Los Angeles 4, Houston 3 and Texas 8, Oakland 6 were two excruciatingly difficult games to watch and endure, relentlessly tense and intense.  

The mathematically satisfying result of those two final scores: a two-game Rangers lead in the West.

So tired, and unremittingly uneasy, but I was glued.  

Both games were the sports embodiment of “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” I phrase we’ll hear a lot today as Yogi Berra is mourned.  

Berra is best known, at least by the last couple generations, as one of the great American characters, but he was unquestionably one of the Great Game’s players, a three-time MVP and 10-time World Series champion.  

He was a catcher who occasionally played in the outfield, but after the most momentary of consideration I think that’s a topic we’ll avoid further discussion on, in present context (perhaps leaning on a little Berra advice in doing so: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”). 

Rest in peace, Yogi.

One final episode of late night West Coast Baseball tonight, but this time Astros-Angels (1:10 start) will be well over by time the Rangers and A’s get going.  Which could make watching tonight’s game better.  Or worse.

The range of outcomes going into this weekend’s Rangers-Astros series in Houston, thanks to last night’s nerve-racking and awesome results, is now a half-game Rangers lead in the division at worst, a 3.5-game Texas edge at best.  

The Rangers have decided not to start Cole Hamels in that series, instead giving him tomorrow’s finale in Oakland on regular rest so that he’d be available for Game 162 if needed, but the fact is the Astros series will get rolling with Texas atop the division, regardless.  

Colby Lewis and Hamels have a chance in Oakland, late tonight and then tomorrow afternoon, to push the lead closer to the high end.  While Hamels has been pushed up to Thursday’s start, the A’s have decided to go with righthander Chris Bassitt rather than Sonny Gray.  That’s good.  I think.

First things first.  Lewis and Felix Doubront tonight.  

We’ll watch tired, and it will be super-tense.  

And if all goes well, both in Houston and in Oakland, maybe we’ll be treated to a little deja vu all over again, cut generously into six slices rather than four.

Because we’re hungry.


There will be disappointing and maybe ominous nights, and Monday was one of those, unless your prevailing desire is to see the sorry Angels keep digging toward six feet.  

The lead in the West is now one game.  The cushion for the fallback right to travel (most likely to New York) for a one-or-done Wild Card matchup is four games.

But the lead in the West: One.

And if they’d come away with anything other than that four-game sweep over Houston last week, the Rangers would be second in the division right now.

A one-game lead.

It’s one game narrower than what the Rangers took with them to Oakland on Monday, October 1, 2012, with three games left on the schedule.  

Martin Perez got the ball in the opener of that series, and lost.

Texas faced ordinary lefthander Travis Blackley in the second game, and lost.

In the third game, Ryan Dempster couldn’t hold a 5-1 lead and Josh Hamilton couldn’t hold a lazy fly ball and Texas couldn’t hold onto its division lead, and what had been a five-game edge in the West with nine to go ended up with Texas out of first place after Game 162 for the first time since Game 3. 

It’s a similar story line in some ways to Houston’s in 2015, but the Astros have more time to right their ship, and Texas finds itself heading back to Oakland, three years later, with Perez once again entrusted with series opener duties.

He’ll face lefthander Sean Nolin, whose only Major League win in four tries came last week.  Against the Rangers.

This isn’t a Mavs-Heat-level redemption opportunity, but Texas needs to go to Oakland and exorcise that 2012 demon (or at least tase it) while Houston fattens up at home on the super-sorry Angels.

Regardless of how this story plays out, it’s been an extraordinary baseball season.  It’s crazy-remarkable that the Rangers have a lead to protect with less than two weeks to go, and that they’ve made it so these next three in Oakland as huge as they are.  2015 has been a blast.

When the Rangers arrive in Houston for the weekend, they could have as much as a 3.5-game lead.

Or a 1.5-game deficit.  

Or some x.5 variable in between.

Dallas Keuchel predictably improved to 14-0 at home last night, and his next start will come in Sunday’s series and (scheduled) season finale between the Astros and Rangers.  In Houston.  

He’s the first pitcher in big league history to go 14-0 at home.  I’m not sure how many have gone 14-1.

But before the weekend, there are three huge games for Texas in Oakland, and two more Angels games for the Astros to host.

Since that brutal three-game spit-up to finish the 2012 schedule, Texas has actually been pretty good (15-10) in O.co Coliseum.

West Coast baseball for the final time this year.  Two late nights and a mid-afternoon contest, just like October 1, 2, and 3, 2012.  

