This Week in Rangers Baseball: The ones that got away
Did you look at this week as good or bad (outside of the Hamilton stuff)? There are two ways to look at it – you could say it was bad, because we were deprived of Rangers baseball more than we usually are with two off days. You could look at it as good, because the Rangers had less opportunities to lose games and lose ground. You could have seen it as a bad thing, because the rhythm of the week was sorely thrown off by the two off days surrounding their Arizona trip. On the other hand, you could have classified it as good, because there were less games to watch the Rangers take a beating. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Let’s recap what actually happened on THIS WEEK IN RANGERS BASEBALL!!
- Game 13 – L TEX 10 @ SEA 11 (W: Medina 1-0, L: Feliz 0-1) – In which there was absolutely no way Texas should have lost this game…but they did.
- Game 14 – W TEX 7 @ ARI 1 (W: Tolleson 1-0, L: Hudson 0-1) – In which Nick Martinez keeps trucking along and Prince Fielder goes BOOM.
- Game 15 – L TEX 5 @ ARI 8 (W: Bradley 2-0, L: Gallardo: 2-2) – In which Yovani Gallardo just can’t find the control that made him dominant as an NL pitcher and a rally gives you enough hope to make you actually believe.
- Game 16 – L TEX 2 @ LAA 3 (W: Richards 1-1, L: Kela: 0-1, S: Street 6) – In which the new guy Wandy Rodriguez battled only to see an old Rangers’ nemesis in David Freese dash any hopes for a victory.
- Game 17 – L TEX 1 @ LAA 4 (W: Pestano 1-0, L: Lewis 1-2, S: Street 7) – In which you get the feeling you’ve seen the bullpen a lot this week…and you’re right.
Week Record: 1-4. Year to date: 6-11.
At the Dish
This week the Rangers bats weren’t as anemic as they have been the first two weeks. The one game that they scored less than five in, they were facing a returning pitcher who was, before he got shelved, pretty darn good, if you’ll recall. And even though the runs the Rangers scored in Arizona crossed the plate late in the game, when they did, they came in droves. The runs produced came in all sorts of ways, as well – there were ground ball outs that led to runs, aggressive base running plays that caused errors that led to runs, and then, probably the more newsworthy method – home runs.
Yes, the long ball made its presence known this week, as Adrian Beltre checked in with number two and Jake Smolinski and “Captain Badass” himself, Prince Fielder marked off one in the homer column. Both Smolinski’s and Fielder’s shots could be classified as “prodigious” blasts, but Fielder’s clearly carried more significance. With his first shot out of the way, Rangers fans have to believe that the dominoes will begin to fall for Fielder’s power game.
That’s not to say that Fielder hasn’t been productive. Over the last week, the 1B/DH has gone 7-for-19 at the plate with three multi-hit games, with some ringing doubles and opposite field singles. Let’s not forget the infield hit that he trucked down the line for on Friday night, which resulted in an RBI. Fielder continues to be the Rangers most prolific hitter through three weeks – although the fact that the runs he drives in haven’t come at the “key” or “clutch” moments in a game seems to have diminished his worth in the eyes of some fair-weather fans. Fear not, Rangers fans – not all of the gears are rotating at the same time right now. When they do, Prince will be at the center of the machine.
Also having a decent road trip? Leonys Martin, also going 7-for-19 with a couple of stolen bags, and Adrian Beltre, who has gone 6-for-15 with four walks. You can bet that if the guy who is supposed to get on base ahead of Prince and the guy protecting Prince start heating up, that’s good for the whole team.
What’s not good for the Rangers is not hitting with runners in scoring position. Obviously, you need to get runners into scoring position for this to be a factor, but here’s the numbers of that from this week: 12-for-44. Do the math, and that comes out to .272. That doesn’t sound terrible, but that’s weighted towards the first two games.
In the Field
Texas played relatively clean ball during the week with five errors. Unfortunately, three of those came in one game and really had an impact on the outcome. It was Wednesday in Arizona, and Yovani Gallardo was the unfortunate pitcher backed by poor defense.
One of those errors came from an unlikely source, as Adrian Beltre’s errant throw allowed a run to score. The other two in that game came from Prince Fielder, although the play in the eighth could have been chalked up to just a missed play, as since-DFA’d Logan Verrett didn’t cover first on the grounder hit to first.
It continues to be mental lapses that cause these problems in the field for Texas. Believe me, it’s not the Josh Hamilton stuff that has them distracted. Maybe it’s the attempt to concentrate on offense, maybe it’s the fact that the injury bug has continued to follow the team into the season, or maybe they’re just trying too hard in the field. It’s not an unbelievable concept. Although we see the tandem of Beltre and Elvis Andrus having fun with each other, it’s only on the plays that they get really close to that we see. Andrus looks frustrated – at the plate and in the field. Beltre’s errors seem to be a result of trying too hard to make the un-makeable plays. They may have turned a corner on Saturday, though. Beltre saved Colby Lewis (for the second time this year) in the first with a dazzling stab of a liner and then showed the veteran instincts to run towards the runner to double him off. Andrus showed some high baseball IQ on a pop-fly by Albert Pujols with Mike Trout running. Trout crossed the bag while the ball was still in the air. Once he realized where the ball was, Trout began to run back to first, but Elvis showed the smarts to let the ball fall untouched, resulting in what would go down in the score book as a ground-out, 6-4. The play made Pujols the runner at first instead of Trout. They may be outlying plays, but the thought process has to be encouraging for Rangers fans.
