ARLINGTON TX - OCTOBER 15: C.J. Wilson #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the New York Yankees in Game One of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 15 2010 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
First of all, I'm not as upset right now as I would have thought I'd be.
Maybe part of it is that the Rangers have never even made it this far, and I feel like they are playing with house money.
A lot of it, though, stems from the fact that I'm not worried about a "snowball" effect from this game, or the possibility that there will be a carryover to tomorrow's game. This team is like Jason...it gets stabbed in the heart, gets run over by a truck, gets rocks dropped on its head and buried at the crossroads at midnight. And every time it seems like the team's backs are against the wall and the death spiral is imminent, they suck it up and come up with a big performance.
The national storyline is going to be that this was the Rangers' inexperience showing, the Yankees big game experience coming through, the Rangers being exposed as green n00bs who have been a nice story, but will be shuffled offstage in short order so the grownups can play. I don't think that's happening, though...I still think the series goes at least 6, and I still think the Rangers win in 7.
That said, there were some troubling items. Despite a first inning that looked like the Rangers made make it a blowout, the offense was strangely silent for most of the game. There were no outs when Josh Hamilton homered in the first inning. For the rest of the game, 9 innings, 27 outs, the Rangers scored a whopping two runs. Texas had 8 baserunners over the final 8 innings. And the guys in the middle of the order, who we said needed to show up? After Hamilton's homer, the Young/Hamilton/Guerrero triumvirate went 1 for 11 with 6 Ks.
This game was eerily similar to game 3 of the ALDS. Missed opportunities to score and put the game away. And then a bullpen meltdown in the 8th inning that turned a win into a loss.
There were two key decisions Ron Washington made in the 8th that I disagreed with. First, I didn't get pulling C.J. Wilson for Darren Oliver. Wilson had been pitching well, and was only at 104 pitches. Brett Gardner's infield single was a routine grounder to first base, and Derek Jeter's double wasn't particularly hard hit (although it was weird to me that Michael Young, who is normally guarding the line in that situation, was well off the line).
That said, the decision to go with Oliver was understandable. You don't want to go to Darren O'Day with the switch hitters Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira due up. Alexi Ogando has had issues pitching from the stretch this year. While I would have stuck with Wilson, I don't think going to Oliver was necessarily a bad, or inherently wrong, move.
Of course, Oliver couldn't throw strikes, and after walking two batters in a row, Alex Rodriguez came up as the go-ahead run with the bases loaded and no one out.
Ideally, you'd bring in Neftali Feliz in that situation.
However, if you're going to bring in Feliz in that situation, you have to have had Feliz warming during the Swisher AB. Now, with Feliz likely coming in in the 9th anyway, if you have the lead, you could have had Feliz warming, with the understanding that you would bring him in if Oliver got into trouble.
Wash didn't do that, though. He went with Darren O'Day.
Why not Feliz? I can only guess. Maybe Feliz's struggles in the Tampa series had Washington spooked. Maybe, after the game 3 meltdown, and after Feliz walked the first two batters in game 1 of the Tampa series, Wash didn't trust bringing him in with runners on base. Maybe he didn't feel Feliz could go 2 innings. Maybe he just didn't feel Feliz is 100% right now. I don't know.
But regardless, he went with O'Day. And again, I can't say that was an inherently unreasonable move. O'Day is a ground ball pitcher, and with the bases loaded, you want a double play. O'Day is a sidearming effective against righties.
And the move should have worked. Alex Rodriguez hit a ball right at Michael Young. And Michael Young ole'd it, allowing two runners to score.
Clay Rapada comes in next, to face Robinson Cano -- reportedly, the whole reason he is on the roster is to face Cano. He made a terrible pitch, left a fastball up and over the plate, and Cano lined it into centerfield. There maybe could have been a potential play at the plate, but Hamilton booted the ball, which allowed Alex Rodriguez to go to third base.
Enter Derek Holland. And like O'Day, he pretty much did his job...he sawed off Marcus Thames, got a broken back blooper. And that broken bat blooper fell in for a single that drove in the winning run.
And that was that.
The Twittersphere was all atwitter, lampooning Wash for not going to Feliz, for mismanaging his pen, with Rangers fans railing that Wash had lost the game.
He didn't. He made moves that were not unreasonable. Two of the three ABs in the key stretch of the 8th inning, when the game was lost, resulted in balls that should have been outs.
But they didn't. Baseball do what it do. And tomorrow, it will do what it do again.
Hopefully, with a better outcome.