Jul 022012
 
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Lucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer ClassicThe Texas Rangers will have at least seven representatives at this year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City.

Rookie right-hander Yu Darvish made the final ballot and can be voted onto the All-Star team by following this link—there is NO limit to votes, so, by all means vote “Yu” until your heart is content, or your wrist locks up in a fit of carpal tunnel syndrome…and then vote a few times more.

The Rangers have had as many as five players at the Mid-Summer Classic in previous years—including the last two—but have never had more than two voted to start. The seven—possible eight—players on this year’s roster is by far the most the Rangers have ever had during their 40-year history.

Here’s a quick look at those that have already made the cut:

The starters:

Josh Hamilton, OF—11,073,744 votesLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
.314/.381/.643, 25 HRs, 73 RBI

Hamilton obliterated the vote record set last season by Toronto’s Jose Bautista. Fellow A.L. starters, Curtis Granderson (NYY) and Jose Bautista (TOR) combined, received fewer votes than Hamilton’s gargantuan number.

This is the fifth All-Star nod for Hamilton, and the fifth straight time he’s been voted in to start. Hamilton is just the third Texas Ranger to receive the most votes in any given year. He joins catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (2,808,456 in 2000), and second baseman Alfonso Soriano (3,466,447 in 2004).

Adrian Beltre, 3B—4,613,180 votesLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
.323/.355/.527, 14 HRs, 52 RBI

In an exceptionally close race, Beltre beat-out Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera by just 416,595 votes. To wit, the balloters got this one right, as Beltre’s contributions are just as important in the field as they are at the dish.

Beltre, who started last year’s Mid-Summer Classic due to an injury to Alex Rodriguez, is a three-time All-Star participant.

Mike Napoli, C—4,317,718 votesLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
.235/.335/.438, 12 HRs, 30 RBI

“Nap-O-Lee!!!!” finished well ahead of Minnesota’s Joe Mauer to earn the start at catcher. This is Napoli’s first All-Star selection.

Although his numbers haven’t been great thus far, this honor has been bestowed upon him due to overall popularity and fantastic 2011 accomplishments—that, plus the fact that A.J. Pierzynski is a douche-bag of the highest order.

The rest of the Rangers’ best:

Ian Kinsler, 2BLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
.276/.335/.451, 9 HRs, 40 RBI

Over the first few weeks of the balloting, Kinsler was in the lead for all A.L. second baseman. NY’s Robinson Cano eventually overtook him for the lead, but Kinsler was voted in by players, managers and coaches.

This is Kinsler’s third trip to the Mid-Summer Classic.

Elvis Andrus, SSLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
.307/.383/.412, 16 stolen bases

Andrus was selected by manager Ron Washington as a reserve, after finishing second to the A.L.’s top vote-getter at shortstop, Derek Jeter.

Elvis is having the finest offensive season of his young career. Andrus has the highest OBP of any other A.L. short stop, and is also tops in the league in stolen bases.

This is Elvis’ second All-Star nod.

Matt Harrison, LHPLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
11-3, 3.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Harrison is tied for the A.L. lead in wins. Selected by Washington, don’t be surprised if Harrison is the American League’s starting pitcher. After all, the 26-year-old left-hander certainly has the numbers to backup such a decision.

Joe Nathan, RHPLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
0-2, 1.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 18 saves

Just two years removed from Tommy John Surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2010 season, Nathan was selected by Washington to participate in his fifth All-Star Game.

Aside from two early-season hiccups, Nathan has been exactly what the Rangers were looking for—a shutdown closer that’s one of the finest in all of Major League Baseball.

Nathan’s 10.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio is best in all of baseball for any pitcher that has appeared in at least 30 games.

On the fringe:

Yu Darvish, RHPLucky 7 (or Elite 8): Texas Rangers Well Represented at 83rd Mid Summer Classic
10-5, 3.59 ERA, 117 strikeouts

Darvish, despite a quality start, lost in his first bid for win number eleven. Regardless, the rookie right-hander from Osaka, Japan, has been outstanding for the Rangers during the first half of 2012. He’s the team leader in strikeouts, second in wins and until last night’s 3-1 loss, had been undefeated at home in the hitter’s haven of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

You can make Darvish the Rangers’ team-record eighth All-Star participant by voting here.

