to face: Albert Pujols (.143), Torii Hunter (.125, 5 Ks) and Howie Kendrick (.176, 7 Ks).

Hates to face: Peter Bourjus (.313), and Mark Trumbo (.400, 1 HR, 4 RBI).

Williams

Jerome Williams is one of just five active Hawaiian-born major leaguers (of the five, he and the Rangers’ own Scott Feldman are the only pitchers.) The Honolulu native was a former 1st Round Draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1999.(39th overall pick).

In his last start, Williams earned the victory against the Seattle Mariners by scattering five hits over his six innings pitched with 5 Ks and 2 BBs.

The burly right-hander didn’t fare nearly as well in his most recent start against the Rangers. He luckily escaped with the no-decision as he was hit hard and often during his May 11th start at the Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington. All told, he lasted 6 2/3 innings but surrendered 6 ER on 11 hits with just 3 Ks and 2 BBs.

Overall, the Texas Rangers are batting a ridiculous .473 off of Williams—here’s hoping that’s a trend that will continue tonight.

Loves to Face: Elvis Andrus (0-for-5 lifetime).

Hates to Face: Just about everyone else…but here’s a short list:*

Nelson Cruz (.800/.857/1.833, 2 HRs, 6 RBI)
Craig Gentry (.750/.750/1.250, 2 RBI)
Josh Hamilton (.667/.600/2.667, 2 HRs, 3 RBI)
Adrian Beltre (.500/.500/.900, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
Mike Napoli (.429/.429/1.143, 1 HR).

*Yes, believe it or not, the slash lines are not mere hyperbole; they are really real…no, really.

Have fun with that, Mr. Williams.

Currently, the Texas Rangers lead the Angels by 5.5 games in the AL West. Worst case scenario, if the Rangers are swept, they’ll still be up by 2.5 games. But it’d be a whole lot more fun to pull off the sweep and have that lead where it should be: 8.5.

The first pitch tonight is scheduled for 9:12 PM (CST).

Go Rangers!

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May 302012
 

A night worth forgetting…

Wednesday Morning CurveballsLet’s face it, last night performance was ugly, but it’s part of the 162 game marathon that is a major league baseball season.  Every team is going to have nights like the Rangers had last night – defensive miscues, offensive woes and troubles on the mound.  What separates the great teams from average or even poor teams, is how they bounce back.  Does a performance like last night’s spark a cry for redemption and improvement or do they flounder in their own sorriness and get stuck in a rut?  This team has too much great leadership and camaraderie to get stuck in a rut.

The Bright Spots:

  • Josh Hamilton hit his 21st home run of the season last night.  Hamilton sits 5 ahead of his closest competition in all of baseball, Adam Jones, Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion.  His 3 RBI on the night put him at 56, which is 13 ahead of the current runner-up in MLB, Andre Ethier.
  • Elvis Andrus continues to rake, going 2-4 with a double and 2 runs scored last night, raising his batting average on the season to .308.
  • Craig Gentry is knocking on the door to .300 after going 2-3 last night, he currently sits at .299.  Gentry also stole his 7th base of the season last night.  As you would expect, his splits on the 2012 season favor situations against left-handed pitchers (.333/.417/.429), but at least his performance against righties hasn’t been debilitating (.257/.316/.343).

The Not-So-Bright Spots

  • On a night when Scooter Feldman’s fate was sealed as returning to the bullpen, albeit to a role that is vital for this team, his performance on the mound wasn’t great.  He gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits and 3 walks over 4 2/3 innings.  He gave up 2 unearned runs as well on a throwing error by Adrian Beltre.
  • Mike Adams pitched poorly.
  • Alexi Ogando looked horrible.
  • Ian Kinsler went 0-5, leaving 5 runners stranded, and took plenty of heat from the Twitter world.
  • Napoli, Cruz and Young went a combined 0-8.

Enough about that…they will bounce back.

Wednesday Morning Curveballs

Rangers Sign Roy Oswalt

The Rangers agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt yesterday, a signing that has been a discussion topic for Rangers fans since the winter.  With the recent injury to Neftali Feliz, the signing made sense at this point, and at $5M presenting relatively low risk.

Oswalt will start this Saturday for Round Rock, and the plan is for him to make 4-5 minor league starts before being called up and inserted in the major league rotation.

