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Thoughts on a 5-4 Rangers win

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Rangers 5, Angels 4

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 5, Angels 4

  • The Magic Number is two.
  • And yes, its the morning after the game, but I had a few things I wanted to talk about.
  • Not a good outing for A.J. Griffin, who completely lost his command and ended up getting pulled with two outs in the second inning.  I've compared Griffin before to Wandy Rodriguez, the veteran in 2015 who came in, solidified the rotation for a couple of months, then turned into a pumpkin.  Griffin's contributions early in the year were key for the Rangers, but he's run out of gas, and while he probably gets another start, maybe two, given that the playoffs are about to be clinched, I've got a hard time seeing him cracking the playoff rotation.  That said, I also expect the Rangers to keep him around through the offseason -- he's arbitration-eligible -- and the fact he's run out of gas doesn't diminish the value of what he's done this year.
  • Great work for Nick Martinez, who I think catches too much flak from Rangers fans sometimes.  Martinez may have things click to where he's a decent back-end starting pitcher, but if that doesn't happen, he's still given the Rangers value as a swingman and as rotation depth since 2014.  Yesterday, he came in with the bases loaded and two outs, got down 3-0 on Andrelton Simmons, and then fought back and got a ground ball to escape the inning.  He then threw up 3 shutout innings, and while there were some hard hit balls -- including one back up the middle Martinez made a terrific behind the back catch on, prompting an entertaining tantrum from Simmons and classic Scioscia Face -- he did his job.  If Martinez doesn't put up 3.1 scoreless and strand the three inherited runners, yesterday is a much different game.
  • An inning apiece from Alex Claudio and Keone Kela, though Claudio did allow an unearned run.  Kela still isn't the 2015 Kela Monster, but he's got value for the Rangers right now in a middle relief role, and Claudio has been a revelation.  Fans were all over him early in the season, he bounced up and down between AAA and the majors, Jeff Banister didn't trust him...and now, he's a combination second lefty/long man.
  • Speaking of guys that fans have been all over, Tanner Scheppers came up huge in relief of Jake Diekman in the 8th last night.  Like Martinez, he came into a bases loaded, two outs situation, but unlike Martinez, he was asked to face Albert Pujols.  Scheppers threw mid- to upper-90s with movement, got a ground out to escape the inning, and continued to stake a claim to a spot on the postseason roster.  If there's anyone I've seen fans demand the Rangers simply cut bait on more than Alex Claudio, it is Tanner Scheppers, but what we've seen this month is why the Rangers wouldn't simply release him -- not many people can throw as hard as Scheppers, and when he's on and healthy, he's got value.
  • I'm concerned about Jake Diekman.  He struggled again yesterday, walking a batter and giving up a hard hit double that the Rangers were fortunate didn't score a run.  Diekman has had issues throughout his career with his control -- it was why he was available from the Phillies at a much lower price than what they got for Ken Giles -- but that's largely been under control (no pun intended) since coming to Texas.  This isn't a good time for him to have lost it, though, and one of the big things over the final ten games will be to see if he can get back on track before the playoffs.
  • Sam Dyson was Sam Dyson.  Give up a baserunner, get a double play, close out the game.  Ho hum.
  • Big games from Carlos Gomez and Nomar Mazara, who are, I suspect, battling for who will get playing time in October once Shin-Soo Choo returns.  Gomez had three hits, and Mazara had two, one of which was a majestic, picture-perfect home run to just right of dead center.  When Mazara connects like that, with a smooth, effortless swing, and sends a ball almost 450 feet in a majestic arc, its a thing of beauty.
  • There was chippiness and drama yesterday as well, of course.  Gomez barked at Simmons for supposedly blocking the second base bag on a play where he was called out for over-sliding.  Spike Owen, while coaching third base, ended up turning and confronting the Angels dugout at one point, causing a delay in the action.  Griffin hit Mike Trout in the second, almost certainly unintentionally (it loaded the bases), and then Daniel Wright for the Angels hit both Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Lucroy, again almost certainly unintentionally.  In the 7th inning, Kela threw behind Simmons, which looked like it likely was intentional, and resulted in warnings being issued to both benches.  So in the 8th, when Brett Oberholtzer hit Elvis Andrus with a pitch, Oberholtzer and Scioscia were both ejected, even though it didn't appear to be intentional (though it also was a plunking of the Rangers' shortstop after the Angels' shortstop got thrown at).
  • So anyway, that sets the stage for today, when we have a series finale in advance of an off day, with the Magic Number at two with 10 games to go.  And under the circumstances, with the lead and the chippiness and everything else, my inclination would be to sit Rougned Odor, sit Ian Desmond, sit Elvis Andrus, let Adrian Beltre DH while Carlos Beltran gets a day off...take the guy who has already been suspended for an on-field altercation this year out of the lineup along with some of your vets, and give guys a couple of days off with the off day while avoiding someone significant getting caught up in on-field drama today.  And yes, theoretically, they could throw at Adrian Beltre...but really, even Mike Scioscia wouldn't mess with Adrian Beltre, would he?