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Back to school.

Mom didn’t throw out my baseball cards and my walk to school wasn’t uphill both ways, but I was the kid whose bedtime story was quietly told by Mark and Eric on WBAP, on a transistor radio two feet from my pillow, and the story was different every night.

During the school year, at least.  As far back as I can remember, I was able to use the Ranger game as a bedtime clock in the summer (“Hello win column!” “Lights out.”), but while school was in session, I was spending those early season months listening to baseball as I fell asleep, dreaming on what would finally be that season, or riding out the final month once classes resumed.

Rangers baseball in September never really mattered, but that didn’t matter.

Those were the days of Danny White vs. Gary Hogeboom, Zork and Escape from Rungistan and Intellivision, and the Texas Rangers sitting 24.5 games out on the first day of school.

Of checking the mailbox for a new Baseball America so I could tear toward the back pages looking for Tommy Dunbar’s three-week old Tulsa batting average, and of dot matrix letters (with SASE) to Joe Klein and then Tom Grieve, suggesting trades for Mike Boddicker or Kal Daniels that they might not have thought about.

I assure you I never gifted Joe or Tom a trade idea as bad as Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Franklin Barreto, and Sean Nolin.  Even at age 13.

It’s a different time now.  Ever since our fifth-grader started Kindergarten, Rangers games have mattered when school started back up, and not just in terms of bedtime negotiations.  With the exception of last year’s disaster (we were days away from learning that Ron Washington was stepping down), a pennant race was developing locally every day, and for a baseball fan there’s no better gift than that.

The Rangers were off yesterday.  They have another off-day late next week.  Then there’s just one more on the schedule, less than two weeks before the regular season ends and gives way to another day or two or three off for 10 teams, and more than four months off for all the others.

No team in the American League has more home games remaining than Texas, and now we can consider that a very good thing.  Only one AL club has more road games left than do the Astros, who own the worst record in the league in ballparks where the rules don’t allow them to walk off with a win.

Houston has lost nine consecutive road series, and will need to win both tonight and tomorrow afternoon in New York to avoid a 10th straight before heading to Minnesota.

The Rangers, on their third-to-last scheduled off-day, gained ground in the division last night (Yankees 1, Astros 0), and put further distance between themselves and the only one of the four teams legitimately in pursuit of their Wild Card spot that played Monday (Royals 8, Orioles 3).  

The Twins and Angels are 1.5 games back of Texas, the Orioles and Rays 2.5 games back.  

Texas trails Houston by 3.5 games, with seven head-to-head battles ahead.

School is back and the games matter a lot.  That’s the best.

There are only two teams in the AL with better records than the Rangers since the All-Star Break, one of which is Toronto, led by an insanely hot offense.  Texas is using yesterday’s off-day to skip Martin Perez’s turn through the rotation this week, and while the primary reason is to carefully regulate the lefthander’s workload as he returns from Tommy John surgery so that he can be relied on into the fall, it’s probably no accident that the move means the Rangers will throw only one lefthander (Derek Holland, tonight) against the heavily right-handed Jays lineup.  

Toronto kicks the series off with its two left-handed beasts, Marl Buehrle and David Price.

Mike Napoli: This is why.

Baseball’s most terrifying offense against one of its best home teams, at least of late.

Let’s go.

School.

Meaningful baseball.

Every day.

Let’s go.

Good morning.

082215 standings

Don’t look now, but the Texas Rangers are now in Wild Card position.” 

     — Jon Heyman, CBS Sports

Let’s go, Cole.  

Win the damn series.

Hey, Houston.

Derek Holland, pitching in a big league uniform for the first time in 131 days, walked zero, as did the trio of Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson, called on with one out in the seventh to preserve Texas 3, Seattle 2, which in the span of four pitches swelled to 7-2, thanks to back-to-back-to-back assaults* on Joe Beimel, who came into the game with a 3.86 ERA and left it, five batters later, with a 4.78.

[* Postgame commentary by the assailants: “That was great” (Mitch Moreland); “It’s fun” (Mike Napoli); “It was amazing” (Elvis Andrus).]

