April 2014

Embracing the agony of defeat.

Neal hasn’t been the same and Alexi is a model of inconsistency and Robbie’s a starter and Tanner is hurt and so is Pedro and Neftali has been pretty much all the above and for some reason Jason, who’s been spectacular all month and who had thrown just 12 pitches in six days, sat and watched while Shawn and Alexi were asked to get six outs in the seventh and eighth to protect a Matt Harrison-built lead, one of them offered Kyle Seager 86 belt-high, and now opponents have scored 18 times in 25 eighth innings against Texas and I can see this July being another Mike Adams/Koji Uehara type of July.

There went a winnable series in Seattle, but the road trip ends up with a healthy 4-2 mark, and Texas still shares the American League’s best record — with a rotation that’s starting to look right, even if the bullpen isn’t quite there yet.

“Game Six” now infects the Dallas Stars lexicon too, along with the ugly numbers 2:10 and 0:24, and what appeared to be a sure countdown to a glorious Game Seven between a 1 seed and an 8 seed whose awesome momentum can be measured on two completely different levels instead led to that assembly line handshake on ice that, as a fan, either raises goosebumps or kicks you in the junk.

What a fantastic hockey season, even if it ended one game, or one series, or more than that too soon.

A trip out of state for your kid and his teammates is full of great baseball and a hundred great moments, plus some comments from a very cool umpire and some behavior from a coach in the opposite dugout that both gave us all something to learn from.

Your kids, on this brand new team, play five games over the weekend, every one of which was against a team in a higher classification, and they win three times.  Plenty to be proud of, and to build off of.

Mavs-Spurs tonight.  Who knows?

I guess there’s a mindset that sports can be so deflating at times that we’d be better off not caring so much.  I’d be surprised if anyone who cares enough to read emails like this one is in that camp, but we’ve probably all had people tell us we’re crazy for investing as much emotion in this stuff as we do.

Especially when bad sports things happen.

But again, the bad eighth innings, the inability to close out in the final seconds against the odd man rush, the 9U loss that puts you on the highway back to Texas before the championship game — all those things, all that sports adversity, all the battles that sometimes go the other guys’ way and all the disappointments, those things can fuel better things down the road, and make overcoming the next challenges so much more cool when they come around, because when you do care that much, you know how difficult it is, and should be.

Give me Seattle 6, Texas 5.  Give me Anaheim 5, Dallas 4.  Give me a sixth-place finish in a 20-team Oklahoma Shootout field.  I’ve got no use for the idea that sports agony isn’t worth it.

Sports.

Wednesday was about Jamie and Kari and Antoine and Cody and Vernon and Shawn and absolutely Alex.

And about Devin and Shawn and Monta and Jose and DeJuan.

And Martin.

And underdogs and stepping up and big games between hated opponents and, on one day, it all coming together for all three of your teams, if that fits your profile like it does mine.

Sports days like that don’t come along very often, and neither do 23-year-old pitchers like Martin Perez, whose image occupied the header of these emails for years, before his graduation to Arlington ceded the spot to Jorge Alfaro, and now my sports morning is even better thinking about the idea of Alfaro catching Perez for most of the seven years that the Rangers control the lefthander.

Maybe Joey Gallo is next for the email header, though for various reasons I’m not so sure Alfaro beats him to Arlington, and now my thought bubble has Gallo holding down one of the infield corners while Perez is on the mound, with Alfaro behind the plate.

Gallo hit three more home runs last night for Myrtle Beach, raising his Pelicans slash line to .359/.458/.891, and that’s all very cool and everything, but as you read Scott’s daily deliveries, keep paying attention to that significantly improved strikeout rate.

Gallo was born in 1993, like his Class A teammate Alfaro.

Which is a good opportunity to remind myself that Martin Perez was born in 1991.

And right in between them is Tyler Seguin (1992).

That’s two straight complete-game shutouts for Perez, in a season that has included only one other complete game by an American League pitcher — and David Price allowed three Minnesota runs in his.

Two straight complete-game shutouts in which Perez has allowed three hits (two singles and a double) on 109 pitches, and while he missed more bats in his blanking of the White Sox on Friday, not a single Athletic reached third base yesterday, and that’s just sick.

