Texas Rangers: In-game blog
After coming within one out of a perfect game against Houston in the second game of this season (and having that ruined by Marwin Gonzalez's single up the middle), Yu Darvish took a no-hitter into the eighth inning only to have it (and the shutout bid) broken up by Carlos Corporan's solo home run. Still, Darvish earned the 2-1 win, ensuring that the two runs the Rangers scored in the first inning held up.
Some quick thoughts:
|Ron Washington joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to discuss Yu Darvish's dominant performance, A.J. Pierzynski's passion, the Rangers' current hot streak and more.
Memorable marks: The Rangers are 13-1 in their past 14 games. It's the best 14-game stretch for the team since June, 2010, the year the team went to its first World Series. ... Monday was the Rangers' sixth-straight win over a left-handed starter.
Career-high Ks: As usual with Darvish, when his stuff is on, he can produce plenty of whiffs. He had a total of 15 on Monday, a career-high. Before Monday, Darvish had managed 14 strikeouts four times. ... It was his ninth double-digit strikeout game of the season, the most in the big leagues. It was also the 17th time in his career that he had at least 10 strikeouts, third-most in Rangers history (already) behind Nolan Ryan (34) and Bobby Witt (24). ... The 17 games with double-digit strikeouts also leads the majors since the start of 2012 (Max Scherzer and Chris Sale are next with nine).
More than 200: Darvish’s strikeout of Chris Carter in the fifth inning was his 200th of 2013, reaching that mark in his 23rd start of the season. The only other Texas pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in 23 or fewer starts was Nolan Ryan (211 Ks in 23 starts) in 1989.
Slippery slider: Darvish had his best pitch -- his slider -- working well on Monday. Of his 15 strikeouts, 12 of them ended on the slider and eight of those were swinging strikes. He struck out Robbie Grossman and Brandon Barnes three times each and got Brett Wallace, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez twice.
Just one walk: It was a walk to Jonathan Villar that kept Darvish from heading into the eighth inning with a perfect game still intact. That free pass was issued in the sixth with two outs. Darvish got ahead 0-2, but threw four straight balls to lose Villar. The 1-2 pitch to Villar sure looked like a strike, but didn't go Darvish's way.
Ejection: A.J. Pierzynski was not happy with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa's strike zone during Villar's walk and was ejected for arguing about it. Rangers manager Ron Washington ran out of the dugout, but couldn't get to Kulpa before he sent Pierzynski to the showers. Geovany Soto came in to take his place. Both catchers have caught Darvish enough that the change didn't impact Darvish.
Darvish loves Houston: In three starts in Houston this season, Darvish has had a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth and a no-hitter ruined with one out in the eighth. He is 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in three starts in Houston this season with 37 strikeouts (in 23 2/3 innings) and four walks.
Record trip: The 9-1 mark for the Rangers on this 10-game journey to Oakland, Anaheim and Houston is the best road trip in club history. It is better than two different 8-1 trips in 2010 and 2012.
First-inning runs: The Rangers scored two runs in the top of the first on three consecutive base hits. With one out, Ian Kinsler had a double into the left field corner. He scored on Adrian Beltre's double to left center field. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a bloop single to center field for a 2-0 lead. The Rangers have scored 34 runs in the first inning this season.
Nathan saves it: That's 19 saves in his past 20 appearances for Nathan and 35 of 37 overall (the second-best percentage in the AL).
On deck: The Rangers open a two-game interleague home series against the Milwaukee Brewers. The pitching matchups are: Tuesday, right-hander Alexi Ogando (5-3, 3.28 ERA) versus right-hander Marco Estrada (4-4, 4.96); Wednesday, right-hander Matt Garza (2-1, 3.38) versus right-hander Tyler Thornburg (1-0, 1.72). Both games will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest and on radio on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540 AM.
|Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Ron Washington's decision to send Yu Darvish to the mound for the eighth inning Thursday night and how he would handle a situation like that if he were still a GM.
|Randy Galloway joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Josh Hamilton, Derek Holland, Nolan Ryan and more before the Rangers' home opener.