Hours later, the runner-up for the Rangers’ managerial post inexplicably instructed his relief pitcher in the 13th inning to pitch to Carlos Correa in a tie game with men on second and third, two out, and Jed Lowrie on deck, because he didn’t want to put his pitcher in a “tougher spot.”  Fourth Matt Andriese pitch to Correa, one of the best players in baseball: Houston 3, Tampa Bay 2.

The last time Holland pitched, before yesterday, was in the Rangers’ home opener, against the Astros.

He’ll get another chance.  Probably two.  Texas and Houston tee it up seven more times, all over the season’s final three weeks.

You know all those national stories about how crazy-awesome the Astros are and what a revelation so many of their young players have been and how they’re the biggest surprise in baseball?

And how decimated and cursed the Rangers have been for a second straight year and how, until recently, they were baseball’s worst home team in 2015?

I tweeted it in May and wrote it in June and will say it again now: 

Better keep winning, Houston.

Against Chris Archer tonight and Brett Anderson tomorrow, and Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw over the weekend.

Better keep winning.

Surprise, it’s Will Venable.

It was a surprising move on a few levels, though the repercussions may end up closer to Jorge Cantu or Mike Gonzalez than Bengie Molina or Alex Rios.  

If Will Venable provides Texas something along the lines of what Jeff Francoeur did in his two-month stint (.340/.357/.491 in 56 plate appearances plus a very big RBI double off David Price in Tampa), it’s all good.

Clubs around the league were surprised Venable cleared trade waivers, Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) notes, and Dennis Lin (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports that “a few teams” were in on the 32-year-old before “the Rangers jumped in [Monday] night.”  On Tuesday, Texas sent Low A catcher Marcus Greene and a more noteworthy player to be named later (and likely soon) to San Diego for Venable, a decent bat who can play all three outfield spots reasonably well, and is owed about $1.1 million the rest of the way this season, after which he’ll be a free agent.

The trade was also a bit surprising in that Venable hits left-handed, further tilting the Rangers’ roster in that direction, but maybe that’s an indication that Texas isn’t optimistic about Josh Hamilton’s left knee or Leonys Martin’s right wrist, which was examined by a specialist yesterday — or that the club is simply protecting itself in case of bad news on either front.

Even Cantu and Gonzalez each helped Texas win a big game in a playoff season.  

It’s a little surprising because the move not only cost the Rangers Greene and the player to be named (more on that shortly), but also Michael Choice, whose spot on the 40-man roster was sacrificed.  Following a standout camp with the Rangers in 2014, just after he’d arrived in a deal (with Chris Bostick) for Craig Gentry (and Josh Lindblom), the local product didn’t hit in the big leagues (.181/.249/.319) or in AAA (.250/.329/.415), and he’ll be 26 this off-season.

It hasn’t been long since Choice was considered a Top 100 prospect in the game, and chances would seem reasonably strong that some club takes a flier on him following his designation for assignment.  If he were to clear, the Rangers would likely outright him to Round Rock and hope that something clicks, but odds are his stint in this organization has ended for now.

Interestingly, Choice’s departure from the roster clears a spot for Venable, but there will need to be another casualty this morning as room is made for Derek Holland’s activation off the 60-day disabled list, as he is scheduled to make this afternoon’s start.  The Rangers optioned Chi Chi Gonzalez to Round Rock after his start last night, presumably to make room on the active roster for Holland, but that doesn’t solve the 40-man roster issue.

In August, when you see a player to be named later made part of a trade, it often means that it’s a player on the 40-man roster who’s been agreed on between the two clubs but who hasn’t yet cleared post-July 31 trade waivers.  The process would be that the team sending that player away would run him out on trade waivers and the receiving team would put in a claim to facilitate the finalization of the deal.  If a team with higher claim priority (than the Padres, in this case, meaning 14 American League teams plus eight National League teams) puts in a claim on the player in question, the sending team (Texas) would just pull him back and convey him to the receiving team (the Padres) after the season.

Notably, in that case, the rules dictate that the player cannot appear in the big leagues in the interim.

