Thoughts on a 4-2 Rangers win

USA TODAY Sports

Rangers win 4-2 in a game that was mostly noteworthy for its dullness until the 9th, when it was way too exciting

Rangers 4, Cubs 2

  • The nature of baseball and the 162 game schedule is such that there are some games that aren't going to be particularly exciting. That are, for lack of a better word, dull. This game fell in that category until the 9th, when Ron Washington's managerial incompetence almost cost the Rangers the game.
  • It was a cold and blustery night. The wind was blowing in and the ball wasn't carrying, so the pitchers could work up in the zone and challenge hitters without worrying too much that their mistakes would end up in the seats. It was like watching a game from the late 60s.
  • Derek Holland pitched quite well tonight, retiring 21 of the 23 batters he faced, and allowing just two hits on the game while striking out 6. He had issues early, needing almost 30 pitches to get through the first inning, but settled down after that and cruised, with 76 of 108 pitches going for strikes. He now has a 1.64 ERA on the year.
  • Tanner Scheppers pitched a solid 8th, and it looked like the Rangers had things safely in hand and were going to put the game away. But no, it can't be that easy.
  • There were a couple of interesting decisions by Wash tonight...first was having Leury Garcia pinch hit for Derek Holland to lead off the 8th inning in a 1-0 game. There was a lefty on the mound, and so you wouldn't have Murphy or Leonys hit there, and Geovany Soto isn't going to pinch hit when he's the only catcher on the bench unless there's no choice. Using Leury would seem to suggest that the Rangers didn't want to use Lance Berkman in the rain and cold.
  • The other interesting decision -- "interesting" being kind, "incompetent" possibly being more accurate -- was leaving Baker in to face the righty reliever Loe to start the 9th inning. I had assumed that Leonys or Murphy would come into the game for defensive purposes, and thus it would make sense to have them hit for Baker, but Wash left Baker in, and had Leonys hit for the pitcher's spot later in the inning. I then assumed Leonys would go into the game for Baker in left field, with the pitcher moving into Baker's spot. But no...Baker stayed in left field for the bottom of the 9th.
  • That decision to leave Baker in the field for the 9th almost cost the Rangers the game.
  • So, the fateful bottom of the 9th. It started out like it was going to be easy...Kirkman retired the first two batters of the inning. Then Starlin Castro hit a soft single to right field. Then Kirkman walked Anthony Rizzo.
  • At that point, Wash had seen enough, and summoned Joe Nathan. Honestly, I expected Nathan to start the 9th, given the off day yesterday and what appears to be the likelihood that at least one, of not both, of the next two games will be wiped out by inclement weather. But once two were one, Washington got Nathan, and before he threw his first pitch, either TAG or Busby talked about how this was going to be one of the easier saves Nathan would pick up.
  • Oops.
  • After getting two strikes on Alfonso Soriano, Nathan allow him to hit a chopper deep in the hole between shortstop and third base. Elvis fielded it, had no chance at Soriano at first base, but could have had Castro at third, except Adrian Beltre was going to his left to try to field the ball and thus wasn't in position to cover the bag. Bases loaded, two outs.
  • Nate Schierholtz came up as a pinch hitter, and Nathan got two strikes on him before Schierholtz lifted a fly ball into medium deep left field. Should have been a fairly easy play to end the game.
  • But...Jeff Baker was playing left field. Jeff Baker, who is in his 9th season, and was playing only his 81st game in the outfield. Jeff Baker, who could have -- should have -- been lifted for Leonys or Murphy, because they are both much better defenders. Jeff Baker, who was also playing fairly deep in a "no doubles" alignment. Baker had the ball carom off his glove for a two run double (that should have been scored a two run error), and instead of the game being over, the tying run was at second and the winning run was up.
  • And then Joe Nathan hit Wellington Castillo, who I'd never heard of before today, and who I'm still not sure is a real person.
  • I couldn't deal with things at this point.
  • Darwin Barney ended up having an at bat that seemed to go on forever, and then hit a line drive to center field for what looked like a sure game-tying hit. But Craig Gentry, on the short list of the best defensive outfielders in the majors, made a spectacular diving catch to preserve the game and the win.
  • So yeah, it was a win. But I'm still furious with Ron Washington for his mis-management. Wash said after the game he didn't pull Baker for defensive purposes because if he did, he wouldn't have anyone available to play the infield if an infielder got hurt. Of course, that was because he used his only utility infielder as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning.
  • So yeah, that was way too stressful. Moving on to the rest of the wrap-up...
  • The Rangers had 9 hits and 3 walks, but for most of the game, had trouble getting the runners they got on base home. Jeff Baker had a big two out RBI double to bring Adrian Beltre home in the top of the 4th, and by the bottom of the 5th, I was rooting for a rainstorm to come and wash out the game after 5, because I wasn't confident the Rangers could get any more runs across.
  • However, Texas came up big in the 8th inning, giving the pitchers some breathing room. Ian Kinsler walked, and then Elvis Andrus executed a textbook hit-and-run play, chopping the ball into the spot vacated by the second baseman and into right field for a base hit that brought Kinsler over to third. Then reliever Shawn Camp, who had come close to picking off Kinsler a couple of times earlier in the inning, tried to nab Elvis, but threw it away, allowing Kinsler to score and Elvis to get to third. Beltre then made the error moot by blasting a ball into left-center that even the rain and wind couldn't keep in the park, giving the Rangers a 4-0 lead.
  • The Rangers should have had a fifth run, when Craig Gentry hit a chopper off of reliever Kam Loe that bounced over third baseman Alberto Gonzalez. Gentry was able to leg out a double, and then tried to score on an infield single by pinch hitter Leonys Martin. The replay showed that Gentry got his hand on the plate before he was tagged by catcher Wellington Castillo, but the umpire blew the call and called Gentry out. That didn't seem like a big deal at the time. It was almost a huge deal, of course.
  • Baker got the start in left field against the lefty Travis Wood, with Ron Washington giving the slumping David Murphy the day off, and Baker rewarded Wash with a 2 for 4 day. Elvis and Beltre also had a pair of hits, and Kinsler and Gentry each picked up a hit and a walk. Of course, there was that travesty in the 9th, but whatever.
  • Mitch Moreland was 0 for 4 tonight, but he had good at bats, hitting a screaming liner the other way that Gonzalez had to make a diving catch on, and then driving one in the gap in the 9th that was called a catch by the umpire, but that replays showed may have been trapped.
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