I always liked Jay Novacek and Mickey Tettleton a little
more because of the way they carried themselves. The way Novacek’s first act after hauling in
a touchdown pass from Troy Aikman would be to simply hand the football to the back
judge. (Jason Witten has some of that in
him, too.) The way Tettleton would round
the bases on a huge home run with the same tempo and same facial expression he’d
have if he were jogging back to the dugout after a lazy F-8.
Novacek and Tettleton always acted like they’d been there
before, as the sports saying goes. They were
extraordinary in their ordinariness.
As I hit the send button on Sunday afternoon’s
report to get ready to head to the Rangers’ Triple Play event, I had an
idea of what the atmosphere would be like.
I figured Josh Lewin and Eric Nadel would be at their campy-best, the highlight
of the evening would be the rookie
song, the players would be embarrassed more than once by their wives. All turned out to be true. But I was wrong about one thing.
Hours after the completion of a sweep of the Angels and a seventh
straight win, sitting with a division lead and the best stretch of crisp team baseball
this franchise has put together in years, I expected it to feel like a frat
party. Players strutting around, basking
in the glow of what’s going on. There’s
no question that the fan energy at the event was very different from past years. There was a quiet but palpable electricity in
the room. But the players?
Flipping the ball to the ref. Circling the bases with their head down.
I’m not sure I can explain it any better than that. I talked to a bunch of them Sunday night, and
to a man they’re treating this run like it’s what they expected of
themselves. Not parading around because they’d
just fended the Angels off for three days, but instead acting like they’re just
taking care of business. No “Hope we can
keep this up” mindset that lots of fans have right now; instead, “We’re ready for
I said something to Marlon Byrd about sitting for seven
innings that day on the bench, coming in unexpectedly when the wall collision
forced Josh Hamilton’s exit, and promptly delivering a run-scoring double in
the eighth to extend the lead to 3-0.
Byrd’s response, with a casual smile?
“It’s what I do.”
It’s that attitude from one of the team’s emotional leaders
that everyone who wears the uniform, or a crushed velvet sportscoat at a Sunday
night charity event, is driven by right now.
There’s a contrast between the buzz and energy we’re all feeling as fans
and the focused confidence of the players, but I’d suggest we ought to be
inspired by the latter just as much as the team is motivated by the former.
kicks off three with the Tigers tonight.
The Rangers have lost eight straight in Comerica Park,
dating back to September 2007, half of them in blowout fashion. The average score in those eight games: Detroit 9, Texas
3. Dontrelle Willis makes just his
second big league start of the season, having given up four Twins runs in 4.1 innings
(eight hits, two walks, no strikeouts) on Wednesday. Willis, who made four rehab starts (1-2,
3.86) while on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, faces Brandon
McCarthy, the one member of the Rangers rotation not on a serious roll right
now. Both have something to prove.
But you get the feeling that this really isn’t a statement
game, or a statement series, as far as the players are concerned. Given where this thing sits right now, every
series means something. No opponent is
to be overlooked, and none is viewed as a team we’d be lucky to scratch out a win
against. Seems like 2009 has become a
Magglio Ordonez, who entered the season as the fifth
all-time leading hitter against the Rangers (.360, trailing only Vlad Guerrero,
Nomar Garciaparra, Geronimo Berroa, and Carlos May), will miss at least tonight
and tomorrow’s games (and the finale is a day game, so it’s certainly possible
that he misses the whole series) to be with his wife as she has surgery.
Armando Galarraga’s turn doesn’t come up during the series,
and his hold on a rotation spot is reportedly loosening. After going 3-0, 1.85 in his first four
starts of the season (24.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, 11 walks, .218 opponents’
average, one home run), he has gone 0-3, 10.90 in his four starts since (17.1
innings, nine strikeouts, 12 walks, .329 opponents’ average, six home
runs). Galarraga’s recent work makes him
a candidate to cede his spot to Jeremy Bonderman, who is expected to return
from the disabled list soon.
Frankie Francisco, on the disabled list with biceps
tendinitis, threw a bullpen yesterday without problems. He’ll throw a simulated game tomorrow and is
on track to be activated for the Friday opener of the club’s series in Houston.
is day-to-day with the right groin strain he suffered on his ridiculous catch
on Sunday. No word yet on his readiness
for tonight’s game.
