Are you ready for some baseball?

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You know what rocks?  Watching
the first pre-season football game and thinking, after the third penalty in the
first quarter, “Get outta my way.” 


Love the NFL, but hate exhibition football games, and this
year it feels great that the pre-season isn’t a necessary bridge between
anything.  Boston’s
coming to town, a half-game up on Texas
in the Wild Card chase.  There’s some
crucial mid-August baseball to be played.


Scott Feldman allowed two of the first three Cleveland hitters to reach
base in the first inning yesterday, one more to reach in the second, and the
first two to get on safely in the third, and in the fourth, and in the
fifth.  He wasn’t at his sharpest, but he
got better as the situations got tougher, and held the Indians to nothing but a
first-inning score over six frames. 
MUTRIHOF is now 8-1, 3.50 on the road, and 12-4, 3.90 overall.  He’s tied for third in the league in wins
even though he didn’t start a game until April 25. 


Check this line out: 6.2 innings, one run, one hit, no walks,
13 strikeouts.  Who does it belong to?


Neftali Feliz as a big leaguer.  Yes: 20 outs, 13 on strikes (including a run
of seven straight, tying a Nolan Ryan franchise record).  Exactly 100 pitches, 71 for strikes – and not
all of the 96-101 variety.  He’s getting
his breaking ball over and his changeup, too. 
Seriously: no walks for the 21-year-old?


No walks?


We’ve been told that Feliz made strides this season in AAA in
holding runners.  Hard to know yet how
accurate those reports are.  The only baserunner
Feliz has had to work with was lumberjack Jack Cust, who reached on an infield error
in Feliz’s second appearance.  (The one
hit Feliz has allowed was an Adam Kennedy home run.)  As for Cust, he never got the chance to move
off of first base, as Feliz proceeded to strike Kurt Suzuki out on four pitches
and get Tommy Everidge to fly lazily to short right field on one pitch. 


Tell you what: If you don’t have a 2009 Bound Edition, I’ll
discount it the rest of this month to $20 – a buck for every spectacular big
league out Feliz has recorded.  How can
you resist this cover?




Think about how many years those two former Frisco teammates
in the foreground are going to be core members of the Rangers staff.  Yum.


Josh Hamilton: 4 for 4 yesterday, 9 for his last 10.  Since I suggested on August 7 that he was on
the verge of breaking out, he’s hitting .520/.556/.840 in 25 at-bats. 


On July 10, Hank Blalock drew a four-pitch, third-inning walk
off Seattle
starter Brandon Morrow, completing a six-hitter sequence that inning in which the
Rangers did this: walk, walk, home run, single, foulout, walk. 


It was Blalock’s last base on balls.  In his 117 at-bats since that date, he has 26
hits (.226 average), including a triple (and five doubles and five homers), 32 strikeouts,
three grounded-into-double-plays, and reached-on-error.  But not one single walk in those 28-plus games.


Chris Davis since his option to AAA: .321/.409/.542.  In 131 at-bats, he’s drawn 19 walks and gone
down on strikes 31 times, less frequently than Blalock.  (Yes, it’s AAA pitching, but I think it’s key
to recognize that Davis
is not only walking and hitting for average and slugging, but he’s making
contact at an acceptable rate.) 


In Justin Smoak’s 141 AAA at-bats, he’s drawn 22 walks and
fanned 31 times.  A three-game hit streak
(4 for 11 with three walks) has lifted his slash line to .220/.325/.340. 


The Rangers’ season-long 10-game road trip got off to an
ugly start – losing the first three games in Oakland
– but the club rebounded to go 5-5 on the trip by winning series in Los Angeles and Cleveland.  Solid.


Is Ian Kinsler ready to be activated?  That determination is up to the medical folks
and the front office, and minor league rehab statistics are just about
worthless, so don’t fret the nine hitless plate appearances, but it might be
worth noting (not from a health standpoint but for a glimpse at where his approach
is) that his seven outs (supplemented by one walk and one hit-by-pitch) looked
like this: strikeout, groundout to shortstop, popout to shortstop, and four
flyouts to center field.


Kinsler’s return to action this weekend is reportedly more
likely than Nelson Cruz’s.


ESPN’s Buster Olney predicts Texas
will place the prevailing claim on Oakland
righthander Justin Duchscherer when the A’s run him through trade waivers this
month.  In the 31-year-old’s August 9 AAA
rehab start, he threw four scoreless innings, scattering two singles and a walk
while fanning three and throwing 42 of 55 pitches (76 percent) for strikes.  Yesterday the A’s gave him an Arizona League
start, in which he blanked a squad of Giants teenagers on four singles and no
walks over five frames, striking out three. 
Whether traded or not, he’s reportedly been pronounced ready to return
to a big league mound.


Baseball America‘s
Jim Callis, asked in an ESPN chat session who he’d choose among Derek Holland, Boston’s Clay Buchholz, and Houston’s
Bud Norris, said Holland
was his guy.  Between Martin Perez and Boston’s Casey Kelly, Callis
chose Perez.


In a BA survey of
Texas League managers, Frisco skipper Mike Micucci was voted as the league’s
top manager prospect and outfielder Craig Gentry was ranked as the circuit’s
best baserunner.


According to Callis, the bonus that Texas
agreed this week to pay fifth-rounder Nick McBride, a high school righthander from
North Carolina,
was $325,000, nearly double MLB’s recommendation for that slot and the
second-highest fifth-round bonus paid in the league so far.  Twenty-four of 30 fifth-round picks have


The media won’t help you, but see if you can convince some
of your buddies that three days of watching the local sportscasts show highlights
of Wade Phillips’s catatonically bemused dumb-face and listening to the talk
shows discuss Dallas’s swing-and-miss tackles and blocks and pass “coverage” and
undisciplined everything is a stunningly bad choice, when they could instead watch
Josh Hamilton try to keep this tear going, and Derek Holland attempt to make it
two gems in a row and three of four, and Neftali Feliz take the home mound for
the first time.


Time to find out if the Rangers, who have won six of their
last seven series, can make it seven of eight, pitting Kevin Millwood against Boston’s
Jon Lester tonight, Derek Holland against Brad Penny on Saturday, and Dustin
Nippert against Junichi Tazawa on Sunday. 


If they succeed in doing so, the Rangers will hold down the American
League Wild Card spot going into four at home against Minnesota next week.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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