“I think if you look at our ballclub, my relationship with him, Jackie Moore, Mike Maddux, some of our players, there is a familiarity there,” Nolan Ryan said. “He’s pitched here and there’s a close proximity to his home. Plus the fact we’re in the position we’re in all worked in our favor. The fact that he’s healthy, once he gets innings in, he’ll fit into our rotation and be able to pitch deep into the game.”

The dominoes that fall from the signing will more than likely look like this:

  • Scott Feldman will return to a long relief role in the bullpen.
  • Neftali Feliz will return to the bullpen upon his healthy return.  While I hate to see Neftali make this move, it’s the best move for the team assuming Oswalt is pitching well and there are no other injuries that impact the rotation.  Feliz still has absolutely FILTHY stuff and can be an impact arm in the bullpen with Ogando, Ross, Adams & Nathan.
  • Tateyama will have to return to the minors to make room for Oswalt.
  • The next move is not as clear, but when Feliz returns, the Rangers will have to make room.  My guess would be that they demote or attempt to trade Mark Lowe or Koji Uehara, but we are a month or more away from that point, so the front office has some time to let the chips fall where they may.

Lot’s of good arguments on both sides of the Oswalt signing.  I’m on board with the signing given the relatively low risk that  the Rangers are exposed to with regards to the contract.  Just a few tidbits here that I wanted to share…nothing earth shattering:

  • Oswalt has been a National League pitcher his entire career, but has made 2-4 starts per season against American League opponents given inter-league play.  His record against American League teams in his career is 11-11 with a 3.70 ERA.
  • He has finished in the top 6 of NL Cy Young voting 6 times in his career, with the most recent being a 6th place finish in 2010, the season in which he was dealt from Houston to Philadelphia.
  • Oswalt has pitched in the post-season during 4 seasons of his career – 2004 and 2005 with the Astros and the last two seasons with the Phillies.  Across his 11 post-season starts, Oswalt has compiled a record of 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA, with his most impressive series coming against the Giants in 2010, where he had a 1.84 ERA over 14 1/3 innings of work with a 4.67 SO/BB ratio.
  • Oswalt wanted to be here…let’s not forget this.  Texas has long been a destination to avoid for starting pitchers.  Granted, Oswalt has something to prove, but he did have value and was desired by some other teams (Red Sox and Dodgers to name two), but he wanted to be here.  That alone has to make Rangers fans feel good.

Quick Hits

  • Rangers send Derek Holland (4-3, 4.05 ERA) to the mound tonight to lead the charge back into the win column.  The Mariners will counter with former Ranger (and a key to that magical 2010 season) Blake Beavan (2-4, 4.38 ERA).
  • From Christian Corona (MLB.com), “Since blowing his only save of the year in a 4-3 loss to the Mariners on April 11, Joe Nathan has held opponents scoreless in 17 of his past 18 appearances. Opposing batters are hitting .194 against him during that span as Nathan has posted a 0.51 ERA, fourth-lowest in the Majors. Until a Michael Saunders single Tuesday, opposing batters had not recorded a hit in their past 21 at-bats against Nathan.”
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May 282012
 

Surging Rangers Offense looks to stay Hot against Seattle Mariners, Kevin MillwoodBefore the Toronto Blue Jays came to town, the Texas Rangers (30-18) were mired in an offensive funk that saw them averaging less than four runs per game—paving the way to losses in six of their previous ten games.

The Jays had beaten the Rangers in two out of three this season and had dominated Texas both last season and the season prior—and with Brandon Morrow set to toe-the-rubber in game one last Friday, things looked bleak.

However, Texas’ slumbering offense came alive immediately—plating seven in the first inning—setting the tone for domination and initiating the sweep.

And just like that, the offensive woes fell to the wayside thanks to an attack that averaged 11.33 runs per game during the Jays series.

Here’s hoping the Rangers bats can stay hot as they welcome their familiar foe, the Seattle Mariners for a three game set in Arlington.

Kevin Millwood (3-3, 3.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6 K/9) vs. Matt Harrison (5-3, 4.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 5.9 K/9)

Millwood

In former Texas Ranger Kevin Millwood’s last start, he pitched six scoreless innings against the Rangers, picking up the win 5-3. Millwood is in a zone that he hasn’t seen since last century (1999)—he hasn’t allowed a run in 17 consecutive innings.

Millwood is a veteran that relies not on raw stuff, but on location. A similar comparison in style would be that of Colby Lewis (with much lower K/9 and HR/9 rates).