Willie Eyre, on the DL with his own groin strain, throws a
Dustin Nippert, on the DL with a muscle pull in his back, is
reportedly ready to start throwing.
Lefthander Mike Hinckley’s first two Oklahoma City appearances: 2.2 scoreless
innings, three hits, three walks, three strikeouts, two inherited runners stranded. Left-handed hitters are 0 for 5 against Hinckley but have drawn all three of his free
outfielder Engel Beltre in April: .178/.221/.267.
Beltre, who is the California League’s second-youngest
player, in May: .340/.386/.472.
Frisco first baseman Justin Smoak is ninth in minor league
baseball in reaching base (.463). Frisco
catcher Manny Pina is 15th (.440).
first baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland is 15th in slugging (.618).
It may not happen until mid-season, but at some point Smoak
will be in Oklahoma City
and Moreland will take his spot in Frisco.
Righthander Ben Sheets meets with Dr. James Andrews today.
Some local reports have indicated that if a club were to
sign Sheets before the June 9 draft, it would forfeit its second-round pick to Milwaukee. Not completely true. The Rangers would forfeit their second-rounder,
yes, but the Cubs, for instance, would surrender their first-rounder, as would
all other teams who draft in the second half of each round (i.e., the best 15 teams in 2008). Exceptions: The Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Phillies,
and Angels wouldn’t forfeit their firsts, having already done so for Type A
free agents who ranked higher than Sheets.
would reportedly be willing to trade Mark DeRosa. I was vocal over the winter about how much I’d
like to have DeRosa back here, but there’s not really a roster fit (or need) at
Lefthander John Koronka struggled in two Marlins starts over
the last week (0-2, 11.05) and has been designated for assignment.
signed Adam Melhuse to a AAA contract.
Seattle released AAA outfielder
Freddy Guzman and Boston
released AAA Toledo righthander Nick Regilio.
The 30-year-old had returned to the game last year (pitching in relief
for AAA Round Rock in the Houston
system) after being out of baseball since his 2005 release by the Rangers.
The Dodgers released infielder Johnny Washington from High A
Inland Empire. The 25-year-old managed
to last for four years in the Rangers system (2003-2006) despite hitting just
.183, a credit to the Compton
product’s off-the-charts intangibles. Following
his March 2007 release, Washington
hit .246 and .186 in two indie league seasons but earned a job with his
hometown Dodgers this spring.
Are you still interested in a 2009 Bound Edition of the Newberg
Report? I still have some available. You can find details on the “Buy the Book” page.
In case you missed it, Eleanor Czajka has uploaded the eighth installment of
Ryan Tatusko’s Back Field Diaries.
Want to know what some of the Rangers hitters’ at-bat music
is? Chuck Morgan visited
the message board to tell us a couple days ago.
The Frisco RoughRiders are hosting the ‘Riders Classic Golf
Tournament and auction on Tuesday, June 9 at The Tribute Golf Club. All proceeds benefit the RoughRiders
Foundation, a nonprofit organization benefitting the North
Texas community in the areas of education, good health and
community service activities. If you’re
interested in playing (Frisco players and coaches will participate), contact
Mara Simon-Meyer, Director of the RoughRiders Foundation, at 972.334.1978 or email@example.com.
Finally, not many of you liked the idea I proposed (though didn’t
necessarily advocate) of Matt Harrison and Smoak for either Matt Cain, Chris
Volstad, or Josh Johnson (though I’d like to point out that the percentage was
about the same as the eight percent of you last summer who would have done Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley [or Harrison], John Mayberry Jr., Joaquin Arias,
and Zach Phillips for Zack Greinke and reliever Ramon Ramirez).
Focusing on Florida, who is probably less in need of a first
baseman with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez in the system, how about Harrison,
catcher Max Ramirez (whom the Marlins reportedly showed interest in over the
winter), and righthander Wilfredo Boscan for Volstad or Johnson?
