I opened the door for the dog this morning and walked outside with her before the sun came up. It was 59 degrees. That was awesome.
I stood next to the swimming pool, and its completely still waters, calm and calming and peaceful . . . and lifeless. It hit me that the end of pool season may have passed before I was ready. Not awesome.
It managed to prime the pit in my stomach that was already there, courtesy of baseball.
Yesterday’s gut punch, courtesy of baseball, was tough. Real tough.
I walked in from that gaping hole in the backyard ground, deep and dark and lethargic and uncool, and sat down to a stack of online reading that I’d started last night. First up, this article by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, which includes this starkly imaged sentence:
[Nelson] Cruz, who says he last saw his teammates Aug. 30, can be found at the Rangers instructional league camp these days. He’s the occupant of locker No. 120 in the minor league clubhouse, right across from the table tennis table.
And this gut punch, more staggering:
“My first thought was to appeal, and right up to the last day I told (the Rangers) my decision was to appeal,” Cruz says. “That was my plan. It’s hard to explain it, but at the end it wasn’t my decision. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. It came out of my hands.”
And this Nightengale note, maybe less staggering than striking:
The Rangers, trying to solve that power void [left by Cruz’s suspension], tried to pull off a blockbuster deal for Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton before the July 31 trade deadline. The Rangers offered starter Matt Garza, All-Star closer Joe Nathan and outfielder David Murphy, but they were rejected, two high-ranking club officials told USA TODAY Sports. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to publicly talk about personnel decisions.
With the wound of Kansas City 4, Texas 0 still fresh, the timing of the Nightengale article and all that it implied basically ensured that this pit in my stomach isn’t quite ready to go away.
Then again, if you’re prone to imagining where things would be this morning had Upton arrived to replace Murphy (setting aside for the moment what would have happened in the absence of Garza’s innings and with everyone in the bullpen asked to pitch in a higher-leverage role), take a look at what Upton has done since then.
In August — when Texas was just fine, winning 20 of 27 — he hit a robust .298/.362/.631.
In September — a 5-15 month for the Rangers to date — he’s been a .236/.329/.375 hitter. Which is basically what the Texas offense has been as a whole this month (.246/.297/.377).
Upton would have cost Craig Gentry (.333/.366/.410 in September) some amount of playing time, and rhythm.
He would have also essentially cost C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, two months of Murphy, and a pennant race void left by Nathan’s departure, if the story is accurate.
Of course, the Upton trade would have been more about 2014 and 2015 — trading Garza days after acquiring him and moving your closer is essentially a sell move — just as the Alex Rios trade was made in part because Texas knew it would have him next year, when free agents Cruz and Murphy could be elsewhere.
For now, Rios has been a reasonably bright light as the rest of the offense flags, hitting .275/.318/.463 in September, far from a blistering slash but one that stands out in a lineup that’s been so lifeless of late.
Last night, Rios tweeted this: “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”
I’m not sure how to square that with the image of that stupid, inanimate pool in my backyard this morning, but I get what Rios is saying. He’s never played a big league playoff game in his 10 years, and he’s in a mood to try and gut that trend as long as the math allows.
Tonight’s game matters, tomorrow’s will too, and Texas can do its part to make sure they keep mattering all week. This is an exceptional organization that’s had more adversity to overcome this year than its fair share, and I’m not willing to give up on anything yet.
Seven left at home, the first three against Houston. Taking care of business against the Astros would not only keep hope alive; it would create some much-needed momentum heading into the final four against the Angels, who are playing well.
As far as these last few days are concerned, a continuation of the trend not only of treading water with a loss every other game after a brutal losing streak, but also of dropping them by the narrowest of margins, which naturally trains the lens on things like late-inning bullpen management, my pockets are empty. The best I can do is dredge up a series of tweets I posted after the especially tough 12-inning loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday:
Disagreeing with certain of a manager’s tactics and wishing they were different is not the same as wanting that manager fired.
Unless NYY pulls off a miracle, the only team with legit chance to be playoff team last four years is Texas. Given health issues this year . . .
