At the start of the week, someone asked me on Twitter what I was hoping for in this week’s four-game set in Anaheim between the A’s and Angels. My answer: “An epic, decimating, Pyrrhic, four-chapter attrition collision.”
Whoops. Wrong address.
I suppose it’s fair to say the Oakland-LA series has been epic, if like me you’ve been pulling for the road team every night and the idea of something close to a killshot on the Angels’ season, and have gotten OAK 3-1, OAK 6-5, and OAK 4-1 midnight results going into this afternoon’s series finale that pits Jered Weaver against Brett Anderson.
Not sure that series has been decimating at all. No extra frames, and while the bullpens have averaged a combined 89 pitches per game, only a third of those were thrown by A’s relievers.
Meanwhile, the Pyrrhic toll, if any, was nowhere near California. Instead it was Texas 5, Cleveland 2 that could end up being circled as costlier as any of the Rangers’ eight losses in their last 26 games.
It was nothing new to see both Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton go deep in the same game – it was the 10th such occurrence this season, the fourth this month alone – but to see both pulled from a game that wasn’t out of hand, just three weeks before the ALDS . . . well, nothing on the scoreboard could have been as nauseating as the thought of Beltre (left shoulder strain) missing enough time to derail a level of baseball rhythm that doesn’t have a proper word to describe it, or the idea that Hamilton is going to go into yet another October held together with baling wire, this time dealing with a left knee that he evidently injured at some point last night.
Or perhaps it’s just been breaking down gradually. I’m not sure I ever remember Hamilton’s left knee costing him time as a Ranger, unlike his left hamstring and rib cage and groin and abdomen and low back and right knee and right shoulder and intestines.
Ron Washington said he’s not worried about Hamilton’s knee, and he should be in tonight’s lineup. Beltre’s history is that he plays through pain, but Texas can’t take any chances with its best player, and the last thing the club needs is for him to make things worse. I’d be surprised if he didn’t sit tonight (the club will get MRI results today), leaving open the question of who plays third base in his absence.
It won’t be Mike Olt, who exacerbated the plantar fasciitis he’d been dealing with in his right foot while legging out an infield single in the seventh.
Maybe it will be Michael Young. Or Brandon Snyder.
Or Jurickson Profar, who has one appearance at third base as a pro (July 13 this year for Frisco).
Or Ian Kinsler, who now has two (April 29, 2005 for Oklahoma, and last night). Profar could play second base in that case, as he did last night after running for Olt.
That would be one way to get Profar’s bat in the lineup. Tonight’s Cleveland starter, Zach McAllister, threw the four-seam fastball in Profar’s first big league at-bat that ended up in the seats.
And the changeup that Profar waited back on and shot to left for a double in his second big league at-bat.
Maybe Young plays third and Profar DH’s.
Unless Mike Napoli returns tonight.
Then there are Mike Adams, shut down for at least two or three days due to a trapezoid muscle in his upper back that tightened up in Tuesday night’s appearance, and Alexi Ogando (biceps soreness), who has pitched once since September 5 and wasn’t available last night.
The Rangers are going to the playoffs for the third straight year, and you want your rotation in order, your bullpen fresh, your lineup clicking and your defense crisp. There shouldn’t be any concern about this team coasting, given that there’s still plenty on the line, but it was a lot less unsettling when the pesky little concern was the balance between getting some rest for your key players and keeping them in rhythm (or giving them opportunities to bust out of a funk).
The story line from last night should have been another Colby Lewis-like effort from Ryan Dempster, and the lockdown relief provided by Koji Uehara and Joe Nathan, and the power of Hamilton and Beltre, and a David Murphy season that now pushes up against the .900-OPS stratosphere, and a franchise attendance record that will boost its way over the three-million mark tonight. Instead it was about injuries to important players, injuries whose extent won’t be known until later today.
The attrition collision I was hoping to write about late this week was supposed to staged in Southern California, and instead the image from Wednesday night that I can’t shake is that of Adrian Beltre being Adrian Beltre, homering in the first and, minutes later, making a highlight play to his left, snaring a ground ball headed toward the hole as he crashed down on his left shoulder, keeping something called Russ Canzler from denting the box score, and completing what we’ve come to appreciate as a basically routine 5-3 putout on a play that I hope to all that’s good isn’t one that we have to give another moment’s thought to once Cleveland is sent back home and Seattle shows up to take its place.