Whether true or not, there were stories last year that, if
it weren’t for the Rangers’ annual Triple Play charity game show event on Sunday
night, April 27, featuring the entire Rangers team – players and coaches and
management and ownership – Ron Washington might have been fired that weekend,
as the team had lost 12 of 14 coming into a three-game weekend set against the Twins. And if Washington’s birthday weren’t on April
29, he might been let go on the 28th, a club off-day that followed
the Sunday event.
But Texas then rattled off
6 of 8, 11 of 15, and 15 of 21, and Washington’s
job, if it really had been hanging by a thread, was secure.
This year’s Triple Play starts in less than two hours, and
what a difference.
Seven wins in a row (longest win streak in four years), 13
of 15, a 4.5-game division lead over the team we just throttled, the third-best
record (23-14) that this club has ever had after 37 games (next to the 1996 and
1998 playoff seasons), eight straight series won (6) or tied (2), another
brilliant effort by the most underappreciated player in franchise history
(lowering the club’s league-leading May ERA), and another game-changing defensive
display by the club with the best fielding percentage in the league this month.
If you were around in 1996 and 1998, and in 1999, you know
that what happened out there this weekend, with nearly 105,000 looking on (highest
three-game total since 2007) as the Red-Shoed Rangers swept the Angels, was
what it felt like in those Septembers.
If you don’t think a packed house impacts the players, flip
on the postgame interviews. They feed
off this, as much as we feed off what’s happening between the lines.
As Josh and Eric emcee the game show events tonight, I’ll be
surprised if they’re playing at 100 percent.
All the huge plays they’ve called the last three days have to have taken
a toll on their voices.
Like Hambone being Hambone.
Hank going 3 for 22 on the homestand but coming up huge three
Former Angel Darren O’Day slamming the door shut – finishing
off former Ranger Gary Matthews Jr. with the second of two wicked changeups – against
the team that thought enough of him to drop him seven months ago from its
40-man roster. That’s two straight years
the Rangers have found a bullpen piece (Warner Madrigal after the 2007 season) that
the Angels failed to protect on the roster.
Ian. Elvis. CD.
Hell, you could name almost everyone on the roster right
Triple Play is always a good time, but never like it’s going
to be tonight.
Especially for the manager.
Righthander Scott Feldman leads the charge as Texas goes for the
three-game punchout of the Angels today.
The bell rings at 1:05.
Find your seats.
This will likely be the only Newberg Report ever centered on
Colorado Rockies lefty Greg Smith.
And it has nothing to do with his effort against the Rangers’
California League affiliate in Bakersfield
on Thursday afternoon (a rehab start in which the 25-year-old overcame an Ian
Gac home run and an Engel Beltre triple and defeated the Blaze with six solid innings).
Smith, a pitchability lefthander, was Arizona’s sixth-round pick in 2005. He was the Diamondbacks’ number 13 prospect after
the 2005 season, according to Baseball
America (which ranked Arizona’s
farm system number one in baseball that winter), number 15 after 2006 (for the
number three system), and number 13 again after 2007.
That is, until he was traded on December 14, 2007 to Oakland, with five other prospects
(one of whom had reached the big leagues), for Dan Haren and another player.
He didn’t have the highest ceiling of the six players the A’s
got (lefthander Brett Anderson, outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham,
and first baseman Chris Carter were generally graded higher), but it was Smith
who made the most significant big league impact in 2008. Making 32 Oakland starts, Smith went 7-16, 4.16 at age
24, leading the A’s with 32 starts, 190.1 innings pitched, and two complete
games. In his first six big league
starts, he was 2-1, 2.54. Through the
end of May that season, his ERA was 2.84, with seven quality starts out of
10. And while his second half wasn’t as
strong as his first, he did have a six-start stretch from late August until
mid-September that included three scoreless outings.
Smith’s number three or four ceiling notwithstanding, he showed
a ton of promise over his first six months in the big leagues, giving payroll-challenged
Oakland an intriguing pitcher it could control for another five years.
And then Billy Beane took advantage of that rookie campaign and
sold high on Smith, flipping him to the Rockies,
along with Gonzalez and reliever Huston
Street, for outfielder Matt Holliday (whom he’ll
lose to free agency next winter, if he doesn’t trade him first).
So what, you ask?
Matt Harrison was Atlanta’s
third-round pick in 2003. He wasn’t
among the Braves’ top 30 prospects after the 2003 or 2004 seasons, according to
Baseball America. He was number 10 after 2005, and number 3 after
Then he was traded on July 31, 2007 to Texas, with four other prospects (one of
whom had reached the big leagues), for Mark Teixeira and another player.
He didn’t have the highest ceiling of the five players the Rangers
got (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, and righthander Neftali
Feliz were generally graded higher), but it was Harrison who made the most significant
big league impact in 2008, making 15 starts and winning nine, the most by a
rookie lefthander in franchise history. And
he’s been brilliant in his last three and a half starts of 2009, going 4-0 and giving
up two runs in 28 innings, with one walk and 18 strikeouts in that stretch.
Harrison’s number three or four ceiling notwithstanding, he’s
shown a ton of promise over his first four months in the big leagues, giving Texas
an intriguing pitcher it can control for another five years.
Would you trade, say, Harrison and Justin Smoak for Matt
Cain? For Chris Volstad? For Josh Johnson?
Harrison, Michael Main, Max Ramirez, and Jose Vallejo for
Jake Peavy, if he’d change his mind about that no-trade clause?
Would you do what Beane did, acquiring the lefthander as
part of a blockbuster, seeing him increase his value meaningfully, and moving him
in another huge deal?
The difference here is that while Oakland gave up on the
futures of Smith and Gonzalez for a rental player that it will turn into more prospects
or two draft picks within the year, the type of deal I’m talking about would
net the Rangers a starting pitcher – with arguably greater upside than Harrison
– that would be under club control through at least 2011 (Cain, Johnson), 2013
(Peavy), or 2014 (Volstad).
Don’t suggest Brandon McCarthy instead of Harrison
in any of those proposed deals. Won’t
get it done.
Think about it for a bit.
A few quick hits:
Texas signed lefthander Mike Hinckley, a former blue-chip
prospect with the Nationals who debuted in the big leagues last year with a
0.00 ERA in 13.2 relief innings (eight hits [.178 opponents’ average], three walks,
nine strikeouts) but who struggled this season, walking 11 in 9.2 innings en
route to a 4.66 ERA out of the Washington bullpen and leading to a designation
for assignment, a clearance of league-wide waivers, and an outright assignment
that he had the right to decline. The 26-year-old
will go to Oklahoma City.
Ben Sheets was spotted hanging around the Rangers on the
field and in the clubhouse before yesterday’s game, but there’s no news. He continues to rehab with Rangers team
physician Keith Meister but has yet to throw since February surgery.
By the way, Dr. Meister will take your questions on the Newberg
Report message board on Friday at 10 a.m.
The latest reason Chris Davis conjured up Tony Romo for
me? The play he made on Tuesday, backhanding
a sharp grounder on the run and firing across his body to a sprinting Scott Feldman,
hitting the pitcher in stride as he was headed in the opposite direction from Davis, toward the bag.
Josh Hamilton’s 460-foot blast halfway up the second deck in
right field last night trails only Paul Sorrento (491 feet, 1999) and Jose
Canseco (480, 1994) in its Rangers Ballpark lengthiness. (I think Hamilton’s ribs are OK.)
But the throw to the plate to erase Howie Kendrick was
better. Show me the home run a couple
times, but I will watch that 8-2 laser as many times as you want to roll it.
Same with the Kinsler-Andrus-Davis double play poetry in the
Or anything else Andrus does.
It is so great to watch fantastic baseball defense, on a nightly
Seattle closer Brandon Morrow,
who shuffled off across the third base foul line on the way to the visitors’
clubhouse as the Rangers walked off with wins Wednesday and Thursday, is now
closer Brandon Morrow. Mariners manager
Don Wakamatsu is going the committee route for now to save games, with Sturm-a-like
righthander David Aardsma the leading candidate to get the last three outs.
Frankie Francisco threw long toss yesterday and could throw a
bullpen today. If all goes well, he
could be available tomorrow.
Prediction: Marlon Byrd will sign a three-year deal with
someone else this winter, not because Texas isn’t interested in keeping him but
because the 31-year-old will have this one chance to score a lucrative multi-year
deal from a club that can assure more playing time (cf., Mark DeRosa two years ago).
