Welcome to the jungle.
I’m all about the “slam dunk is still worth two points” mentality. A win’s a win, and a loss is a loss, and all that.
But I’d like to see Texas hammer the Mariners this weekend. To open up a huge can and punish that team three times.
This isn’t an emotional plea. I’m not putting the face paint on, not gearing up for a Gatorade bath, not thinking about the fact that the second-best record in the American League belongs to the second-best team in the Rangers’ division, a club who hasn’t been closer in the standings since the season was one week old.
I want to see Texas pound Seattle because Joe Nathan needs to rest. Because Mike Adams (shoulder) needs to rest. Because Koji Uehara (three straight nights) needs to rest. Because Robbie Ross (forearm) is almost ready to pitch but not quite yet. Because Roy Oswalt (forearm) may not throw another meaningful pitch this year.
And because I’d rather not have to find out whether Alexi Ogando, who has now pitched twice in three nights after only one appearance in the previous nine days due to a sore biceps muscle, will be ready to go again tonight.
With all the gifts Cleveland gave Texas on Thursday, it’s irritating that Nathan was needed on a third straight night. The Indians, winners of nine games in their last 44, started Zach McAllister, brutal in his last three starts (including one against the Rangers), and fielded a B game lineup.
Derek Holland did his job. Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, and Ogando created a messy eighth but escaped unscathed. This one was on the offense, which had opportunities to blow the game open, particularly in the eighth, when 2-2 became 4-2 but could have been a good bit more as Nathan got loose in the pen.
Nathan – whose velocity was down and whose fastball command was off and who said after the game that he feels fine but “may be going through one of those [dead-arm periods] now” – struggled, prompting a handful of fans at Rangers Ballpark to boo the elite closer.
But no worries. Any fan who booed Joe Nathan will be otherwise occupied for the Seattle series: high school football tonight, college tomorrow, Cowboys Sunday. They won’t be around Rangers Ballpark this weekend. (For the rest of you, Chuck Morgan sent this message.)
I’d be very happy if Texas didn’t need Nathan to step on the field himself.
It’s on Yu Darvish, Scott Feldman, and Matt Harrison to help see to it. And on Scheppers, Michael Kirkman, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama, and Perez to take advantage of a big opportunity to contribute, even if most of them won’t be pitching in October.
And on the offense to take care of business against a Mariners rotation that won’t come back around to Felix Hernandez until Seattle is back home to take on the Orioles.
The Mariners have the same record since the All-Star Break (33-24) as Texas, but that’s irrelevant. Texas is the best team in the American League, and it’s time to exercise a little #CastleDoctrine and do bad things to a club that’s buried in the division and playing things out only to irritate the 18 opponents they have left on the schedule, every one of them a team gunning for 162+.
I usually don’t care a whole lot if a win comes in a pitchers’ duel or an Arena Baseball showcase, if it’s a nailbiter or a blowout. Just pile up the W’s, however it needs to be done, win series, and I’m good.
But that’s not enough tonight and not tomorrow. I have an appetite for some baseball destruction, and I’d like to be able to give the Rangers a standing ovation for saving Joe Nathan a bit, in a momentary reversal of roles in a very important stretch of a season in which he’s done his job as well as any Rangers closer ever has.