Thoughts From Tampa Bay

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In a week that has seen more versions of The Blame Game being played than at any other point in the season, the Texas Rangers are still in the Wild Card race and leave Tampa Bay tied for the top spot once again. Some good and not so good things happened over the four game set, so let’s review some highlights and look ahead to see if the Rangers are anywhere close to ready going into Kansas City for three over the weekend.
Mitch Moreland is showing signs of life now. He started by exercising more patience and putting more barrel to the ball upon contact. The biggest perk of his bat coming around is the small, but so very much needed, power surge. He ended up going 6-16, with three doubles, a home run, and a walk. Elvis Andrus is also rolling along, with six hits, two home runs (!!), and six RBI. He even provided one memorable moment in the third game when he ran from first to home on an Adrian Beltre double. Moreland warming up again bodes well for the bottom half of the lineup, considering left field is a carousel and the DH spot is a day to day assignment.

The pitching was a bit of a roller coaster during this series. Garza didn’t fare well against his former club (4.1 IP with six runs on eight hits), and Yu Darvish had troubles aplenty in the first 2 innings of his start, but did manage to hold the Rays to two run on five hits and six walks, all over 5 IP. Alexi Ogando, making his first start since August 18 against Milwaukee, went 5 solid innings, giving up one run on two hits, with four strikeouts. With 10 games left to play in the regular season, Ogando may be healthy enough (finally) to man the fifth starter spot for two more games. Darvish should be fine, but the big hope is Garza can survive against a Kansas City squad that is still trying to fight for post-season play. Now, about the bullpen…

In games 1, 2, and 4, the bullpen was virtually unstoppable, which was truly needed in game 4 after Darvish’s rough beginning. Game 3 was a sore spot, and a hard one to forget, due to Joe Nathan blowing a save and Joe Ortiz being ineffective at getting his fastball down in the zone in the 12th inning. The bullpen needs to be up to the task against a Kansas City bullpen that is capable of going toe to toe with a focused/rested Rangers bullpen.

The situation surrounding Ortiz being used was made confusing by Ron Washington stating that Ortiz was brought in because it was felt that his changeup would be enough to tie up hitters Jose Lobaton and Desmond Jennings. If one were to go back and look at the sequence to both batters, they’d find that Lobaton only received one changeup in three pitches; he whiffed on it, by the way. Jennings received two in three pitches, one which he whiffed on and one which he drove to right field as the game winning hit. Three hitters, four changeups, six subpar fastballs… one out, via a bunt. I’m not sure about the smaller details of the sequencing between Joe and AJ, but Ortiz does not need to add a new lefty concern when it looks like Robbie Ross is finally coming around.

If ever there was a time for urgency, focus, and energy, it’s this weekend. Perez, Garza, and Ogando will have a task ahead of them and the bullpen will be required to keep pace with their counterparts. A stable, speedy, and balanced offense will be even more important, as they’ll be facing Santana, Guthrie, and Shields. They know they’re not dead yet, so cheer them on this weekend and enjoy some September baseball.

Sarah Powers is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning.com. She can be reached at sarah.powers@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @Power_Play86.
Sarah Powers

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