Assuming that’s the scenario, here are the players on the 40-man who are not in the big leagues: pitchers Alex Claudio, Jon Edwards, Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, Phil Klein, Nick Martinez, Roman Mendez, Anthony Ranaudo, and Tanner Scheppers; infielders Hanser Alberto and Joey Gallo; and outfielder Ryan Rua.  I’m not listing injured players, the only young one of which I can imagine the Padres showing interest in being Jurickson Profar.  There’s no chance he’s in this deal.

There’s also no chance that Gallo, Gonzalez, Jackson, Martinez, or Scheppers would be included, and Alberto or Rua would surprise me, too.   

That leaves relievers Claudio, Edwards, Klein, and Mendez (the only one out of options), and the starter Ranaudo, and it’s a safe bet that when A.J. Preller tells Corey Brock (MLB.com) that the player is “someone the organization ‘views as a key piece to the deal’ . . . [s]omeone closer to [the] big leagues,” he’s talking about one of those five arms.

If the player to be named isn’t identified in the next day or so, then keep your eye on those five — and if any of them returns to Arlington after rosters expand in a couple weeks (or before), you can scratch them off the list.

Here’s the thing: If you’re moving Choice and Greene and a shuttle pitcher with big league experience and upside for a rental like Will Venable, you’re obviously going for it.  There’s a good chance, like Cantu and Molina and Francoeur, that his stint in Texas will last one summer (and fall?), and that he and Yu Darvish will never be on the field together, but that hammers home the point.  This trade is going to favor the Padres in 2016.  For Texas, this one is very clearly about 2015.

And the idea just two weeks ago that Texas would be making an August trade that was all about 2015 is probably the biggest, and best, surprise of all. 

Strong.

It was awesome.

From mid-afternoon until 9:56 pm, it was awesome.

More than 100 of us gathered in a room for a few hours, and we heard Scott and Mike hold forth for an hour and we heard JD answer a thousand questions for nearly an hour and a half and, in between, we watched this incredible video and raised $18,700 for Julie McGraw and her family.  

$18,700.  

The McGraw family grew by more than 100 yesterday.  Julie and Gary leave for Northern California this week for a neuro-clinical program they were just accepted into, and they march on the shoulders of a much larger family.

The baseball game was awesome.  Cole Hamels was good, not great, but he kept the bullpen down for seven innings and his teammates battled.  They competed, they did the little things, they battled, and they won on a score rather than an out, and for those of us thinking #McGrawStrong on Monday, that was pretty fitting.

And awesome.

As Devin put it: Nice night for a walk.

This is the kind of morning when I’d typically talk about the 10/240 that Robinson Cano signed for the same winter as Shin-Soo Choo’s 7/130, and how one of them came up with a huge, possibly decisive play on defense late while the other had his wrong foot on the bag on the second bunt of the bottom of the ninth, a lazy play that was pretty decisive, too, and while I’m not about to suggest either one of them is anywhere near making his contract a non-issue (though it might surprise you which is out-OPS’ing the other this year), I know which one of them at least looked like he was playing with purpose all night.

He was on the team celebrating a sixth straight win, eighth straight at home, 13th of 18 overall.

But this isn’t that kind of morning for me.  I won’t even dump 100 words on Sam Dyson’s groundout-groundout-groundout eighth.

I’m thinking more today about Dyson’s bullpenmate Keone Kela, and what he did off the field on Monday for the McGraw family seven hours earlier.

It was just awesome.

Awesome on an Adrian Beltre level, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay in the space of just a couple dozen words.

A week ago the Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs post-season odds generators had Texas flagging low in the single digits as far as percentage chances go.  

Today both have the Rangers in the 24-25 percent range.

Let’s go.

It was a great night, capping off a great day.  A strong day.

Thank you.

You’re Minnesota.

A couple months ago I wrote a report that I called “You’re Chicago,” and yesterday’s getaway game in Minnesota made me think of it.

It’s easy to look at Texas 6, Minnesota 5 through Rangers-colored lenses and celebrate a team really needing a win battling out of the corner to take it, but imagine you’re a Twins fan.

As of July 17, you were 50-40 and holding down home field advantage for the Wild Card Game.  

Since then, no team in baseball has had a worse record than your 7-16 — and that’s even with two wins to start the Rangers series.

You have a chance to sweep Texas, with Cleveland coming in next, giving you the chance to build momentum before a huge 10-day roadie in New York, Baltimore, and Tampa.

After a big comeback win on Tuesday despite being down, 2-0, in the eighth, and then spanking the Rangers, 11-1, on Wednesday, you jump on emergency call-up Chi Chi Gonzalez, who’d been knocked around by AAA hitters at a .303 clip since his return to Round Rock a month ago, in the bottom of the second.  The Rangers are basically without an available long man, so when you rack up 10 bases in the space of five hitters (homer-single-single-double-double) off the rookie and had a 4-0 lead after recording only four outs, things look pretty good.

Twenty-five Gonzalez pitches in, and you’re licking your chops at the prospect of Adam Rosales having to face Miguel Sano and everyone else twice.

And then?

Gonzalez lasts another 4.1 innings, and doesn’t allow another hit.  And in the meantime, Ervin Santana can’t hold the big, early lead, as Mitch Moreland hammers a two-run blast in the fourth and, after a run-scoring Prince Fielder single in the fifth, Moreland doubled\s in a pair to turn the game all the way around, giving Texas a 5-4 lead.

Aaron Hicks singles in a run off Keone Kela in the sixth, but Shane Robinson gets greedy, trying unsuccessfully to score from first on the play when Delino DeShields lazies the ball back to the infield.  Tie game.  Home game.  Deep breath.

What looks like a serious Rangers threat in the seventh dies quickly.  After DeShields works a 3-0 count, Santana fills the count but ultimately surrenders a single to right, and on the next pitch Shin-Soo Choo shoots a ball safely to right field as well.  DeShields cuts the bag at second and sprints for third, and the big boys are due to come up.

But Eddie Rosario fires a tremendous strike to third, cutting DeShields down, and three pitches later Fielder bounces into an easy 6-4-3 to end an inning that seemed to be on the verge of blowing up.

Then the Rangers take a lead in the eighth, with Moreland (on National Lefthanders Day) again in the middle of things.  After Adrian Beltre and Moreland singles put men on the corners, Elvis Andrus of all people drives a Casey Fien pitch deep enough to center field to bring Beltre home, the seventh pitch of an at-bat that started out 0-2.  

Still, you’re facing a beleaguered Texas bullpen, and if you can so much as get one man on in the eighth or ninth, Joe Mauer will hit.  Get two men on in that space, and Sano bats.  Three, and Trevor Plouffe, who’d homered to start the scoring in that big four-run second, would get a chance, if Minnesota hadn’t walked off by then.

But instead, Jake Diekman — in spite of starting three straight hitters off with ball one and getting drilled in the hip by the first hitter he faced — and Shawn Tolleson each retire the Twins in order.  

Ballgame.

Minnesota won the series, but half an hour into that one a series sweep looked like every bit of a foregone conclusion.  Five hits (and four runs) in the space of five batters off Chi Chi Gonzalez . . . and then no hits off the rookie by the remaining 18 Twins hitters he’d face.

And though the Indians visit next, the Twins draw Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco on the front and back end of that three-gamer.

Say what you will about the way Texas competed to salvage a game and how good and seemingly necessary that win was, but if you’re Minnesota, that’s just a brutal loss for a team that had shown signs of regaining its footing after a lengthy skid.

As for Texas, the club now returns home, where it’s won seven of eight.  Tampa Bay is here for three, after which it’s Seattle, and when we convene on Monday for Newberg Report Night (latest auction/raffle update), it will apparently be Cole Hamels back on the mound, as long as his intervening side session goes without incident.

Texas played .633 baseball in May.  If the club plays at that clip over the remaining month and a half, it will finish with 87 wins.

And a possible playoff berth.

The Rangers go into this weekend series half a game behind Minnesota in the Wild Card chase, and while the way Tuesday in particular went, Texas fans have the right to feel like an opportunity to pass the Twins was absolutely squandered, Minnesota fans certainly have to wonder how it is that their team didn’t put further distance between itself and the Rangers, and leap over Baltimore into a tie with the Rays on the doorstep of the second Wild Card spot.  

