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Thoughts on a 5-4 Rangers win

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Rangers 5, Cardinals 4

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 5, Cardinals 4

  • Well, that was a crazy game, ending a crazy road trip.
  • Once the Rangers won on Friday, clinching a winning record on their 10 game road trip, I was in a mindset where I didn't care what happened on Saturday and Sunday, so long as no Ranger got hurt.  When they pulled the rabbit out of the hat yesterday, clinching another series win, well...asking for a win today seemed greedy.  And yet, here we are, another win in the books, and a series sweep.
  • And they did it with the not-good version of Martin Perez on the mound today.  As Fittz noted in his post-game post, home plate umpire Andy Fletcher was lousy today at calling balls and strikes, and that was particularly the case early on with Perez, who was hitting corners with pitches and seeing them called balls.  At one point, based on Brooks Baseball's strike zone data, there were 7 pitches in the strike zone for Perez that were called balls, without one pitch outside the zone called a strike.  After a few innings, Perez's command went south, and so instead of balls on the corners being called balls, he was having balls way out of the zone called balls, and then balls over the heart of the plate getting smacked.
  • The first run Perez allowed was on a Steve Piscotty home run to lead off the second, which falls in the, well, it happens category.  The second run Perez allowed was the product of allowing the opposing pitcher, Mike Leake, to start a rally with a one out single...yes, Leake is a good hitter for a pitcher, but he's still a pitcher, and you don't let a pitcher start a rally.  It led to two more singles, then a Matt Holliday bases loaded deep fly ball to right field which looked like it might be a grand slam, but instead was just a sacrifice fly, followed by Piscotty fielder's choice to end the inning, with Perez being lucky just one run scored.
  • Perez allowed singles in both the fourth and the fifth innings, only to see the runners thrown out on the basepaths, and thus still faced just three batters in each inning.  In the fourth, it was a two-out Pham single that Shin-Soo Choo misplayed in that way that seems unique to Shin-Soo Choo, with the ball bounding past him to the wall...Pham made it to third and was called safe, but Jeff Banister challenged the call, and replay showed that a terrific relay throw from Rougned Odor to Adrian Beltre, together with a Beltre deke that made Pham not realize a throw was coming in until the last second, resulted in Beltre getting the tag on Pham just before he touched third, getting the call reversed and the inning ended on an out at third, which is, in baseball, a -- wait for it -- Cardinal sin.  In the fifth, a leadoff single was erased when Mike Matheny appeared to put a hit-and-run on with Leake at the plate, Leake didn't make contact, and Robinson Chirinos threw out the runner trying to steal.
  • Things truly went sideways for Perez in the bottom of the sixth, right after the Rangers had given him a 3-2 lead.  After a fly out to start the inning, Holliday got that extra twenty feet he needed on his fly ball to right earlier in the game, going deep to tie the game at three.  Piscotty walked, Jhonny Peralta singled, and Brandon Moss walked, resulting in Perez getting pulled and Tony Barnette and Bryan Holaday coming into the game in a double switch that took Chirinos out (wooooo, exciting N.L. baseball!).  Barnette struck out Matt Adams for the second out, but then walked Eric Fryer on four pitches, forcing home a run and giving St. Louis the lead.  Well, Fletcher said it was a walk anyway...ball four was very clearly a strike, and was very clearly missed, but Fletcher was having one of "those days" today, so it was called a ball anyway.  Kolten Wong then hit for Leake, but flied out to end the inning.
  • Barnette and Matt Bush pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively, and once Texas re-gained the lead, Sam Dyson came into the game to pitch the ninth.  Alas, much like we saw not-good, bad-command Martin Perez to start the game, we saw not-good, bad command Sam Dyson to end the game.  While good Dyson is a hard-core sinkerballer who keeps everything down, pitches were up in the zone today, and only 11 of his 20 pitches were for strikes.  Greg Garcia led off the inning with a single, and then Fryer hit a fly ball to medium deep center for an out.  Wong popped out for a second out, but a Matt Carpenter walk put runners on first and second.  Just briefly, though, because an incredibly wild pitch way inside to Aledmys Diaz put the tying run on third and the winning run on second, and had me thinking, maybe Jake Diekman should be up...no worries, though, as Diaz grounded to Odor to end the game, and make Rangers fans happy.
  • Well, I'm still mad at Fletcher for calling a lousy strike zone, and I'm irked at Marteen for not pitching well, but, you know what I mean...end of the day, we're happy.
  • As far as the bats go, Texas got on top in the first, with a Shin-Soo Choo singled followed by an Ian Desmond fielder's choice.  Desmond stole second on a play where he would likely have been out had Diaz held onto the ball as he tried to put the tag on Desmond...but the ball got away, not far, really, and for most players, not far enough to try to advance, but Desmond got a great read and broke for third, making it safely.  That play ended up being critical, as Desmond scored on a Nomar Mazara sacrifice fly, and with Adrian Beltre striking out after that to end the inning, the assumption would be that Desmond would have been stranded otherwise.
  • The next two runs for the Rangers were of the home variety, with Mitch Moreland crushing a ball 456 feet -- which, Levi Weaver suggests, may be as long as the tape measure in St. Louis goes, given that that tied two other players for the longest home run by a visitor in St. Louis -- to tie the game at 2 in the fourth, and then Nomar Mazara going deep in the sixth.
  • The Mazara home run came as Nomar has been trying to shake out of a bad slump, the worst he's had since coming up to the majors (albeit two months ago, so it isn't like he's had that much time to have extended slumps).  But the first inning sacrifice fly, he tattooed the ball, just right at the center fielder, and in the third he smoked a ball past the bag at first base that was just foul before flying out to right.  You got the sense he was starting to snap out of it, and snap he did, in a big way, with the home run.
  • The two runs that won the game for the Rangers came in the eighth inning, in a typically whimsical, magical, Ranger-never-ever-quit fashion...with Matt Bowman pitching, Cards up 4-3, Mazara and Beltre each grounded out to start the inning.  Odor doubled, which led the Cardinals to walk Moreland intentionally, bringing up Elvis Andrus.  Elvis hit a routine grounder to shortstop, with St. Louis going the short way to second, and Moreland was called out...but immediately signaled to the dugout to challenge the play.  Banister challenged, New York reviewed, and it was determined that yes, Moreland had beaten the throw, a hustle play that immediately paid dividends when Jurickson Profar, batting for Barnette, laced a single to center, bringing home both runs.  I was initially worried about whether Moreland could score, but the throw by Wong that came in from relatively shallow center field...well, even Johnny Damon would have been ashamed of that throw.  It was weak, off line, and Fryer ended up moving up to field it near the pitcher's mound.  It was pitiful.
  • Texas tried to steal an additional run after that, with Profar breaking for second with Holaday at the plate, and Elvis coming home once Fryer threw to second, but Fryer faked the throw, and Elvis was caught off, ending the inning.
  • But hey, an extra run would have made Dyson's highwire act less exciting, so we should be glad that happened, right?
  • Anyway...two hit games today for Odor and Elvis.  Mazara and Moreland homered.  Bryan Holaday got into the game as a catcher for the first time since Chirinos was activated.  Every Ranger position player who started got a hit, except for Beltre, and hell, he's gotten enough hits in his career, he didn't have to get another one today.
  • At 45-25, the Rangers have their best record in team history after 70 games.  They are up 8.5 games in the A.L. West, the biggest lead they've had in team history in June.  The still have the best record in the A.L., and the second-best record in baseball.  And they're coming home to play the Orioles Monday in a makeup game.
  • Happy Father's Day!