. . . if it doesn’t quite happen for Texas, it doesn’t mean that a top-level head needs to roll. Baseball is hard.
All that said, getting better & stronger in every single aspect of an org’s attack is always a priority — even for a World Series winner.
And getting better & stronger doesn’t necessarily mean that has to come from different personnel. People (not just ballplayers) can improve.
This month of baseball has been extraordinarily difficult, but at this point in the season in 1972 and 1973 and 1975 and 1976 and 1977 and 1980 and 1982 and 1983 and 1984 and 1985 and 1986 and 1987 and 1988 and 1989 and 1990 and 1991 and 1992 and 1997 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008, the math said the Texas Rangers baseball season was over.
I’ll be out at the Ballpark three times this week, at least. I plan on each of those games mattering. There’s still life in the math, and I’m not done.
Because it’s baseball, and my team still has a shot.
It looks like temps are going to get back up into the 90s for much of this baseball week.
Maybe there’s another swim left.
Every announcer said it, and every tweet tweeted it:
“That was the Matt Garza the Rangers thought they were getting when they traded for him.”
That was better.
Against a hot team (winners of 17 of its last 25), in front of its third-biggest home crowd of the season, chasing its first playoff berth in 28 years, and on his own club’s heels with just two games of separation (8.5 games closer than four weeks earlier), Garza — who’d managed to contribute only 15.1 innings in his last three starts (0-3, 8.22), getting tuned up at a .349/.400/.508 rate — was exceptional.
When Ron Washington sent Garza out to the mound for the ninth inning of what was then a 3-0 ballgame, among the things the righthander had done was retire the leadoff hitter in every single inning. Huge.
He’d thrown a remarkable 73 percent of his pitches for strikes, and started off 20 of 29 hitters with strike one.
His control (one walk) was nothing compared to his command.
And on a night when the bullpen, a source of frustration (if not a little confusion) the few days leading up to it, with an afternoon game on deck — and a not-fully-stretched-out Alexi Ogando getting the start — was in need of some amount of a break, Garza gave his teammates a massive helping of I-got-this, needing no relief until Eric Hosmer broke the shutout and ended Garza’s night with a solo homer to start the ninth.
And get this.
If you’re wondering whether Texas just rode Garza hard last night, desperate to save the bullpen and indifferent to any residual long-term effect on Garza’s arm since he’s likely to be in a different uniform this winter, he made the decision a pretty easy one: The 12.1 pitches per inning that the 29-year-old logged last night were fewer than in any other of his 23 starts all season.
And fewer than in any of his 18 starts in 2012.
Or his 31 starts in 2011.
Or his 32 starts in 2010.
Or his 32 starts in 2009.
In fact, Garza, who has started 190 big league games — 195 if you count playoffs — has made only two starts in which he was more economical with his pitches: a 9-1-1-1-1-10 gem on June 26, 2008 against Florida (on the road, meaning he got to face the pitcher a couple times) and a complete-game shutout against Toronto on July 29, 2008, in which he allowed five hits and one walk, fanning five — the same number of hits and walks and strikeouts on his ledger last night.
In those two 2008 games, Garza averaged 12.0 and 11.8 pitches per inning.
As for last night’s 97 pitches in eight-plus innings, if Hosmer’s opposite-field shot happened to find Craig Gentry’s glove instead of the Kansas City bullpen, then we’re looking at 97 in 8.1 frames, and the most economical effort (11.6 pitches per inning) of Matt Garza’s entire big league career. In what was, to date, the most important game of the 2013 Texas Rangers season.
That’s more than what the Rangers thought they were getting.
Texas has had only three starts of at least seven innings this season more economical than last night’s Garza gem: Derek Holland’s 92 pitches in nine innings (10.2 per) when he shut out the Yankees on two hits on June 27, Yu Darvish’s 81 pitches in seven frames (11.6 per) in his 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh on September 9, and Martin Perez’s 82 in seven (11.7 per) against the Cardinals on June 22.