I’ll be exhausted.  Lose a late one, and I’ll go to bed grumpy and won’t sleep well.  Win a late one, and I won’t be able to fall asleep through the adrenaline, and won’t sleep well.  

I’ll be exhausted, and that’s exponentially better than not having anything meaningful to watch other than next June’s draft order.

When I think of O.co, I think of #poopdugouts and the disastrous three days of the 2012 season that preceded Joe Saunders 5, Texas 1 and a shockingly immediate off-season.

Time to redefine.  One at a time.  Let’s go, Martin.

No more off-days.  

Here comes the sprint.  

Play hurt, watch tired, let’s go.

Sport of King’s.

Today’s the final day off for Texas within the scheduled 162.  

The Mariners are off as well, which could enable them to give their starters an extra day of rest.  If they do that, Felix Hernandez — who sits at 18 wins and has never won 20 — will face the Angels on Saturday and then Oakland on Friday the 1st.  He’d miss the Astros, whom Seattle hosts for three starting a week from tonight, by one day.

Considering that Hernandez left his start against the Rangers yesterday with elbow stiffness, there would seem to be added incentive for the Mariners give King Felix that extra day between starts, assuming they let him pitch at all.  They control him through 2020.

Maybe it’s a stroke of luck for Texas that Hernandez probably won’t face Houston again, considering the Astros chased him with one out in the first inning of his lone start against them this season, scoring eight runs (single-walk-double-E1-walk-strikeout-homer-single-homer) in what would be a 10-0 hammering.

The thing about it that jumped out at me is Hernandez has faced Texas five times in 2015, logging a win each time (5-0, 1.83, Rangers slash line of .168/.267/.269).  It’s mathematically only a little unexpected for a starter to face a division opponent five times out of a scheduled 19 match-ups.  It’s crazy for him to face a division opponent just once in that many games.

Again, it might be a good thing that the Astros didn’t draw Hernandez another two or three times this year, considering how they jumped all over him on June 12, but I’d bet they’d be less than 10-6 against Seattle this season if Hernandez did get another shot or two or more at them.

Perhaps more to the point, if the Rangers saw Hernandez three or four times in 2015, rather than five times in the clubs’ six series, maybe their unsightly 7-12 record against the Mariners wouldn’t be quite so unsightly.  

Anyway, here we go.  Travel day today, then three in Oakland and three in Houston, followed by the final seven at home, three with Detroit and four with Los Angeles.

For the Astros: Angels and Rangers for three each at home, and then on the road for three in Seattle and three in Arizona.

A game and a half separate Texas and Houston.  

After tonight that margin will be one game, or two.  

Dallas Keuchel against Jered Weaver, in Minute Maid Park, where Keuchel never loses (13-0, 1.49 this year).

It’s the Rangers’ final day off.

Unless you want to count two weeks from today, when the hope is the club is making preparations for that Thursday’s Game One in Toronto or Kansas City, or possibly New York.



Four in a row at the expense of the team you were chasing, relegating them to chaser.

Twelve of 16 overall against those Astros (including seven straight), which in a way defines the current AL West standings.

Nineteen wins in the last 23 home games, an emphatic demonstration of #CastleDoctrine baseball.

Ten remaining at home for the Rangers, six away for the American’s League best road team.  For the Astros: Nine home, six away for the AL’s worst road bunch.

(Evan Drellich [Houston Chronicle]: “Psychologically, this trip hurts on two levels: the road has really become a terror for [the] Astros, beyond what it was, and so have the Rangers.”)

Nine wins in 10 career decisions against Houston for Colby Lewis, Warrior-Beast.

A .500/.579/1.063 series for Prince (maybe, just maybe . . . definitely) Fielder.

Attendance in the 20k’s for the first two Rangers-Astros games, then 30k’s for the last two, and here comes the weekend.

Texas and Houston, at Minute Maid, three times, starting a week from tonight.

All three playoff odds generators have Texas as a 92.1 percent bet to reach the post-season, and somewhere between 68.9 percent and 69.5 percent to hang on in the division.

But those are all just numbers.  What we’re experiencing right now isn’t mathematical as much as it is magical, a near-nightly expression of why we invest ourselves like we do.

This isn’t about numbers right now.  It’s about competing and executing and chasing something relentlessly and getting the job done, with new guys stepping up night to night.

And this isn’t over.  There will be disappointing and maybe ominous nights over the next two and a half weeks.  But Texas has resoundingly positioned itself so that the setbacks may not be as damaging and, on the heels of the most spectacular series this club has had in a really long time, so that it will take more of those setbacks now to wreck this thing than anyone could have ever imagined in mid-March, or mid-May, or mid-July.

