A couple of items from this morning I missed, and wanted to mention...
First, Richard Durrett has a story up on ESPN Dallas about the Rangers' confidence and "swagger," which he says is personified by Cliff Lee. This is a team that seems to think that it will win, and thinks that it can succeed.
And that sort of ties in with the item that jumped out at me from Evan Grant's blog post this morning, on five key items from last night's game. Grant talks about Ian Kinsler's controversial 3-0 swing with two outs in the 9th that resulted in a foul out to end the inning:
As for that 3-and-0 pop up - which according to AOL Fanhouse's Ed Price was the first 3-and-0 foul pop in the seventh inning or later in exactly one year - the Rangers were simply trying to take advantage of a hitter-friendly count. Kinsler, like Cruz in the 10th, was facing slider-happy Michael Wuertz and the 3-and-0 count was the best chance for him to get a fastball. Manager Ron Washington had given Kinsler the green light to swing at the 3-and-0 pitch.
"I got the pitch I wanted [a fastball] where I wanted," Kinsler said. "I just didn't get it done."
By the way, it was the 15th time this season, the Rangers swung at a 3-and-0 pitch. They've put the ball in play five times and have three hits.
A couple of things here...first, Kinsler had the green light there. He wasn't swinging on his own because he is selfish or doesn't get it or whatever. Ron Washington gave him the okay to swing.
And while Wash makes decisions all the time I don't agree with, I don't have a problem with Kinsler swinging 3-0 in that situation.
As Grant notes, Kinsler almost certainly was going to get a fastball on 3-0. In that situation, there's a good chance that 3-0 pitch is going to be the best pitch to hit in the entire at bat. And as has been acknowledged, the 3-0 pitch was a good pitch to hit...Kinsler just didn't hit it.
Secondly, even if you take on 3-0 to enhance your chances of working a walk, a walk doesn't have as big an impact in that situation -- tie game, bottom of the 9th, runners on first and third, two outs.
A hit wins the game. A walk extends the game so that Vladimir Guerrero can hit. And yes, it means a walk to Vlad wins the game...but it isn't like Vlad is Bobby Abreu when it comes to working walks. And Vlad, as Josh and Tom have discussed quite a bit lately, has been ice cold...he's hitting .139/.225/.194 in his last 9 games. Kinsler was having a bad game, but I'm not sure that, Vlad really has a better chance of getting a hit right now than Kinsler does.
And I certainly don't think Vlad has a better chance of getting a hit, starting off 0-0, than Kinsler does on 3-0, if he gets a pitch he thinks he can hit.
Kinsler got a pitch to hit, and didn't do anything with it. That was a failure of execution, not a failure of strategy.
But I also think this ties in with what Durrett is talking about in his piece...Ron Washington wants his guys to know that he believes in them, and that he has confidence in them. He wants them to have that confidence, that swagger...
And part of that comes from telling one of your key guys, the #3 hitter in your lineup, if you see a pitch you can handle on 3-0, take your shot at it. Don't feel like you have to wait passively and hope to get a walk so that someone else has a chance to try to get a hit. It is Wash's way of saying, I believe in you, I think you can get the job done, we need a hit to win the game, so if you get a ball on 3-0 you think you can drive, you've got the green light.
It didn't work out last night. And I don't want the Rangers hitters swinging on 3-0 all the time, or even the majority of the time.
But in this particular situation, I think giving Kinsler the green light was reasonable.