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Thoughts on a 4-3 Rangers win

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Rangers 4, Cardinals 3

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 4, Cardinals 3

  • That was kind of amazing.  In the 8th inning, I was just hoping Texas wouldn't get shut out.  And instead, they came back and won the damn game.
  • Credit to Nick Martinez and Cesar Ramos, who threw the first seven innings for Texas, and kept them in the game.  Martinez, who threw a bullpen on Wednesday, and then threw 45 pitches in 2.1 IP on Wednesday, started today on two days rest, taking a start in the spot Yu Darvish would normally hold in the rotation.  Martinez allowed one run in the first four innings he pitched, not being dominant but wiggling out of trouble when need be, before things escalated in the fifth.  Martinez retired the first batter he faced in the fifth before a single-walk-single-HBP-single sequence brought two runs home, and led Jeff Banister to bring Cesar Ramos into the game with the bases loaded, one out, a 3-0 Rangers deficit, and the game seemingly on the verge of getting ugly.
  • Ramos induced the first batter he faced, Matt "Patch" Adams, to loft a fly ball into center field, which Ian Desmond was able to catch with his momentum bringing him towards the infield.  I didn't think the Cards would challenge Desmond's arm, but I thought wrong...Kolten Wong tried to score from third, and Desmond threw a bullet home, on the fly, to Robinson Chirinos, who caught the ball and tagged Wong (who didn't try to slide) as Wong went by.  The 8-2 double play got the Rangers out of the inning with no more damage, and as it turned out, St. Louis wouldn't score again.
  • Ramos pitched the sixth and seventh with minimal drama, giving up a single hit while fanning two, and after the Rangers got within one in the eighth, Shawn Tolleson was brought into the game.  It was an interesting decision by Jeff Banister...since being activated from his week-long leave, Tolleson had pitched in three games, giving up just 1 hit in 4.1 IP, though two runs (one earned), both against Seattle 8 days ago.  Tolleson led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk to Steve "Hotty" Piscotty, but got out of the inning on a foul out, a strike out and a weird play recorded as a "runner's fielder's choice" where Piscotty was thrown out at second trying to advance.
  • While it seems like Tolleson was largely written off as a "winning piece" by some Rangers fans -- not to mention the "DFA Tolleson" brigade of morons who decided he should never wear a Ranger uniform again -- since his return to the active roster, Tolleson has looked more like the guy who was so critical to the team's success last year.  I don't expect him to be closing games again, but if Tolleson can pair with Tony Barnette to give the Rangers a couple of viable middle relief options, while the Jake Diekman, Matt Bush and Sam Dyson handles setup and closing duties, the pen looks a lot better.  Giving Banister five guys he can lean on in close games makes bullpen management a lot easier.
  • Once Texas took the lead in the ninth, Jake Diekman, rather than Sam Dyson, came in to protect the one run lead.  I haven't seen any explanation for why Dyson (who pitched yesterday, but not the day before) wasn't used -- if it was because he had a planned day off, or if Diekman was viewed as a better matchup, or what.  To be clear, I'm not complaining, just thought it was an interesting decision.  In any case, Diekman fanned the first two batters he saw before ended the game on a line drive that Ryan Rua caught for the final out at first base, picking up his second career save.
  • Moving on to the offense...before we talk about the bats, I will note that Prince Fielder started for the third straight game at first base, while Mitch Moreland sat for the second straight game (he was the DH on Thursday).  I expressed some confusion/consternation about that Twitter, and despite a certain amount of "why are you always complaining?" stuff in my mentions, the decision did seem to be surprising to those who cover the team...the expectation had been that Moreland would get the nod today, with Prince likely starting tomorrow.  Banister's explanation was that he thought Moreland was better suited/had more experience at coming off the bench pinch hitting, and so gave Prince the start.  Given that Moreland has been better than Prince this season, had seemingly snapped out of his slump with a hot streak prior to yesterday's benching, and is the better defender, this explanation seemed awful mystifying to me, but whatever...I'm not the manager, and its not up to me.