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Jun 232012
 

Roy Oswalt Shines in Debut, Beltre and Napoli Go Deep As Rangers Win Streak Reaches 7It had been a good while since Major League Baseball fans had been treated to a Roy Oswalt start—approximately ten months.

October 5, 2011…and that wasn’t even a good Roy Oswalt start.

Last night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington—in front of the record-tying twenty-first sellout crowd of the season—fans were treated to a veritable pitching clinic by The Os.

Oswalt struck out six Rockies over his 6 2/3, while walking just one and scattering nine hits while also picking up his first win of the year, 4-1.

Not bad for the dude that prevented Feldman from his spot-start…It didn’t, however, stop Feldy from opening his yap trap.

Yo, Scoots Ma Goots: I feel I can speak on behalf of every Texas Rangers fan on the planet when I say: Chill out, Roy’s got this shi*. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re lucky…Roy’ll play long toss with you or something.

Maybe.

Numbers and Notes:

.094

• Mike Napoli’s batting average over his last ten games. Naps did go yard yesterday launching number 12 of the season in the fourth inning.

• Before Napoli connected, he had been in a 3-for-20 slump (.150 BA).

May 13, 2012

• The last time Joe Nathan surrendered a run—earned or unearned. Nathan’s ERA has plummeted from 3.29 to 1.52 since then, a 1.77 drop.

74.160.13

• Amount of time Donnie Darko has left to save his girlfriend, Jenna? Nope…

Those numbers represent:

• The percentage of strikes thrown by Oswalt last night, Career wins Roy can now call his own. Number of times Oswalt’s opposition found themselves down 0-2.

2-of-3

• Adrian Beltre has hit a home run in two of his last three games, and three of the last five games.

9

• Total wins Oswalt now has against the Colorado Rockies in his career.

2 Months, one day

• The last time the Rangers had won more than 7 games straight…on April 21, they beat the Tigers in Detroit for their eighth-straight win.

Up Next:

The Texas Rangers (44-27) will look to push their current seven-game winning streak to eight tomorrow afternoon, at 2:05 (CT). Rangers’ right-hander Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.00 ERA) takes on Colorado’s left-hander Josh Outman (0-3, 8.41 ERA).

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Jun 062012
 
Derek Holland 4

Rangers rebound in Oakland with strong bullpen

Wednesday Morning CurveballsAlexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan flexed their muscle last night in Oakland, pitching a combined 3 2/3 innings in relief of Derek Holland, surrendering just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5.  Ogando came in with two on and one out in the 6th with the Rangers holding on to a 2 run lead.  He struck out Kurt Suzuki and got Adam Rosales to pop out to first.

“That’s what he does,” closer Joe Nathan said of Ogando. “He’s the guy who holds our bullpen together. He’s the glue and tonight was a prime example about how much this guy means to us.”

Holland had his moments, but was apparently being taken down internally by…ahem…let’s just say he had some stomach concerns.  All in, he gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks over 5 1/3, striking out only 2.  He did get the win to improve to 5-4 with a 5.10 ERA.

“I just got a little fatigued out there,” Holland said. “I was doing everything I could to stay out there, but it started creeping up on me in the middle innings. I was doing everything I could. I just need to keep plugging away and get my strength back.”

It was creeping up…

Wednesday Morning Curveballs

Offensively, the Rangers accomplished a rare feat – everyone in the lineup got at least one base hit and struck out at least once.

Kinsler showed some signs of life with a 2 run double in the 3rd inning.  Everything else was pretty evening spread across the nine guys who started and ended this game in the lineup.

Lewis vs. Colon tonight

Colby Lewis (4-4, 3.50 ERA) takes the mound tonight, looking for his 5th win on the season.  Lewis pitched well in Anaheim over the weekend, only to have it wasted by defensive miscues and a lack of offensive support.  Since his reemergence in major league baseball (after his stint in Japan), Lewis is 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA against Oakland.

The A’s will counter with 39 year old Bartolo Colon (4-6, 4.34 ERA).  Colon suffered a similar fate to Lewis in his last outing, only giving up 2 runs over 7 innings, but getting a tough loss as his offensive teammates put up a goose egg.

9:05pm first pitch on FSSW.