The chance was there to put Texas away Thursday afternoon behind a veteran pitcher whose offense had put a rookie hurler on the ropes, with little in the way of inning-eating help behind him, and it didn’t happen, and if you’re the Twins — a team that hasn’t been anywhere near the playoffs in five years and that hasn’t won a playoff game in 11 years or a playoff series in 13 — Texas 6, Minnesota 5 is one that really has to hurt.

History.

Home teams went 15-0 for the first time in the history of Major League Baseball yesterday, which is a pretty cool thing to think about until you land back on the part that Texas was one of those road teams, and shouldn’t have lost.

Bullpen losses are always tough to take.  Gotta wash that one off.

Cole Hamels’s first three scheduled turns through the Rangers rotation:

* No-decision
* Loss
* Scratch

The lefthander is reportedly dealing with a left groin issue that surfaced during Friday’s start in Seattle.  The club is hoping to avoid a DL stint by skipping his start tomorrow.

A quick check back at recent Rangers history reminds us that Cliff Lee earned the win in two of his first 11 Texas starts, that the team went 3-8 in those games, and that seven times in that stretch the lefty allowed between four and eight runs.

Now, this isn’t really apples to apples, as the Rangers were just half a game out of a playoff spot when they acquired Lee and had just one team (Oakland) to catch.  Hamels will need to fare better than Lee did in his own first couple months as a Ranger if this club is going to play 162+.  

Yes, going into these last two games the Rangers had fared this way over their previous 10:

W
W
W
Hamels start
W
W
W
W
Hamels start
W

But this club needs Hamels on the mound if it’s got any real chance at the post-season this year.

It’s not clear when Hamels will make his next start.  There’s been some suggestion he could throw a side on Saturday and face the Mariners again on Tuesday, but I suppose there’s a chance it could happen instead on Monday, when we’ll be on hand for Newberg Report Night.

You can still register today to attend.  Both Upper Reserved seats and luxury suite spots are still available.  Click here for details on the eventwhich as always will include a 90-minute pregame Q&A with Jon Daniels.  The latest update on the auction/raffle prize list is here.

(You can also still participate in the Support the Newberg Report program if you’d like.)

In the meantime, Nick Martinez against Mike Pelfrey tonight, and someone (Chi Chi Gonzalez [on six days’ rest] or Anthony Ranaudo [on five]?) tomorrow afternoon to wrap up the series in Minnesota.  

Gotta win one of these two.  At least.

Doubt there’s ever been a day when the road team went 15-0, but let’s not be responsible for screwing that possibility up.

Today’s Newberg Report Night update.

Six new items added yesterday to the auction and raffle prize list for Newberg Report Night, which is this coming Monday (August 17) at Globe Life Park:

* Studio sit-in followed including lunch run with BAD Radio (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket)    
* Package of three one-hour baseball lessons with former Rangers great Bump Wills 
* Autographed 11×17 photo of four players shown on 2015 Newberg Report book cover (see below) — signed by all four players (Gallo, Mazara, Alfaro, Williams)
* Autographed Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys) rookie card  
* Three sets of Four Founder’s Club tickets to upcoming RoughRiders games
* Apple TV device 

And there could be more.  Here’s the complete list, as of this moment:

* Lunch with Eric Nadel and Brad Sham 
* Booth visit: Rangers radio broadcast
* Booth visit: Rangers TV broadcast
* Tom Grieve will join your fantasy football league
* All-access, behind-the-scenes home game experience with Rangers field reporter Emily Jones
* Behind-the-scenes/studio experience with Rangers pre-/postgame host Dana Larson
* RoughRiders experience package: includes watching BP on the field, clubhouse visit, behind-the-scenes tour, meeting the coaching staff and Chuck Greenberg, pregame first pitch, watching game from a suite (available in 2016 if mutually convenient date for 2015 difficult to find)
* Studio sit-in followed by dinner with Ben and Skin (105.3 The Fan)
* Studio sit-in (including show prep and tour of the station) with Norm Hitzges (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket)
*  Studio sit-in followed including lunch run with BAD Radio (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket)     
* Lunch with Grubes 
* Package of three one-hour baseball lessons with former Rangers great Bump Wills 
* Two dozen signed Nolan Ryan baseballs (24 separate winners) 
* Autographed 11×17 photo of four players shown on 2015 Newberg Report book cover (see below) — signed by all four players (Gallo, Mazara, Alfaro, Williams)
* Autographed Orel Hershiser photo, framed and matted
* Autographed Francisco Cordero photo, framed and matted 
* Autographed Thomas Diamond-Edinson Volquez-Eric Hurley photo, framed and matted
* Autographed Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys) rookie card  
* Four seats in section directly behind home plate for future Rangers game
* Three sets of Four Founder’s Club tickets to upcoming RoughRiders games
* $30 gift card to Nick’s Sports Cards & Memorabilia 
* Framed and matted Mike Modano retirement ceremony photos and game ticket
* Apple TV device 

If you are planning to attend but haven’t yet signed up, I have a favor to ask: Please sign up today if you can.  Ideally I’d like to order the game tickets from the Rangers tomorrow (both Upper Reserved and luxury suites). 

Price points are $40 and $200.  Click here for full details on the eventwhich as always will include a 90-minute fan Q&A with Jon Daniels.

Title sponsors are David Gamble of SFMG Wealth Advisors and David & Valda McClanahan of Freeman Toyota, and raffle and auction proceeds will benefit the family of Julie McGraw, wife of Rangers scout Gary McGraw.

Thanks.

Newberg Report Night update.

Quick update on the auction and raffle prize list for Newberg Report Night, which is one week from tonight at Globe Life Park (Monday, August 17).

* Lunch with Eric Nadel and Brad Sham 

* Booth visit: Rangers radio broadcast

* Booth visit: Rangers TV broadcast

* Tom Grieve will join your fantasy football league

* All-access, behind-the-scenes home game experience with Rangers field reporter Emily Jones

* Behind-the-scenes/studio experience with Rangers pre-/postgame host Dana Larson

* RoughRiders experience package: includes watching BP on the field, clubhouse visit, behind-the-scenes tour, meeting the coaching staff and Chuck Greenberg, pregame first pitch, watching game from a suite (available in 2016 if mutually convenient date for 2015 difficult to find)

* Studio sit-in followed by dinner with Ben and Skin (105.3 The Fan)

* Studio sit-in (including show prep and tour of the station) with Norm Hitzges (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket)

* Lunch with Grubes 

* Two dozen signed Nolan Ryan baseballs (24 separate winners) 

* Autographed Orel Hershiser photo, framed and matted

* Autographed Francisco Cordero photo, framed and matted 

* Autographed Thomas Diamond-Edinson Volquez-Eric Hurley photo, framed and matted

* Four seats in section directly behind home plate for future Rangers game

* $30 gift card to Nick’s Sports Cards & Memorabilia 

* Framed and matted Mike Modano retirement ceremony photos and game ticket

There will be more.  Stay tuned.  But don’t wait too much longer to sign up.

As of now there are plenty of spots available for the event, which starts in the Hall of Fame Theater and includes either an Upper Reserved ticket to the Rangers-Mariners game or a ticket to a luxury suite.  

Click here for full details on the event.

Thanks.

Shake it off.

It was a game that felt lost for so much of it, even though at no time during the daytime contest (so shifted because of a Taylor Swift concert (?!!)) did Seattle have a lead.  

It felt that way because of all those outs on the bases.  Because of a coughed up opportunity for a shutdown inning in the fourth, marked by a couple crazy cheap base hits.  Because of a couple sloppy errors.  Because of a series of replay results that — after last night’s mess — felt like a never-ending pile-on with a couple gut punches mixed in.  

But Texas shook all of it off (I promise: I had to look up Taylor Swift song titles.  Really.  I promise.) and won the game, drawing to within 4.5 games of the division lead, the closest the club has been in six weeks, and just three back in the Wild Card chase.  

Man, that was a tense, often frustrating baseball game, but that made the finish exponentially more awesome.

As the Rangers and Mariners went to the 11th, after 18 of the game’s 20 half-innings had gone scoreless (each club scored three times in the fourth), I tweeted: “Two-run inning, right here.” 

I was never so happy to be so incredibly wrong.

Four Mariners relievers had put zeroes up in the game — including rookies David Rollins and Mayckol Guaipe, who came into the day with ERA’s of 9.28 and 9.95 — when fellow rookie Rob Rasmussen, who has been traded five times in three years (once for Carlos Lee and once for Michael Young and once for Mark Lowe), entered and surrendered single-single-single-single-single-double before getting pulled, after which former Ranger draftee and later two-time Ranger camper Joe Beimel was greeted by single-lineout-homer before retiring two more to end the carnage.

Meanwhile, three Rangers relievers put up zeroes of their own: Sam Dyson going walk, groundout, groundout, groundout; Jake Diekman facing the Kyle Seager-Nelson Cruz-Robinson Cano gauntlet and going groundout, strikeout, E-4, flyout, and then striking out the side on 12 pitches in the 10th; and Shawn Tolleson, surviving what seemed sure to be a fatal Ryan Strausborger error to lead off the 11th by striking out Mike Zunino and Seager, intentionally walking Cruz and Cano (I liked the gutsiness of the moves — making Jesus Montero beat you rather than Cruz or Cano, and ensuring that Cano wouldn’t hit in the 11th if you got out of the 10th), and freezing Montero for strike three to end that frame.

After the super-lengthy top of the 11th, Jeff Banister sent Tolleson back out to close things out — a surprising decision given his 26-pitch 10th (19 if you discount the intentional wide ones), the eight-run lead, and the opportunity to get Luke Jackson out there for his debut under little pressure — and it took Tolleson another 22 pitches to finish.  He wasn’t going to pitch Sunday afternoon regardless. 

Or Monday, since Texas doesn’t play.

It was a career-high pitch count for Tolleson, but I trust he’ll shake that off, too.  

I thought Jon Daniels had a great game today.  Aside from the solid start out of Martin Perez, scouted and signed and developed just as the organization was renewing its presence internationally, the bullpen allowed one hit (the game’s penultimate batter) while punching out nine of 21 batters faced over five scoreless innings.  

Those relievers: Dyson (acquired last week for Tomas Telis and Cody Ege), Diekman (a trade tack-on by the seller, evoking memories of Daniels’s Cruz acquisition in 2006), and Tolleson (a waiver claim).

Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields had three hits and drove in two runs.

The former 16th-round pick Strausborger singled and drew two walks.  

Mitch Moreland, whom Daniels has refused repeatedly to sell low on, improved his pinch-hitting line to 5 for 7 and added another hit in the 11th.  He sits at .294/.346/.508 for the season.

Josh Hamilton, whom the Angels are paying tens of millions to be a Ranger, singled twice and drove in two runs.

Prince Fielder raised his season line to .324/.390/.501 with a homer and double, and he owns a share of the big league lead in multi-hit games with Ian Kinsler, the player he was traded for.

Rougned Odor, who assumed second base duties in Kinsler’s absence, improved to .352/.385/.588 (180 plate appearances) since returning from his early May demotion to AAA with a three-hit effort today. 

And journeyman Chris Gimenez, who has changed teams via minor league free agency or waivers a thousand times, doubled twice to raise his Rangers line to .375/.412/.750, which in tandem with Bobby Wilson’s .455/.455/.636 should be viewed through the seriously-small-sample-size filter but which should nonetheless make you wonder what happens when Carlos Corporan is ready to return.  (Robinson Chirinos is in no danger.)

Gimenez and Wilson have come up big over and over in this stretch of time when the Rangers’ two catchers have been down.  Credit to the Rangers’ scouting folks and to Daniels.

And though Banister will draw questions about his use of Tolleson today, I count his arrival as another huge move for Daniels.  He entrusted his roster to Ron Washington after nobody had given him that chance in 15 years of coaching.  That worked.  He then entrusted the club to Banister, who had 22 years of coaching experience without a big league managerial opportunity.

This is working.

I could not feel any better about the direction of this team, on the field or in the front office.

There’s probably another Taylor Swift song title (is there one called “Win the Damn Series”?) that I could shoehorn in to finish this one, but I’m not going to find out because I’m not going to Google “Taylor Swift” again.

Ever.

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