On the Mound
We saw another debut this week, as veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez took the bump against the Angels. Don’t lie – you were expecting this to be a disaster too. With every passing inning, you thought to yourself, “Who’s going to crank one out of here?” It just never happened. While Rodriguez’ outing wasn’t a glittering gem of pitching prowess, you know he would have made ol’ Ron Washington proud as he certainly battled through five innings of work. For a guy who hadn’t been on a Major League mound in nearly a year, you tip your cap and say, “Nice job.” It took him 89 pitches to get through it, and he only had one 1-2-3 inning. But if you followed me on Twitter that night (@NextWaveMLB), you saw that I nicknamed the former Astro and Pirate “The Magician.” Logically, Wandy shouldn’t have gotten out of that start with fewer than four runs scored off of him, but putting the ball in play payed off for him and he got out of trouble throughout the night.
In fact, with the exception of Ross Detwiler, who sat out his turn in the rotation after Sunday, the starters did a good job of keeping the team in the game. Even Gallardo only EARNED three runs on Wednesday against Arizona, as faulty gloves and arms behind him had a heavy hand in the loss. In Sunday’s finale against Seattle and Friday’s opener against Los Angeles, it was the bullpen that faltered. Here are the only numbers you need to know from Sunday’s debacle: Tanner Scheppers walked three, Keone Kela walked one, Neftali Feliz walked two. That amounts to six walks in a combined total of 1.2 innings from three relievers who are supposed to be shutdown relievers. On Friday, it was Kela who couldn’t avoid the curse of David Freese and gave up a go-ahead big fly to left center. Saturday, Roman Mendez came in in an unenviable position, having to face Albert Pujols with the bases loaded and no outs. Giving up the tying run might have seemed inevitable, but he then allowed a go-ahead, two-run single to C.J. Cron and only avoided having the inning extended because Erick Aybar made a boneheaded move to try and run home while the ball had already made its way back to the infield. Following Mendez’ performance, it was Scheppers who started off well enough, retiring two in a row, then allowing two hits, hitting Trout and walking Pujols to force in another run. Perhaps a lot is being asked of the relief corps. After all, while the starters are keeping the scoring low, they’re not exactly going deep into ballgames and giving those key relievers any amount of rest. The result is that the bullpen looks like it’s bad – but maybe they just need a game where they can take the night off – note that that’s different from an off-day.
- Home Run of the Week – This one is a no-doubter for me. While Jake Smolinski had what amounted to a more impressive looking blast, the one that carried more weight was Prince Fielder’s first dinger of the season. If baseball history and pattern holds true, the first one leads to several more, and I’m sure you and I are both wanting more from Prince.
- Defensive Play of the Week – Much like a couple of weeks ago, Adrian Beltre had to help bail Colby Lewis out of trouble in the first inning. This time, it was Albert Pujols who ripped a screamer to the hot corner and Beltre proved cool and collected. What made this play even more outstanding was how Beltre had seen that Trout was already close to second and had to go back to first to tag the base. Beltre ran towards first base and flipped to Moreland to double him up.
- Pitching Performance of the Week – For making his debut against an Angels team that isn’t clicking on all cylinders either, but sure has the potential to wield some dangerous bats, and battling through five innings of one-run ball, Wandy Rodriguez gets the honor of this week’s best Pitching Performance. It would have been nice for David Freese to not spoil the win for Wandy, but that’s the way (Rangers) baseball go.
- Overall MVP of the Week – While my Pitching Performance of the Week goes to the player who had the best or most significant singular outing, this can go to anyone. In this case, it’s going to Anthony Bass. Bass came on in relief of struggling starter Ross Detwiler on Sunday against Seattle, going 3.2 innings, striking out three, and allowing no runs. He followed this up with a performance against Los Angeles on Saturday, coming in to relieve a struggling Tanner Scheppers and putting out a fire by getting a key strikeout of David Freese and then retiring the Angels in order in the eighth. He only needed 17 pitches to do this. He has certainly saved the pitchers more than once this season, and when he was called upon, he shoved.
There are still a little over five months of baseball left to be played. How are you feeling about our Rangers? What is it going to take to turn the offense around? Is it a certain left-handed bat from the past? Finally…should Anthony Bass get in that rotation? Leave a comment below and discuss…THIS WEEK IN RANGERS BASEBALL!!