Game thoughts: Rangers hang on, 6-5
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers won their second straight (and the series with the Chicago White Sox) 6-5 on Wednesday. The A's lost, so the Rangers, at 10-11, are just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West. It was one of those scary wins, but they got it. Click here for a replay of tonight's in-game chat.
Here are some random thoughts:
* The Rangers put together their most productive inning of the season, scoring five runs in the first off Jake Peavy. They did it by finding pitches to hit and staying patient. It started with Elvis Andrus' single and stolen base and Josh Hamilton's homer. Then, with two outs and no one on base, David Murphy, Justin Smoak and Matt Treanor showed patience and a good eye, drawing three straight walks. Joaquin Arias hit a two-run single and Julio Borbon added another RBI to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead. The Rangers made Peavy throw 41 pitches in the inning as they batted around.
* Rich Harden's control was still a problem and his velocity was down, hitting 90 mph on the park radar gun only a few times. The most obvious example of Harden's struggles: Not being able to throw strikes right after the Rangers scored five runs for him. Harden walked two White Sox batters in the second inning and went 2-0 on Alexei Ramirez to get a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux. Harden managed to get out of the jam. And to his credit, he fought through and held the White Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 innings until Carlos Quentin hit a three-run homer in the sixth. Harden did it despite five walks and two hit batters.
* It helped that Harden was pitching to the White Sox, who have the worst batting average in the American League at .220 (going into Wednesday's game). When he wasn't walking or hitting people, Chicago hit the ball in good spots for Harden. He hit Paul Konerko to start the fourth, but Mark Teahen took a swing at the first pitch and grounded into a double play. Harden did manage to go six innings, something he did only once this season. And it counts as a quality start. So he has 23 walks in 23 2/3 innings with five hit batters this season. But he also has a win now.
* Double plays were a friend of the Rangers on Wednesday. They turned four of them, two on the speedy Juan Pierre. Three of them ended innings, including the seventh with Darren Oliver on the mound. Oliver, once again, was solid, getting through 1 1/3 innings.
* The Rangers appear to have a closing conundrum on their hands. Neftali Feliz came in to try to close the game. He didn't have his overpowering fastball (he hit 97, but not triple digits) and the breaking stuff wasn't getting over the plate. Feliz certainly has huge potential, but the secondary stuff has to be on. It wasn't on Wednesday. But he did manage to bear down and get the final out and the save.
* Vladimir Guerrero was intentionally walked in the seventh. Without Nelson Cruz behind him, it was Guerrero's first intentional pass of the season. The White Sox preferred to pitch to the left-handed hitting David Murphy with two outs and a runner in scoring position with lefty Randy Williams on the mound. Murphy came through with a run-scoring double to make it 6-3. The intentional walk didn't work. And since the White Sox got two runs in the ninth, it was a huge insurance run.
* Justin Smoak had a nice defensive game, especially late. He made a nice catch into the seats to get the final out of the eighth inning and then made a leaping grab to get the second out in the ninth on a hard-hit ball. He had two walks (one intentional) and a long foul ball that was nearly a homer.
* The Rangers have a tough call to make when Ian Kinsler returns (more on that on the blog tomorrow). Arias helped himself a little by coming up with a big two-out, two-strike single the other way to drive in two runs in the first inning. Arias has hit the ball well, collecting tons of singles. He did have an error in the seventh inning, but it was a tough play on a broken bat ball to second.
* Matt Treanor has certainly emerged as a solid option behind the plate. He made a great throw in the third inning to get the fast Juan Pierre. Give SS Elvis Andrus some credit too, as he did a good job of applying the tag. But that eliminated the lead runner and Harden was able to get out of the inning after facing the minimum. Treanor also made a nice play on a foul pop in the seventh. Andrus had a nice play in the hole in the sixth inning to get an out and momentarily save a run. Andrus' range is a real asset.
* The replay seemed to support the call made by the umpires on the ground rule double by Michael Young. The ball hopped over the wall and hit the back wall. Young sprinted around the bases, but had to go back to second. The walls are all green out there, so it's tough to see. But it looked to me like the right call was made. We'll see what Young thinks.
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.