This won’t happen, but I’m a little dizzy from the last two days of offensive anemia that wrapped up an otherwise acceptable road trip, and because it crossed my mind, I’ve decided to dump it on you as well.
This isn’t really just about getting shut down by King Felix or Vidal Nuno, and nobody challenged me to write a report about Milt Cuyler. It’s just me thinking aloud, in a bit of a timewaste.
It was 35 years ago when Texas, two years after having badly traded for left-handed reliever Sparky Lyle, sent him to Philadelphia for a player to be named later (lefty Kevin Saucier, who lasted three winter weeks before the Rangers moved him as well, to Detroit for utility infielder Mark Wagner).
Lyle pitched 10 times down the stretch of that 1980 season for Philadelphia, holding NL hitters to a .220/.293/.300 slash line and posting a 1.93 ERA. He pitched in six Phillies wins and four losses, recording two saves and two holds.
Philadelphia survived the NL East race, winning it by one game over Montreal.
And then the Phillies won the NLCS, in five games, over Houston.
And then the World Series, in six, over Kansas City.
Lyle didn’t pitch for Philadelphia against the Astros or Royals, because he couldn’t. The Phillies didn’t acquire him from Texas until September 13, which by rule made him ineligible for the post-season. Only players in a playoff team’s organization as of August 31 are eligible to play that season past 162.
Cuyler had been toiling in the independent leagues for nearly two years when, on September 5, 1998, Texas signed him away from the Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League. The club assigned him to AAA Oklahoma for a couple days, and after an 0 for 6 run (four strikeouts) and one failed stolen base attempt, he was summoned to Texas.
Cuyler sat on the Rangers bench for a week before getting into a game. On September 15, with Texas trailing Baltimore, 5-4, he pinch-ran for Will Clark, who had legged out an infield single to lead off the top of the ninth. Cuyler then trotted home as Pudge Rodriguez homered off Armando Benitez, staking the Rangers to a 6-5 lead that John Wetteland would preserve. The win would pull Texas to within one game of the division lead.
Two days later, with Texas and Anaheim tied atop the West, Lee Stevens singled off Angels reliever Pep Harris to lead off the bottom of the eighth in a 6-6 game, and Cuyler was inserted to run for Stevens. Todd Zeile bunted Cuyler to second. Rich DeLucia entered and hit Royce Clayton with a pitch. Tom Goodwin then doubled to center, bringing Cuyler home. Wetteland retired Anaheim in order in the ninth, and Texas won, 7-6.
The Rangers ultimately won the West by three games, earning a second-ever playoff berth.
Clark would have scored on Pudge’s bomb, and Stevens might have scored from second on Goodwin’s double, but the point is this: Texas acquired Cuyler that September with a clear purpose — to help the club in very specific situations get to the post-season, just as Philadelphia had done with Lyle, even though those post-seasons would have to go on without them.
The Rangers claimed left-handed reliever Michael Tejera off waivers from the Marlins on September 10, 2004, with the club five games back in the AL West and 22 to go. He was brilliant in his Rangers debut on September 12, punching out four of five Blue Jays faced in what was an eventual 7-6 Texas win, but I’ve now belabored the point enough.
Texas faces two ordinary (and therefore potentially frightening) lefties this weekend (Oakland’s Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront) and will face two tough southpaws (Dallas Keuchel and Scott Kazmir) when Houston visits next week. Nuno stands to get the ball again when the Mariners are here next weekend, and if the A’s stay in rotation, Nolin and Doubront will be on the hill again when the Rangers visit Oakland. You can bet on Keuchel and Kazmir again in Houston on the season’s penultimate weekend, and then Texas hosts Detroit, which features three lefthanders in its rotation, and the Angels, who will probably have Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago on the mound sometime in that set of four.
I’m not suggesting you load up with a front-tier prospect to go get Justin Upton, in hopes that he can help you win one game between now and October 4. (The Padres will get a supplemental first-round pick if he leaves this winter, so the cost would be high.) Plus, I’m not even sure if Upton cleared trade waivers — surely he didn’t — and I’m not going to take the time to research it.
