Saturday, September 25, 2010
Game thoughts: Rangers win AL West
By Richard Durrett
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's over. The Rangers are celebrating as the magic number is 0. They have their first AL West title since 1999 and it's the earliest they've clinched in their history. We'll have much more on the celebration and all the reaction coming up. But feel free to post some comments on this entry about how you feel now that the Rangers have clinched. Some random thoughts:
* This team was relaxed before the game and didn't get down when the A's suddenly tied it in the seventh. That's a credit to this club, which has played hard all season.
* Jorge Cantu was the hero on Saturday. He had two RBIs -- his first two as a Ranger -- and his final one was the go-ahead run on a solo shot to left in the eighth inning. It came after Oakland had tied it in the bottom of the seventh.
* With the Rangers up 3-1 in the seventh, Clay Rapada came in with no one on and one out and got left-handed hitting Gabe Gross, a pinch hitter. He stayed in to pitch to right-handed hitting Landon Powell and walked him. Switch-hitter Cliff Pennington, the No. 9 hitter, then hit a low and inside pitch out of the park down the left-field line to tie the score.
* Michael Young tied the score in the third with a solo home run to left field that hit just over the out-of-town scoreboard.
* Cantu's first RBI as a Ranger gave Texas a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Kinsler led off with a double and went to third on Jeff Francoeur's foul ball sacrifice fly down the right-field line. Cantu, with the infield in, stroked a solid single to left to score Kinsler.
* Francoeur's sac fly at-bat was impressive. It was a 10-pitch at-bat with eight foul balls total, including the last six straight. But it was a productive out that helped get the runner closer.
* Derek Holland got into trouble in the first inning with runners on the corners, but managed to get a ground ball from Kurt Suzuki that might have ended the inning. But Ian Kinsler didn't play the hop right and the ball trickled away from him so that he was only able to flip to Elvis Andrus for one out instead of starting a double play. So Rajai Davis scored to give the A's a 1-0 lead. Give Davis credit: He hit an infield single and then stole second to help put himself in position to score.
* Holland needed 91 pitches to go five innings, but he gave up just one run and the Rangers got the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth and he did not go back out for the bottom half of that inning. Holland's changeup was particularly effective. He did exactly what the Rangers wanted: He got them five innings and kept them in the game. Holland probably won't make the postseason roster, but he showed some grit out there on Saturday and can feel like he contributed.
* Dustin Nippert came in for the sixth inning and allowed a leadoff walk to Daric Barton. But he got Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki and Kevin Kouzmanoff on lazy fly balls. That gave manager Ron Washington the luxury of setting up his bullpen the way he wanted it for the final three innings.
* Speed helped produce a critical third run for the Rangers. Elvis Andrus walked, stole second and then, with Nelson Cruz batting, stole third. When the ball got away from catcher Landon Powell on a wild pitch and went to the backstop, Andrus just kept running and scored easily.
* Give Washington credit for sticking with Cantu. He put him in the lineup again today because of how he played Friday, but resisted the chance to pinch hit for him with Chris Davis despite a righty on the mound. And Cantu rewarded him with the homer.
* Feliz came in with two outs in the eighth and got Kouzmanoff on a 98 mph strikeout on the outside corner that Kouzmanoff watched go by. He stayed in and got the save, his rookie record 38th of the season. Feliz's save puts him past Kazuhiro Sasaki, who had 37 saves for the Mariners in 2000, for the most by a rookie in major league history.