But Byrd will return to the Rangers before his career is
Love that guy.
Another name to tuck away as a possible July trade target: reliever
(I fully expect Texas
to trade a prospect or two for a high-end eighth-inning righthander this
Frank Catalanotto signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee.
Derrick Turnbow doesn’t have the financial security that
Catalanotto had as he patiently waited for the right job, but I haven’t seen
any news that Turnbow has hooked on anywhere since exercising his out clause
two weeks ago.
Wondering if Neftali Feliz is OK after he had a AAA start scratched
a week ago due to a shoulder thing?
Five innings, one hit (a home run), one walk, and seven strikeouts
on Thursday. Easily his best effort of
A scout said this to ESPN’s Jayson Stark this week: “I think
[the Rangers have] got a chance to steal that division. What I’d love to see them do is reach down,
call up that kid Neftali Feliz and say, ‘We’re going to give it a run in
September.’ I know they don’t want to
push him. But this kid has electric
stuff. It’s about the easiest 100 [mph]
you’ll ever see. It’s like he’s having a
catch, except it’s 100 miles an hour.”
Another scout, also to Stark: “I’d like to see them do what Colorado did a couple of years ago with [Ubaldo] Jimenez
and [Franklin] Morales – put Feliz and [Derek] Holland in the rotation
and go for it. I think they could pull
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, yesterday: “The proper
question for anyone with a working knowledge of Rangers history is, ‘OK, when
do they collapse?’ The answer: Not now. And maybe not for a long time. Believe it or not, the Rangers have a plan. It actually includes pitching and defense. And it actually should work. ‘I do think they’re legit,’ A’s general
manager Billy Beane says, ‘and they’re also going to get better.'”
Almost 10,000 walk-up tickets sold last night. Impressive.
Thomas Diamond demoted to Frisco, Richard Bleier promoted to
The latest July 2 Dominican bonus baby linked to Texas: catcher Jacob
first 2009 mock draft has Texas choosing Brownwood High School righthander
Shelby Miller over Klein High School lefthander Matt Purke (the latter of whom
is considered the number two lefty in the draft but is suspected to be a greater
signability risk) with its first-round pick, number 14 overall. Many other draft projections have both Texas high schoolers
gone in the first 10 picks.
The draft is in 24 days.
The last time the Rangers had a 2.5-game division lead was June
10, 2006. How long ago was that? It was four days after the club had drafted Davis in the fifth round, and three days after they had put
in a draft-and-follow selection on Holland
in the 25th round.
The last time Texas
was seven games over .500? That was June
19, 2005, a dozen days after Texas
drafted Taylor Teagarden in the third round.
Five wins in a row matches last year’s longest win streak, a
run in early May that included a Feldman/Wright/Benoit/Wilson four-hit, 4-0 win
over Oakland’s rookie southpaw Smith, as Texas became the first team to put as
many as four earned runs up against him.
One of the things this club prides itself on is its composure,
its ability to avoid getting too caught up in the highs or the lows, at-bat to
at-bat, game to game, streak or slump.
Can you view Matt Harrison’s 2009 season that way? Can you avoid putting too much stock in his
last 29 innings of genius (0.64 ERA)? And
get past the awfulness of the preceding 16.2 innings he started the season with
(10.26 ERA)? Do you even want to?
So: Harrison and Smoak for Cain or Volstad or Josh Johnson.
I’m not advocating it.
Or summarily dismissing the idea.
Weigh in at the
message board: You in?
.300 is the benchmark for a solid
.400 indicates a very good
.500 is a healthy slug.
And .600 is a damn
good-looking win percentage.
At the moment, only two
teams in baseball are better (the Dodgers at .676 and Toronto at .632).
When this series with the
Angels is over, two games and probably 70,000 fans from now, the Rangers will be
in first place, regardless of what happens with Padilla-Lackey and Feldman-Weaver.
Scary win, ultimately –
imagine if Josh Hamilton hadn’t hit one 460 or, three innings earlier, thrown a
laser half that distance to cut Howie Kendrick down at the plate – but the
bottom line is the Rangers held on, putting a little more distance between them
and the Angels.
