Texas Rangers: 2010 AL West Clincher

Ian Kinsler, Rangers want to thank fans

September, 27, 2010
Rangers fans will see some of the regulars in Monday's game with the Mariners. Second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Michael Young were among the players who told manager Ron Washington they wanted to be in the lineup tonight.

"This is the first title we've had for 11 years and the fans have been great this year," Kinsler said. "The excitement has been building all year. We were able to clinch on the road. We'd like to have done it at home, but we wanted to get it done as fast as possible. We want to run onto the field to a lot of happy people in the stands."

Texas is at home all week against the Mariners (for three games) and the Angels (for four games) to end the regular season. They'll start the playoffs next Wednesday.

Rangers raising AL West title flag tonight

September, 27, 2010
The Rangers will raise the 2010 American League West Division champion flag prior to tonight's 7:05 p.m. game against the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The flag will be on top of the center field office building and be raised as part of a pre-game ceremony about 10 minutes before the first pitch.

BTW, here are some highlights planned by the team for the final regular season homestand:

* On October 1, tickets regularly priced up to $25 are just $10 with the Verizon Wireless Friday Night Fireworks ticket special. Cash parking is also just $5 that night, when a spectacular fireworks show themed “From Sea to Shining Sea” music.

* Sunday, October 3 is Fan Appreciation Day with a number of great prizes to be given away. In addition, fans can demonstrate their support by participating in the Claw & Antlers Parade, which begins at 1:15 p.m. Fans who wear their best “Claw & Antlers” garb will be able to parade around the warning track. Fans judged to have the best three outfits will receive official Claws & Antlers shirts.

AL West Championship merchandise will be on sale in the stadium all week as well.

Clubhouse manager talks about celebration

September, 27, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Richard "Hoggy" Price, the Rangers' clubhouse manager, had to make sure everything was set on Saturday for the club's celebration of the AL West title.

But getting the clubhouse ready for a racous celebration is sometimes a guessing game. He had the champagne on ice -- all 230 bottles -- and the plastic coverings for the lockers ready. Once the Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning, he began to get everything ready. Then the A's hit a two-run homer to tie it.

"That stopped everything for a minute," Price said.

The very next half-inning, Jorge Cantu hit the homer to put the Rangers up 4-3 and Price and his crew (plus the crew from Oakland) started putting the plastic up and getting the furniture moved.

"We figured it was easier to get it all taken down quickly than to put it up," Price said.

Price bought 230 bottles of champagne -- 200 of the Tott's brut, 24 Moet (a sponsor of the team) and 6 non-alcoholic -- and eight cases of 24-ounce Bud Light.

"I don't have the words to describe it," Price said about the celebration. "It was priceless. Maybe next year we can do it in front of the home fans."

Price said joked that he would increase the number of champagne bottles for every round of the playoffs the Rangers advanced. (I think he was joking.)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's a question the Rangers may be asking during the first round of the playoffs as Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis are scheduled to pitch Games 1, 2 and 3.

Manager Ron Washington indicated Sunday that the club would consider using Lee on three days' rest to pitch in Game 4, depending on how the series going. Of course, if the series gets to a Game 4 that means the Rangers are either up 2-1 and Lee could wind up having a chance to clinch the series in Arlington or down 1-2 and Lee could be needed to keep the series alive.

But you could also look at that another way: If the Rangers are up 2-1, Tommy Hunter could pitch on full rest at home and if he falters, Cliff Lee could go on full rest on the road in Game 5. And if Hunter were to get the job done, Lee would be available to start Game 1 of the ALCS with some extra time off.

We're getting way ahead of ourselves, naturally. But what do the numbers say about pitching Lee on three days' rest? Elias Sports Bureau helped with that. Here are how starting pitchers have done on three days' rest in the postseason the last three years (this is all rounds, both leagues):

2007: 0-2, 20.77 ERA (two games started on short rest)

2008: 1-1, 6.00 ERA (three games started on short rest)

2009: 2-1, 5.24 ERA (four games started on short rest)

Interestingly, Lee has never started on three days' rest in his career. So it's very difficult to know how he might respond. Lee's only postseason was 2009 and it was a memorable one. He was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 40 1/3 innings. Lee pitched on at least four days' rest in every postseason start. And when he got additional rest, he was even better. When Lee got five days' rest, he was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA (17 innings). On six days' rest, he pitched a complete game shutout at Yankee Stadium in the World Series.

Lee said his only focus is getting ready for the playoffs.

"I've got another start to make and we have to finish the season," Lee said. "But it's the first game. You always want to win the first one, and I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win."

The stats, at least recently, show that pitching on short rest doesn't necessarily mean success. I would think the Rangers would see how Lee does in that first start, how many pitches he needs, etc., before making a firm call. And if the club is up 2-1, I would pitch Hunter in Game 4. But that's just me. If the team is down 1-2 and Lee is the best option, I'd throw him out there even on short rest.

I know others would suggest that Lee should go up 2-1 to try to make sure the Rangers don't have to go back on the road. But my decision to hold Lee for a possible Game 5 or Game 1 in the ALCS under that scenario also speaks to my confidence level in Hunter. I think he's got the bulldog attitude to go out and pitch well in the postseason.

What do you think? Would you pitch Lee on short rest?

Josh Hamilton feels good, takes day off

September, 26, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is not doing much of anything today. But that's actually good news. He feels good and is ready to starting ramping things up a bit.

"Things have gone so well the last three days, they want me to have an off day and be ready for tomorrow," Hamilton said.

Hamilton took some one-armed swings with a short bat prior to Saturday's game and felt fine. He will try to do the same thing with his back hand on Monday before picking up a real bat. He also did some medicine ball throws on Saturday with some twisting and turning and said his lat muscle and ribs felt fine. He has not had a lat muscle spasm in a few days.

"I'll get a massage and take it easy," Hamilton said. "But it has felt better."

Roster decisions: first base, bullpen

September, 26, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington indicated Sunday that Jorge Cantu has earned a spot on the postseason roster.

That means the biggest question at first base is which left-handed bat -- Mitch Moreland or Chris Davis -- makes the 25-man playoff squad. Washington said he wants to get Cantu, Moreland and Davis as many at-bats as he can this week. A meeting of Washington and the front office personnel is planned for Tuesday to sort through the roster.

Today, Washington has Davis at first base, Cantu at third and Moreland in right field, giving all three of them a chance to hit.

If recent numbers are any indication, Davis would have the edge. Davis is 4-for-9 with a 2B, HR, RBI and four walks in 10 games since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sept. 11. He also plays solid defense at first base and has replaced Moreland late in games at times when the Rangers have the lead.

Davis' good showing since his return has come at a time when Moreland has struggled. Coming into Sunday's game, Moreland was hitless in his last eight at-bats and 4-for-24 with 11 strikeouts in his last eight games.

The other decision will be the bullpen. It appears unlikely that Frank Francisco will be ready for the postseason. Washington said he's been throwing at 50 percent off flat ground and still hasn't attempted to get on a mound. If he can't go, the club must figure out who goes in his absence. (We'll get into that more this week).

ALDS rotation: Lee, Wilson, Lewis

September, 26, 2010

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday that he's planning on going with Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the ALDS on Wednesday, Oct. 5, followed by lefty C.J. Wilson in Game 2 (Thursday, Oct. 6) and Colby Lewis in Game 3 (Saturday, Oct. 8).

Washington said he is considering using Lee on short rest to pitch in Game 4, depending on how the series is going.

"If we think we need him, he could go," Washington said.

If the club decides not to pitch Lee on three days' rest, Tommy Hunter w0uld get the start. Otherwise, Hunter will be in the bullpen.

Washington said he chose Lewis over Hunter as the third starter because of Lewis' experience.

"He's been here since day 1," Washington said. "He's earned that right, not that Tommy hasn't, but we can only go with three at first."

In order to prepare for that rotation, Washington said the club will make sure Lee, Wilson and Lewis get full rest from the end of the regular season and leading into the playoffs. Tentatively, that means Lee would pitch on Thursday and Wilson on Friday. Lewis would probably pitch again next weekend, since he won't be needed until the following weekend.

Washington has plenty of confidence in his rotation.

"Those are the guys that got us to this point and we'll depend on them to take us as far as we can go," Washington said. "They keep you in ballgames and that's what you need."

Matt Treanor: Milwaukee to title

September, 26, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Catcher Matt Treanor became a Ranger with about a week left in spring training back in March. He showed up to the Surprise complex during an off day from games and watched some of the minor league games that included a few of the major league pitchers, trying to go ahead and do some scouting for a team he didn't know.

Treanor knew he was acquired for insurance. He didn't know that the club would be cashing in that policy after the first week of the season when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was injured. Treanor came up from Triple-A Oklahoma City and established himself as an important part of this team.

"I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I'm glad to be a part of this team," Treanor said. "I started in Milwaukee and there wasn't a spot for me there, so I came here and got a chance. It's been a whole lot of fun."

Jeff Francoeur bonds quickly with team

September, 26, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jeff Francoeur didn't join the Rangers until Aug. 31, making him eligible for the postseason roster.

But Francoeur has quickly become a part of the fabric of the team, fitting in with the relaxed clubhouse and helping the club reach the finish line in the AL West with solid at-bats against lefties. He's probably going to be a factor in the postseason as well.

"It's awesome," Francoeur said. "And as I told the guys, as fun as this is, we need to do it three more times. We've got a team that can do it in the postseason. We have the pieces to go late in October. We're going to enjoy this week and try to go deep in the playoffs."

Francoeur has experienced clinching before, doing it with the Atlanta Braves in 2005. But he said this one was a little more special.

"That's because the first time it was three months and I was up and it was a whirlwind and it's been five years since I've been able to do this," Francoeur said. "It never gets old. It was worth every second. These guys are awesome. For me, it brings great joy to see guys like Michael Young who have tried for nine or 10 years and have not been able to feel this joy until now. It's just great."

Feliz thankful to be on mound for clincher

September, 25, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Lost in the celebration of clinching the AL West title was the fact that Neftali Feliz added his name to the record book.

The 22-year-old earned his 38th save of the season, the most saves by a rookie in major league history. Feliz came in with two outs in the eighth in a one-run game and got Kevin Kouzmanoff out with a 98 mph fastball on the outside corner. Feliz then struck out Chris Carter to start the ninth. A fly ball that should have been caught in right-center went off Julio Borbon's glove (there was a miscommunication between Borbon and right fielder Jeff Franceour). But Feliz retired Jack Cust and Cliff Pennington to end the game.

"I feel so proud and to be part of a winning team is special," Feliz said through a translater. "I feel blessed and thank God for giving me the opportunity. It was a big win today."

Feliz said he was emotional after Nelson Cruz caught the final ball and was thankful to be on the mound. Feliz has the sixth-most saves in a season for the Rangers, passing Francisco Cordero's 2005 total. He has not allowed a run in his past 13 appearances (13 1/3 innings).

Josh Hamilton celebrates his way

September, 25, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton knows the smartest thing he can do is stay away from alcohol. So when the AL West-clinching party moved into the clubhouse, Hamilton slipped off into the trainer's room and showered.

Some of his teammates tried to find him and drench him with water, but he had already changed into his street clothes and was preparing to speak to a large group of fans as part of church day in Oakland. Hamilton shared his testimony, as did several A's players, while the celebration in the clubhouse finished up.

Hamilton did take part in the on-field hugs that occurred as soon as the game ended.

"It's exciting," Hamilton said about clinching the division. "It's a proud day in Texas. It was great to be on the field and with the guys you've been in the trenches with."

Hamilton has been sidelined since Sept. 4 with a small fracture in two ribs and is trying to work his way back into the lineup. He is doing exercises to strength his lat muscle and be sure his ribs can handle the wear and tear of playing baseball. But he was clearly pleased that the club finally clinched the division.

“I’ve been waiting for this to happen,” Hamilton said. “I’m excited about what we’ve done. Everybody has put a lot of work in and we’ve come together as a team and played well this season. We’re excited to get the division."

Players, coaches party like it's 1999

September, 25, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Rangers last won the AL West title, Ian Kinsler was playing high school ball in Tucson.

But Kinsler and his teammates were well aware of the title drought and were determined to do something about it in 2010.

"This is just an incredible feeling," Kinsler said. “This isn’t something that was handed to us. We still have work to do, but this is nice. To see that fly ball go up, I just wanted someone to catch it. We got where we wanted to be, but we want to win it all. It’s been a great ride so far and we’ll see if we can continue it.”

Kinsler was drenched in cheap champagne and beer and looked like he was in heaven. The second baseman said he was thrilled for third baseman Michael Young and the rest of his teammates who worked so hard to earn the title. Many players and coaches reiterated Kinsler's thoughts, and all of them talked about the hard work the team did.

"Right now there's no better feeling," said outfielder David Murphy, who has emerged as one of the most important players the second half of this season. "We know we have work ahead of us, we know there's more in store. But we're going to enjoy this. It's been a great ride so far."

The team mobbed Young at third base right after Nelson Cruz caught the ball (BTW, he said someone from the team got the ball to keep it for safe keeping) and hugged on the field. They then took the party to the clubhouse. Manager Ron Washington made a quick speech (more on that in the column coming up) and then was doused with champagne and the party really started. Eventually, a haze from the cigar smoke filled the clubhouse. Let's just say it was a large group of players having a good time.

Jorge Cantu's RBIs come at right time

September, 25, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rangers infielder Jorge Cantu knew he didn't have an RBI since coming to Texas just before the July 31 trade deadline.

Cantu was acquired to play first base against lefties and produce with his bat. That wasn't really happening. He was hitting just .203 as a Ranger coming into Saturday's game with no RBIs in 80 plate appearances. But that all changed in the sixth, when he hit a single with the infield in to score Ian Kinsler and give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Jorge Cantu
Kyle Terada/US PresswireJorge Cantu hadn't contributed much to the Rangers' drive towards the AL West title until Saturday, when he hit the go-ahead home run in the clinching victory.
Texas then took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh and appeared poised to finish the A's off. But Cliff Pennington's two-run homer with two outs off Clay Rapada -- the first runs allowed by Rapada since he was called up -- tied the score.

Cantu came up with two outs and no one on in the top of the eighth and belted a 3-2 slider over the wall in left to give the Rangers the 4-3 lead. Cantu threw his hand in the air as he rounded first base, clearly excited.

"When you are in a bad streak, all you can do is keep working on it," said Cantu, smoking a cigar and enjoying a beer as champaigne showered around him in the joyous clubhouse. "My mind is working and my mind is thinking about what I needed to do. I knew it was a crucial time and a crucial situation, and I love being in there during those times."

During the postgame celebration, hitting coach Clint Hurdle said, loud enough for everyone to hear: "Wow, Cantu. When you get those RBIs, they come in bunches."

Derek Holland, who may not even make the postseason roster, can also take solace in the fact that he helped keep his team in the clinching game. He went five innings and gave up one run. It was another example of manager Ron Washington's assertion that everyone on the roster helped get the club to this point.

"We're a team, that's for sure," catcher Matt Treanor said. "Anytime skip puts somebody in the lineup, he believes in them and so do we. Those guys did it for us today. That's how it's been all year. Everybody has stepped up at some point."

Game thoughts: Rangers win AL West

September, 25, 2010

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.

Eric Nadel: Calling clinchers on the air

September, 25, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Likely at some point, possibly even today, longtime Rangers play-by-play broadcaster Eric Nadel will get an opportunity to call the clinching game for the Rangers. He's been in the booth for three previous AL West clinching games, though only one was actually a title clinched by a Texas victory. Here are some of Nadel's memories of calling those previous games from the booth:

Q: What do you remember about the other three clinching games and how you called them?

EN: In 1996, the first time was a bizarre clinching because we were playing extra innings against the Angels at home and Seattle lost to Oakland and when it went up on the out of town scoreboard, that’s when we knew. We didn’t' have the internet to follow pitch-by-pitch. Brad Sham was doing play-by-play that inning and he said, 'Partner, why don't you say it.' So I got to say the Rangers had won the AL West. It was the first time those words had ever been spoken.

It was such a frustrating year because a 9-game lead dwindled to one with 10 games left. It was a nervous time and a lot of nights I woke up and couldn't fall back asleep. Everybody was celebrating except the players, who had to finish the game.

I don't remember much about the calls from the other two years, only that in 1998 the Rangers also won by somebody else losing and we were in Seattle at the Kingdome. We were just waiting for the final to come up on the Anaheim loss. In 1999, it was the next to last Sunday, so we clinched with seven games left and that was a very satifsying way to clinch because it was a 10-3 win and you felt like the team earned it the way they should have.

It was so much of a bigger deal in 1996 and this year will be close to that because of this drought. For a lot of Rangers fans, this will be the first time. They'll have the same sort of intensity about it that we had back in 1996. It's been so long for us since 1999. It's been a pretty frustrating period to be a Ranger fan.

Q: Do you have something planned to say when the team clinches?

EN: No. Whatever happens, happens. The only thing I was pretty sure I would say ahead of time was when Nolan got his 5,000th strikeout. I knew I would say, ‘And strikeout No. 5,000 is history for Nolan Ryan.’ I wasn't sure what I'd say around that, but that would be the nucleus.

Q: How do you think you'll feel when it's finally clinched?

EN: I think it will feel that way for me like 1996. Especialy the way the Ranges have had a couple of hiccups in the season. It was a lot of fun in 1999, beating the second-place team and doing it covincingly. You had the satisfaction that you were the cream of the division. That was the best team in Rangers history in terms of games won. But if this team goes farther in the playoffs, it won’t matter.

The other thing that is very similar to 1996 is that the Rangers players really wanted to win for themselves, but also for Johnny Oates. I sense the same thing with Wash. With all that Wash has been through in his time here and as much as he has stuck behind the players and they have stuck behind him, I think it’s going to be extra special.



Adrian Beltre
.324 19 77 79
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182