This Week in Rangers’ Baseball – Right Where We Left Off?
I’d like to make it perfectly clear right now that I had no intention of writing a funeral dirge one week into the season. It’s probably still not the right time to do so, but the first week may have been the first couple of stanzas – or more appropriately, the chorus. The theme that repeated itself over and over again has come back to haunt your season, Rangers fans. They didn’t even have the decency to have it happen on a non-hallowed day, they had to make it occur on a day the Rangers returned with momentum, having just flown in from finishing strong in Oakland. This will all be covered soon enough, though, as we here at Shutdown Inning take you inside…THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL!
- Game 1 – L TEX 0 @ OAK 8 (W: Gray 1-0, L: Gallardo 0-1) – In which Yovani Gallardo’s Opening Day history (1-2, 4.55 ERA) stays true, while Oakland’s 10- game Opening-Day losing streak is broken by Sonny Gray’s near historical one-hitter.
- Game 2 – W TEX 3 @ OAK 1 (W: Lewis 1-0, L: Hahn 0-1) – In which Colby Lewis shows that a full off-season of preparation while healthy pays off, Adrian Beltre makes it look even easier, and the Rangers scratch out runs – just like Banister planned.
- Game 3 – L TEX 0 @ OAK 10 (W: Kazmir 1-0, L: Detwiler 0-1) – In which Ross Detwiler not having started a game in two years MAY have played a part in his performance, and the Texas bats shrink against All-Star Scott Kazmir. Also: Where did these Oakland players (Canha, Ladendorf) come from?
- Game 4 – W TEX 10 @ OAK 1 (W: Martinez 1-0, L: Graveman 0-1) In which Texas lights its bats on fire with 4 homers, doing what they should do in taking advantage of a debuting number 4 starter, while Nick Martinez shows he can pitch with a big lead.
- Game 5 – L TEX 1 vs. HOU 5 (W: McHugh 1-0, L: Holland 0-1) In which it looked like someone hit a blue POW block in the first half of the game and sent three Rangers to the bench with injury. Also: Delino DeShields in the number 5 spot sounds laughable, but he drove in the only run.
- Game 6 – W TEX 6 vs. HOU 2 (W: Gallardo 1-1, L: Hernandez) In which Gallardo rebounded nicely, even though he still didn’t have his best stuff and Beltre did some catching up after the first three hit-less games.
Week record: 3-3. Year to date: 3-3.
At The Dish
It could be easy to say that the first and third games of the season represent the very worst we could expect from a fully healthy Rangers lineup – but they were facing the next superstar ace in Sonny Gray and a veteran, rejuvenated All-Star in Scott Kazmir. I think we can definitely say that Thursday’s outburst against Kendall Graveman represents the best we can expect from this lineup. That lineup includes having Shin-Soo Choo in the 2 hole with Elvis Andrus dropped significantly to 7. Perhaps in due time, when Andrus stops becoming so jumpy at the plate, he can get back to the 2 spot, but for now, Elvis needs to be in a pressure-free spot. Even when Carlos Peguero was called up, Banister left Elvis in the seven hole. Perhaps in an effort to show the manager he can hit, Elvis tried too hard to hit, too hard to play “Wash-ball” with bunting, but finally came through in a run-scoring situation on Saturday. Speaking of Peguero, he had himself a two-hit evening in his Rangers’ debut.
As has been noted by writers both locally and nationally, this offense will hit. It’s a matter of finding the right combination and places in the batting order, and Banister is already tinkering with finding the right buttons to push. The early injury to Ryan Rua might open the door for Jake Smolinski, who probably has more power potential than Rua.
It took Adrian Beltre three games to get into the hit column, but he did so in a huge way with two hits, including a patented one-knee homer. He then had a hit in the home opener and had two extra base rifles on Saturday. Prince Fielder has displayed his renewed passion and vigor for the game, going 8-for-23 this week.
In The Field
Defensively, this wasn’t the best week for the Rangers. While Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor made a couple of sparkling plays, we saw several miscues from other players in the field. Elvis Andrus’ defense and offense often have an effect on each other, and we saw that this week as he has already made three errors in the first six games. We saw Prince Fielder completely misjudge a foul pop and tumble to the ground doing so. In the home opener, Leonys Martin took a completely inept route to a fly ball to center, leading to an extended lead for Houston. A throw that he charged the ball on had very little mustard on it coming into Robinson Chirinos, who in turn bounced a throw past second base trying to catch Jake Marisnick advancing.
As mentioned before, Beltre and Odor displayed range and arm strength a couple of times. Beltre saved Colby Lewis twice in Tuesday’s game, once with a pick-and-spin start to a double play and again by creating an out in foul ground with an Omar Vizquel-style, back-to-the-infield grab. Odor was in the middle of the aforementioned double play, turning it quickly, and in the home opener, crossed over to Elvis’ side of the bag to field a high bouncer and firing a laser to Prince at first. All in all, the defense broke even for the week, but undoubtedly, the gloves need to be tightened.