The numbers can be predictive, and they can be instructive, but the bottom line is in stacking up the W’s, no matter how it is that you get the job done.

The numbers, ultimately, wash out.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

Let’s go.

Rock and roll.

I like live music, and I like my wife, and so when she asked me a couple months ago if we could go see Lenny Kravitz in mid-September to celebrate her birthday . . . sure, absolutely.

Because there’s a small chance she’s reading this, I will say that my answer would have been the same no matter how the Rangers season was going on July 2 (hey, I agreed to get married on a date that from time to time comes back around on Opening Day) — but the fact is that Texas was six games out in the division and sixth in the chase for the league’s two Wild Card spots on that date, so even if it had occurred to me to factor in the possibility that Houston in Arlington on September 16 might mean something (and I’m not saying it did, Ging . . . really I’m not . . . no, really), and even though I’ve never been a big Lenny fan, the calendar looked completely clear on that Wednesday night a couple months down the road, and I was all in.

We bought the tickets.  The Rangers then lost 10 of 13.  And were nine games out.  And ninth in the Wild Card chase.

Fast forward to last night.

I did manage to keep tastefully close tabs on Texas 14, Houston 3 as it unfolded on the dimmed screen of my phone, and I might have even delivered a tweet or two as Lenny delivered another song that sounded oddly like the one before it (though I’m not saying I did that, Ging . . . don’t bother clicking that jumplink, please).  

Three games into a four-game series, and into seven head-to-heads as the scheduled 162 draw to a close, and Texas hasn’t lost.  

Yesterday afternoon, Richard Justice (MLB.com) noted that Houston was 20-9 in games started by Cy Young favorite Dallas Keuchel, and 57-59 in all other games.

Now, resoundingly, it’s 20-10.

Speaking of 2010 . . . . 

No, no.  Not now.  As Jeff Banister told reporters late last night: “This is not an exhale moment.” 

There’s another game to win tonight.  

Sixteen more games after that.

But there’s something special going on right now, and if you’d told me on July 2 that there’d be 6,800 walk-up tickets sold for Texas-Houston on September 16, and that I’d be asked that mid-September week to do four out-of-market radio and Web hits (including this ESPN Podcast on Tuesday with Jonah Keri and Houston Chronicle writer Evan Drellich, which was a blast) after fewer than that the previous year and a half combined, then I might have examined the idea of a Wednesday night Lenny Kravitz show in Allen a little more critically.

(I’m not saying I would’ve, Ging . . . just might’ve . . . I mean . . . never mind.)

It’s highly unlikely, as Lenny delivered “Don’t come hanging ‘round my door / I don’t wanna see your shadow no more,” that I was thinking about Texas and Houston and who now owns the shadow, and I seriously doubt that I thought back to the Rangers’ first half during “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over,” and there’s very little chance, Ging, that I imagined A.J. Hinch and Jeff Banister, in uniform, karaoking a bit: 

Hinch: “I want to get away.  I want to flyyyyyyy away.”

Banny: “Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.”  

Texas beat the Astros, 2-1, in a Keuchel start in Houston on May 4.  Keuchel didn’t take the loss — he hasn’t taken a loss at home all year.  

That game was nothing like last night’s.  Ross Detwiler started it for Texas.  Adam Rosales (hitting .148) started in place of Rougned Odor (hitting .146).  Delino DeShields was a bench player — for one more day, as Leonys Martin would injure his wrist that night.  The Rangers won with a tying run in the eighth and the decisive run in the ninth.

Last night’s, on the other hand, was an absolute butt-whipping from the get-go.  

It gave Texas a 70-51 record between those two Keuchel-Texas matchups, good for second best in the American League.

Houston is 59-62 over that same stretch, 10th in the league.

Last night also padded a first-place perch in the division for the 2015 Texas Rangers, something that even the glass-half-full set could never have envisioned back when we bought tickets to see Lenny Kravitz.  

+0.5 or +2.5.

Are you kidding me?

Like the man says, I guess: You just got to believe.

Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

(Love you, Ging.)

First hand.

Tony Gutierrez, STF/AP

                                   Tony Gutierrez, STF/AP

The last time Texas was in sole possession of first place, leadoff hitter Michael Choice and three-hole hitter Alex Rios and six-hole hitter Donnie Murphy (not David, not Daniel — but Donnie) drove in the Ranger runs, and Martin Perez went the distance, outdueling one of the league’s best pitchers, Oakland’s Sonny Gray.