Headed to Kansas City…

  • Initial All-Star voting results were revealed yesterday and 5 Rangers are leading at their respective positions – Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz & Mike Napoli.  You can vote up to 25 times, which seems a little ridiculous, but whatever.  Vote here if you haven’t already.
  • Josh Hamilton will not be participating in the Home Run Derby this year which is fine by me.  Josh’s performance at the 2008 Derby was unforgettable, and I doubt he could ever top that.  In addition, I’d much prefer Josh preserve every ounce of energy for the All-Star game (which DOES matter) and the second half of the season.

“It’s just not the right time,” Hamilton said. “I haven’t done it the past couple of years. I want to be healthy and the best I can be. I don’t want to risk anything entertaining the fans. So I respectfully declined again. You just take one swing … you’ve got to be smart about it.”

  • Of the 5 mentioned above, Napoli is the only one that hasn’t made an All-Star team before.

“Awesome … thanks to our fans,” Napoli said. “It would mean a lot to me. It would mean a lot to every player to make the All-Star Game. I want my numbers to prove I deserve to be an All-Star. I love the fans giving me such great sport.”

  • Look, I’d really like to see the American League World Series representative have home field advantage this season, so I’m on board with this team featuring as many Rangers as possible, but let’s remember that it was one of our own that cost the AL the All-Star game last year.  Love this quote from Beltre:

“It’s pretty important,” Beltre said of home field advantage. “That might be a key why we didn’t win, even though it was one of us that screwed it up.” 

Quick Hits

  • Scott Feldman will make his next scheduled start, after getting shelled on Monday in Oakland and pitching poorly in the three starts prior to that.  Someone tell Craig Gentry to get ready…
  • From T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), Hal Keller, who drafted, signed and developed some of the best players in the early years of the Rangers franchise, passed away on Tuesday at his home in Sequim, Wash. He was 84.
  • The Forums are up and running…well maybe running is a bit of an overstatement.
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Jun 032012
 

Bad Defense Spoils Solid Yu Darvish outing as Rangers Drop 4th Straight

Shipwrecked. Lost. Outside of the norm. You get the idea.

Last Wednesday, when the Rangers were one kick away from being entirely out of shi@—on their way to a 21-8 embarassment—wasn’t that much easier to stomach than tonight’s 3-2 loss to the Angels?

It was for me. All of the hallmarks of bad baseball (minus poor pitching) were on hand in Anaheim.

For the second time in as many nights, the Texas Rangers waste a quality start from their pitching thanks to a team that’s in a fielding funk and out of sync at the plate.

If the recipe for success is strong starting pitching, then the hair in the hogie is poor plate production; and fielding errors will spoila solid effort faster than an egg salad sandwich in the hot Texas sun.

The Wizard of WTF?!

• The Texas Rangers are now 0-4 since signing Roy Oswalt.

Yu Darvish

• He kept the ball in the park, and only surrendered two earned runs over his 6 1/3 innings of work. Darvish struck out 7 and allowed just 5 hits.

• This was one of Darvish’s finest starts all things considered. He took the tough luck loss, but he’s pitched MUCH worse and earned a few wins too.
GD GIDP

• Andrus, Torrealba and Kinsler all killed potential rallies with the ground ball double play.

• The Rangers were 0-for-10 with RISP and left 10 men on base.

Costly Errors and Unearned runs

• The two terms don’t always go together. The Rangers are in that kind of a funk though. They get no breaks, they receive bad calls, and seemingly every error scores.

• The Rangers had 3 errors, and, you guessed it, another unearned run was the result.

The 6th Inning Strikes Again

• Just like last night, the Rangers had held the Halos scoreless until the sixth inning.

• If we had kept the Halos scoreless in the sixth frame last night and tonight, the Rangers might be up 2-0 in the series rather than down 0-2.

• Can we just play two fifth innings tomorrow and call it even?

Captain Poo

• King Poo went 0-for-2. Not exactly a shocking news development.
• When he stole third base though, I was stunned. It’s just another sign that the baseball gods are not on the Rangers side right now.

C.J. Wilson

• He wore a red glove. He nibbled. He walked fools. In other words, Ceej was just Ceej.

• The fact that we didn’t knock him out early is just another sign that our offense is floating up shit creek with a turd for a paddle.

Trout was OUT!