Perez’s 26 straight scoreless innings is baseball’s best in 2014, and his 11 wins since August 1, Fox Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro notes, lead baseball as well.  ESPN points out that, over these last 26 innings, Perez’s opponents are 1 for 36 with two strikes, 1 for 20 in at-bats ending in a changeup, and 0 for 23 with runners on base.  He leads baseball in ground ball percentage, and hasn’t surrendered a home run.

But this morning, those video game numbers are secondary — to Texas 3, Oakland 0, and Dallas 4, Anaheim 2, and Dallas 113, San Antonio 92.

The Rangers now have the best record in the American League, and the most heavily populated disabled list in baseball — though I’m not sure whether that lead gets surrendered this weekend when Adrian Beltre and Matt Harrison return to active duty.

There won’t be another sports day around here like Wednesday for a while.  Stars tomorrow, Mavericks Saturday, Stars Sunday, Mavericks Monday, Stars Tuesday, Mavericks Wednesday.

Maybe.

But they won’t overlap again like they did last night in these first-round series, in both of which the 8 seed is fairly clearly outplaying the 1 seed, despite the knotted game count.

On every one of those days, though, they’ll share the sports page with the Rangers, underdogs in their own right but current occupants of the first-place slot in the AL West standings, thanks to an improbable sweep of the A’s in Oakland, with an exclamation point planted by a pitcher whose work assignments have become appointment television and radio (if not attendance) for me.

And while the juggling act can be tough and exhausting when you have another team concurrently engaged in playoff battle, if not two, this is why.  It’s days like yesterday and months like this one when the sports investment feels the least wacky, and the ROI feels like three homers in one game.

Last laugh.

I’m gonna ask you to imagine that you’re an A’s fan for a few minutes.

(And it’s not meant as a humblebrag that there are probably three times as many of you reading this as there were in O.co Coliseum last night.)

You have the best record in the American League, and are playing at home against the team in the division you most need to beat.

You’ve already lost the series opener, even though you had their ace on the ropes that night.

You draw a Rangers rookie pitcher in this one, a college shortstop at a small school just three years ago who had five games of experience above Class A coming into 2014.  Once you force him from what was his second big league start and get into the more vulnerable flank of the Texas pen, you first see a non-roster invite who hadn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2009 and didn’t pitch anywhere in 2013.  And then a waiver claim.  And then another waiver claim.

The Rangers’ hottest hitter leaves the game after the third inning with a back injury and is replaced by a kid who isn’t ready for the big leagues, leaving Texas having to go the final two-thirds of the game with Luis Sardinas, Donnie Murphy, Robinson Chirinos, Leonys Martin, Josh Wilson, and Michael Choice batting 5-6-7-8-9-1, with four of the six in roles they’re not ideally suited for, and there’s a handful of DFA’s and waiver claims in those bios, too.

You scratch out a couple runs in the fourth that you shouldn’t have gotten, when Wilson misplays a bounder that an eighth-grader can’t misplay.

You open the sixth with a double off the wall and a single to short left, and don’t score.

You find yourself in a spot in the ninth, when your closer (sporting a 1.69 ERA), entrusted with a one-run lead, allows a pinch-double to a hitter who was 0 for his last 8 with four strikeouts, but after two bunts, the second of which involved a botched sign and an easy out at the plate, you have the Rangers’ number nine hitter — who not only came into the game 1 for his last 11 but also had an easily calculable 0 for 18 split against right-handed pitchers for the season — down to his and his team’s final strike . . . .

. . . and he doubles on a ball that you, as an Oakland fan, believe Yoenis Cespedes had a reasonable opportunity to catch.

Tie game.

Then, facing the untested rookie that you traded for a 30-year-old backup outfielder in the winter because you didn’t think the untested rookie was quite ready to be meaningfully tested, your closer allows a single up the middle to turn what a minute earlier was a 4-3 lead that was a strike away from becoming a 4-3 win into a 5-4 deficit.

 witten choice

But you do have Ranger destroyer Coco Crisp (3 for 4 the night before and 1 for 3 in this one), Jed Lowrie, and the formidable Josh Donaldson due up, facing a fallback closer who had thrown a season-high 20 pitches the previous night and would be pitching on back-to-back nights for only the second time this season — after doing so only five times in 2013.

Strikeout.

Flyout.

Flyout.

A quiet, 10-pitch ninth.

And another loss to Texas.  A lost game, and a lost series.  With a Sonny Gray-Martin Perez matchup on deck that, if it goes the Rangers’ way, will have the A’s in second place all of a sudden to a grossly decimated team that has now won four straight series.

