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Thoughts on a 3-2 Rangers loss

Angels 3, Rangers 2

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Angels 3, Rangers 2

  • For a team out of the playoffs, September baseball has something of a spring training feel.  Rosters are expanded, guys who normally aren't part of the regular mix are getting playing time, and wins and losses feel secondary to the process.  Its regular season baseball, but it doesn't feel as meaningful, somehow...over the course of a 162 game season, you try to avoid getting too high or too low, or letting any one game affect you as a fan too much, but when your team isn't in a race in September, its even more so.
  • And that's kind of where we are right now, as Rangers fans.  It feels like spring training.  Late in spring training, a week or so before the regular season, when the regulars are getting the bulk of the time and everyone has shaken off the rust and is pretty much ready to go, but the games are about getting issues worked out and making sure no one gets hurt.  The Rangers aren't out of the playoffs -- its the other way around, with an enormous lead and not many games left to go -- but like a team that is out of the playoffs, the weight of each individual game is less about whether its a win or a loss than if everyone is healthy, how guys look, and that sort of things.
  • Case in point...today's game.  Can you imagine how freaked out we'd be if this game had taken place back in July, when the team was struggling and the lead was smaller?  Or even worse, if Texas were currently up, say, two games in the West?  We'd be asking whether Colby Lewis should have been pulled, why no one except Adrian Beltre was hitting, what the hell was Carlos Gomez thinking getting picked off, why can't we ever hit Jered Weaver?
  • But instead, it was a loss, and we collectively shrug our shoulders and watch to see if Houston loses (and Houston, barring a massive comeback, apparently will lose to the Cubs tonight, dropping the magic number to 10).  Ho hum, a loss, and to the extent we are troubled by it, it is because it reduces the chances of setting a team record for wins, and potentially jeopardizes the Rangers' chances of having home field throughout the playoffs.
  • In any case, the big story today was Colby Lewis.  Colby gave up a leadoff home run to Yunel Escobar, then gave up a double to Kole Calhoun, and everyone was upset and worried...the Rangers need good Colby for October, to shore up the playoff rotation behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, and that wasn't looking like good Colby.
  • But Colby settled down, ended up striking out the side in the first after the homer and double, and ended up having a very meh Colby game.  He threw 86 pitches, not bad for his first game back in the majors after a two-plus month d.l. stay and a truncated rehab stint, and gave up 3 runs in 5.1 IP, all on homers -- the Escobar leadoff bomb, and then a pair of Andrelton Simmons home runs.  Colby is going to give up home runs, and 3 home runs in 5.1 IP is bad, but Colby was healthy and appeared to be at least mediocre, and honestly, at playoff time, I'd be willing to take 3 runs in 5.1 IP from Colby in any start we get from him.
  • We shall have to see what happens in his next start, and how Colby looks in his second game back, but for now, I'm cautiously optimistic about where things stand with him.
  • Meanwhile, perhaps just as importantly, two guys who have been largely forgotten had solid outings out of the bullpen today for Texas.  Dario Alvarez, acquired with Lucas Harrell in July, optioned after a few outings, and then ignored, threw 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.  With Jake Diekman not being able to get batters out right now, there's some cause for concern about the lefty part of the bullpen, and Alvarez was acquired with the thought that he would be a solid second lefty.  He instead got surpassed by Alex Claudio, but still, Alvarez could be in the mix for one of the final playoff roster spots, and a couple of more outings like today's would make him an attractive option.
  • Along those same lines, Tanner Scheppers was either ignored or a punchline all season, as he sat on the 60 day d.l. rehabbing after knee surgery, and fans moaned and bellyached at the idea of Scheppers actually pitching for Texas at any point.  But he had a scoreless inning today, and now has appeared in three games, faced 7 batters, and retired all 7 of them, and today hit 97 with his fastball.  We thought that the Rangers would need to see a lot of their righty options fall by the wayside for Scheppers to have a meaningful role this year, but, well...Jeremy Jeffress is in rehab, Shawn Tolleson is done for the year, Tom Wilhelmsen got released, Keone Kela is struggling after returning from elbow surgery, and Tony Barnette has an oblique injury.  Aside from Sam Dyson and Matt Bush, I don't know that there's a righty relief arm that's healthy and trusted right now, and really, I don't know how much we all trust Dyson when you come right down to it.  So the door is open for Scheppers to seize a spot in the playoff rotation, if -- and yes, that's a HUGE if -- he continues to pitch like this.  Its only 7 batters, and one disaster outing would destroy the vibe, but Scheppers' stuff has never been in question...its just a matter of whether he can be consistent with it for the next six weeks or so.
  • As for the bats, Adrian Beltre had two home runs and is awesome, and the rest of the hitters were bleah today.  Let's not think about the rest of them.  Let's instead think about how great Adrian Beltre is.
  • Oh, and let's think about the upcoming three game series in Houston that starts Monday, where the Rangers can hopefully knock the magic number down to at least 6.