Tonight, 511 days later, it’s Martin Perez against one of the league’s best pitchers, Houston’s Dallas Keuchel.

-1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

But for now: +0.5.

Banny Astros

The Great Nick Pants

                                                         The Great Nick Pants

108, 5-3, and 0.5.

And maybe, just maybe, Prince.

(Awkward lede, perhaps, but it’ll look cool in the book, I think.)

The game pitted Cole Hamels against Scott Kazmir, who’d faced off twice before in their big league careers, once in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series (Philadelphia 3, Tampa Bay 2) and again in Game 5 (Philadelphia 4, Tampa Bay 3), minutes after which the Commissioner handed Hamels the World Series MVP hardware.

A little less at stake in this one, but my adrenaline and my heartbeat and my stomach didn’t really get that.  

It was a beautiful and grotesque and exhilarating and frustrating and awful and awesome baseball game, and I was 100 percent locked in and at times almost unable to watch.  

That’s what makes mid-September baseball games that matter the best and the worst and the reason we commit head-first.

Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) tweeted this morning that you best “watch out for Texas . . . no team was more underrated in pre-season predictions,” while Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) pointed out that the Rangers “have not had sole possession of first place in [the] AL West this year.  Not once.  They can change that on Tuesday.”  

Anthony Bass (Texas Rangers bullpen) tweeted, to the fewer than 28,000 who sounded like twice that: “That was LOUD tonight!  Keep it coming . . . . ” 

After Jake Diekman and Keone Kela relieved Hamels and kept a tie game knotted up in the top of the eighth, and not without a little drama, Fielder did remotely familiar Fielder things to a Will Harris pitch with one out and one on in the bottom of the inning that maybe should have never happened — strike two looked like it should have been ball four — as he obliterated 92, middle-middle, 408 feet to straightaway center with exit velocity that registered in miles per hour at 108, which is the number of stitches on a baseball, though if you told me Prince unstitched a few on that swing I’d buy it.

A dozen pitches later it was time for Shawn Tolleson.  Carlos Correa’s single to center brought Jonathan Villar to the plate as the tying run — only because Jed Lowrie had left the game four innings earlier with a shin bruise — and though Tolleson induced a 4-3 double play (that Correa could have executed better mentally) and proceeded to then get ahead of Colby Rasmus, 1-2, with a 5-3 lead and nobody on base, Angels closer Huston Street had Houston down to its final strike with the bases empty and a three-run cushion just a day earlier, after which he allowed five straight Astros to both reach and score. 

If Street had managed to preserve a 3-0 lead on Sunday by throwing one more strike with the bases empty, Tolleson’s matchup with Rasmus would have been for the AL West lead. 

But it wasn’t.

Ball two.

Strike three.  

(Swinging, effectively taking Gerry Davis out of the equation.)

-3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5. 

And yeah, if Street hadn’t violently spit the Angels-Astros game up Sunday afternoon, Texas would be ahead of everyone else in the AL West right now, for the first time all year.

Maybe, just maybe, tonight.

Prince HOU HR copy 2


This isn’t the finish line, but it does feel like Frank Shorter entering the stadium.

And that’s no impostor joining him on the track.

Forget all about that playoff odds generator, or that one, or that one.

It’s Hamels, Perez, Holland, and Lewis, against Correa, Altuve, Springer, and Rasmus.

And Kazmir, McHugh, Keuchel, and McCullers, against Choo, Beltre, Rougie, and maybe, just maybe, Prince.

If Springer didn’t catch the ball, Texas would be a half-game up right now.

But that doesn’t matter, either.

It’s 14 of the remaining 20 at home for the Rangers, and 10 of 19 on the road for the Astros, but whatever happens in these four in Arlington and then the three in Houston in a week and a half could make the rest a good bit less pivotal.

On May 3, just four weeks into the season, Texas was a whopping 9.5 games back in the division, having won a meager one-third of its games.  It was the biggest AL West deficit the club has dug for itself all season, and at 8-16 it was also the furthest under .500 the Rangers have been this year.

On that same date, Houston won a season-best 10th straight, and was 7.0 games up on the West, also a high mark for the club in 2015.

Since then: 

The Rangers are 67-51.

The Astros are 59-59.

That also doesn’t matter.

-5.5, -3.5, -1.5, +0.5, or +2.5.

These next four matter.  A lot.

Let’s go.

Banny Astros

Let’s go.

Crazy talk.

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.

One year.

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.  

Joe Saunders.

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.


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