His brother Melvin doesn’t hit anyone other than the Rangers, and doesn’t hit lefties particularly well, plus he’s under contract through 2017. No.
Atlanta’s Cameron Maybin: waivers issue, contract length. No.
Philadelphia’s Jeff Francoeur has become somewhat of a punch line/meme, and really, even though he’s had a decent year and would arguably be a better option than Drew Stubbs or Ryan Strausborger, his success has come against right-handed pitching this season (.827 OPS), not lefties (.653 OPS).
Plus, there’s the matter of what a deal like this would take. Look at what Texas gave up for two months and five more years after that of Sam Dyson, and for six weeks of Will Venable, especially when either one would be eligible for the playoffs. Anyone Texas picks up today wouldn’t be. So you’re not going to give up Ryan Cordell, or Yohander Mendez, or Josh Morgan. And I wonder whether a team would take someone like Kellin Deglan or Luke Tendler in a situation like this.
I don’t really have any specifics here to support this exceedingly unlikely premise, unless the Giants — 8.5 games out in the NL West and 9.0 back in the Wild Card chase — want to talk about Marlon Byrd, but there’s just three weeks and change left in this pennant race, the Rangers aren’t hitting lefties (not that they’re torching righthanders at the moment), and if the sprint to the finish doesn’t have you a little frenzied yourself, just wait.
It’s about to get insane.
It was on this date one year ago that Ron Washington resigned as manager of the Texas Rangers.
The club was 31.5 games out in the West, and 24 games back of the second Wild Card spot, with 22 games to go. A 10-2 loss the night before to Seattle made Texas the first club officially eliminated from any race.
If someone told you on September 5, 2014 that, as the most successful manager in franchise history was walking away from his team with baseball remaining on the schedule . . .
. . . with a record that was worse than any other team’s at the time, and worse than any team has in 2015 . . .
. . . and that the club would bring in a manager from the outside with 22 years of coaching experience but none as a big league skipper . . .
. . . and that he would inherit a club that in spring training would lose its number one starter for the season, and that his number two starter would log one inning before missing the next four months, and that his number three starter would miss the first half, and that his closer would lose his job and his 25-man roster spot and his 40-man roster spot, and that his club would finish the first month with its lowest winning percentage through April in the franchise’s 44-year history, and that his $130 million corner outfielder would have a .221/.305/.384 first half, and that his $120 shortstop would have a .242/.301/.323 first half and defensive performance to match, and that a Rule 5 pick would end up as his best leadoff option, and that his standout kid second baseman would play his way into a ticket to Round Rock a month in, and that at that point, the club was once again flirting with the worst record in baseball, and that Ross Detwiler and Wandy Rodriguez would make 22 starts, and that the club’s best player in the first half would regress to (so far) a .268/.341/.378 second half . . .
. . . if someone laid all of that out for you on September 5, 2014, as Wash walked away, would you have taken, on its one-year anniversary, a playoff spot plus Cole Hamels plus Sam Dyson plus Jake Diekman plus Keone Kela (who, on that date, had fewer than 40 pro innings above the Class A level) plus a three-game deficit in the division with seven head-to-head battles left against the West leaders?
One national writer contends that the Rangers made baseball’s second-best trade since the season began, netting Hamels and Diekman for Matt Harrison and five prospects, despite the not-unexpected success the Phillies’ haul has immediately had.
But it’s the Dyson trade, which came minutes before the July 31 trade deadline, that still blows my mind. Catcher Tomas Telis (AAA) and lefthander Cody Ege (AA/AAA) have had nice starts as Marlins minor leaguers, but they probably have role player ceilings. Why would Miami trade five-plus years of control of that guy — for that sort of return? And where were the other 28 teams? Did the Marlins even shop him? If they hadn’t gotten around to doing it, why not wait until the winter if they hadn’t surveyed things? Was the Telis/Ege return something they just couldn’t pass up?