• I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a player get ejected as fast as Yorvit Torrealba was tonight. From the looks of it, he had good reason to be upset. Mike Trout was clearly out.

Who’s Hot

• Nelson Cruz: He went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .272.

• Michael Young: Also went 2-for-4 as he inches closer to .300 once again.

Who’s Not

• Josh Hamilton: Hamilton went 0-for-4 with 2 Ks. He left five me on base, including the tying run at third base (and the bases loaded) when he struck out to end the game.

• Adrian Beltre: He had has his worst game as a member of the Texas Rangers last night.

Another costly error on a play that MUST be made “complemented” by an 0-for-4 with 4 Ks night at the plate.

Silver Linings in a Sea of Crap:

1. Yu Darvish. We’ve got an ace, folks.

2. C.J. Wilson did NOT earn the victory—just like the playoffs.

Final Take:

The defensive issues have got to stop. Elvis Andrus set the tone—in a bad way—by failing to put enough on the throw to first that should have nailed Mike Trout in the bottom of the first inning.

There’s no excuse for this. It’s not like it’s a news flash that Trout goes from home plate to first base in 3.7 seconds. That’s why he’s an 80-grade runner (plus-plus) on the scouting scale of 20-80.

Adrian Beltre continues to bobble the routine play. The Angels’ first run—in a game that the Rangers would lose by one—should have been avoided if Beltre can just find the handle on that slow-chopper for the force at home.

All of the miscues aside, the Rangers biggest problem is that they’re just not hitting. It’s as if the Blue Jays series was just an anomaly. What the Rangers desperately need is a big night at the plate. They don’t need to “pull a Seattle” but a blowout win could set the tone for their next series and move them in the right direction.

Up Next:

LH Matt Harrison (6-3, 4.41 ERA) will look to stop the Rangers’ season-long skid at 4 and stave off the sweep. On the hill for the Halos is right-hander Dan Haren (3-5, 3.52 ERA).

The first pitch is scheduled for 2:35 PM this afternoon. Make sure to check back here for the BaseballDo pregame preview!

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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 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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Apr 202012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsIt’s starting to sink in.  At first, during the off-season following the club first World Series appearance, it seemed like a temporary strength of this team that would flee to Philadelphia with Cliff Lee.  Then, throughout 2011, it seemed like the timing was just right and everyone was clicking at the same time.  Now, it’s sinking it.  Starting pitching is a true strength for this team, and will be for the foreseeable future based on the makeup of the current staff and the pipeline, both on the current roster (Ogando, Feldman, Ross) and in the minors (Perez, Ramirez, Buckel, Mendez, etc.).

“Starting pitching is, for sure,” Kinsler said when asked what was most gratifying about the Rangers current stretch. “The way they have been throwing has been outstanding. They have been keeping us in the game, 1-5, and the bullpen has been lights out.”

To put some numbers behind Kinsler’s statement, Rangers starters are now 9-0 with a 2.37 ERA over the first 13 games of the season.  According to T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), “That’s the longest winning streak by an American League rotation to start the season since the Yankees’ starters won 16 straight decisions to open 2003.”

Friday Morning KnuckleballsYu Darvish took a big step last night in his performance on the road against a top tier offense, quieting the bats of the Detroit Tigers to the tune of 1 run on 2 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 5 over 6 1/3.

“He made another step forward,” Manager Ron Washington said. “It’s been that process since he got here and he did a great job tonight using all his pitches. He used his fastball well and threw his breaking ball in every count. I wish he had gotten through seven, but he did a great job. He really did.”

“He’s very good,” Tiger slugger Miguel Cabrera said. “He mixed his pitches very good — fastball, breaking ball, slider. I think he threw a couple changeups today. He did a very good job to stop our offense today. Today, he was very good. I think he’s only going to get better.”

“I know that if I battle and keep the team close in the game, the offense is going to come through for me,” Darvish said. “The biggest improvement was the consistency of my command. I feel close to where I want to be. I think I threw more quality strikes tonight.”

The Rangers provided run support for Darvish right off the bat, jumping to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and adding support in the 2nd, 5th and 6th, before putting the game away with a 5 run 8th.

“Well, sometimes it just isn’t your day,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “That pretty much sums it up. We just couldn’t stop them. When they hit it hard, it was a hit, when they didn’t hit it hard, it was a hit. It’s one of those nights. We just got beat up.”

