Frasor’s Edge

Frasor
For most of the season, through extended offensive struggles and a litany of injuries to the starting rotation, the one constant keeping the Rangers from falling completely out of the race has been their amazing bullpen.  Guys like Joe Nathan, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, and even the previously unknown Neal Cotts have received the lion’s share of credit for that group’s incredible success this year.  But there’s one particularly unheralded member of the bullpen who truly deserves to be recognized for his contributions: Jason Frasor.
He was signed by the Rangers as a free agent back on January 3 with minimal fanfare, possibly due to his diminutive stature (at 5’9”, he’s downright Lilliputian) and impending senior citizen status (less than a week away from turning 36, he’s the fourth-oldest Ranger, behind only Nathan, Lance Berkman, and A.J. Pierzynski).

Frasor’s shaky start to the season did little to generate any enthusiasm.  A particularly ugly outing against the Angels on April 6, in which he coughed up two gopher balls in just two-thirds of an inning contributed to his ERA swelling past 10 at one point.  His May wasn’t much better, as he posted a bloated ERA of 4.70 for the month.

But since then, Frasor has really settled into a nice groove, giving up just one earned run in 10 June appearances and posting a very impressive 20-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio during June and July.  He’s only allowed two long balls in his 39 appearances since that disastrous early April outing.

Frasor has been particularly impressive of late, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Normally reliable guys like Ross, Scheppers, and even Joakim Soria have had their struggles during the past couple of weeks.  But Frasor has really stepped up and delivered at some key moments.

After a stretch during which the Rangers lost 12 of 15 games and plummeted to six games behind the A’s, Frasor made clutch contributions in three of the next five games – all Ranger wins.  The first two of those were against the team that almost torpedoed his season before it began: the Los Angeles Angels.

In the Rangers’ 4-3 victory over the Angels on July 29, Frasor earned his first W of the season by pitching a perfect 9th with a pair of strikeouts – keeping the deficit at one run so his teammates could claim a dramatic walk-off win, thanks to a home run by the second coming of Babe Ruth himself, Geovany Soto.

The very next night, in a drastically different 14-11 Ranger beating of the Angels, Frasor came in to pitch the 9th after Scheppers had doused the mound in napalm by allowing four runs on five hits and a walk in the 8th.  Between Scheppers’ exit and Frasor’s entry, the Ranger offense managed to cut the deficit from 11-7 to 11-10.  In order to keep from losing the momentum his teammates had just reclaimed with their bats, Frasor would have to immediately stifle the Angels’ red-hot hitters.

Frasor managed to successfully work around a one-out double by Angels catcher Hank “Darva” Conger, to once again put his teammates in position for a walk-off win for the second consecutive night.  The Angels would not score again, while the Rangers sent it to extra innings on an Adrian Beltre RBI single in the bottom of the 9th, before winning the game on a three-run walk-off HR by Leonys Martin in the bottom of the 10th.

Then, on Friday night in the opener of a huge three-game series against the team they are chasing – the Oakland A’s – the Rangers turned once more to Frasor in an extremely high-stakes situation.  And yet again, Frasor absolutely delivered.

In the bottom of the 5th, with the Rangers up 6-3, Robbie Ross had loaded the bases with A’s on two singles and a walk.  Frasor, veins flowing with ice water, stepped onto the mound and immediately snuffed Oakland’s attempted rally by drawing a line out from the freshly-acquired Alberto Callaspo on just two pitches.

That alone should have been enough to earn Frasor his second W of the year, but for good measure, he came back out in the 6th and dispatched of Derek Norris, Coco Crisp, and Eric “Pocket Sabo” Sogard on just 11 pitches.  The Rangers put up two more runs in their next at-bat, the final margin in a crucial series-opening victory.

While no one player has been responsible for the Rangers’ current five-game winning streak, pulling them within 2.5 games of the A’s, Jason Frasor’s contributions have been as important as anyone’s during this stretch.  The Rangers and their fans are truly benefitting right now from Frasor’s edge – let’s hope it continues.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or  on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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