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Thoughts on an 8-3 Rangers win

Rangers 8, Tigers 3

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 8, Tigers 3

  • A sweep, in Detroit...that was unexpected, huh?  Coming on the heels of a three game losing streak, with the Jays taking the final three games in Toronto after the Rangers won game 1 of that series, and with an offense that was sputtering, I don't think anyone was thinking sweep.  Taking two of three would have been great.
  • Martin Perez started today,, it was a Martin Perez start.  Nine batters into the game, he had allowed just a walk to Nick Castellanos, and looked like the dominant Marteen.  Then, with two outs, he tried to go down and in to Ian Kinsler with his first pitch, only he didn't get it in, and Kinsler laced it to left field for a single.  J.D. Martinez followed that up with a walk, putting runners on first and second, and then Miguel Cabrera, on the fifth pitch of his at bat, went and got a pitch thigh-high and on the outside edge of the plate.  Cabrera didn't even run, initially, assuming it was foul...but the high, arcing fly landed fair by a foot or two, well away from the grasp of Nomar Mazara, who was playing Cabrera to pull and had no chance to catch it.  It bounded into the stands for a ground rule double, giving Detroit a 1-0 lead.
  • Then Victor Martinez walked, loading the bases for Justin Upton.  Perez got up 0-2 on Upton, and then threw what looked like strike three...only for it to be called a ball.  Perez ended up walking Upton, as well, forcing in a run, and prompting Jeff Banister to get Alex Claudio up and warming in the bullpen.  With the game looking like it was about to slip out of reach, Perez got Castellanos looking for the final out of the inning, escaping with just a 2-0 deficit.
  • And then, after that?  Perez went back into cruise control mode.  He retired the side in order in the fourth and in the fifth.  In the sixth, after getting Victor Martinez to start the inning, he walked Upton, retired Castellanos, then got what looked like it would be an inning-ending grounder to third base.  Adrian Beltre, however, in a rare lapse of judgment, threw to second, even though the lead-footed James McCann was the batter.  Upton, who was busting it on the play, beat the throw, Beltre was charged with an error, and all of the sudden Perez was in a jam again, and you started worrying it was meltdown time.  But nope...Perez struck out Anthony Gose swinging to end the inning, and Perez's night.
  • It was Perez at his most tantalizing and maddening.  His stuff was sharp -- he induced 13 swinging strikes in 105 pitches.  He struck out 7 batters.  He only allowed 2 runs and got a Quality Start.  And if you ignore that third inning, he was just about as good as a pitcher can be.  Even in the third, as Bobby Wilson said after the game, he threw some good pitches, pitches that could have gone either way and gotten him out of the inning...but the reason he had to make good pitches and had so little margin for error is that his command abandoned him.  He allowed 2 hits and 3 walks in that inning alone, with the other five innings having no hits allowed and just two walks.
  • Hopefully, Perez can build on this outing, and can continue to show the stuff and poise he had in the good innings without falling victim to the meltdown inning.  If he can step up and pitch like he's capable of, behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, the Ranger rotation will be in great shape.
  • It looked, for most of the game, like that two run hiccup was going to stand up.  Justin Verlander went 7 innings and dominated.  When he left the game after 7 IP, all the Rangers had to show against him were a pair of Elvis Andrus singles, a Bobby Wilson single, a HBP, a reached on error, and a couple of walks.  Texas didn't seriously threaten Verlander.
  • But then in the 8th, the Tigers went to the bullpen, and the Rangers exploded.  Justin Wilson came into the game to start the 8th, and promptly gave up back-to-back singles to Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara.  Former Ranger Mark Lowe came into the game, and promptly gave up a single to Adrian Beltre, bringing home a run and putting runners on first and second.  Prince Fielder grounded out to first base, though fortunately, it wasn't enough to allow Detroit to pull off a double play, which left runners on second and third with one out.  Ian Desmond, looking to get the runner on third home, lofted a fly ball into somewhat shallow right field.  Martinez caught it, the runner on third tagged, and the throw home...