3 more games to go in this series, so it’s far from over, but last night was a big step in more ways than one.

Oh yeah, the offense was once again ridiculous with Napoli hitting another bomb and Kinsler, Cruz and Young all accumulating 3 hits apiece.  Let’s not take it for granted.

Quick hits:

  •  Matt Harrison takes the mound tonight, looking to continue his hot start to the season (2-0, 0.64 ERA).  He’ll face off with another young talented pitcher in Rick Porcello who has started strong (1-0, 1.84 ERA).  First pitch – 6:05 Texas Time.
  • Harrison  has not faired well so far in his career against the Tigers, posting a 1-4 record with a 6+ ERA.  This shouldn’t be too big of a concern considering that Harrison has matured into the pitcher that he is only recently.
  • Moreland and Murphy will both be back in the line-up tonight against the right-handed Porcello.  Murphy is 7-for-9 in his career with a home run against Porcello.
  • Per Sullivan (MLB.com), “With two more wins this series, the Rangers would win their fifth straight series to start the season for just the second time in team history. The 1989 club — also the only other Rangers squad to start 11-2 — did so as well.”
  • Pudge retires at the Ballpark on Monday before the game against the Yankees.  We’ll have more on that over the weekend, and we’ll be recording our podcast immediately following the ceremony with lots of good discussion about one of the greatest Rangers ever.

Have a good weekend!

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Apr 182012
 

Wednesday Morning Curveballs“The ball was carrying pretty good tonight.” – Josh Hamilton

At some point last night, I just laughed.  I wasn’t laughing at the Red Sox, but rather it was a joyful laugh…an emotion that could only come from pride in just how good this team is.  I just laughed….at how ridiculously talented this line-up is from top to bottom, even with it’s interchangeable parts.  I just laughed…as Colby settled in after giving up a first inning 2-run shot to Dustin Pedroia.  I just laughed…as Ranger Nation was in full force on Twitter, watching an offensive explosion in fellowship and celebrating with each run.  I couldn’t help myself…I just laughed.

If your reading this, more than likely you were watching that.  If not, just know that in game 11 of 162 in 2012, the Rangers looked like an All-Star team…on the road…against at quality opponent.

Wednesday Morning CurveballsOn our last podcast, Jasen and I talked about the depth of this team, and how you can have players like Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli slumping and it’s offset by players like Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler surging (insert any of the core names in this scenario).  Last night, everyone was surging, and hopefully the surge will carry over through the remainder of this road trip (next stop Motown after wrapping short series with BoSox tonight) and beyond.

18 runs on 21 hits with 3 doubles and 6 home runs.  Every Rangers player that got an AB, got a hit with the exception of Alberto Gonzalez who came into the game for Kinsler, after Kins had gotten 5 ABs.  Boston Ace Jon Lester gave up 7 over 2 IP.  New acquired Red Sox relieve Mark Melancon gave up 6 without recording an out (an ERA killer!!).  Meanwhile, Colby Lewis gave up 2 runs on 8 hits and no walks over 7 IP, while striking out 7 batters and making the Red Sox lineup look foolish on many occasions.   It was a slaughter.

It’s fun to watch and fun to rehash, but today is a new day, and the Rangers have to take care of business again tonight against that same Red Sox team they embarrassed last night.

Wednesday Morning Curveballs“I’m just finding holes,” Hamilton said. “I don’t feel great. The home run felt good, the others I just kind of rolled over and found holes. I’m getting there. My timing is still early. I’m getting away with some things. I want to continue to improve.”

“I’m getting close,” Cruz said. “I feel pretty good. I feel like I’m seeing the ball better and my timing is there.”

“I’m definitely feeling better,” Napoli said. “I have been in the cage trying to iron it out. It feels good to put some swings into it and barrel up the ball. I just want to do it for a full game.”

These statements can’t make opposing pitchers feel good…

Quick hits:

  • The Rangers are officially splitting up Holland and Harrison in the rotation.  The day off on Monday afforded them the opportunity to flip-flop Harrison and Darvish in the rotation and they are taking advantage of it.  According to Wash, it has more to do with Yu then splitting the lefties.