  • In any case, the decision looked bad right away, as the Rangers loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on a Shin-Soo Choo single, an Ian Desmond walk, and (after a Nomar Mazara ground out) an Adrian Beltre HBP, bringing Prince to the plate...only to see him bounce weakly into a 6-3 GIDP.
  • The lost opportunity became even more vexing as the game went on, as from the second through the seventh inning, Cards starter Carlos Martinez didn't walk any more batters, allowed just three more hits (two of them infield singles, one of them by Prince, of course), and kept Texas off the board.  When he left the game for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 7th, he appeared quite likely to end up with a "W."
  • Seung Hwan Oh came into the game for St. Louis in the 8th, and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced -- Robinson Chirinos and pinch hitter Mitch Moreland, whose greater experience coming off the bench didn't help him here.
  • With two out and no one on, Choo singled, sparking an improbable comeback.  Ian Desmond doubled to right, and Choo was held at third, leading me to wonder why he wasn't lifted for a pinch runner (before remembering that the Rangers only have one backup outfielder, Ryan Rua, since they are carrying three catchers, which makes pinch hitting or pinch running for any of the outfielders difficult).  A wild pitch brought Choo home and sent Desmond to third, and then Mazara hit a grounder to first that Patch Adams kicked into foul territory, allowing Desmond to score.
  • Adrian Beltre then followed that up with a single to left, bringing up Prince and setting up a chance to redemption...but alas, instead, what we got was an F9, ending the inning.  Still, it ended the inning with the Rangers down just 1, in good position for the ninth.
  • Trevor Rosenthal entered to start the ninth, and immediately got Rougned Odor to hit a grounder in the hole between first and second that Adams fielded, threw to first...and saw the umpire signal Odor was safe, having beat Rosenthal to the bag.  Jurickson Profar, starting at shortstop for Elvis Andrus, then singled to left, and after the runners advanced on a passed ball, Robinson Chirinos was hit in the hand with a pitch that brought back memories of him getting dinged the first week of the season and missing two months (though x-rays after the game were negative).
  • Bases loaded, no one out, down one in the ninth, Cards manager Mike Matheny lifted Rosenthal and replaced him with Kevin Siegrist, who I learned today is a lefthanded relief pitcher and not one of Richard Nixon's dirty tricksters.  Banister lifted Moreland for pinch hitter Ryan Rua, but Rua hit a shallow fly to center field, too shallow for Odor to score on, for the first out.
  • That brought up Choo, and an interesting dilemma for Banister.  Siegrist is a lefty, Choo struggles against lefty (as we've discussed ad nauseum), and Elvis Andrus was available off the bench.  I leaned towards going with Elvis, though Elvis does hit into a bunch of double plays, and Choo is a patient hitter who can work a walk.  Banny opted to stick with Choo -- the fact that Siegrist is a fastball/changeup guy, and thus is less of a threat to lefty hitters than most LHPs (he actually has reverse splits for his career) no doubt being a factor -- and was rewarded when Choo took a 3-2 pitch off the outside part of the plate for ball four, bringing in the tying run.
  • From there, it seemed like a win was an inevitability...Desmond lofted a fly ball to left field that brought Profar home, and while it appeared that Nomar had worked a walk on both 3-1 and 3-2, he was called out on strikes, causing a certain amount of grousing to home plate ump Kerwin Danley by Mazara, but otherwise not impacting the end result of the game.
  • So yeah...this is one of those games that makes you talk about special teams and magic seasons and all of that.  Helping matters is that the Rangers are now 7.5 games up on second-place Seattle, the biggest lead they've ever had in June in the history of the franchise, and have the second best record in baseball.
  • Texas is also 22-6 over their last 28 games, and have their best record in team history after 69 games.
  • Texas has ALSO won a franchise record nine straight series with today's win, and will be going for the sweep tomorrow.
  • I'm thinking there has to be a word to describe how the Rangers are playing this year after Game 69.  Maybe someone will think of it and mention it in the comments.