What to look for from Rangers this week
The Rangers head to Tampa Bay to start a seven-game road trip (we'll get to our predictions of that one later today). Before the pitch is thrown tonight, let's take a look at what to watch (and a little of what we learned last week). A few things to keep an eye on:
* Cliff Lee goes back on the hill and will do so in cooler temperatures than he experienced in Wednesday's loss to the Yankees. He ended a 10-game streak of pitching at least eight innings as he wasn't able to get out of the seventh. But Lee left with his team in front and has been extremely solid since he arrived in Texas. It will be fun to see him out there against David Price.
BTW, Lee's two worst starts this year were followed by excellent efforts. He gave up seven earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on May 21. But then gave up two earned runs in eight innings in his next start. He allowed six runs in nine innings in his first start in Texas, then allowed two earned runs in nine innings in his next one. So I'm expecting a good start tonight.
* Nelson Cruz had an MRI and doesn't have a tear in his left hamstring. We'll see what that means for his availability this week, but this club needs him in the lineup. If he is out for at least a few days, it makes Julio Borbon's game even more important. This team will need Borbon with Cruz out.
* Derek Holland will start Wednesday against Tampa, the pitcher confirmed Monday morning to the Ben & Skin Show on ESPN 103.3 FM. The club moved Tommy Hunter to Tuesday, which would allow Holland to pitch on regular rest. Holland threw just 59 pitches on Friday in Las Vegas, likely because the club was considering calling him up. He gave up three runs on three hits with three walks and a strikeout in 2 1/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how he does.
* Don't underestimate what Sunday's game can do for Borbon's confidence. He made things happen at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and was impressive defensively. He needed that type of game and now he may get some more playing time because of it.
* Sometimes small ball can lead to big innings, as we saw in the seventh Sunday. The Rangers bunted the runner (Mitch Moreland) over to try to just get one. Then Borbon made the great bunt single to score the run with two outs. That turned into a single by Elvis Andrus and then the big homer by Michael Young. It was the kind of inning the Rangers offense needed and by following it up with a couple of insurance runs in the eighth may be something an offense that has been inconsistent recently needs to get going this week.
* Moreland continues to impress. That 10-pitch walk in the second was a thing of beauty. He fouled four 3-2 pitches off and went to first. That got Jorge Cantu to second and Cantu eventually scored the game's first run. Moreland is hitting .306 and does not look at all intimidated by the majors. He played right field on Sunday, showing his versatility as well.
* Give Ron Washington some credit. He rested a group of his regulars Sunday (he didn't have a choice with Cruz, of course) and still came out with a victory. Vladimir Guerrero got a break. So did Bengie Molina. And with Cruz and Kinsler out, it looked like a reserve-happy lineup. In the rubber match of a three-game set with Boston, most managers would have played everybody they could (even though Guerrero is struggling). But Washington was able to give the reserves a chance and they came through. It should make for a rested team today.
* Speaking of rest, C.J. Wilson sure helped the bullpen by pitching deep in the heat on Sunday. Neftali Feliz didn't get a save, but pitched like he was in a one-run game on Sunday. That's what they're going to need from Feliz this week and in the coming weeks.
* Josh Hamilton is worth watching at all times. I can't imagine a more impactful game than the one he had Friday. Like an MVP candidate, he makes things happen at critical times. Look for him to do more of the same this week.
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.