“We wanted to keep Darvish pitching on four days’ rest,” Washington said. “He pitched, what, once a week in Japan? We want him to get used to four days down and then pitching on the fifth day. It just so happens to split the left-handers.”

  • Moreland returned to the team last night in Boston after battling oral issues.

“I’m so much better. It was a rough few days,” Moreland said. “I probably got five hours sleep total in two days, but I feel 100 percent better. I slept great last night.”

  • The Rangers will have 3 of the first 53 picks in the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft.  The Rangers will have the 29th overall pick in the first round. They will also have two picks in the compensation round, including the 39th overall pick as compensation for C.J. Wilson signing with the Angels and the 53rd pick for Darren Oliver signing with the Blue Jays.
  • Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) covers the draft order in more depth.
  • Michael Young left in the 8th inning last night with back stiffness.  It’s not expected to be serious.

“He’ll be fine,” manager Ron Washington said. “He was just a little stiff so we got him out of there. We had the lead there. He’ll be in there Wednesday.”

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Apr 112012
 

Wednesday Morning CurvesLast night felt good.  There wasn’t a player on this team I wanted to see succeed more than Neftali Feliz, and not just because of the bold prediction that I made in my preseason article about him, “The Other New Guy”.   Last night Neftali Feliz put together the best performance of any starting pitcher on this rotation the first time through.  The 7 inning gem was also his longest performance in his professional career (including in the Minors where max was 6 1/3).

Believe me, I know the season is still very young, and he’s got a long way to go to get to my prediction of 16 wins…but you have to be excited about what you saw last night.  Feliz proved that he is more than just a flame-throwing closer and that he does indeed have an effective changeup and a pretty salty slider that compliment his fastball – which really never reached the velocity that we’re used to seeing from Feliz, whether by design or simply because his arm strength is still ramping up.

Feliz gave up only four hits and two walks over 7 innings while striking out four – all on 108 pitches…and all in a game that seemed to be over in the blink of an eye due to his rapid pace and control.  He is only the third Rangers pitcher to ever throw at least seven scoreless innings in his first big league start.

“I was trying to throw all my pitches and keep them low and I did that,” Feliz said. “There is a big difference between being a closer and being a starter. As a starter you have to think and be calm and execute. The first inning I had to make a little adjustment. I had a little pressure on me and I had to work out of it and make my pitches.”

“Awesome,” catcher Mike Napoli said. “He did a great job. We kind of noticed his changeup was on and we were going with it and it was good pitch for him tonight. That can change from night to night. He had that going and we used it a lot. That’s what you’ve got to do as a starter. You can’t go out there and throw fastballs every single time through the lineup. You’ve got to be able mix it up and he did that.”

“Everybody knows he can throw 100, but he was mixing in a lot of pitches tonight,” Mariners DH Jesus Montero said. “He struck me out on an off-speed pitch the first time, so I kind of forgot about the fastball for a little bit. Then I got base hits on a slider and changeup. He was unbelievable tonight. Amazing.”

“He just did a really good job of pitching,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “What’s impressive is that wasn’t his routine as a closer. As a closer he would come in the ninth and throw bullets. Tonight was all pitching.”

Neftali’s next start will come this Sunday at 1:05 in Minnesota against the Twins.

Quick Hits:

  • Wednesday Morning CurvesDavid Murphy continues to perform at the plate, as he was 3-3 with two doubles and the games lone RBI last night.

“I want to stay the course,” Murphy said. “I feel like in the past if I had a start like this, I might start swinging hard and thinking in my mind that I’m playing with house money and getting outside myself. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s just five games and there’s a lot of baseball to be played.”

  • Neftali was amazing last night, and the opposing pitcher, former Rangers 1st round pick Blake Beavan was pretty salty as well.
  • Gotta love the smart base running by Adrian Beltre last night to keep a rundown going long enough for Michael Young to advance to second base.  If you missed it, T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) broke it down and there is video.

“That’s baserunning 101 right there,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You get caught in a rundown, you have to stay alive as long as you can to let the guy get the extra base. That’s exactly what he did.”

  • The Ian Kinsler extension is expected to be made official later today, after Kinsler completed the physical yesterday.  The Rangers fully expect the young second baseman to be declared “healthy” later today and will announce the contract shortly thereafter.

