Thoughts on a 7-3 win, and a disappointing series against the Angels

Jun 3, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli (25) slides into home plate to beat the tag of Los Angeles Angels catcher John Hester (41) in the ninth inning at Angel Stadium. The Rangers defeated the Angels 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Rangers 7, Angels 3

  • The feeling I had when Joe Nathan threw over to Mitch Moreland to retire Alberto Callaspo and end this afternoon's game was simply relief. Four losses in a row, two of them ugly lopsided losses to a bad team at home, the other two simply ugly losses to the Rangers' primary division rival, is hard to stomach. I know that the Rangers are better than the Angels, and I know that the Rangers are much, much better than they looked during that four game losing streak. But that overall sense of malaise that seemed to emanate from Texas over the previous several games makes losing all the worst, and can make you feel like what happened the first month of the season was a mirage, that they won't snap out of the funk they are in. Intellectually, rationally, you know that's not the case, you know that this is just a bad streak and they'll right the ship, but as I've said before, being a fan isn't rational, and it takes an effort to maintain a level head when the clownshoes escapes like we'd seen the previous few games are going on.
  • The Rangers outscored the Angels during this series, 11-10.

  • Matt Harrison pitched better than his line makes his outing appear. You look at 3 strikeouts, 3 walks, a homer allowed, 3 runs in 6.2 innings, and you think, okay, it was a decent outing against an offensively challenged team. But Harrison really was in cruise control for most of this game, working efficiently, throwing strikes, and not being hit hard. Harrison allowed a .150 BABIP today, and it wasn't all luck and defense...the Angels weren't hitting him hard. Harrison appeared destined to go at least eight, and possibly pick up a complete game, when, after a two out single by Peter Bourjos, he walked backup catcher and #9 hitter John Hester on four pitches. Yes, Hester had taken Harrison deep earlier in the game, but the Rangers were up 5-2 and Hester isn't a good hitter. The result of Harrison's inability, or refusal, to challenge Hester is that Ron Washington went to the bullpen, despite Harrison pitching well and being at only 85 pitches.
  • Alexi Ogando continued to be not sharp, as he retired only one of the three batters he faced in relief of Harrison. After allowing a run-scoring single to Mike Trout, cutting the lead to 5-3, Ogando seemed to have no idea where the ball was going in the process of walking Alberto Callaspo, loading the bases and bringing Albert Pujols to the plate. Ogando was able to settle down and blow Pujols away, striking him out swinging on 99 mph heat but the bottom of the 7th was way scarier than it should have been. UPDATE -- Obviously, I was remembering a game from a parallel universe when I said Ogando struck Pujols out swinging. Pujols flew out to David Murphy, and I should remember that because initially, off the bat, for about a half-second, I had the sinking feeling that it was a grand slam. It wasn't. The day was saved. Sorry for my mistake.
  • The Rangers had a lot of problems in this series in Anaheim, but the pitching wasn't a problem. On Friday, Colby Lewis, like Harrison, allowed just 4 hits in 6.2 innings, and was more effective from a DIPS standpoint, walking just one batter (and hitting batter) while striking out 5 and not allowing a homer. He was let down by his defense, though, with one of the runs he allowed coming when Trout was allowed to go to third base on what should have been a double on a ball Nelson Cruz played poorly off the wall, setting up an Albert Pujols sac fly, and two more runs coming when Ogando come into the game in relief with two on and two outs and induced what should have been an inning-ending grounder to second base, which Ian Kinsler failed to make a play on. Trout then drove home a pair of runs on a single off of Ogando, providing the margin of victory.
  • Yu Darvish, meanwhile, was terrific yesterday, despite absolutely awful defense, both of the physical mistake variety and the brain-dead mental mistake variety. Darvish went 6.1 innings, allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits, 3 walks, and 7 Ks, but was victimized by three errors, plus an infield "single" that resulted when Elvis Andrus didn't throw to first base after the umpires blew the call when a grounder hit Erick Aybar between second and third.
  • The Ranger bullpen didn't allow a run in 5.1 innings against the Angels. This series is proof that good pitching alone won't get it done. The defense and bats let down the Rangers in the first two games of the series.
  • Part of what was so frustrating about this weekend is that it isn't as if the Rangers were shut down by the Angels pitching. The Rangers had 11 baserunners on Friday, versus 9 by the Angels. The Rangers had 16 baserunners yesterday, versus 12 for the Angels (though even this understates the actual "hitting" edge the Rangers had, as Texas had 15 hits + walks yesterday, versus 9 for the Angels). The difference between the Rangers winning and losing on both Friday and Saturday is that the Rangers didn't do as good a job of hitting with runners on base as the Angels did. That's part of what can generally be lumped into the category of "luck," and is part of the reason I don't come away from this series feeling like the Angels were better than the Rangers. If you believe that hitting with runners on base and performing in the clutch is a skill, rather than random variation, then you'll believe otherwise, and I'm not going to change your mind. But all three of these games were games that the Rangers could have, and should have, won, and even with all the defensive miscues and bad calls by the umpires, the biggest factor was the variability of when the Rangers got their hits versus when the Angels got their hits.
  • Nelson Cruz hit the ball a long, long, long way today. A mammoth two run home run off of Bobby Cassevah that ESPN says went 484 feet. That would be the longest home run of the season, per ESPN, and the longest in Anaheim since ESPN started tracking home run distance six years ago. The longest in Anaheim by about 40 feet. Cruz hasn't hit like we need him to hit this season, but when he connects, he can still hit the ball a mile.
  • Elvis Andrus was 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs on a double off of Dan Haren, along with a walk. He also reached on an error. The only time he came to the plate and made out today was on a sacrifice bunt, with Ian Kinsler on second base and no one out after Kinsler led off the inning with a double. At some point, you have to think that we're going to stop taking the bat out of the hands of a guy who has been one of the team's best hitters this year, right?
  • Craig Gentry pinch ran today and ended up giving the Rangers an insurance run. Remarkably, Gentry successfully stole second base on a pitchout, which allowed him to come home on a run scoring Mike Napoli single. I don't believe that Gentry is really an everyday player, but I absolutely think he has a place on a championship caliber ballclub, either as a pinch runner/defensive replacement or as a platoon centerfielder.
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