As Scott Lucas pointed out on Twitter, 10 of the 17 players Texas used in the game last night weren’t on the 40-man roster in October.

And five of them weren’t on the 40 a month ago.

The two tweets I dumped after Alex Rios squeezed the final out were less substantive than Scott’s: this one, and this one.

But back to you pretending you’re one of those A’s fans.

You’re the best team in the league.  Playing at home.  With a patient, savvy, opportunistic offense facing a kid who barely pitched in college and couldn’t even be described as battle-tested in AA.

Against what looks like a spring training “B” game lineup.

Kevin Kouzmanoff leaves the game early, after which Pedro Figueroa leaves the game early, a night after Shin-Soo Choo had left the game early, which is not to be confused with Oakland A’s baseball fans, who simply never show up.

A defense-first journeyman infielder gifts you two runs, as a result of which the two-time defending AL champs are staked to a lead in the fourth that holds up until there are two outs (one of which was gifted) and two strikes in the ninth inning against that defense-first journeyman infielder, the ninth-place hitter in a lineup in which he shouldn’t even be that, and the ball is in your reliable closer’s hand, the particular hand against which that defense-first journeyman infielder hadn’t hit safely all season coming into the game.

You’re a pitch away from evening the series up against the team right behind you in the standings, a team that’s more than just hanging in the race early on in spite of a ridiculous swarm of injuries that won’t encumber it forever.

Your closer doesn’t beat the defense-first journeyman infielder with two outs and two strikes, and your veteran left fielder isn’t able to make his glove the first thing that the ball hits.

The prospect you traded a few months ago then beats your closer himself, a few minutes after which the exact three hitters you want up in the bottom of the ninth each quickly gets beaten by the other team’s closer on the second night of an uncommon back-to-back, a veteran who is only their closer because the guy they wanted to seize that role failed to, not because of injury like so many of his teammates but instead because he just didn’t pitch well enough.

Still, their closer is a fallback with a lot more stature in the game than a bunch of the fill-in’s on that team who beat you Tuesday night, 5-4.

Man, what a brutal loss.  Just brutal.

Supporting Yu.

Maybe it’s because the weekend wiped me out and the after-work nap didn’t help and I was on added edge due to the collision of Stars-Ducks and Rangers-A’s but, even having gotten at least part of a decent night’s sleep, I sit here this morning still feeling like Texas is behind Oakland by three runs in a game that ended eight hours ago with the Rangers meeting on the infield and the A’s packing up their things.

Last year Yu Darvish pitched through a lot of hard luck.  The Cy Young runner-up had 10 no-decisions (2.98 ERA, .209/.280/.357 opponents’ slash) and nine losses (3.88 ERA, .195/.293/.375 opponents’ slash).

Focusing solely on the no-decisions, Darvish pitched effectively enough to earn a win in lots of those in 2013.  But thanks to inadequate help from the offense and/or bullpen, the Rangers’ record in games that were decided after Darvish exited last year was 4-6.

In 2014, Darvish has three no-decisions in four starts (2.14 ERA, .205/.271/.282 opponents’ slash).  And no losses.

This year, Texas is 3-0 when the pen earns the decision in a Darvish start.

Which means the Rangers haven’t yet lost when its ace takes the ball — not that it’s been easy.  They’ve won all three Darvish no-decisions by one-run margins (1-0, 3-2, 4-3), and the one victory he has (a 3-0 win over the Rays in his season debut) came when the score remained 0-0 after he threw his final pitch.

It’s a pretty cool thing to think about, the idea that this might be the year that the offense picks Yu Darvish up more often than it lets him down.  And he needed the support last night.  Give the man credit for keeping Oakland scoreless in five of six frames, but he gave up a dozen hits plus walks, threw strikes only 58 percent of the time, threw more first-pitch balls than first-pitch strikes, and seemed to rely so much on the slow curve that it lost its function as a deception piece.

It’s also a pretty cool thing that Texas, in spite of a ridiculous swarm of injuries (hold your breath until we get results on Shin-Soo Choo’s ankle MRI today) and early nothingness from the offense, now holds the second-best record in the American League and the fourth-best mark in baseball.

There’s seven-eighths of a season to go, but in the end Texas 4, Oakland 3 (Neal Cotts over Sean Doolittle) may be one to look back at, a night that might be well remembered not so much for my 30,000th tweet (a “Pickin’ machine” tip of the cap to Prince Fielder) as for the reigning AL Player of the Week coming up big yet again, and a fellow former A doing so a few innings after that, and of course it was Kevin Kouzmanoff and Donnie Murphy picking Yu Darvish up, because this is a new year.

