Jun 022012
 

Out with the Old and in with the Yu: Darvish and C.J. Wilson set to Battle for AL West SupremacyIt is often said that the truly great baseball players have an ability to “slow the game down.” They don’t get too far ahead of themselves, they take things pitch-by-pitch and inning-by-inning.

I feel that the same can be said of great baseball teams.

And for the Texas Rangers (31-21), currently mired in a three-game skid, perhaps this day-by-day philosophy is exactly what they need. Carpe Diem, Texas Rangers.

Even after last night’s gut-wrenching loss to the Los Angeles Angels (27-26), the Rangers are still sitting pretty atop the AL West, 4 1/2 games up.

That being said, tonight’s game can easily be viewed as the most important game of the season thus far. It’s fitting that the Rangers will turn to their team leader in wins, electric young right-hander Yu Darvish.

Tonight’s Matchup:

RH Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.45 ERA, WHIP: 1.46 K/9: 9.7 ) vs. LH C.J. Wilson (6-4, 2.77 ERA, WHIP: 1.11 K/9: 8.2 )

Darvish

Despite a touch of the stomach flu, Darvish pitched well enough to earn his seventh victory of the season in his last start. He held the Blue Jays to three runs on seven hits during his five innings of work. Darvish struck out three and walked three.

Against the Angels, Darvish has a 5.06 ERA despite allowing just a .158 batting average. Much of the damage in his initial meeting with the Angels in Arlington last month was due to the two home runs (Trout and Hunter) he surrendered.

Tonight’s game in Anaheim will be Darvish’s first time to pitch in the “Big A.”

Loves to face: Mark Trumbo (.000, 2 Ks), Maicer Izturis, Albert Pujols, Erik Aybar and Howie Kendrick are a combined 1-for-10 (.100 BA) against Darvish.

He has yet to face Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, John Hester, or Kendrys Morales.

Hates to face: Mike Trout. Don’t we all? Against Darvish, Trout is batting .500 with 1 HR and 2 RBI.

Torii Hunter has only managed one hit against Darvish, but it was of the long ball variety.

Wilson

C.J.’s most recent start came against the Seattle Mariners. He was able to earn his sixth win of the season despite battling a blister on his throwing hand. He surrendered just two hits over his six innings of work—complemented by five strikeouts. Wilson walked two.

Against the Texas Rangers last month, Wilson had the dubious distinction of starting two consecutive games.

Thanks to inclement weather coupled with an inability to get more than one out, Wilson lasted just 1/3 of an inning and surrendered four runs, all of which were earned. The loss dropped him to 4-3.

The very next night he pitched better, going 5 2/3 innings, striking out four while walking three.

The Texas Rangers are batting .333 against Wilson. He has a 5-5 career mark with a 3.57 ERA while pitching in Anaheim.

Loves to face: Mike Napoli (.211, 5 Ks), Ian Kinsler (.000, 2 Ks).

Hates to face: Adrain Beltre (.391, 1 HR, 4 RBI). Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Craig Gentry, and Brandon Snyder are a combined 6-for-11 (.545) against “Ceej.”

He has never faced David Murphy or Mitch Moreland. Due to their ineffectiveness against left-handers, Wilson will probably not see them tonight either.

Keys to victory for the Rangers:

Although the Angels and Rangers are very different in terms of personnel, they are quite close in regards to talent. Tonight’s game will be largely dictated by the effectiveness of each starter.

Both teams have the ability to shorten the game due to a strong bullpen. The Angels’ newest closer, Frieri, has yet to surrender a hit over 13 innings of work this season.

The Rangers’ Joe Nathan has been nearly invincible since some early-season hiccups.

Of key importance for the Rangers will be for Yu Darvish to establish command by getting ahead in the count. This will be dictated by his fastball command. Also, the defense needs to tighten up. At times over the last few weeks it seems as though the team has lost focus—particularly in the field.

Prediction time:

It almost seems that when Darvish doesn’t have his best stuff he is more effective. Regardless, he needs to establish command early. If he can stay ahead in the count then the rest will take care of itself.

I look for the Rangers to roll tonight, stop their skid, and boost their lead back up to 5 1/2 games over the Angels in the AL West.

Rangers win 6-3.

Go Rangers!

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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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