On The Mound
The two new guys in the rotation didn’t do much to alleviate the concerns of Rangers’ fans, as both Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detwiler didn’t make it out of the 5th inning in their assignments, both exhibiting a severe lack of control and an inability to miss bats. For Gallardo, it’s unrealistic to expect that every time out. On Saturday, Yovani still didn’t have his best command, but he gutted it out and held Houston to two earned runs while pitching into the sixth. For Detwiler, it could be a while before we see what made him a first round draft pick in 2007.
Colby Lewis and Nick Martinez held up their end of the deal in Oakland, holding the Athletics to one run total over a combined 13 innings. Martinez had the advantage of pitching with an early big lead, while Colby was Colby, pitching to keep the team in the game while he waited for the bats to put a couple on the board for him.
Aside from those four, I should be writing about Derek Holland, but a subscapularis (there’s a spell-check line under that word, you should know) strain shelved him after one inning and for at least two months. For all the hype he put into stepping up for his team this season, his injury, unrelated to anything else he’d experienced over the last year of his life, is cause for sympathy and concern. In his place in the home opener, ex-Padre Anthony Bass stepped up in a huge way, going five innings and allowing just one earned run. Bass just threw his name in as an easy, already-on-the-active-roster replacement for Holland, but Anthony Ranaudo waits in the wings as well.
We also saw the bullpen in its entirety this week. Given leads, the ‘pen was able to hold up its share of the workload, but when the starting pitcher was being hammered, so, too was the relief corps. The only relief pitcher who had issues with pitching in a pressure situation with a lead was freshly called-up Jon Edwards, who walked the only two batters he faced, allowing an inherited run to come in to score.
- Home Run of the Week – While all four of the Rangers homers came in one game, each had their own nuances about them. Moreland’s was an opposite field shot, Choo’s was definitely a product of a day game, Odor’s was pretty much a no-doubter, and Beltre’s? Well, Adrian Beltre’s one-knee, go-down-and-get-it homer takes this week’s honors. Take a look:
- Defensive Play of the Week: There were four plays I chose from for this honor. Two involved Adrian Beltre and were mentioned above. One was Rougned Odor’s robbery of Evan Gattis in the home opener, but the winner for me, goes to Anthony Bass. Already being placed in an emergency situation because of Derek Holland’s injury, Bass was pitching well, but he needed a double play in the fifth to help him out of a jam. He took matters into his own hands. While Beltre’s turn of a double play in Colby Lewis’ outing may have meant more at the time, the wherewithal of Bass to dive for the bunt attempt, pick himself up and get the out at second (note he doesn’t even check to see where Villar is, he just throws), along with the look of bewilderment on Robbie Grossman’s face earns Bass the >Defensive Play of the Week honors.
- Pitching Performance of the Week: My pitching performance of the week award goes to Anthony Bass. It could have gone to Colby Lewis for his six-inning, one-run outing against Oakland, but given the unexpected circumstances in which Bass had to pitch on Friday, his five-inning, one-run outing stands up as this week’s big performance.
- Overall MVP of the Week: There were ups, there were downs, but the one constant we saw was Prince Fielder. Picking up where he left off in Spring Training, Prince looks a thousand times better at the plate than he did while he was in Detroit or at any point last year. He’s showed opposite field stroke and some gap power. While we’re still waiting for that first bat-flip homer, Prince has gone 8-for-23 with three multi-hit games to lead the team, and it looks, by all accounts, that he’s healthy enough to keep up the pace. Even when his brief, 4-game hitting streak was snapped on Saturday, he was squaring up the ball. Defensively, he’ll never be great, but as long as his bat is producing in the lineup, we’ll take what we get at first.
The Injury Report
- Yu Darvish (elbow) – Out for season with Tommy John
- Matt Harrison (back) – Continuing rehab, hopeful for a second half return
- Martin Perez (elbow) – Continuing Tommy John rehab, hopeful for a second half return
- Lisalverto Bonilla (elbow) – Transferred to the 60-day DL
- Tanner Scheppers (ankle) – Struck out three in a rehab appearance in Frisco on Thursday; more rehab games coming, hopeful for end of April return
- Kyuji Fujikawa (groin) – Threw a bullpen session on Friday, unsure of Rangers debut
- Ross Ohlendorf (groin) – expected to pitch in Triple-A until healthy enough to join Major League roster
- DEREK HOLLAND (shoulder) – Will not pick up a baseball for four weeks, then will begin throwing program; expected to be out at least two months
- RYAN RUA (ankle) – Walking in a boot; expected to land on 15-day DL
Shin-Soo Choo left Friday’s game with back spasms, but he is day-to-day and the injury is not expected to be serious enough for a disabled list stint.
Who were your MVPs and award winners for the week? Let us know below, and then we’ll see you next week for…THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL