Monday, August 20, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Orioles 1
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ryan Dempster put aside whatever the personal reason was he didn't cross the northern border over the weekend and crafted his finest performance since joining the Texas Rangers to get this 10-game homestand started in style. In his fourth start and coming off a second dud last week at New York, Dempster retired the final 11 batters he faced and shut down the side in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, not allowing a hit since a one-out single in the fifth.
The only run Dempster (7-6) allowed came in the first inning when first baseman Mitch Moreland couldn't snag Adam Jones' liner, having it tip off his glove and dribble just far enough behind him to allow Nate McLouth, who doubled with two outs, to score. Dempster allowed the two hits in the opening frame and then just two more over the next seven innings while striking out six. He walked two and threw 111 pitches before giving way to sizzling closer Joe Nathan.
What it means: The idle Angels fall 9 1'2 games back and the Oakland A's, who started the night five games back, are at home in a late game against the Minnesota Twins. The A's trailed early, 3-0.
Rangers president Nolan Ryan discusses Ron Washington's decision to pull Roy Oswalt, Ryan Dempster's ability to enter Canada, Roger Clemens' return to baseball and more.
Elvis magic: Who knows how things unfold, but Elvis Andrus' brilliant play to start the top of the fifth was as important as any in the game. The Rangers had just scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth to give Ryan Dempster his first lead of the night, 3-1. Orioles nine-hole hitter Manny Machado led off the fifth with a grounder to the hole on the left side. Andrus stabbed it with his backhand and on the outfield grass made a perfect leaping throw to get Machado by a step, at least. Nick Markakis then singled before Dempster got the next two outs in an important shutdown inning kicked off by Elvis.
Cruz-ing:Nelson Cruz's low screamer to the left-center field gap in the bottom of the fifth not only scored Josh Hamilton from first base for Cruz's 74th RBI of the season, but it was also his 32nd double of the season, a career high. Cruz hit 28 two-baggers last season and 31 in 2010. Speaking of RBIs, Cruz is on his way to a career high in that category as well. His best is 87, set last season.
Bottom third: The Rangers continue to get production from the end of the order and particularly David Murphy, who was hitting .351 in his last 10 games entering Monday night. Murphy, batting seventh, delivered in the three-run fourth inning with a good bit of hitting, reaching out to slap a 2-1 curveball into shallow left field and knocking in Adrian Beltre, who led off the inning with a single and advanced to second when Nelson Cruz walked. Catcher Geovany Soto kept his hot bat going after collecting three hits Sunday with a sharp grounder through the hole on the left side to score Cruz. Mitch Moreland loaded the bases with a fortuitous infield nubber that shortstop and former Ranger Omar Quintanilla had no shot at converting. Murphy added his second RBI with a no-out single in the eighth to make it 5-1.
Late carryover for Young?: A three-hit Sunday at Toronto -- including his first homer in months -- didn't spark the makings of a streak for embattled hitter Michael Young, well, at least not until late. Occupying the DH spot Monday, Young couldn't find a hit or a bit of luck in his first three at-bats. After grounding out to lead off of the second inning, Young came up in the fourth with no outs and runners at first and second. His sinking liner to left didn't get down quickly enough as McLouth snared it at his shoelaces. In the fifth, Young softly grounded out to second base with one out and Cruz at second. But in the eighth, Young slapped a liner to left-center and never thought about holding it to a single, sliding in safely at second with his 20th double of the season. Young finished the night 1-for-4 and his batting .272.
Wrong side of Top 10: Josh Hamilton entered Monday's game 10th in the AL in strikeouts with 112. Add two more to his total after he went down swinging in the third and fifth innings. During his first strikeout, ironically, Hamilton laid off two pitches he typically hacks at to run the count to 3-2 and then swung at ball four, a changeup that bounced in the dirt. It resulted in a double play with Ian Kinsler running on the pitch and getting thrown out at second. Hamilton has struck out 114 times in 113 games. His career-high for strikeouts is 126 in 156 games in 2008. He struck out 93 times in 121 games last season.
Up next: Rangers right-hander Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.63 ERA) goes up against Orioles righty Chris Tillman (5-2, 3.65) at 7:05 p.m. on on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW in the second game of the three-game set.