Dyson and Diekman have teamed up behind Shawn Tolleson to form a 2015 Cerberus, and if you know what a four-headed version is called, I hate to slight Kela, against whom opposing hitters have two singles in their last 26 trips (12 strikeouts, one walk), with right-handed hitters 0 for 21. (You know Trout-Pujols-Cron would have been his in the seventh last night if he weren’t shut down for the weekend with an apparently barky elbow.)
I’d love to know where Houston was on the list Hamels and his wife made a couple months ago ranking the 30 organizations in 50 categories. According to Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports), Philadelphia preferred what the Astros offered for Hamels (including lefthander Josh Hader and outfielder Brett Phillips, both of whom would later go to Milwaukee in the Carlos Gomez deal) over the Texas package of Harrison, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher — but Hamels refused to waive his right to block a deal to Houston under his limited no-trade clause.
The Rangers scored highest on the Hamels test, even before the trade to Texas went down.
It’s OK if Williams and Thompson star for the Phillies. It’s a good thing, in a way, as we talk about a lot here. Think the Tigers would have regretted putting Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, both considered top 10 prospects in the game, in their 2007 trade for Miguel Cabrera even if Maybin and Miller had met expectations right away?
They don’t always pan out as hoped. The Cubs designated Mike Olt for assignment this week.
There wasn’t a realistic chance that Williams and Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson were all going to remain here, not with this team in the Yu Darvish window poised to contend, and the way Brinson — the only true center fielder and the only right-handed hitter in the bunch — has come on this season, it made sense to move one of the lefties in the right deal.
Acquiring a number one starter with four-plus years of control and a significant cash subsidy fits snugly in the “right deal” category.
Brinson, who began the season at High A High Desert, a year and a half younger than California League average, hit .337/.416/.628 in that arena league, but any fear that those video game numbers were a product of the ballpark and league were put to rest when he proceeded to hit .291/.328/.545 with AA Frisco after a promotion to replace Williams in the RoughRiders outfield.
Brinson was promoted to AAA early this week, and in his first four Express games, he reached base three times per game (six hits and six walks).
He’s 5.7 years younger than the average Pacific Coast League position player.
Mazara, age 20, is hitting .343/.405/.448 in his first 74 Round Rock plate appearances.
He’s 6.7 years younger than the average PCL’er.
Thompson may have a higher ceiling than the two righthanders who have already beaten him to Philadelphia, but as those three are getting their big league careers established, Texas will be rolling Darvish and Hamels and Derek Holland and Martin Perez out there, all with multiple years of control. Chi Chi Gonzalez, 3-0, 1.35 in his last three AAA starts, is a good bet to join them.
And if you want to wager that Colby Lewis doesn’t have another effective year left in the big leagues, go for it.
I do miss daydreaming about Alfaro donning the mask here for 10 years, in large part because I can’t fit anyone else that’s here now into that vision.
But Cole Hamels.
So Houston hammered Minnesota last night, meaning the Twins (1.5 games back) gained no ground on Texas for the second Wild Card spot, but more importantly it cost the Rangers a game in the West, where they now sit three games back.
In 2012, the A’s were four games behind the Rangers on this date. They’d be as far as 5.5 games back with 25 games to go, and 5.0 back with just nine to go.
But as of this date in 2012, Oakland had seven games left against Texas, head to head.
Same number Texas has left with Houston.
Last night didn’t go so well, but between this date in 2012 and the end of the regular season, there were five nights on which the division-leading Rangers won and the trailing A’s lost — including two of those seven meetings between the two clubs. And we know how that race ended.
We also know how 2014 ended, and I don’t mean the 13-3 finish, because that season ended well before the last couple weeks under Tim Bogar.
In some ways it seems like a lot longer than a year ago today that Ron Washington quit. So much has happened since then, and some of it not very good — but Texas finds itself today having a playoff position to preserve and a higher seed within chasing reach, and these next four weeks are probably going to be as extraordinary, thankfully, one way or another, as the 22 that preceded them.
And, really, the last 52.