Against the current crew of Rangers, Millwood has a .253 BA against. Adrian Beltre has 3 career home runs with 5 RBI off of him. Mike Napoli (.375, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and, of course, Josh Hamilton (.400, 1 HR, 3 RBI) have both been tough outs for Millwood throughout his career.

Matt Harrison

“Harri” had seen his ERA rise from 3.68 to 5.21 before he picked up the win against the Mariners in Seattle, 3-1, last week. Harri was sharp, going 7 innings, striking out 6, walking 2 and scattering 8 hits.

If you’ll recall, after that first inning against the M’s it sure didn’t look like we’d be getting 7 quality innings from the big left-hander.

Thanks to some outstanding defense from Hamilton, Harri was able to get out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning—while surrendering just the one run. From that point forward, he was in cruise control.

The Mariners have only managed a .182 BA against Harrison. Ichiro Suzuki has had the most at bats against him, and has collected 9 hits with a team-leading 2 RBI. Alex Liddi (.500) and Brendan Ryan (.667) see the ball well against the Durham, North Carolina native, but it’s a small sample size for them.

Much like the North Texas weather, here are four Rangers that are heating up:

•Nelson Cruz—8 RBI in one week much less one game will certainly warrant your inclusion in the hot list.

•Josh Hamilton—Much like Cruz’s big night, Hami’s walk-off, extra innings long ball is enough to realize his power stroke hasn’t gone anywhere. Plus, he’s Josh Hamilton…’nuff said.

•Mike Napoli—It’s no secret that Napoli has struggled since an April hot streak. However, his 2-for-3 yesterday afternoon (including his first home run in nearly a month) might be a sign that “Mr. NAP-O-LIII!” is starting to sizzle.

•Mitch Moreland—Mr. underrated…even after yesterday’s 0-for-3, Moreland has been torrid at the dish. In the Jays series he was 6-for-13 (.462) with 4 RBI and one big fly.

Hot Mariners to watch:

N/A—C’mon, they just got swept by the Angels for crying out loud.

The Rangers can win if:

• They can get on base early against Millwood. Millwood was dominate at times in his last outing, and he leads the league with the lowest HR/9 rate, averaging just 0.3/9. In other words, the Rangers can’t rely on the long ball to touch up Millwood.

Prediction time:

I just can’t see Millwood keeping the Rangers bats at bay twice in less than a week. Rangers win 7-4, and Millwood’s scoreless innings streak is snapped at 18.

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May 272012
 

Yu Darvish and Texas Rangers Seek Sweep of Struggling Blue BirdsThe Texas Rangers (29-18) have already locked-in the series win over the Toronto Blue Jays (24-23) regardless of this afternoon’s outcome.

The previous two games have already cured much of what has ailed Rangers Nation. You’ve got the dominant start from Derek Holland, a day of domination from Nelson Cruz, and a Hami homer of normal proportion.

Then, of course, the walk-off Hami homer; the type best told over a roaring campfire; a 400-foot cautionary tale to any pitcher who dares throw a strike in Hamilton’s legendary wheelhouse.

Then, the back-to-back-to-back long ball attack from the 7-8-9 hole hitters. And, lastly, a collective Rangers offensive assault that has averaged 11.5 runs per game in thus far in the Jays series, when it had averaged less than 4 runs per game the prior 10!

How could things get any better?

A sweep.

What could be better than sending the “oots” back north of the border with the wrong end of a broom crammed in their blue bird bootays?

And who better to complete the task than Yu Darvish…

Yu Darivsh (6-2, 3.05 ERA 1.41 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

This will be the second time Darvish has faced the Blue Jays.

He was outstanding against the Jays last month in Toronto as he pitched 7 innings, striking out 9 while surrendering just four hits around two walks. The Rangers won 4-1.

Darvish’s last start was the worst of his major league career. In his second tour of duty against the lowly Mariners, he lasted just 4 innings, while walking 6 to see his ERA swell from 2.60 to 3.05.

Darvish’s electric was stuff was there, his fastball command was not.

In his initial start against the Jays, only Edward Encarnacion managed more than one hit off of him. Encarnacion was 2-for-2 with a solo home run. Colby Rasmus and Eric Thames were both 1-for-3 off of The Yu, while the rest of the team went 0-14 with 7 Ks.

Kyle Drabek (4-4, 3.27 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.1 K/9

Drabek, once again, has the dubious task of matching up against The Yu. Drabek took the loss last time. He didn’t pitch poorly; as he scattered 5 hits over his 6 innings of work, walking two and striking out 8.