The thing about Ryan Dempster’s Ranger rental from the Cubs last summer was that, even though he followed a clunky debut start with a reasonably good stretch (7-2, 3.56 in nine starts), all I will ever remember about his time in Texas is those final two starts, a brutal 5.2-inning effort against the Angels in a loss that would start the Rangers’ 1-6 slide to finish the regular season and spit up a healthy division lead, and an even worse showing in Oakland in Game 162, failing to hold a 5-1 lead after three, allowing four straight A’s to reach to start the fourth and end his day and any real chance the Rangers had to avoid the Wild Card game that would kill their season.
Those two starts are all I’ll remember about Dempster as a Ranger.
Matt Garza has one more start to make. It will be Thursday in the series opener against the Angels, in Arlington, in Game 159.
If it turns out that he shoves again that night, helping his team avoid falling short of this year’s Wild Card game, then I guarantee you that, like Dempster the year before, all I will remember about Garza’s time in Texas — his regular season time in Texas — will be his final two starts.
Hours from now, Texas will play its final road game of the season.
Four days from now, Garza will make his final start as a Ranger.
Unless there’s more of each that fits in the 162+ category, which is something back when Texas traded for Garza we all thought we’d get, but which, due to a September tailspin, is in serious doubt right now.
Last night Garza relieved a little bit of that doubt, nearly all by himself.
How long ago was September 29, 2009?
The Rangers sent Scott Feldman to the mound, in search of his 18th win.
He was relieved by Guillermo Moscoso and Pedro Strop and Willie Eyre.
Rookie Julio Borbon led off, taking a .318/.384/.432 slash into the game.
Hank Blalock was on the team.
Mike Napoli pinch-hit for Vladimir Guerrero.
On the other team.
The final score in the game that the Rangers played on September 29, 2009 was Los Angeles 5, Texas 2.
The Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention that day.
At all times in the nearly four years since the five games that remained in that 2009 season, Texas has been in control of its own destiny.
If Texas loses ground tonight to Cleveland (who hosts the Astros again, assuming the umpires aren’t worried that they might get wet), it will be the first time since the end of 2009 that the Rangers’ ultimate fate is dependent on more than just their own wins and losses.
Let’s go, Matt Garza.
This is why.
Yu Darvish vs. Matt Moore.
Darvish, whose team has been so offensively unsupportive lately, against Moore, who had thrown 5.1 scoreless innings and another 10 innings of one-run ball against Texas in his brief career and who boasted a 1.64 ERA in his eight starts since July 1st, and whose own Rays teammates haven’t been scoring lots of runs themselves of late.
You probably expected last night to go something like the way Darvish-Gerrit Cole (1-0 loss) and Darvish-Bartolo Colon (1-0 loss) went the last two times the Rangers ace took the mound.
And then a combined 183 pitches were thrown in the first four innings.
The game saw 35 batters, nearly two per half-inning, reach base against the right-handed and left-handed beasts and six relievers.
Even if you somehow expected the beleaguered Texas and Tampa Bay offenses to regularly put Darvish and Moore in pressure situations, the thought of the Rangers hitting three (and nearly four) home runs in the span of four batters probably didn’t figure into your thinking.
You probably didn’t expect the number nine hitter (Mitch Moreland), who was the one left-handed hitter in the lineup against Moore, to go off all night, laying off pitches outside the zone and barreling up on the ones he could do something with, or the fourth outfielder mired in a 1-for-18 stupor (Craig Gentry) to thrown down a triple, three singles, and three stolen bases, or the backup catcher (Geovany Soto) to go deep and, more importantly, to cut down two would-be basestealers with Darvish on the ropes in the second inning.
Or the demoted southpaw reliever (Robbie Ross), sporting a 6.08 ERA (not counting the 8 of 20 inherited runners he allowed to score) and .330/.380/.510 opponents’ slash over the last three months, to come in and shove like 2012 Robbie Ross with two innings of perfect baseball, starting with three straight swinging strikeouts in the sixth.
Darvish, grinding and battling and surviving without fastball command and without his best stuff and posting just the 26th highest Game Score of his 30 starts this season, got all of nine swinging strikes in five frames.
Ross got five swinging strikes in his first inning of work.
Getting that Robbie Ross back would mean not only another weapon to trust in the pen, but also a chance to ease the load, even if slightly, on the critically important Neal Cotts as Texas heads into these last 10 critically important games.
It was adrenalizing to see Texas take it to the other guys on the bases, reminiscent of August as well as of the 2010 American League Division Series that saw the Rangers win three times at Tropicana Field to advance in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
I don’t know if Texas will be able to hold on these next 10 days to advance to 162+ again, or if it might mean another trip to the Trop for Game 163, but there were all kinds of good signs last night giving us a glimpse of what this team can be, again, as it tries to extend its season and build some momentum in the process.
Even if those good signs last night didn’t include the one thing we all expected to see.
The Rangers started the season with a 15-7 record. (They were actually 16-7, but work with me here.)
Since August 21, Texas is 7-15. (The club is 6-15 since the day after that, but, you know, symmetry.)
Flip those two 22-game stretches. Imagine that the Rangers started 2013 with a 7-15 record – where the Astros were after 22 games – and were on a 15-7 tear going into tonight. How fired up would we be that Texas is 81-68 and in control of a Wild Card spot?
New day today. 81-68, Wild Card. Thirteen games to go.
Start with that, and forget when the good stretches were, and the bad ones.
Right now, this is a playoff team.
Start with that.
(That’s all I got this morning.)
American legal doctrine that designates a person’s abode as a place in which that person has certain protections and immunities permitting him or her, in certain circumstances, to use force (up to and including deadly force) to defend against an intruder — free from legal responsibility/prosecution for the consequences of the force used.
antonym: Whatever the word is for going an entire six-game homestand without having a lead in any one game at any one point . . . a stretch over which the club fails to hit a home run, the longest such streak at home since before Rangers Ballpark opened and in fact since before Nolan Ryan joined the Rangers as a player . . . losing two straight home series of at least three games each for the first time since 1973, a 105-loss season in which Texas was managed by Whitey Herzog, Del Wilber, and Billy Martin.
Cleveland beat the White Sox yesterday for the 12th straight time, pulling to within a half-game of Texas and Tampa Bay, who at the moment hold down the two American League Wild Card spots, with the Rangers owning home field for now given their 2-1 edge over the Rays in head-to-head competition going into the four-game series that starts tonight at Tropicana Field.
Reach back for happier times and you might recall that, in 2010, in the Rangers’ first playoff series in a baseball generation, Texas and Tampa Bay went the distance in their best-of-five ALDS — and the road team won every single game. In 2011, when the two clubs met again in the ALDS, the road team won three out of four.
Fast-forward to the present and you might feel that heading back out on the road might be the best thing for the Rangers, regardless of any history with the Rays.
Cleveland visits Kansas City for three starting tonight, and with both of those clubs chasing Texas and Tampa Bay there’s this interesting note, courtesy of ESPN’s Buster Olney:
In that Indians-Royals game, the starting pitchers are slated to be ex-Ray Scott Kazmir and ex-Ray James Shields.
In tonight’s Rangers-Rays game, the starters will be ex-Ray Matt Garza and current Ray Alex Cobb.
Fourteen games left. Texas visits Tampa Bay for four and Kansas City for three before returning home for three against Houston and a season-ending four against the Angels.
Tampa Bay hosts Baltimore for four once Texas leaves town, and then travels to New York for three and Toronto for three.
After Cleveland finishes in Kansas City, it’s home for four against Houston and two against the White Sox before heading to Minnesota for four to finish its regular season. That’s sort of scary.
I suppose you can’t ignore the Orioles and Yankees and their own chase for a Game 163, but I choose not to because if the Rangers let one of those teams back in, it will mean this tailspin will have continued and that’s something I’m not willing to get my head wrapped around. If instead it’s the Rays and Indians who let Baltimore or New York overtake them and the Rangers are faced as a result with a win-or-go-home game against one of those AL East clubs, fine. Absolutely fine.
Look, I’m as numb as anyone right now. I can’t understand what has happened to this team, which has immediately followed a historically great 22-6 run of baseball with a stunning 3-12 nosedive.
But there are two weeks of games left on the schedule, and Texas is a playoff team at the moment. “The Newsroom’s” season ended last night. The Rangers’ season didn’t.
Looking at my email and Twitter timeline, it’s evident that there are some of you who are done with the 2013 Rangers. Giving up.
Think back to that dominant 22-6 run that immediately preceded this deflating 3-12.
Nothing’s over. Gut this thing out. If 162+ happens, chances are it will be because this team again started playing baseball worth watching, when it matters most.
Jon Daniels: “We’re either going to get it done or not. But I’ll always bet on our guys.”
Maybe this works out, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you don’t choose to bet on our guys, maybe you do. But we’re staring at the final two out of 26 weeks, with no breaks in the action, and with nothing but urgent baseball, and some of you are walking away? Look at all but three of the 38 seasons from 1972 through 2009 for a quick little reminder of where this franchise used to always be at this point. Look at 2010 and 2011, and even 2012, and appreciate where this franchise is. There will be a day — probably a lot of years from now, but it will happen — when with two weeks left on the schedule the baseball season really will be over. That day is not today.
It’s time to storm someone else’s castle. For those of you who have turned in your ball card for the season, the rest of us will let you know how it turns out.
This is one of those thought bubbles that I tend to turn into 3000 words (that is, 2500 too many) (and have no fear, I have one of those teed up in my head for one of the next few mornings), but I’m going to keep this short and move on from it, mentally as much as anything.
For a handful of reasons, it’s getting more difficult to go outside your own organization and make major-impact additions. The free agent market looks to be thin this winter, again, and more and more teams are coming into big TV money, wanting to spend. That (along with pseudo-caps in Latin America) should increase competition in the international market, and make farm system depth and strength more important than ever.
That last part bodes well for Texas, but maybe not for a couple years in terms of impact prospects helping in Arlington.
But some of that strength can help immediately, as we saw with C.J. Edwards two months ago.
The part about all of this that invaded my head this morning — for the first time — and I’d like to think potentially the last — is that I suppose there’s a way of looking at things that suggests there’s a window in Arlington that, while it’s not closing, is extraordinarily wide open right now and could conceivably be less open in a few years.
Look at the trades Detroit has made the last few years (Curtis Granderson [nearing free agency] and Edwin Jackson for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson and more; Jacob Turner and more for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante; loading up for free agents Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter), and you might conclude that Tigers ownership and baseball operations collectively decided to load up during the Miguel Cabrera era, to pack as much into that envisioned window as possible. Because he’s Miguel Cabrera in his prime and that’s the sensible thing to do.
Yu Darvish is the best pitcher-in-his-prime that the Rangers have ever reached a long-term commitment with. There’s no future Darvish on the farm — which is no denigration considering you can’t point to a franchise that can objectively boast having a future Darvish in development right now — and, in this altered baseball landscape, a diminishing confidence that you are the organization most likely to land the next one. That’s just the reality. Texas is still elite in that scouting respect, but its company — out of baseball-economic necessity — is increasing.
Darvish is here in 2014 and 2015 and 2016 and, unless he has multiple top-four finishes in the AL Cy Young between now and 2016 (that is, a first and another top-four, or a second and two other top-fours), 2017.
Do the Rangers need to exploit the Darvish window — and here’s the part that shook me a little this morning — not only to take advantage of his guaranteed time in Texas but also to maximize their chances of getting him to extend his commitment here?
There may be a dozen high-end, potential impact prospects on the Rangers farm. The likelihood of any of them making an impact by 2016 is slim.
That is, it’s unlikely any of them will make a real, outlook-altering impact in Texas by 2016.
But for Texas?
Let’s backburner that for another time.
Beat Oakland today. Forget the West. Just win games. Starting now.
