Around the third inning last night, I was sitting there, thinking to myself, "Sure do wish we had Vicente Padilla starting this game." Then I figured, well, it probably doesn't matter, given that we are facing Jeremy Bonderman anyway.
And yet, the Rangers managed to come back, with the bullpen throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings, due in no small part to a great throw by Gary Matthews Jr. and what looked (to me, at least) a blown call at home plate.
Still...the Rangers are still 5.5 games back of the Oakland A's. What makes this particularly frustrating is that the adjusted standings show Texas has been the best team in the West, with Oakland lagging behind both the Rangers and the second-place Angels. BP's playoff odds report shows the Rangers with just under a 25% chance of making the playoffs, even now, although that seems pretty optimistic...
I figure we'll know more at this time next week. The Rangers are on life support right now. If they are still 5.5 games back a week from now, after playing four games against a not-too-great Tampa Bay club, and three at home against the A's, then the Rangers will probably be done.
And, really, they are probably done now, anyway. If the A's go 2-4 against the Rangers, and play .500 ball in the rest of their games from here on out, the Rangers would have to go 19-12 in their non-Oakland games just to tie the A's and force a playoff.
The Rangers have cranked it up of late, and are allowing me to keep hope alive...but I'm not getting my hopes up too high right now.
Something to think about, incidentally...Jeremy Bonderman will be a free agent after the 2008 season, when he'll be 25 years old. I'm sure the Tigers will be doing their best to try to keep him off the market before then. But that's one of the rare pitchers who I think would be worth giving a big, long-term deal to, if he hits the market.
With the Padilla suspension and Wells injury, Richard Durrett offers some convoluted options that the Rangers could opt for in their rotation. Personally, I think it is pretty simple...send down John Koronka, bring up Nick Masset to help shore up the bullpen, let Adam Eaton pitch today, Vicente Padilla Tuesday, Edinson Volquez on Wednesday, and Robinson Tejeda on Thursday.
That lets you slot Kevin Millwood in, with an extra day's rest, against Oakland on Friday, then bring Eaton and Padilla back against the A's on Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise, if you leave Millwood on his regular rest, he'll pitch Thursday, missing the Oakland series altogether...and if Padilla pitches on Wednesday, he'd also miss the A's.
I'd rather see Volquez and Tejeda pitch against the D-Rays in Tampa than against the A's at home.
Jan Hubbard has a piece on the Rangers' depleted bullpen, suggesting that C.J. Wilson would be the choice for long relief tonight, if Eaton can't get it done, and if no one is called up. I have to imagine, though, that Koronka is getting optioned and Masset is coming back up.
I thought Eric Young would be replacing Koronka, but with the taxed pen, I'm guessing they'll want a fresh arm out there for at least the next couple of days, with Young getting brought back to replace that reliever later this week.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun identifies Carlos Lee as an Oriole free agent target:
He's 1A with Soriano as best hitter on the market. Lee, 30, is a prototypical slugger, homering 30 or more times in four straight seasons. He's cut down on his strikeouts this year, but isn't a big walker (a career on-base percentage just under .340). He reportedly turned down a four-year, $48 million extension from the Milwaukee Brewers, so he'll likely be seeking a five-year deal worth $60 million or more. Orioles' angle: Here will be the MASN-windfall test. One club official sees Lee as a perfect fit here. The club could offer a deal similar to the one extended to Paul Konerko last winter (five years, $65 million) and pump it up if needed. If the Orioles are uncharacteristically aggressive, it could happen.
The Baltimore Sun also touches on the Rangers' dilemma regarding Brad Wilkerson this offseason...