Drabek, like Darvish, flashes excellent pure stuff but gets into trouble when his command isn’t sharp. This is evident in his last start against Tampa Bay, when he went 6 innings, walked 6 but surrendered just 3 hits.

Elvis Andrus is 3-for-6 versus Drabek lifetime, and Adrian Beltre has touched him up to the tune of a .333 batting average.

Yorvit Torrealba has only one hit against Drabek over his career, but it was long ball, and Torrealbahas hit two home runs in his last two games…should be an interesting matchup.

The Rangers can complete the sweep if:

They continue to strike fast and furiously. Yesterday it was all Rangers in the first inning once again as they pounced on Henderson Alvarez for two quick runs.

They need to capitalize on Drabek’s tendency to go deep in counts by getting on base anyway possible. If they can do that, and the offense stays hot, the Rangers can pull of the sweep.

Prediction time:

The most important thing for Kyle Drabek to do today is go deep in the game; if the beleaguered Blue Jays bullpen has to be summoned too soon, we may just see backup catcher Jeff Mathis on the hill again.

And that would be fine with me.

I think The Yu is going to be sharp in the summer-like heat and will go six innings with 7 Ks to earn the win while seeing his ERA dip back into the twos where it belongs.

Rangers win 6-2.

Go Rangers!

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May 272012
 

Texas Rangers Bruise the Jays Blue on Hamiltons Walk off Home Run Sometimes, even without RISP, there can be a reward.

After going 2-for-16 (.125) with runners in scoring position, while leaving as many runners on base as innings played (13); and then failing to plate the winning run after getting it on base with the leadoff batter in four consecutive innings

The Texas Rangers—thanks to Josh Hamilton—weren’t going to let this 13-inning affair end with a loss. And just like that Hamilton hit his 20th home run, and his third career walk-off home run.

You know, Josh, you’re spoiling the hell out of us Rangers fans. But, hey, after that whole “1972—2009″ stretch of Rangers’ mediocrity—with a few one-and-done playoff teams sprinkled in—we deserve a little pampering.

Aside from the obvious Hambone-heroics here’s a glance at some other highlights from, literally, the longest Texas Rangers game of the year:

• With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Rangers trailing 4-2, Nelson Cruz, Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland (the 7, 8, and 9-hole hitters) each hit solo home runs to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead…

• Mitch Moreland is now hitting above .300 for the first time this season…his home run was his fourth in the last 10 games, and he is hitting .458, with 8 RBI over that span.

Nelson Cruz has hit as many homeruns (2) in the last two games as he had in the entire month of April.

• The Texas Rangers are now at their high-water mark, 11 games above .500, for the first time since May 13th.

•The Rangers are 3-1 in extra innings this season.

The Texas Rangers will go for the sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon, with the first pitch scheduled for 2:05 PM .

Yu Darvish (6-2, 3.05 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.1 K/9) will oppose Kyle Drabek (4-4, 3.27 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.1 K/9).

Make sure to check back here for the pregame preview a la BaseballDo, foo!

Go Rangers!

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May 112012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsThe Colbra gives up 5 jacks…but strikes out 12!?!?

“When I came out of the game, I didn’t even feel like I had thrown,” Lewis said. “I felt like I had some of my best stuff all year. It was just a weird game. I don’t know how to justify that game.”

In one of the more puzzling starts of the 2012 season, by any Rangers starter for that matter, Colby Lewis was both dominant and weak, both baffling and predictable, both great and below average.  As he said, “It was just a weird game.”

Lewis got the loss in yesterday’s game, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 12 over 7 innings of work.  The 12 strikeouts is a new career high for Lewis…as is the 5 home runs that he surrendered.   Colby gave up 3 consecutive home runs in the 1st inning, and 2 in the 7th…in between he managed to retire all 18 batters he faced.

“The first inning, you still have to keep your team in the game,” Lewis said. “Of course you want a clean inning, but if it doesn’t you still try to go as long as you can and keep your team in the game. You keep making pitches and not worry, eventually somebody was going to get out.”

We are all used to the mandatory home run that Colby gives up in each start, and while it can be frustrating from the fan’s perspective, we put up with it because he often allows that home run in the middle of a above average performance.  However, you could see the patience of the Rangers fan wearing very thin on Twitter during yesterday’s start.  With such a heralded group of pitching prospects and Feldman and Ogando looming in the bullpen just waiting for their opportunity to move back into the rotation, it’s easy to quickly call for a change…but Colby’s not going anywhere.