The sweep of Seattle this week was extraordinary in that the Mariners
had the lead or were tied with Texas
in 25 of the series’s 29 innings. The
nice thing about tonight’s opener of the Angels set was that the Rangers led in
nine of nine innings.
It didn’t end pretty, but
the statement belonged to Texas,
who punished the 5-1, 2.66 Joe Saunders (7-0, 2.79 in his last nine road starts)
and got to the soft underbelly of the beleaguered Angels bullpen.
See you at the yard.
I was listening to the game at my desk and, after David
Murphy doubled with one out to put the game-tying run into scoring position, I knew
I’d kick myself if It happened again, without getting out of my chair to see
So I ran down the hallway to our reception area. Changed the channel from CNN to FSSW.
Saw one pitch.
That bat flip.
That play-by-play call.
That complete game.
A message to most of the national media:
No, check that.
A thought from Sting, 18 years ago:
So high above the world tonight
The Angels watch us sleeping
And underneath a bridge of stars
We dream in safety’s keeping
But perhaps the dream
Is dreaming us
Actually, I don’t think he capitalized “angels.”
The song is called “When the Angels Fall,” which is not the
point I’m trying to make, even though they’re trailing Boston, 2-1, in the third.
The point is that as great as last year’s run of improbable
walkoff wins was, each delivered by a different hero, I remember feeling a bit
deflated as the season neared its end, thinking to myself that we’d be lucky to
have that sort of late-inning mojo again, in a season when we were really
poised to make some noise.
Suddenly it sort of feels like 2008, in that respect, and
in others, was just a taste of something bigger.
Because the mojo is still here, maybe even stronger, and
there’s something potentially extraordinary happening in front of our eyes (and
our Rangers Radio Network-glued ears). It’s
not a game played on paper.
Man, I wanted to be the middle of that scrum at the plate,
yelling at Crush to fire his helmet aside as he Romo’d his way to the plate.
If there aren’t 100,000 people at the Ballpark this
weekend, in this weather and against that team and with this team doing what it’s doing, I’ll be stunned.
As for today’s result, I should be stunned about that as
But, you know what? Probably
like you, I’m not.
Not even slightly.
Jamison D. Newberg
Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
Street, Suite 2000
(214) 979-7416 direct
(214) 979-7402 fax
You know that mini-blast I sent out this morning,
begging off of writing for a day because of early morning work obligations? The
one in which I acknowledged that there was news to get to on Frankie Francisco,
Neftali Feliz, Thomas Diamond, Richard Bleier, and Frank Catalanotto, plus,
having retired my Ian Kinsler-Brenden Morrow comp (with absolute conviction that
I was, and continue to be, dead on about that), another exhibit to support my
case that Chris Davis is (Good) Tony Romo – but that it would all have to wait a
It’s going to have to wait another
The Mavericks were just euthanized, and you know what
that means. Take a peek around that corner. That bandwagon is about to fire up
and head over to our street.
It ought to, at least.
There are days when this game gives you more to say than
you can possibly get to, and others when words don’t have a shot.
This one? Both.
But, courtesy of the man whose words about this team are
always dead on, not only in what they convey but also how they sound, click the .mp3 file attached to the emailed version of this report
and enjoy a minute and eight seconds of
“They stream out of
the dugout! They mob Hamilton at the plate! And now they go after Blalock at
A 5-2 road trip featuring a 3.10 ERA by the pitching staff.
A half-game lead over the Angels that, because of a day off
for both, will remain tomorrow when Texas kicks off three at home against
Seattle as Los Angeles hosts Boston for three – before the Rangers and Angels go
head to head Friday through Sunday, for the first time this season.
Josh Hamilton (two weeks) and Michael Young (two days) just
about ready to return.
Four of five starting pitchers in serious grooves.
Some relievers need
Next time someone suggests to you that Texas did nothing significant in free agency
this winter, you don’t even need to remind them of the doorstep signing of Ben
Sheets. Respond with just two words:
See the catch Torii Hunter made yesterday to keep the Angels
a half-game out?
Big week ahead.