Darvish was judged to be the American League’s second-best pitcher last year, and (not that I care about this at all but) there are probably old-school baseball writers out there who would have changed their votes if Darvish had a larger number of wins by his name in a season when the Rangers somehow went only 17-15 in his starts.

Win totals are dumb, though, and Darvish obviously deserved much better in 2013 than that sort of team record the 32 times he took the ball.

He’s only 1-0 right now.  There are 77 pitchers with more statistically generated “wins.”

But I’ll take the 4-0 team record on Darvish Day, and the inference that goes with it, because it means one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball is, in this very short and early sample, getting a bigtime boost for a change from his teammates, a lot of whom aren’t even among the two dozen that were supposed to go to battle with him in April.

The uniform.

I didn’t see a minute of Colby Lewis’s 5.1 innings of work last night, or of any of the five relievers who came on to preserve it.  Awake at 5:30 am and away until 10:30 pm, for me Saturday was a day of baseball at another place and another level.

A pitcher’s win total doesn’t really matter, and neither does a 9U baseball trophy, but still.

A week ago, before his first start in nearly two years, Lewis told local reporters: “I’d like to thank the Texas Rangers and the organization for giving me an opportunity tonight.  It wouldn’t have meant as much for me to get back out there without having this uniform on.”

For lots of people, that matters.

His is a baseball path that has taken him from North Bakersfield High School to Bakersfield Junior College to Pulaski to Port Charlotte to Tulsa to Texas to Oklahoma City to Texas to Oklahoma City to Texas to Oklahoma City to Texas to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder (and surgery) to Toledo to Detroit to Toledo to Detroit to Toledo to Washington to Sacramento to Oakland to Sacramento to Oakland to Kansas City to Hiroshima to Texas to a torn flexor tendon in his elbow (and surgery) to Round Rock to Frisco to Round Rock to Frisco to bone spurs in his hip (and surgery) to Round Rock to Texas.

To “this uniform.”

There are certain players you just pull for a little more.

For Max and his Dallas Pelicans teammates, a bunch of baseball paths have brought 11 kids together from 10 different schools, into one uniform, and it’s not just a gametime thing.  These guys have become brothers.  And if you’re in the camp that finds value in Lewis’s words and the mentality behind it, you probably get what I’m talking about.

There are layers to the Kevin Kouzmanoff path and to the Neal Cotts path, too, the latter of which, early on, looked a lot like the Michael Choice storybook path.  For Cotts, it was Illinois high school . . . Illinois college . . . drafted by Oakland . . . traded as a frontline prospect to Chicago.  For Choice, it was Metroplex high school . . . Metroplex college . . . drafted by Oakland . . . traded as a frontline prospect to Texas.

(Which reminds me of a comment Choice made during a radio interview last week, when asked if he was surprised by the December trade to the Rangers: “Surprised?  Not at all.  Name the last guy who started his career with the A’s and ended it there.”)

These nine-year-olds aren’t yet weathered enough to have anything less than full faith in the dream of their own Michael Choice path, one that has them eventually playing big league ball for their hometown team, not that this would be the time to introduce the concept of the odds.  I’m a huge believer in team, and just as much as Jake Storey clearing the fence in the morning and then bringing home the championship with a complete game, and Ty Holt playing lockdown, winning defense all day long, and Dominic Mele finding ways to get on base and score runs, and Kendall Gill and Drake Detherage getting it done at the plate and behind it, I think those 11 kids, years from now, are going to remember the uniform they had on, and the others who wore it.

Including the head coach, whose path we’ve had the good fortune to have intersecting with the rest of ours.  Whether you’re a fan of a pro team or a college team or have a kid who plays or played yourself, you know how critically important — and challenging — finding the right coach, and the right fit, can be.

Most of these 11 kids will play high school baseball.  Some may play beyond that, and if everything falls right someone might even earn the chance to play the game for a living, and that could mean five months of minor league ball and done, or a lengthy, memorable, idyllic career in the game that includes two years in the Far East and three trips to the operating table.

Or arriving as the youngest active player in the big leagues and singling on the first pitch you see.  Where the career goes from here for Luis Sardinas — who signed with Texas on the same day five years ago as Jurickson Profar at the same age and for roughly the same money — is anyone’s guess.  The formula factors in opportunity and injuries and luck and all kinds of other potential setbacks.