Well, he was there, enjoying the game between former president George W. Bush and the former first lady, Laura. Ryan's future with the club remains uncertain as the CEO has not publicly said whether he's staying with the team since it was announced that Jon Daniels had added the title of president of baseball operations and Rick George became president of business operations.
But Ryan was where he's been the past few seasons Friday, sitting in the front row to watch Derek Holland's start against the Angels. Will he be there all weekend and into next week? We'll see.
But unsteady play in nearly all facets has led to the club losing that four-game lead -- a lead that still held Friday morning before losing four of the last five. The most noticeable issue, however, is the Rangers offense. Where has it gone?
In the past 12 games, Texas is hitting just .248 as a team. They have scored 3.8 runs per game, well below their 4.98 average. The team has as many caught stealings -- three -- as stolen bases. They've hit 15 home runs but have hit into 11 ground-ball double plays.
The Rangers are hitting .202 with runners in scoring position in the past 12 games. And that number includes a 6-for-11 performance in a game last week.
But all of the fault for the club's slip the last few weeks can't be shouldered by the offense alone. The starting pitching has been inconsistent. As a starting staff, they are 3-6 with a 6.02 ERA in the last 12 games. Opponents are batting a stout .315. Those starters have 56 strikeouts, but 23 walks.
Still, Matt Harrison went out and pitched a quality start Tuesday and got beat. He wasn't as sharp as he's been, but if the club is hitting the ball even close to their season average, he probably wins that game. Martin Perez battled back after a rough first inning and got into the fifth inning with the Rangers still in it, but lost.
If the Rangers are to win the AL West today, they need their bats to give Ryan Dempster run support. And the earlier, the better.
But as has been the case too often the last few weeks -- and in longer stretches during 2012 -- the club was not able to take advantage of those opportunities.
The second inning of Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Oakland was the best illustration. Adrian Beltre led off with a double off the wall in left-center and stood at second base in a scoreless game. But Nelson Cruz's ground out to the left side of the infield couldn't move Beltre to third. And after Michael Young got an infield hit to put runners at the corners with one out, Mike Napoli hit a ball hard enough to score him, except that it was right at third baseman Josh Donaldson. The line-drive out kept the runners where they were and when Geovany Soto watched a curve ball catch just enough of the plate for a third strike, the Rangers' threat was over.
"We got him to third and didn't get him in," manager Ron Washington said. "We could only get one run."
That came in the third off a Josh Hamilton double. But after that, the club got some runners on and then quickly ended chances with rally-killing double plays. Cruz got on via an error to lead off the fourth, but Young followed with a double play. Elvis Andrus walked to start the sixth and Hamilton hit into a double play. In the seventh, with one on and one out, Napoli grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Rangers were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, continuing an alarming trend of not getting that hit in key situations. It means that with one game left in the season, the Rangers must win to earn the AL West title.
"It would be nice to get some early runs," outfielder David Murphy said. "These guys are playing well. They've earned it. We're a talented group of guys. We haven't played up to our standards lately. If we can get the offense going a little bit early, that would definitely help. It should be a lot of fun."
It's something he can draw Tuesday, when he takes the mound hoping to help lead the Rangers to a third consecutive AL West crown.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't do it (Monday), but I've been preparing myself to start no matter what," Harrison said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a chance to clinch the division and I want to be on the mound."
Harrison said he feels good about what he's done in his last few starts. His last one came against the A's last week. He felt he didn't execute his pitches the way he wanted against Oakland last week, allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings despite getting the win.
Harrison is trying to become the sixth 19-game winner in Rangers history and the first since Rick Helling and Aaron Sele did it in 1998 (Helling won 20 games). He's been the club's most consistent pitcher all season and hasn't allowed rough innings or bad starts get him down. Texas needs him to be a stopper tonight as the club has lost five of its last seven.
