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Thoughts on a 5-4 Rangers win

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Rangers 5, Angels 4

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 5, Angels 4

  • I had two-thirds of this post already done in my head in the 9th inning.  Next verse, same as the first...quality outing by the starter, early offense, the bullpen blows the lead, the bats go silent, Rangers lose.  Two outs, no one on in the 9th, down one, seemed like game over.  But the Rangers pulled it out.  I'm guessing this will be a much nicer flight home than it would have been otherwise.
  • Nick Martinez...what he's done so far this season is nuts.  0.38 ERA, 2 runs (1 earned) allowed in 26 innings, 4-0 record.  Today, Martinez gave up 7 hits and walked a pair of batters while striking out just 2, but he kept the Angels off the board.  Martinez was at 94 pitches after 6 innings, and I thought he might get the chance to pitch the seventh, but Jeff banister opted to go to the bullpen with a 2-0 lead.
  • The bullpen has been a constantly revolving door, due to injuries, ineffectiveness, and a variety of unknown arms.  Anthony Bass, who has been solid in a long relief role, got the nod in the 7th inning today, and it took him just three batters to cough up the lead.  Johnny Giavotella led off the inning with a high fly ball down the right field line that looked catchable...however, Shin-Soo Choo either lost it in the sun, or was worried he was close to the wall (he wasn't), or something, because he pulled up, and the ball fell in and bounded into the stands for a ground rule double.  After a hard-hit line drove out by Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout took Bass deep, and it was a 2-2 game.
  • The original plan, of course, was for Neftali Feliz to pitch the 9th, Tanner Scheppers to pitch the 8th, and Kyuji Fujikawa and Shawn Tolleson to handle the 7th.  Scheppers' injury and ineffectiveness combo, however, has bumped Tolleson to the 8th, and Fujikawa hurt his groin and is now pitching with only middling success in Round Rock.  Keone Kela was handling the 7th, but has been shaky, so Banister, grasping at straws, went with Bass today.  It backfired, and I suspect Banister will be looking at someone else the next time Texas has a small lead in the 7th.
  • Tolleson, meanwhile, was in line for the loss after the Angels took the lead in the 8th on a one-out single/single/walk/single series.  It could have been worse, but Tolleson fanned Calhoun and retired Mike Trout when Elvis made a nifty play at shortstop to end the inning.  Still, heading into the 9th, it looked like another blown game for Texas.
  • Of course, Texas came back to tie it in the 9th...but that just brought us to a new issue:  you don't have anyone you trust in the bullpen, so who do you go to in a tie game on the road in the 9th?  Banister opted for Keone Kela, who allowed a hard-hit single to Pujols to start the inning, bringing up David Freese to give us all nightmares again.  Freese hit into a fielder's choice -- not without some adventure, though, as Rougned Odor threw what looked like a potential GIDP relay away -- and then Erick Aybar and Grant Green struck out.  So maybe Kela is back to being the 7th inning guy after this.
  • And then there was Neftali Feliz.  Exactly one week after his 1+ IP, 50 pitch nightmare in Seattle, Banister ended up asking Feliz to go 2 innings today, one inning in the 10th to preserve the lead, and then the 11th to get the save.  Feliz, of course, came through...not without some drama (he allowed a run in the 9th, and the batter he struck out to end the game represented the winning run), but he struck out four in two innings, and looked more like vintage Neftali.
  • The offense put one on the board in the second and another one in the third, but had the opportunity in both innings to blow things open, and failed to capitalize.  In the second, the Rangers loaded the bases with two outs on a single/E6/walk sequence, then got a run home when Rougned Odor was hit by a pitch.  With the bases still loaded and Leonys Martin up, the stage was set to put a crooked number up early.  Alas, Leonys flied out, ending the rally.
  • Similarly, the Rangers had the bases loaded and a run in in the third courtesy of three walks and a double.  One of those walks was of the intentional variety, issued to Elvis to bring up Shin-Soo Choo in a two out, two on situation.  If this were a work of fiction, Choo would have doubled home the runners, then stood at second base, gazing at the scoreboard and feeling peace in his heart.  Instead, he drew a walk, loading the bases for Carlos Corporan, who struck out.
  • Between leaving the bases loaded in the second and third, and having Leonys get thrown out by a mile trying to steal third with Prince Fielder up in the first, it was hard to feel real great about that 2-0 early lead.  It seems like opportunities were being squandered which we would regret missing out on later.
  • Anyway, the Rangers didn't score in the middle innings, per usual, and down 1 in the ninth, with Joe Smith on the mound, it looked like Texas was being swept.  Leonys popped out, and pinch hitter Carlos Peguero grounded out, bringing Prince Fielder up as the potential final out.  Prince, however, went the other way for a single, and was lifted for Delino DeShields, Jr.  Adrian Beltre then had a single to third base, getting lifted once on for Adam Rosales, and putting two on with one out for Mitch Moreland.  Moreland lined a single to bring DeShields home on a ball that Prince likely wouldn't have scored on, so chalk up in the "plus" column for using the last spot on the bench for a guy who can run fast.  With the game tied, it then looked like Elvis Andrus might put the Rangers ahead, stinging a line drive to center, but Mike Trout tracked it down, setting the stage for Kela and Feliz to keep the game tied the next two innings.
  • Lefty Jose Alvarez did a quick 1-2-3 inning in the 10th, but Leonys Martin ended the suspense in the top of the 11th early, taking Alvarez deep to right-center and giving Texas a 4-3 lead.  The Rangers got an insurance run when, with two outs, Rosales walk, Moreland singled, and Elvis reached on an E6, giving Texas a 5-3 lead en route to a 5-4 win.
  • Elvis, incidentally, was the hitter on a bizarre play in the top of the 8th.  Leading off, Elvis fouled a ball off of reliever Mike Morin that Calhoun looked like he might have a play on, but that was caught by a fan leaning out into the field of play.  Given that this game was in Anaheim, I figured that was too bad, so sad for the Angels, since their fan interfered...however, Mike Scioscia challenged the play, and the MLB folks in New York, upon watching the replay, ruled Elvis out.  Jeff Banister charged out of the dugout and got an automatic ejection for arguing a replay call, but still, I understand the confusion...how can you benefit from an interference call, turning a no-play into an out, when it was your home fans who interfered?
  • TAG and Busby said during the telecast that the Rangers were particularly bad this year at advancing runners from second to third with no one out, and especially at getting runners home from third with less than two outs.  In actuality, coming into today, the Rangers were the best in the A.L. at percentage of times advancing a runner from second to third with no one out, and were above-average at scoring runners from third with less than two out.  I probably shouldn't care, but I get frustrated when people on the air make incorrect factual assertions that are relatively easy to verify.
  • Anyone...big game for Moreland, who was 3 for 5, and now has an 880 OPS on the season.  Leonys and Beltre also had a pair of hits, and Elvis got on base four times, with a single, two walks and the E6.
  • The bottom of the lineup, on the other hand -- Choo, Corporan and Odor -- went 0 for 11, although each of them drew a walk, and Odor and Choo each also got an HBP.
  • Oh thank heaven, the Rangers are 7 and 11...at least, thank heaven they aren't 6 and 12, like we thought they would be late in today's game.