- 1999: USA Today All-America honorable mention in baseball, McDonald’s All-America nominee in basketball (Smithville High School)
- 2000: Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America (University of Missouri)
- 2002: Leads Cape Cod League in on-base percentage (Brewster Whitecaps)
- 2003: Missouri reaches NCAA Regionals; drafted by Toronto in 10th round (seven rounds before Missouri teammate Ian Kinsler); Short-Season A Auburn Doubledays reach playoffs
- 2004: High A Dunedin Blue Jays reach playoffs
- 2005: High A Dunedin Blue Jays reach playoffs
- 2006: Joins Rangers via Rule 5 (Texas selects him a round before selecting Alexi Ogando); completes playing career, earning All-Star recognition with High A Bakersfield Blaze and earning first promotion to AA (Frisco RoughRiders); teaches himself Spanish; begins coaching career
- 2008: Manages Rangers’ Dominican Summer League team to first-place finish
- 2009: Manages Rangers’ Dominican Summer League team to first-place finish
- 2010: Manages Rangers’ Arizona League team to first-place finish
- 2011: Rangers Coordinator of Instruction, Arizona and Dominican Operations; AZL team first-place finish
- 2012-2014: Rangers Minor League Field Coordinator; organization’s farm system consistently ranked top 10 by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus; 2012 Topps Organization of the Year
- 2015: Rangers Major League Field Coordinator; ________________________
I’ll fill in the blank in a couple months.
On July 28, the Yankees embarrassed Texas in Arlington, 21-5 — after which the Rangers reeled off seven of eight.
On August 12, Minnesota punished them, 11-1 — and Texas responded by winning five straight and nine of 11.
On August 26, Toronto hammered Texas, 12-4 — and since then the Rangers have won four times without losing.
On Sunday, the Rangers completed a series sweep of the Orioles — their first since May 2010 and July 2011, two seasons that have something more important in common — on the shoulders of Derek Holland, whose eighth career shutout (fifth most in franchise history, and the most of anyone who has appeared for the club at any time in the last 25 years) was not only his first without a base on balls but also featured a career-high-matching 11 punchouts. Every Orioles hitter who played on Sunday struck out. The final 14 that Holland faced were retired.
After the game, Holland said he watched fellow lefties Cole Hamels on Friday and Martin Perez on Saturday and how they handled the Baltimore lineup, and he incorporated some of what he learned from them into his Sunday gameplan.
So great, on a number of levels.
Holland is here through 2018, as long as Texas exercises its club options.
Hamels, 2019 — with the last year maybe guaranteed, maybe at the Rangers’ option.
Perez, 2020 — if Texas picks up the two option years.
Yu Darvish, 2017. And I’d like to think more.
Tack on Chi Chi Gonzalez through 2021, not to mention Shawn Tolleson through 2018 and Jake Diekman through 2018 and Sam Dyson through 2020 and Keone Kela through 2020 and a farm system that remains poised to deliver more impact talent.
I don’t get into Cy Young votes or Hall of Fame debates or All-Star snubs or any of that individual stuff, but someone asked me on Twitter after Sunday’s game who I thought the Rangers MVP was this year.
My answer: “Could it be the guy who hired Banny, Rule 5’d Delino, and traded for Hamels, Dyson, and Diekman?”
And who, on July 31, had a club that was eight games out in the division and six teams out of the second Wild Card spot . . . but didn’t trade Yovani Gallardo?
Jon Daniels has had a very good year.
That was true even before Texas rattled off a 19-9 record since that date, a mark bested by only one American League team (Toronto) in that span.
In spite of no Darvish and a very little Holland and not much more Perez, and in spite of how little the key bullpen pieces going into the season have given the club, and in spite of Rougned Odor’s first month and Shin-Soo Choo’s first half and Leonys Martin’s failure to put together even one decent month offensively.
It’s been a tremendous season of resilience, and not just in terms of wash-it-off bouncebacks from particularly ugly losses.
Texas is now within three games of Houston — two in the loss column — and a game and a half up on Minnesota in the Wild Card standings.