But after all of that, he retired Stephen Drew and only gave up two runs. And he settled down, getting his club into the fifth and still in the game.
"We had a rough start, but Perez hung in and gave us a chance," catcher Mike Napoli said. "We told him to use more of the middle of the plate and get ahead. His stuff is good and we were telling him that. If you pitch in the strike zone and your stuff is good, you'll miss barrels and get some outs. We told him that and he started getting outs."
Starting with the final out of the first, Perez retired 10 of his next 11 batters until running into trouble in the fifth. He gave up doubles to Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp and was taken out of the game in favor of Scott Feldman. When it was all done, Perez allowed four runs on six hits with two walks, three strikeouts and a costly balk.
That balk came in the first with the bases loaded. Perez said it wasn't nerves that caused it, though he admitted he was nervous earlier in the inning.
"I just stepped off with my foot and didn't think about it," Perez said through an interpreter.
The balk scored Chris Carter from third. Perez then got out of the inning, but it gave the A's early momentum.
"I thought he settled down after the first inning," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He made some pitches and got us into the fifth. When you looked at the way things were going in the first inning you weren't sure he was going to be able to get out of it, but he did and he was able to settle down."
"We've got to win a ballgame," Rangers veteran Michael Young said. "Every game has been important now for a long time. That's the attitude we've taken for the last week, week and a half. We've played in a lot of tight games. This team has a ton of experience in those kind of games. We'll come out tomorrow night ready to play."
In a close game, the A's were able to execute critical scoring sessions while the Rangers came up short. The third inning was a prime example of the Rangers' inability to get one more run in when given the chance. After Elvis Andrus' single scored Mike Napoli, first baseman Mitch Moreland was able to scamper to third with one out. Josh Hamilton came up and took two strikes and swung at a third, which was out of the strike zone, for the second out. Adrian Beltre grounded out to end the inning.
The A's got back-to-back doubles in the fourth to score a run and then, with one out and runners at the corners, got a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Brandon Moss. It was hit to shallow center and Coco Crisp raced home, making a good slide to avoid Mike Napoli's tag following a solid throw from Hamilton. But executing in that inning provided what ended up being the winning run.
"We had a situation with runners at first and third and Ham was there and we didn't deliver there," Washington said. "Those types of situations you want to try to take advantage of. We didn't. To me, that's the difference in the ballgame."
Many Rangers spoke highly of the A's, complimenting what they've done this season. But for Texas, the mission hasn't changed. They need to win one of the next two games to secure a third division title and avoid playing in Friday's AL wild card game.
"We're upbeat in here," said catcher Mike Napoli, who had a homer in the seventh inning. "We're not worried about anything. We'll go out there tomorrow and try to win the division."
|The Rangers have two new major concerns heading into the postseason. Ben and Skin drop science on both.
"It was one of those random, funny things," Holland said. "It threw me off. He said I always get two outs real quick and not the third. He said, 'It must be something in your back pocket.' He reached toward it and I didn't know what he was doing."
The humorous twist caught Holland off-guard, which the pitcher admitted after the game helped him forget about the walk and focus on the next hitter.
"It was like a Geo moment," said Holland, referring to catcher Geovany Soto, who is known to do just about anything to calm pitchers down, including funny lines or even singing.
Washington still made his point. Holland knows that too often he helps allow teams back into innings instead of finishing the deal. But Washington and Holland were pleased with how the pitcher bounced back after giving up four runs in the first. Holland ended up allowing seven runs, with the four in the first and three more with two outs in the seventh on what Holland said was a mistake pitch to Howie Kendrick, who blasted a three-run homer.
"They got me that inning," Holland said about the first. "You can’t quit just because they did that. These guys are grinding it out for you and you’ve got to continue to grind it out for them. I knew that they got the best of me, but there's eight more innings. I continued to fight. I got to tip my hat to Kendrick -- I missed my spot and he took advantage of it."