There are good days on the field and bad ones.  At nine years old you learn a lot from those, both of those, and the lessons pay off, whether they come back into play in baseball, or otherwise.  You can bet Colby Lewis learned how to handle adversity as a kid.  He’s a role model at it now.

He’s a role model to young kids who understand his story, and his refusal to let it end without another fight.  He’s a role model to his teammates, the ones he went to battle with in two World Series seasons and the ones just now figuring out what it takes to get to the big leagues and stay.

On Saturday, before Lewis’s second big league start since July 2012, Ron Washington said of his warrior: “Younger guys know they can bounce it off Colby.  He gives them a yellow brick road they can follow.”

Given Wash’s style with the language, I’m not sure there was any ironic intent behind describing Lewis’s road to success as one paved in gold, but that’s a player who — more than a decade after he’d flamed out as a first-round pick here — was exactly right for this franchise, and vice versa, and they’re both quick to recognize that now.

I didn’t see any of Lewis’s start on Saturday, occupied instead with a full day of different baseball, but as soon as I saw the box score for Texas 6, Chicago 3, with Robinson Chirinos squeezing a final strike three hours after Kendall squeezed strike three to end Dallas Pelicans 12, Texas Titans 5, you can be damn sure I wished I’d been part of the 45,000 who gave Lewis a standing ovation as he left the game, and a lead, in the hands of his teammates.

Baseball is hard.  If it weren’t for the tough times, and the challenges, the good times wouldn’t be nearly as cool.

pelicans championship Triple Creek 041914

The goods.

And just like that, the Texas Rangers are tied for the second-best win-loss record in the American League.

And, with all the hang-wringing over the offense, the club is now hitting .273/.341/.400, good for the second-best batting average in the AL and the third-highest OPS.

And, in spite of injuries that had four of the club’s projected five starting pitchers inactive to begin the season, the four Rangers starters who are active now have a composite ERA of 1.70.

And, yeah, my favorite Martin(s).

NBC/DFW

NBC/DFW

A week ago I tweeted:

10 at home vs. HOU, SEA, and CWS.  Win seven and record would be 11-8.  We good with that?

The consensus answer: You bet.

Split tonight (Colby Lewis’s next start) and tomorrow’s (Robbie Ross Jr.’s) against the White Sox, and that’s where Texas would sit.

Still good with that?

Globe L. takedown(s).

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[Getty Images/USA Today Sports]

Bigtime.

On September 7, 2011, the Diamondbacks (behind Joe Saunders) beat the Rockies (behind Kevin Millwood), 5-3, with Rockies manager Jim Tracy, 14 games out and floundering, giving rookie Jordan Pacheco a second straight start at third base, at floundering veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff’s expense.  The 30-year-old was hitting .227/.273/.337, and was three weeks away from what was looking like the end of a respectable six-year big league career.

That same September 7, 2011 night, Robbie Ross Jr. — who five weeks earlier was a Myrtle Beach Pelican, nearing the completion of his third pro season after being drafted out of a Kentucky high school — took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Frisco’s Texas League playoff game against San Antonio, striking out a career-best 12.  He finished with one hit allowed over six frames.

It was the 71st minor league appearance for Ross.  With the exception of one game (Myrtle Beach’s opener that season), every single one of Ross’s games pitched in his three pro seasons was a start.

That September 7, 2011 playoff gem was also Ross’s final minor league appearance.

And his final pro start, until two weeks ago.

In that last minor league start, Ross faced fellow 2008 Rangers draftee Joe Wieland, who had been traded to San Diego for Mike Adams.

In his last big league start, last night, Ross faced 2007 Rangers draftee Blake Beavan, who had been traded to Seattle for Cliff Lee.

And Ross, scattering five hits, walking nobody, and inducing 16 groundouts (most by an AL starter this year), led Texas and its slowly recovering rotation to its third shutout in five games.

And a league-leading four for the season (two Darvish starts, one Martin Perez start, Ross’s last night).  In the last 100 years, only five teams have fired more shutouts in their first 14 games.  None since 1990, the year between Ross’s birth and Perez’s birth.