Beat Oakland today.
When Nelson Cruz wakes up this morning in Surprise, a 33-year-old getting ready to hit in a group of teenagers that might include Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, Travis Demeritte, and Juremi Profar, taking live BP against Chi-Chi Gonzalez or Alec Asher or Marcos Diplan, a thousand miles west of his nuclear baseball family while surrounded by 77 Texas Rangers ballplayers a generation younger, he’ll probably have the same first thought of the day he’s had every day for a while now, wondering if his Rangers career is over, or if there will be another chance, whether in October or in 2014, wondering — like me and you — who is going to step up these final two and a half weeks to make sure the 2013 season moves past 162, so he can contribute something again this year, in the calendar month that so far has defined his career.
Will it be Adrian Beltre, whose baseball team this is, who after a monster July (.369/.414/.670) and equally torrid August (.381/.479/.577) is flicking at a .205/.279/.231 rate in September?
Will it continue to be Alex Rios, who in September is hitting a Beltre-like .378/.439/.703?
Will it be Elvis Andrus, whose July (.690 OPS) was his best month of the season after a miserable offensive first half, until he was better in August (.747 OPS), and who’s off to an even better September (.931 OPS)?
Will it be Leonys Martin, whose All-Star-level plate work in May and June (.307/.355/.486) has been replaced by a second-half struggle (.238/.300/.326)?
Will it be Juremi’s big brother Jurickson? Mike Trout hit .213/.277/.366 in his first 159 big league plate appearances, and no, Jurickson Profar (along with everyone else in baseball) is no Mike Trout, and Profar has been encumbered with inconsistent playing time and the less-than-ideal schedule of varied defensive assignments, but in 329 big league plate appearances he’s a .233/.303/.339 hitter. Now would be a great time for him to introduce us to another level. Time for a tear.
The difference between Trout and Profar is no more pronounced than the difference between Cliff Lee and Matt Garza, so keep that in mind when I point out that Lee went 4-6, 3.98 in 15 regular-season starts (team record of 6-9) after Texas traded for the rental lefthander in 2010, recording 21.7 outs per start and fanning 8.0 hitters per nine innings, while Garza has gone 3-4, 4.46 in 10 starts (team record of 6-4) since Texas traded for the rental righthander in July, recording 20 outs per start and fanning 8.5 hitters per nine innings.
Again, Matt Garza is no Cliff Lee and isn’t even in the same zip code. But maybe his best baseball for this club is ahead of him.
Will it be Garza?
Will it be Yu Darvish? (That’s sort of a silly premise, since we’d already be saying he’s stepped it up all season if his teammates were scoring a couple more times a game for him.)
Will it be the starting rotation as a whole, which had been so good all season but is 1-8, 5.26 as a unit in September, allowing opponents to hit .311/.374/.502?
Will it be A.J. Pierzynski, whose September 2005 (.229/.289/.325) and September 2008 (.224/.258/.306) were his worst months in what were his last two playoff seasons?
Will it be David Murphy, a career beast in August (.298/.356/.489) and September (.306/.362/.489) who hasn’t done a thing since May this year, hitting .216/.287/.357 in that span? Can he step it up over these final 18 September games, helping his team reach the post-season and helping himself as he nears free agency?
Will it be Mitch Moreland (.288/.338/.561 vs. .188/.270/.356) or Jeff Baker (.317/.391/.695 vs. .241/.318/.397), who were fantastic before fluky June injuries and have been so disappointing since?
It’s going to be Ian Kinsler.
Ian Kinsler is going to bring it, starting this weekend against the Oakland A’s.
It’s Ian Kinsler.
I’ve been part of a season ticket group since Rangers Ballpark opened in 1994, the same year that I moved back to Dallas and started my law career. That group originated at the law firm I started with and moved with those of us who opened our new firm six years ago.