Don't worry about it, folks. Nathan has been as close to a sure thing this season as a closer can get. He gave up a two-run double to Torii Hunter in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader for his third blow save of the year. The loss left the Rangers needing a win in the nightcap to clinch a playoff berth and head to Oakland one win shy of an AL West title.
They got that big win with Nathan throwing the final pitch. Six hours after he blew the save, he earned his 37th of the season in navigating through the heart of the Angels' lineup.
"I feel OK," said Nathan after two straight outings in the same day, including a 28-pitch appearance in Game 1. "I definitely wanted to get back on the horse. This is a quick turnaround to get back out there but I think any reliever would ask to get out there and try and put this afternoon’s game behind them."
Nathan's velocity was still there and even after the first game, he made it clear that there "are no off days right now" when asked if he could pitch again. Manager Ron Washington wouldn't even rule him out for Monday's game if the Rangers are in position in a close game late to clinch the division.
But don't let Nathan's rare struggle cloud the big picture. The guy is 37-for-40 and in most of those saves, he doesn't even make it interesting. He's got swing-and-miss stuff, a slider that is normally nasty and constantly attacks hitters.
Nathan also has the right attitude for the postseason. He puts rough outings behind him and always wants the ball. And his experience doesn't allow him to get rattled, as Sunday night's save showed. He walked the second batter he faced and got Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales as both stood in as the go-ahead runs.
"It was really nice to see Joe come in and get the save," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's been great for us all year."
And he'll be great in the playoffs. Just watch and see.
Young said he could play any infield position except second base with the pain, which has been around for about a month. He said because he has to charge so many balls at second, it was bothering him a bit on Sunday.
Manager Ron Washington saw Young limping a bit after running to first and didn't want to take any chances, so he put Jurickson Profar in the field to take Young's place.
Two straight losses, a full day of rain and a kick to the gut in the form of a blown save on Sunday afternoon made things a bit tense in there. The Rangers weren’t panicking, by any means. That’s really not a part of the club’s DNA. But there had to be some worry, which turned into more than mild anxiety when Derek Holland gave up five straight hits and four runs in the first inning of the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
The sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was fairly quiet as the Rangers came up to bat. But here’s the thing about this club the past few years: Stick them in a high-pressure situation down the stretch, and they find a way to respond.
They did it pretty quickly, too, getting one run in the first and adding two more in the second, three in the sixth and two in the fifth to take control. Napoli, a one-man Angels wrecking crew, did most of the damage with two home runs, a double and a career-high-tying six RBIs. Holland settled down, thanks in part to another stern mound chat with manager Ron Washington, who did most of the talking, as usual. It didn’t take a lip-reading expert to tell you the discussion wasn’t PG rated.
But Holland, Washington and the Rangers did what they had to do to make the tournament. Now, they’ve got a chance to get a high seed if they can play well in Oakland.
“Those guys don’t quit,” Washington said. “They are very resilient. They fight. The thing I love about them the most is there’s never any finger pointing in that clubhouse. We go down together, and we go up together. They’re a class act.”
For a team that has led the AL West since the second week of the season, making the playoffs seemed like a foregone conclusion. At least it did until the Rangers lost six of nine games prior to Sunday night.
That, combined with the amazing A’s and hard-charging Rays and Angels, altered the calendar. This clinching thing was supposed to happen days ago.
Instead, the Rangers had a quick toast after Sunday night’s win, deciding to save the big celebration for Oakland, assuming they can win one of three out there to clinch the AL West crown.
“We’re trying to win the division,” said Napoli, amid a clubhouse that included some rookies dressed in wild outfits as part of the traditional hazing. “We’ve got one more game to win. We’re going out there to try to win the division and get home-field advantage. We’ve still got to take care of some business.”
That business is a little easier now, which is why Sunday night’s win was so crucial. Had the Rangers not come back from the early deficit to get the victory, they would have been forced to win two of three in Oakland to win the AL West for a third straight year. Now, they just need one of those games to pop the champagne corks and douse each other with water and ginger ale in the Oakland Coliseum visiting clubhouse for the second time in three years. The magic number is two, and it hits zero with a win against the feisty A’s.