It was one of the best wins of the young Rangers season, a 5-0 blanking in which Kouzmanoff (who seems like the quintessential Oakland A’s reclamation trophy) (then again, he’s already had a swim through Oakland) homered and doubled twice, driving in three, Prince Fielder destroyed a Beavan fastball for his first home run as a Ranger, and Kyle Seager failed to get five hits (or even one).

(Also, as Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Gil LeBreton correctly notes, Robinson Chirinos has now caught 25 consecutive scoreless innings.)

Texas has five wins at home.  Last night’s was the first that wasn’t by a one-run margin.

Rangers Senior Special Assistant Don Welke, who played a large role in the drafting of Ross in 2008, likes to say that the lefthander has a “bigtime ticker.”

He may be laying permanent claim to a bigtime role.

While Kouzmanoff, out of the big leagues since 2011, may be laying claim himself to an important role on a contending team, as a suitable bat to give Adrian Beltre’s legs an occasional rest and to give the club a late-inning weapon on other nights.

Until Beltre returns, Kouzmanoff will have plenty of chances to contribute — in the middle third of a struggling lineup — while Ross will face the White Sox Sunday before getting the ball again a week from Friday in Seattle, when Beltre is eligible to return to the lineup.  The Stars and Mavericks will be playing playoff games at that point.  The Rangers will be getting healthier, we hope, not only with Beltre and Matt Harrison rejoining the club but also with Fielder’s bat turning back into Fielder’s bat.

The Rangers’ last 10 games:

L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W.

C’mon, Yu.

Be different.

Timing.

Maybe Ian Kinsler was taken out of context, and what he really said, if they’d just included the whole quote, was he hoped the Rangers didn’t win a game at home by actually recording the game’s final out.  Texas finally nailed one of those down yesterday, not that the 1-0 victory offered up any more of a comfort level than your standard-issue walkoff win.

Especially when the final three outs had Alexi Ogando on the mound, throwing to catcher Robinson Chirinos and backed in the infield by Donnie Murphy at second, Josh Wilson at shortstop, and Kevin Kouzmanoff at third, and nine times out of 10, as long as we’re talking about a one-run game, you’d expect that to have featured a Surprise dateline, rather than Arlington.

The last time Ogando recorded a save was August 4, 2012, 16 days before which was the last time Colby Lewis pitched, and right there is a pair of streaks that will be snapped on back-to-back days, as Lewis gets the ball tonight against Seattle.

Lewis was part of a list I threw out there on December 4, 2012, running down a handful of players that Texas had managed during these winning years to go get at the exact right times in their careers — “players who were picked up just before they exploded, who came at a price that in retrospect seems absurdly light, [and] who reached their big league peaks (or a significant resurgence) here” like Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Lewis, Joe Nathan, David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Darren O’Day, Milton Bradley, Darren Oliver, and Endy Chavez.

In 2013, you could add Neal Cotts to that list, closer to the front than the back.

This year, you can bet the Rangers envisioned that J.P. Arencibia, discarded by the Blue Jays, might be that guy (a candidate for something like the rejuvenation Boston got after picking Jarrod Saltalamacchia up from Texas on the cheap).  But it may turn out that Arencibia gets unseated by a different change-of-scenery success for Texas, 29-year-old Robinson Chirinos.

A lifelong Cubs farmhand who signed out of Venezuela in 2000, the infielder didn’t hit at all but somehow managed to keep a job even though, going into the 2007 season, he hadn’t played his way out of Class A.  That July, in his seventh stateside season, Chirinos was promoted to AA to play shortstop.  He broke camp as a AA player in 2008, but earned a demotion back to High A in June.

It was during that return to Class A that the Cubs decided to take a look at Chirinos behind the plate.  Not all the time — 18 of his 37 defensive appearances were at catcher — but it was working.  In 2009, he was a catcher.  And had his best season at the plate as well.

After the 2010 season, the Rangers and Cubs reportedly discussed a trade that would have sent Chris Davis to the Cubs for a package including Chirinos, who had split the year between AA and AAA and hit .326/.416/.583.  The rumor was that the Rangers were attempting to land Chirinos just to flip him, with Derek Holland, Frankie Francisco, and Engel Beltre, to Tampa Bay for Matt Garza.  Instead, the Cubs traded for Garza themselves, sending Chirinos to the Rays along with Chris Archer, Sam Fuld, Hak-Ju Lee, and Brandon Guyer.