“He still kept us in the ballgame,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Five home runs, usually a lot of damage is done and you can’t come back from that. But we almost did.”

The Rangers bats gave it valiant effort in the 9th, down 6-2, when David Murphy hit a 3 run bomb off of O’s closer Jim Johnson, but couldn’t muster another run and fell just short.

Luckily, this was just the first game of a double header (due to Wednesday’s rain out) and the Rangers would have a chance for redemption in the night cap.

Baltimore glad to see Josh go…

Friday Morning KnuckleballsJosh got the tweeters tweeting early last night with a first inning 2-run shot off of Tommy Hunter, as many wondered if we might be in store for another historic night.  But that was all Josh had to offer, and it was all that was needed as the Rangers took the final game of the series in Baltimore, 7-3.  This gave the Rangers a series win after three consecutive series losses.

“I’m tired … hungry … it will be nice to get home,” Hamilton said. “You never know what will happen in this game, that’s why you play the games. I’m excited I had a good series, but the series is over. We can go back home and get ready for Anaheim. We’re ready to get home.”

Tommy “Big Game” Hunter may have summed it  up best…

“He hit a baseball,” Hunter said. “The dude is on fire. What do you want me to say? He is, he’s a freak.”

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

Hamilton’s home run was a big moment, but Mike Napoli’s first triple in over 2 years was key in the win, as was a very productive night at the plate by Elvis Andrus (2-3, 2 RBI, 2 R).  Beltre and Young also both contributed with a RBI a piece.

All  the offense was nice, given the defensive woes from the night, as the Rangers committed three errors…but hey, it’s the 10th game on the road.

The Dutch Oven  gave up three unearned runs in the 2nd inning, but bounced back and got the win. Holland pitched six innings, giving up the 3 unearned on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out five, moving his record to 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

It’s time…

The series we have all been waiting for…the game of the season…Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-1, 2.61 ERA).

For those of you going to the game, C.J. is prepared for boos:

“I think the biggest thing will just be that we’ll be playing in front of a huge crowd in a stadium that’s relatively hostile to our team — and I’m sure will be fairly hostile to me,” he said. “I think a lot of people will boo me and stuff.  The main objective is just focusing on the baseball aspect of it and preparing to get their guys out.”

Ian is downplaying it here, and you can’t blame him.  This is the perspective that players have to have.

“It will be fun, a chance to face somebody you know, but other than that it’s just another game,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said.

But fans don’t have to have that same perspective…to us, this is BIG.  I’ve heard the plan is to give him the silent treatment when he is announced.  I’ve also read plenty of tweets from fans that will be at the game saying they are going to boo the hell out of him.  Regardless what you do, make sure you put far more effort into cheering for Yu and chanting “NA-PO-LI” every time Nap comes to the plate.

The ESPN Baseball Tonight guys give a preview of the series here.

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

“It’s fun to play in front of packed houses and we’ve had that almost every game,” Michael Young said. “When our park gets going, it’s the loudest ballpark in the big leagues. I’ve played in the World Series twice and played in other parks. It’s the loudest. The Cardinals said the same thing to us last year in those games in Arlington. Lots of parks don’t seat 40,000 and we’ve got close to 50,000 and the just the way the ballpark is structured, it makes for a very loud place. We’ve been spoiled this year. We’ve had big crowds nearly every night. We feed off of it. We love it.”

I’m so pumped for this series.  I can honestly say that this feels like playoff baseball…

Quick Hits

  • One of the more bizarre story lines from yesterday’s double-header came in the second game when Robbie Ross was warming up in the bullpen…in the wrong colored uniform.  The Rangers were wearing their blue uniforms, but Robbie had on the road grays.
  • Angels catcher Chris Ianetta will be out tonight as he will undergo surgery on his right wrist today that will keep him out of action an estimated 6-8 weeks.  Everytime I hear or read the words “Angels” and “catcher” together I snicker and chant “NA-PO-LI” under my breath and give a silent shout-out to Frankie Francisco and the Blue Jays…
  • If you missed it last night, we are doing a Twitter Ticket Giveaway.  Be sure to check it out, follow us on Twitter and retweet one of our tweets about the giveaway and you’ll  be eligible…easy as that.  4 front row Lexus Club level seats for next Tuesday’s game!

Enough said…GAME ON!

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