“It’s nice,” outfielder David Murphy, who homered in the second inning, said of the win and how it sets up the Rangers for Oakland. “It’s been a battle lately. Some days we haven’t been playing our best. A lot of the other days, teams are bringing their best for us. Teams are playing really well against us. It’s very gratifying to have clinched a postseason berth, even though that’s not the main goal.”
The 26-year-old rookie continued his impressive late-season charge Sunday, pitching well enough to win the game. The Rangers gave up the lead in the ninth, meaning Darvish got a no-decision. But his performance was his eighth straight quality start and showed once again that he's primed and ready for the postseason.
Darvish gave up three runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. The outing did end four straight starts of seven or more innings and four or fewer hits. But he kept his team in the game and left with the lead.
"I didn't feel that sharp today, but I thought I did the best I could to give the team a chance to win," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa.
Darvish didn't feel like the Angels' approach was any different and that he did have some unfortunate balls that dropped in for hits, but weren't hit hard. The stiff neck that prevented Darvish from making his last start was not an issue.
"My neck felt fine," Darvish said. "No discomfort whatsoever. Three days ago I couldn't play catch at all, so the preparation was a little different from my regular routine. Under the circumstance, I thought I pitched OK."
Darvish gave up runs in the third, sixth and seventh innings. He exited the game with two outs in the seventh after Mike Trout homered and Torii Hunter doubled. Alexi Ogando came in and finished the inning off.
Darvish will now prepare for what he hopes is a playoff game next weekend in the ALDS. The Rangers still have some work to do to get there. And Darvish says he'll be cheering and doing whatever he can to help.
Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who had blown just two saves all season, was ahead in the count 0-2 before Iannetta got the count back in his favor and walked.
"He took some good pitches, took some pitches that I've seen people chase, but he's known to be able to lay off some good stuff," Nathan said. "We knew that coming in. (We) tried to give him some different looks with the same pitch and couldn't get him to offer at any of them. So good at-bat by him."
That put two runners on with one out for Mike Trout, who had homered in his previous at-bat (against Yu Darvish). Nathan retired him with a 3-2 slider that Trout missed. That got the crowd really going as Hunter came to the late as the last hope for the Angels. Nathan threw him a slider and Hunter ripped it to left-center to bring home Maicer Izturis and pinch-runner Peter Bourjos with the tying and go-ahead runs.
"It was a bad pitch, one bad pitch in the inning," Nathan said. "Honestly, the slider was probably up all inning. But they were taking them most of the time. It's just that when I was involved in an at-bat with him, you can't leave a slider up right there because he's going to be swinging. Bad pitch, wrong time."
Nathan said he felt fine physically, he just didn't get the job done. And despite throwing 28 pitches in the first game of the doubleheader, Nathan said he'd be available if needed in the second game.
"There are no off days right now," Nathan said.
Nathan stayed in the dugout with a towel over his head for a while after he left the mound. When asked what he was thinking, Nathan said those thoughts were reserved for him. But with four games left in the 2012 season, the Rangers are still trying to clinch a playoff berth and the AL West title. They can nail down at least a wild-card spot with a win tonight.
There's no concern that they won't. But with a chance to reduce the magic number to at least two on Friday, Texas fell behind early and wasn't able to catch up against the Angels, who are desperate to stay in the wild-card race.
"We're just trying to go out there and win ballgames," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If you win ballgames, that definitely takes care of itself. Anaheim came in and they jumped on us. They swung the bat and we fell behind. We just couldn't catch up."
The Rangers remain firmly in the driver's seat. They've got five games left and control their own destiny. But they'd also like to get this done as quickly as they can so that they can line up the pitching staff and get some regulars some rest.
"I've said for a while, we're not taking anything for granted," outfielder David Murphy said. "We're just going to take them one game at a time, come out and play hard and keep fighting and trying to rack up wins."
They'll get another shot at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday with Derek Holland on the mound against Ervin Santana.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.