More Moreland

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 8/10/12**

One of my all-time favorite moments in Rangers history took place in Chicago during the 2003 All-Star Game.  The NL led 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th.  Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, in the midst of a regular season during which he converted a perfect 55 out of 55 save opportunities, was on the mound trying to kill a rally by the NL.
With Vernon Wells (then a Blue Jay) on second base, AL Manager Mike Scioscia decided to pinch hit for his own everyday 3B (Troy Glaus) with first-time All-Star Hank Blalock.  It certainly seemed a tremendous mismatch at the time, sending a young kid to his very first All-Star at-bat in a late-game pressure situation against the closer having the best season ever.

But lo and behold, with one magical swing of the bat, Blalock hit a towering shot over the fence in right centerfield and won the game for the AL.  Garret Anderson of the Angels was named MVP of the game, but everyone saw who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  To that point in franchise history, it might have been the single biggest high-profile moment by a Ranger not involving Nolan Ryan.

Hank returned to the All-Star Game again in 2004, but that was his final moment in the spotlight, as his career soon faded (he had a decent year in 2005, before a series of injuries kept him from ever returning to his previous levels of success).  By the time he left Texas, very few Ranger fans still really liked Blalock all that much.  But while he was here, Hank was my favorite player, because I’m a sucker for big hits on a big stage.

Why have I wasted so many column inches reminiscing about a long-forgotten Ranger and his role in an almost decade-old All-Star Game?  Well, that’s because I wanted to provide some context as to why my current favorite player is Mitch Moreland.  It dates back to Game 3 of the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

Having just been called up to the majors for the first time late that July, Mitch was definitely facing a situation that would overwhelm most others with so few big league at-bats (he’d only had 183 entering that game).  The Rangers had already lost the first two games of the series, still feeling the freshly painful sting of an embarrassing 9-0 beatdown in Game 2.  They needed something, anything, to help generate even the slightest bit of momentum.  That something was Mitch Moreland’s bat.

With two outs and two on in the bottom of the 2nd, young Mitch stepped to the plate and launched a Jonathan Sanchez pitch over the wall in right.  His HR gave the Rangers a sorely-needed shot of life in the form of a 3-0 lead, which propelled them to a 4-2 win – their first-ever victory in a World Series game.  And while (as we all know now) that would be the only game the Rangers would win in the 2010 Fall Classic, it remains a moment I will never forget.

Moreland had a so-so season last year, but has missed a lot of time in 2012 due to injury.  However, in August, he’s hitting .370, with 2 HR’s, a .630 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.049. That’s admittedly an extremely small sample size, but the more Mitch is able to sustain this throughout the rest of 2012, the better the Rangers’ chances are for reaching their third straight World Series (and maybe even winning it this time).

I really do hope and pray that Mitch doesn’t end up suffering the same fate that befell Hank, and can avoid becoming little more than a footnote in Rangers history.  I want to see more Moreland as a productive member of the Texas lineup for many years to come.  

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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