Today’s updated FanGraphs playoff odds have the Rangers as a 56.5 percent bet to extend their season. Of the clubs chasing the second Wild Card spot Texas now holds down, the Angels are given the best chance by FanGraphs of reaching the post-season — but only at 18 percent.
(The Baseball Prospectus version: Texas at 53.8 percent, with Minnesota next at 18.5 percent.)
It’s August 31, and it’s more likely than not that the Rangers are going to be playing baseball when the playoffs get rolling.
JD’s had a beast year.
The Rangers scored only 4, 4, and 6 runs in the three Baltimore games this weekend, but when your pitching staff holds the opposition scoreless in 25 of 27 innings (including 23 of the final 24), you’ve got a real good chance to stack up some W’s.
This dramatically overhauled bullpen, which too often this season has been asked to give the team 3.2 innings a game, was only needed for 3.2 innings against the Orioles — total.
“These are not April’s Rangers, or July’s,” ESPN’s Christina Kahrl wrote last night. “This is a team with the talent to beat anybody in a short series.” Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News) suggests Hamels, Holland, Perez, Gallardo, and Colby Lewis “could turn into the top pennant-race rotation in the majors.”
The Rangers’ longest road trip of the season (10 games) begins tonight in San Diego. Only one team (St. Louis) has been better away from home than the Rangers.
The final seven of those 10 road games are against the division.
After that is a 10-game homestand — all against the West, including four against the Astros.
Which will bring us to the season’s final two weeks: six away (three of which will be in Houston) and then seven at home.
There are 33 scheduled games remaining for Texas, which has won 21 of 30 since that embarrassment at the hands of the Yankees.
Maybe in that span we’ll be talking again about what a genius move JD’s April trade for Josh Hamilton was. Or his March trade for extraneous Cardinals lefthander Sam Freeman. Or his August trade for Mike Napoli or his August trade for Will Venable or his August signing of Drew Stubbs or, maybe, his August trade for whoever might be acquired today in time to be playoff-eligible.
Daniels has had a great year, but this is no time to be reflecting on what has happened in 2015 or who has done what.
There’s still lots of doing to be done.
A 67-61 record.
The same number of victories as the club posted in 2014 — and there’s five weeks to go.
Go .500 the rest of the way, and that’s 84 wins.
But Texas has more home games (18) left than road games (16), while Houston, which is road win away from the least in the AL, plays more games away (17) than at home (15).
Four more Rangers-Astros games in Arlington.
And three more in Houston.
If the Rangers play at the .724 clip they’ve played at over the last month and a day, they’ll finish with 91 wins.
That’ll be enough.
They don’t need to maintain that .724 pace.
Much greater than the odds have been in a long time.
But not enough.
We sat down last night to watch a couple old episodes of “Inside the Actors Studio,” the first one featuring Sting and then another starring Anthony Hopkins, the latter of whom said something toward the end of his hour that, naturally, made me think about baseball.
Today is the tomorrow I was so worried about yesterday.
Thursday, in other words, for the Rangers.
Or at least Rangers fans.
Or at least me.
Texas 4, Toronto 1 was one of the most difficult games of the season for me to watch. Coming off two kick-in-the-junk losses — one a ninth-inning spit-up and the other a savage beating — Thursday afternoon’s series-ender felt like a much more important game than it really was. The Rangers had just claimed temporary possession of a playoff position for the first time in more than two months before the Jays got to town, and gave it right back. That didn’t feel very acceptable.
I was a grumpy baseball fan, glad to have a mountain of work that allowed me only to pay peripheral attention to the day game, and even though Yovani Gallardo and the bullpen put up zero after zero, I wasn’t really enjoying the game.
I was annoyed by what’s happened to Delino DeShields’s run game and to Prince Fielder’s slug (.360 since the All-Star Break; compare Elvis Andrus’s .421).
I was irritated by the thousand two-strike pitches the Jays lineup managed to foul off.
And by another Rangers baserunner getting picked off.
