Rangers 5, Rays 4
- I'd prefer not to see Derek Lowe pitch for the Rangers again.
- Not the strongest outing for Alexi Ogando, who struggled with his command and with throwing his breaking balls for strikes early on, threw just 49 of his 89 pitches for strikes, and was lifted with one out in the sixth with two runners on base. Ogando walked three and allowed three hits, but struck out just two, and never seemed "on" all game.
- Joe Ortiz, on the other hand, once again pitched well, facing five batters, getting four ground outs and a K, and lowering his ERA on the season to 1.93.
- Michael Kirkman and Derek Lowe combined for what was a bad 8th inning, and could have been a much worse 8th inning. With Texas up 5-1, Kirkman walked Desmond Jennings on four pitches to start the inning, and then went 2-0 on Sean Rodriguez before getting him to fly out. He then allowed back to back singles to Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria, and while Longoria's single was a weakly hit bloop to left, Ron Washington had seen enough, and replaced Kirkman with Derek Lowe. Lowe promptly walked Shelley Duncan, the first batter he faced, on four pitches, forcing in a run, then allowed another run on a fielder's choice. With two on and two outs, Lowe battled against Ryan Roberts, served up a hanger than Roberts could have crushed but fouled off, and then finally got Roberts out swinging.
- A couple of issues with this inning...first, Kirkman didn't have his command, so I can understand lifting him. But once he got into trouble, I don't understand why you wouldn't get Joe Nathan warming, rather than Lowe. Wash decided that, with the bases loaded, one out, and the tying run at the plate in the 8th, rather than bring in his best reliever, he'd bring in his worst reliever, because he his best reliever -- Nathan -- is his "closer," and thus can only pitch then 9th. It is managing by "roles" rather than by situation, a managerial habit that nonsensically ignores leverage.
- Part of the problem is that, with Yu Darvish going just 5 innings yesterday, the Rangers didn't have a lot of other options in the pen. Jason Frasor gave up 2 home runs Saturday, which seemingly has resulted in him falling out of the Wash Tree of Trust, given that Lowe was used ahead of Frasor today. Tanner Scheppers went two innings, and thus likely wasn't available. Robbie Ross threw 14 pitches yesterday, as well, and this would have been his third straight game being used. So if Wash wasn't going to bring Nathan in in the 8th and didn't trust Frasor, Lowe may have been the only real choice.
- Of course, once again, the point of having a seven man bullpen is so that you don't have to use Derek Lowe in a key late game situation.
- Also of course, once Joe Nathan got into the game, he didn't do much to lead you to believe he'd have done better than Kirkman or Lowe. Nathan allowed a run on a pair of hits, and needed a terrible call by home plate umpire Marty Foster to escape with save #300 on his career.
- More on the final pitch of the game...that was about as bad a call as you'll see. Here's a screen-cap from MLB At Bat...the red circle numbered "6" is the called third strike.
- (h/t to Ted Price for the screencap). Nathan was struggling with his command all inning, had gotten to 3-2 on Ben Zobrist, and had apparently walked Zobrist on the pay-off pitch. That would have put the tying run at second and the go-ahead run on first with Evan Longoria at the plate. Instead, Foster bailed out Nathan with one of the worst called strike calls you'll ever see.
- Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled the Rangers won. However, if Lance Berkman had been called out on strikes to end the game on this pitch, I'd be livid. And I'd be a hypocrite if I bitch when a bad call goes against my team, and don't acknowledge it when a bad call benefits my team.
- Lance Berkman is doing his best 2008 Milton Bradley imitation, seeing a lot of pitches in the middle of the lineup, drawing walks, having good at bats. He drew three walks today and scored in the first on Adrian Beltre's double. And he also runs like he's about as healthy as Milton Bradley.
- A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland had back-to-back homers in the 4th inning off of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Pierzynski was 2 for 4 on the day, and Moreland was 3 for 3, showing signs of snapping out of his early-season slump.
- It was a rough day for Ian Kinsler. He led off the game with a walk, but then got caught between first and second when Lance Berkman took a 3-1 pitch for a strike on what Kinsler appeared to think was a hit-and-run play. He then was charged with an error on a double play ball that short-hopped Moreland when he threw it to first...it was the type of play that the first baseman scoops the majority of the time, but Moreland couldn't pick it, it went past him, and resulted in a run scoring. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on second and third with one out, Kinsler popped up a Kyle Farnsworth pitch on the infield, failing to get a runner home with an insurance run. Elvis Andrus, who had two hits on the night, picked Kinsler up with a 2-RBI single, but still, it was a rough night for the hero from last night.