There are some very savvy baseball fans in our group, and so when we divide the tickets up every March, it’s necessary to bring some strategy to the table. For many, many years, my focus was on Opening Day plus a fairly even distribution of games throughout the season, so I could spread out the serenity-adrenaline over those six months that were so much better than the other six months on the calendar. I’d pay some perfunctory attention to trial settings and kids’ recitals and other competing appointments, but the general priority was to make sure I never went too long without a visit to the Temple.
The last few years — the contender years — there’s been a slight shift in the plan, which this year was executed to an extreme: Almost all of the games I chose on Ticket Draft Day were in April and September. When your team is great, a thing that I now expect of the Texas Rangers every March, those are the two best months of the regular season. While there’s plenty of appeal to the out-of-school months, for me that doesn’t measure up to the April crave or the September intensity of a ticket to the ballgame, and in 2013 I set things up accordingly.
Next year I’m sure I’ll try to do the same. The 2014 schedule was unveiled yesterday, and Texas opens at home — against Philadelphia, which should mean Yu Darvish against Cliff Lee on an awesome Monday afternoon — and plays 17 of its final 26 games at home, including the last seven, which will be against Houston and Oakland, also awesome (for different reasons). I expect Chuck Morgan to introduce a very different Rangers team next March 31, but I have no doubt that it’s going to be a strong team, postured to play crucial games in September and poised to continue playing into October.
In spite of the last two nights and the last four series, I’m not sitting here diverting my thoughts toward next year in any sort of disconsolate, resigned way. I’m thinking squarely about Matt Garza vs. A.J. Burnett and how huge today’s game is and about how badly the Rangers need to win this afternoon for all kinds of reasons and about #CastleDoctrine and about how glad I am that I decided in March to load up on September tickets, including today’s. There have been many more years since 1994 when mid-September baseball thoughts were centered on “next year” than not, but 2013 is not one of them.
It’s just that next year’s schedule came out yesterday.
And with that, I’m done thinking about 2014 and how many times I’ll be on hand next April and next September, and instead focused single-mindedly on how many times I’m going to have the opportunity to sit in our seats at the Ballpark next month.
I predict with absolute confidence that you will hear Mackenzy Bernadeau’s name on the radio today 10 times more frequently than Yu Darvish’s, because that’s the way the conversation generally goes here on Cowboys Mondays. I’m a Cowboys fan and I get that. I also don’t like it.
I predict with only slightly less confidence that Yu Darvish is going to absolutely shove tonight. He will settle back into beast mode and fire one of his best games as a Major Leaguer, as the 81-61 Rangers, 1.5 games back in the division and holding down home field at the moment for AL Game 163, host the 81-61 Pirates, 1.5 games back in the division and holding down home field at the moment for NL Game 163.
I predict with a slight bit of surprise that A.J. Pierzynski will probably catch Darvish tonight. Five days ago I would have bet on Geovany Soto, given what appeared to go down between Darvish and Pierzynski Wednesday afternoon (harmless or not), but Soto caught yesterday, and so there’s that.
Who catches for Texas tonight would probably make a more interesting talk show segment than Terrance Williams vs. Dwayne Harris going forward, but I’m realistic about such things.
Texas has never faced promising rookie righthander Gerrit Cole, who goes for Pittsburgh tonight, but he throws really hard, and that’s probably good.
Martin Perez-Francisco Liriano tomorrow is just as fascinating a matchup, and there’s some subtext to Matt Garza-A.J. Burnett on Wednesday, too, and who knows, maybe the troika of Liam Hendriks, Mike Pelfrey, and Kevin Correia have something left for Oakland these next three days, even if they nearly emptied their bags of tricks against Texas last week.
I sorta like that the Pirates are throwing Cole tonight, and that they’re a really good team that the Rangers can’t afford to look past with the A’s poised to visit Arlington this coming weekend for the last three regular season games between the two AL West leaders. There’s no more room, and no more time, for this club to let down.
We’re just under 12 hours away from Darvish against Cole, opening the third of eight straight biggest-series-of-the-year series of pennant race baseball games, and I can’t wait, and I’ll mention Darvish here one last time to make sure he gets referenced three times as often today, at least in this space, as Mr. Bernadeau.