  • Well, if it had been Mazara at third base, the throw would have nailed him, and things would be much different right now.  But it wasn't Mazara...instead, it was Drew Stubbs, who ran for Mazara once Mazara got on base.  I wasn't thrilled with the move -- I didn't think it made sense to lose Mazara's bat at that point.  But it was absolutely the right decision...Martinez made a strong throw home, but Stubbs beat it by an eyelash and scored the tying run.  Credit to Banister for utilizing his new bench guy in a situation where he was able to tie up the score.
  • Things went sideways for the Tigers after that.  Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second, and then Elvis got hit by the first pitch he saw from Mark Lowe, loading the bases and bringing up Bobby Wilson.  Seeing Wilson being allowed to hit, my thought was, "Where is Ryan Rua?"  I was promptly shut up, though, when Wilson smoked a ball into the left field seats for the first Ranger grand slam since August, 2014.
  • Rubbing salt in the wound, Delino DeShields then took Lowe out of the park, prompting the Tigers to go to the pen, again.  It looked like Texas might continue to pile on, with Odor singling and Stubbs drawing a walk, but Beltre struck out to end the inning.  But it was a 12 batter, 7 run inning that turned a pitchers duel that the Rangers looked like they'd be on the short end of into a blowout.  A Desmond double followed by a Moreland single gave the Rangers an 8-2 lead, which was enough to convince Banister to use Alex Claudio for the 9th.
  • The bullpen was a bit more of an adventure tonight than we would have hoped...Tom Wilhelmsen had a 1-2-3 7th, but then, with Texas up 5 in the 8th, Sam Dyson had some issues.  Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a single to right, though Dyson retired the next two batters.  Dyson then gave up back-to-back hard-hit singles to center, though, loading the bases for pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Salty has his flaws, but he can run into one and go deep, and I fearfully stared at the television screen, terrified that the happy buzz I'd gotten from the miracle Wilson Grand Slam was about to be wiped out by a Salty Slam.  Fortunately, Salty grounded out to Odor in shallow right-center (where he'd positioned himself for the shift), and Texas got out of the inning unscathed.
  • A six run lead was sufficient for Alex Claudio to pitch the ninth, though he allowed a Jose Iglesias double to start off the inning, making everyone nervous.  Fly out-RBI ground out-ground out ended the inning, and the game, though, and all was well once again.
  • This may be the last we see Claudio for a while...neither Andrew Faulkner nor Luke Jackson pitched tonight for Round Rock, and it wouldn't be shocking if the two of them came up in place of Claudio and Anthony Ranaudo.  At a minimum, I think Ranaudo, who had to pitch a bunch of innings yesterday, likely is going to get optioned, with either LuJack or Faulkner coming up.
  • We had a scare on the Elvis Andrus HBP in the 8th...the ball from Lowe hit Elvis square on the elbow, and he was clearly in pain and holding his arm limply to the side after getting dinged.  I expected Hanser Alberto to come out to run for him, or at least come into the game in the field for him in the bottom of the eighth, but Elvis played through it.  I suspect it will be sore in the morning, though...
  • Big games for Wilson, who had 3 hits, Elvis, who had 2 hits and the HBP, and Odor, who had a two hit game.  Every Ranger starter had at least one hit, except for Prince Fielder, who was hitless for Detroit after today's 0 for 5.  Fielder is now slashing .190/.235/.281, and while the folks covering the team continue to insist that everything is fine, he'll hit any day now, nothing to see here, its bad enough that I'm starting to wonder if Prince is entirely healthy.  This is reminiscent of early season, 2014, when we couldn't figure out why Fielder wasn't hitting, and it turned out he had a bulging disc in his neck.  This is turning into the sort of situation where you almost hope there's a physical reason why he's this bad, because if so, he can get healthy again...if he's just not any good anymore, there's no fixing that.
  • Seattle lost today, and so the Rangers are just a half-game back of first place.  There's a long way to go in the season, but I'd much rather be where this team is right now, than where this team was at this point last year.