With the Mavs on the verge of being turned into mini sirloin
burgers for the year, it’s about to become baseball season for short-attention-span
crowd. That bandwagon parked around the
corner is going to start to load up.
Hopefully there’s more than just a big week ahead. Would like for the late arrivals to stick
around a while.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
The margin for error is so slight. Two losses, two crummy losses, one by one
point and another by one run, putting one team on the verge of a summer full of
tee times and the other in a position going into Sunday afternoon of having to protect
a half-game division lead.
After what happened in tonight’s final at-bat of the
Rangers-White Sox game, the fact that Vicente Padilla takes the hill in tomorrow’s
series finale gives the game a little extra texture.
There’s not a lot of good to take out of the Mavericks’
loss. The officials didn’t cost Dallas
that game, but an inability to hit free throws down the stretch and a
head-scratching decision by the great Dirk Nowitzki to launch with eight
seconds left in regulation – even though there was a four-second differential
between the shot clock and game clock – sure did put the Mavs in a position they
shouldn’t have been in, a position where a referee’s call mattered. Dallas
didn’t handle its margin for error well.
As for the baseball game, there are no moral victories,
especially when your team is in the hunt, but there were a couple very good
moments. Derek Holland was thrown right
back into the same fire that burned him a week ago, called on to face Jim Thome
with the bases loaded and the game on the line.
Three lively fastballs, located perfectly, and bases-loaded-no-outs
(with a Hall of Famer at the plate, one who doubled off the top of the wall in
the same situation off Holland eight days earlier) became bases-loaded-one-out after
Holland sheered Thome’s bat into shards (the largest of which beaned Holland on
the leg) and Ian Kinsler made a standout play, taking a slow grounder and
making an off-balance throw to the plate to force the speedy Chris Getz and,
for the moment, maintain a 2-2 tie. Great
work by Holland.
That kicked off a solid 15 minutes for Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, whose stretch at the plate to catch the Kinsler throw, accurate
but not with a lot of juice on it, took every bit of the onetime first baseman’s
Next play? If Marlon
Byrd doesn’t fumble the handle on the medium-depth fly and double-pump, or if Darren
O’Day (who pitched well) doesn’t fall asleep after catching Byrd’s throw while backing
up the plate, maybe Carlos Quentin is cut down and the game stays tied rather
than go to 3-2, which minutes later was the score frozen on the scoreboard
after Kinsler struck out to end the top of the ninth. But O’Day’s braincramp was made possible only
because Saltalamacchia did an outstanding job blocking the plate and keeping Quentin
off it until he reversed field following his slide, scampering back to touch
The margin for error.
One out later, Saltalamacchia had a solid at-bat against
Bobby Jenks to start the top of the ninth, battling for seven pitches before heading
back to the dugout as the 13th of 14 strikeout victims on the night.
And then, after Chris Davis fanned, Kinsler (whose
third-inning flare down the right-field line, with a runner on first, was ruled
foul on a call that could have gone either way) popped out to second base three
pitches after a Jenks fastball sailed behind his waist. Wondering if it was intentional? If you recorded the game, watch Chicago catcher A.J.
Pierzynski on the pitch. Barely moved
It was intentional.
Then again, so was Antoine Wright’s obvious effort to commit
a foul on Carmelo Anthony with two seconds left – a foul that Dallas had to give – in a game in which 61 others
fouls had been called.
(By the way, the NBA’s president of league and basketball
operations issued this statement after the game: “At the end of the
Dallas-Denver game this evening, the officials missed an intentional foul
committed by Antoine Wright on Carmelo Anthony, just prior to Anthony’s
three-point basket.” Seriously.)
Will the Mavs respond on Monday with enough pride to scratch
out a win before this series ends their season, or will they lay down?
Will Texas, which had hit two White Sox hitters earlier in
the game and two others in last week’s Arlington series, respond to the Ozzie
Guillen-commissioned fastball behind Kinsler’s back in tonight’s final at-bat
and return some sort of message on Sunday?
With Padilla, can it be ruled out, regardless of what the gameplan is?
Will we find the awesome Mother’s Day card that Erica and
Max made for Mom today, but misplaced this afternoon, before she wakes up in
Mess with the margin for error, and you’re playing with