“Well deserved,” outfielder David Murphy said. “He is as complete of a player as you’ll see in the big leagues and has the best instincts of any player I’ve ever played with. He loves the game. He’s the ultimate competitor.”

Washington on Ian Kinsler as a clubhouse leader: “He’s matured into a lieutenant. We have a couple of generals and a couple of captains, he was a sergeant, now he’s a lieutenant. Kinsler has gained his respect every year, not only in our clubhouse but around the league.”

  • Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Opening Day starter Colby Lewis are among the players who could still become free agents after the 2012 season.  Kinsler told Napoli that he was next yesterday in the locker room, and while I know it would be nice to get both Napoli and Hamilton locked up during the season, the lpossibility of a deal with Napoli in the near future seems more likely.

“I guess we’ll see,” Napoli said. “I don’t know, but I hope we can get something done. The bottom line is I want to be here, but I really don’t know how it is going to work out.”

  • Utility infielder Albert Gonzalez got into the game in the 9th inning last night, meaning that Brandon Snyder is the last man to get on the field.
  • The Rangers face off with former Ranger Kevin Millwood tonight, first pitch 7:05pm.  Colby Lewis will take the mound for Texas.
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Mar 302012
 

If you didn’t catch it on Twitter last night, we are giving away a pair of tickets to see the Mariners and Rangers on Wednesday, April 11.  To be eligible for the drawing, all you have to do is purchase your tickets for the Baseball Do Field Trip prior to midnight tonight.  We’ll announce the winner over the weekend.

Friday Morning KnuckleballsMatt Harrison continued his strong Spring in yesterday’s 6-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

  • Harrison pitched 6 innings, giving up one run on six hits, while striking out seven and only walking one.  He threw 91 pitches and lowered his Spring Training ERA to 1.69.

“I think I have really been consistent this spring pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters,” Harrison said. “A lot of it comes from last year. The games I was successful were the ones that I was aggressive and went right after hitters. I brought that mentality into Spring Training and it has paid off.”

  • Reliever Yoshinori Tateyama gave up 3 runs in the top of the seventh, blowing the 2-1 lead Harrison had protected.
  • Napoli and Moreland led off the second inning with back-to-back home runs off Giants starter Matt Cain. That was the third home run in the last three days for Napoli.
The Rangers have set their rotation, which to the surprise of at least Baseball Do, will not split up left handed starters Derek Holland & Matt Harrison.
  1. Colby Lewis – Opening Day, April 6th vs. White Sox
  2. Derek Holland – April 7th vs. White Sox
  3. Matt Harrison – April 8th vs. White Sox
  4. Yu Darvish – April 9th vs. Mariners
  5. Neftali Feliz – April 9th vs. Mariners
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsIt was well known that Wash was going to give the Opening Day nod to veteran Colby Lewis.  While you could argue that Lewis doesn’t necessarily have the highest ceiling or most potential of the pitchers on this staff, he deserves the nod for his tenure with the team and more importantly for his recent big-game/postseason performances.
“He’s my veteran,” Washington said. “He’s the guy who is dependable. You know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to battle and he’s my most experienced pitcher.”
  • I like the move.  Darvish debuts in a game which will probably have less pressure (Sunday nights game will be nationally televised) and it’s a bit of a reward for Matt Harrison, which is much deserved given his strong campaign in 2011.
  • Splitting up the lefties, while seemingly a sound strategy, doesn’t carry much weight statistically and more the likely the rotation will be out of order due to off-days or fill-ins by Scooter Feldman by mid-May…if not sooner.

Quick Hits:

  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsRangers face off with the Rockies tonight in what will be the final Spring start for Yu Darvish.
  • Brad Hawpe’s career with the Rangers is over, as the veteran was unconditionally released yesterday.  Hawpe, who was brought on as insurance against Moreland’s wrist, has been invited back by the club to play in the minors if he is unable to find a major league job with another team.
  • Next week’s podcast will be our official 2012 Season Preview.  Feel free to post questions here on the blog or send us questions via the Contact Us page if you have anything specific you want us to address.
  • Sports Illustrated has put their season predictions out, and while they have the Rangers making it into the postseason as a wild card, they give the AL West crown to the Angels.  Even worse, they pick the Angels to eliminate the Rangers in the ALDS and to go on to win the World Series.

Have a good weekend!

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