Chirinos split 2011 between Tampa Bay and AAA Durham, didn’t hit a ton at either spot, and then he missed the entire 2012 season due to a spring training concussion he suffered when a foul tip struck him in the catcher’s mask.  When he failed to win a big league job in camp in 2013 (getting only nine at-bats), the Rays — even though they had options left on the 28-year-old — designated him for assignment.  The Rangers, on the recommendation of pro scout Scot Engler, acquired him for a player to be named later or cash, and optioned him to Round Rock.

Spending most of the season with the Express, Chirinos got a few brief looks with Texas, but not much work: Two weeks into this season, he’s already played more innings than he did in his three separate call-ups last year.  But the Rangers kept him on the roster through the winter, not ready to give up on him, even as they re-signed Geovany Soto and brought Arencibia in.

There was a day in August of 2012, a few weeks after Colby Lewis’s last start and Alexi Ogando’s last save, when I wrote about a theory I had as to why Ron Washington isn’t crazy about playing kids.  The idea bothered me enough that I wrote about the same thing again three days later.

And now I’m wondering, if Robinson Chirinos’s couple big hits for a sputtering offense, and his 4-for-4 kill rate as a catcher in the running game, and Arencibia’s struggles, and the fact that three of Chirinos’s five starts have come in all three of Martin Perez’s starts, and the fact that the 23-year-old Perez called the 29-year-old Chirinos “my boy” after yesterday’s gem, if all those things feed into an evolving trust quotient for his manager that includes one other important bullet point.

The infielder-turned-catcher, in his 14th pro season, absolutely paid his professional dues before getting this shot to establish himself as a semi-regular in the Major Leagues.

Washington, a catcher-turned-infielder, got his first real shot in his 11th season.  Also at age 29.

Robinson Chirinos is a lot more like Ron Washington was, and a lot less like Jurickson Profar in 2012, or Michael Choice in 2014.

In more ways than one.

What Chirinos is battling for is a role.  He doesn’t have the upside that Profar or Choice has, and at age 29 he doesn’t have their future, either.

But he may have the manager’s trust, or is at least in the process of earning it, and I’m wondering if that might have a little bit to do not only with the way he’s starting to contribute, and the difficulties the player he’s competing against is having, but also with the Rangers picking up another player at exactly the right time — and maybe, in Chirinos’s specific case, for exactly the right manager.

Records.

On May 22, 1962, nearly 19,000 days ago, Roger Maris set an American League record that has yet to be broken.  The Angels intentionally walked the Yankees center fielder four times that night, in what would be a 2-1 New York win in 12 innings.

That was also the last game in which an AL team held an opponent to no more than two hits in 12 frames — until last night.

What Whitey Ford (no hits in seven innings), Jim Coates (one in two), Bud Daley (none in two), and Bob Turley (none in one) did to the Angels 52 seasons ago, Yu Darvish (one hit in eight innings), Joakim Soria (none in one), Alexi Ogando (none in one), Neal Cotts (one in one), and Jason Frasor (none in one) did to the Astros last night, carrying a situationally inept offense to a 1-0 win in 12.

As Gerry Fraley pointed out on Twitter (and Adam elaborated on), in the 15 innings Darvish has thrown this season, the opposition has yet to score.

And his teammates have yet to score, either.

But Texas has won both Darvish starts, and just as a slam dunk is still worth only two points, so is a layup that rolls down your arm, bounces off your head and your other elbow, and rattles both the backboard and the rim before settling through the twine.

A win is a win, and after two seasons in which even one more of those through 162 could have made a real difference, I’ve got absolutely no problem with the Rangers pouring out of the dugout to mob Robinson Chirinos for squaring up on a Brad Peacock 3-2, two-out four-seamer down and away, shooting it just past second base umpire Alan Porter’s left quad and second baseman Jose Altuve’s (short) outstretched glove arm, and bringing Kevin Kouzmanoff home to score the game’s lone run.

Yes, it raised the Texas record to an unremarkable 5-5, and its decisive moment involved Brad Peacock and Robinson Chirinos and Kevin Kouzmanoff, who probably ring less of a bell for the casual baseball fan than half the names in that 1962 Yankees-Angels box score.

It was a game that was equal parts brilliant and brutal from a Rangers standpoint (and that gave rise, apologetically, to four tweets that referenced Aesop), but man, a win is a win, and tonight’s game, pitting Tanner Scheppers against Jarred Cosart, ought to look nothing like last night’s.

Which is OK, regardless of the frustration quotient, as long as the column that you ultimately stick the result in turns out to be the same.

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