Cliff Lee, tone-setter.
Lee vs. Weaver
Texas sets the
What an amazing, edgy, compelling baseball game. Great pitching, great defense, a crowd that sizzled
for nine, as tied to their seats as the Rangers bullpen was most of the night. The fifth one-run margin in six
Rangers-Angels games this year, and in this one, as much as any, it really felt
like every pitch mattered. Intensely tense.
Texas has a six-game lead on the division now, for the first
time since 1999, the club’s last playoff season.
It’s the first time since 2006 that the Angels have been as
many as six games out of first. (And
they’re now only a game and a half up on Oakland.)
I didn’t care for the decision to pinch-run Joaquin Arias for
Vladimir Guerrero with one out in the eighth and found myself brooding in my seat
for the next 10 minutes.
And then I realized how much I loved that it upset me that much.
Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver did what they do, but here’s one
key difference: in the third through sixth, Weaver threw 23, 19, 21, and 26
pitches. Lee never had an inning with as
many pitches as any of those four Weaver frames.
As a result, Texas got Weaver out of the game after six. Granted, the Rangers did all their scoring
while Weaver was on the mound, not pushing anything across against Francisco
Rodriguez, but chasing Weaver by making him work was a solid gameplan, one that
no Rangers opponent has been able to accomplish against Lee.
Weaver needed 118 pitches to get through six. Lee needed only 78 pitches over the same span,
and he threw just 99 pitches as he came two outs short of going the distance.
And Lee threw nearly as many strikes (68 to Weaver’s 72).
Five times he went to three balls on an Angels hitter. Overall, Lee threw eight pitches with a
three-ball count – all for strikes, obviously.
He’s as methodical as the pre-pitch routine he goes through behind
the mound nine times a night.
Lee’s streak of seven straight starts of at least eight innings
is the longest in baseball since Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen did it for Toronto
His streak of seven straight starts of at least eight innings
and no more than one walk is the longest in baseball since Cy Young Award
winner Greg Maddux did it for Atlanta in 1994.
Lee leads baseball in pitch-per-inning economy.
Nelson Cruz’s defense was pivotal in the 3-2 win, but how
about the double he hit to center in the fourth? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Torii Hunter pull
up to play a carom off a wall that wasn’t several stories high. Cruz hit that ball so hard that even Hunter
didn’t have time to get back on it. Few
humans are capable of hitting line drives like Cruz can.
Good grief, Elvis Andrus is having an awful year on the
bases. Worst I’ve ever seen.
The walkup crowd last night totaled a reported 8,600. The walkup in Lee’s first home game was
apparently over 14,000.
Texas drew just short of 40,000 last night. Shouldn’t these next three all sell out?
Sunday’s game, which concludes Newberg Report Night, will
evidently feature Angels rookie Trevor Bell, making his fifth career start and first
in 2010, necessitated by yesterday’s Los Angeles trade of Sean O’Sullivan (and minor
league pitcher Will Smith) to Kansas City for third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bell’s big league ERA is 7.94, and his
grandfather played Bozo the Clown for 24 years.
He’ll face Tommy Hunter, who will attempt to improve to 8-0
for the season.
At the end of that game, Texas will be 3, 5, 7, or 9 games up
on the Angels.
And there will have been three more nights of spontaneous, synchronized,
passionate “Beat L.A.” chants fired off by an electric, hungry home crowd whose
sports thoughts are preoccupied with thoughts of Game 163, having been given no
reason this summer to have this weekend’s opening of a football camp in San
Antonio circled on the calendar.
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(c) Jamey Newberg