I was shocked by the crowd (school, late August weather, middle of the day on a weekday — I get all that — but man, the smallest crowd since before the Rangers had been to a World Series?) and saddened by the lack of home field energy.
Though I guess I shouldn’t have been. I wasn’t feeling the energy myself. Wanted to. But wasn’t.
It was the tomorrow I’d been worried about the night before.
That’s not what sports should be about.
A year ago to the day, Texas had sent out a lineup featuring Mike Carp (.179/.297/.236) hitting third, Jim Adduci (.177/.250/.240) hitting fifth, and Adam Rosales in the six hole.
The next day, on this date last year, to celebrate Scott Lucas’s birthday Ron Washington sent Carp and Adduci back out in the same spots, with J.P. Arencibia (.170/.230/.351) hitting sixth.
That was worth a big dose of sports-despondent.
Jockeying for playoff position shouldn’t be.
Sure, Fielder has one extra-base hit over his last 63 plate appearances, but that run includes a five-game win streak and seven of nine, and imagine what kind of boost it’s gonna be when he finds his groove again.
Especially if Shin-Soo Choo and Sam Dyson don’t slow down.
With the exception of watching DeShields run circularly while Jose Bautista ran away from the plate, I don’t think I enjoyed Thursday’s game until Andrus squeezed Troy Tulowitzki’s rocket, leaving Josh Donaldson on deck as what would have been the potential tying run.
See you in October, Toronto.
Hope so, at least.
With the bullpen preserving the lead Gallardo handed off, he earned his 100th big league win, making him the fourth pitcher born in Mexico to reach that plateau (joining Fernando Valenzuela and former Rangers Esteban Loaiza and Ismael Valdez). He’s 4-0, 1.98 since the Rangers opted not to trade him on July 31. In 13.2 innings against the crazy-great Jays lineup this year, he didn’t allow any runs.
And in 13 starts this year in which he’s taken the hill following a Texas loss, Gallardo has a 7-2, 1.02 record, and that’s a really remarkable statistic that cheers me up even more than this photo . . . .
. . . which was taken by the great Tracy Proffitt not four years ago, when Jurickson Profar was in his first full pro season stateside and a year away from reaching the big leagues, but instead yesterday, as the 22-year-old grounded out, lined out, grounded out, and singled, getting his 2015 underway as Hickory teammate Dillon Tate pumped 98’s at Charleston and allowed his first run as a pro, in five appearances.
Meanwhile, three levels up, 22-year-old lefthander Andrew Faulkner is now up to 13 strikeouts (and one walk) while facing 26 AAA hitters. Over his eight Round Rock innings, he’s surrendered two singles (both to right-handed hitters), and if you want to take bets on how many more times he takes the mound in an Express uniform before he does so in a Rangers jersey, be my guest.
Hopkins said one more thing last night that resonated in the baseball part of my brain. He said to a student who was asking for advice on how to pull herself out of an acting funk: “Enjoy the profession as it unfolds for you. Think the best. . . . Just surrender and let go of it. It has nothing to do with you. None of us have any power. We’re all totally powerless. That’s the great comfort.”
He said all of that with a smile. It was meant to encourage.
Today is the tomorrow I wasn’t so worried about at the end of the day yesterday, since Texas pulled one out against that formidable Jays team, and since Cole Hamels gets an Orioles team tonight that’s lost seven of eight. The home crowd will be better. The energy will be greater. The Rangers are once again in a playoff spot as action gets underway today, and that’s good.
Of course, we — you and me — are totally powerless in this equation, and Kevin Gausman and the Orioles could take care of Hamels and the Rangers, in which case tomorrow my baseball mood will have probably done the kind of 180 that Jose Bautista did as Delino DeShields flew.
We’re totally powerless, but it’s the last weekend in August, every game and just about every pitch matters, and I’m not wondering whether Mike Carp will be hitting third again tonight.
In that there’s great comfort.
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.
“Don’t look now, but the Texas Rangers are now in Wild Card position.”
Let’s go, Cole.
Win the damn series.
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.