Texas Rangers: Alex Rodriguez
The Rangers and Yankees are back together again, though in a few ways they are mirror images of the super powers that clashed in a memorable American League Championship Series in 2010.
Don't blame the pitching. The Rangers and Yankees are second and third in the American League in ERA in what is a dead heat. The Rangers have a 3.76 team ERA. The Yankees have a 3.77 team ERA.
No, the problem is a pair of offenses that have plummeted from their powerhouse levels of 2010. The Yankees are averaging 3.9 runs per game. The not-so-Bronx Bombers have a .244 team batting average and a .375 slugging percentage.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have scored two or fewer runs in six of their last eight games. The Rangers are eighth in the AL with 418 runs, an average of 4.3 runs per game.
The Rangers have actually managed to play at a high level for much of the season and at 54-44 are three games behind Oakland in the American League West.
The Yankees (52-46) have also managed to hang around in the AL East, where they are seven games behind Boston after losing 8-7 in 11 innings on Sunday night on former Ranger Mike Napoli's walk off home run for the Red Sox.
Here's what else to watch for as the Rangers and Yankees begin a four-game series Monday night in Arlington:
Not A-Rod: Former Ranger Alex Rodriguez was expected to make his season debut Monday night, but will be in Tampa instead getting treatment for a Grade 1 quad strain. Conspiracy theories abound that the quad injury -- discovered by an MRI on Sunday -- are part of a plan for Rodriguez to never play for the Yankees again, and who knows, maybe help them get out of the $141 million the club still owes him. Rodriguez will avoid the boo birds in Texas where he has long been vilified since being traded by the Rangers to New York. Amazing since Rodriguez put up big numbers in Texas. He was the 2003 America League MVP playing for the Rangers in a season where he had 52 home runs and 132 RBIs. There's an argument the Yankees need to take a chance on A-Rod. Yankees third basemen this season have hit an AL-low four home runs and have not hit one since May 22 (by David Adams).
Darvish returns: Yu Darvish comes off the 15-day disabled list to make Monday's start against the Yankees. He missed only one start because of a muscle strain in his back. Rangers manager Ron Washington said this week that Darvish could have made the start he missed before the All-Star break against Baltimore, but the the Rangers decided to hold him back for precautionary reasons. The Rangers hope they are getting back the Darvish that dominated opponents early in the season. He's failed to complete seven innings in each of his past four starts, recording a 4.50 ERA. Darvish can retake the major league strikeout lead on Monday night. Matt Harvey of the New York Mets tied him with 157 strikeouts over the weekend.
Changing of the guard: The Yankees have won the season series from the Rangers seven of the last nine seasons. The Rangers took two out of three games at Yankee Stadium in June and can win the season series for the first time since 2008 with no worse than a split of the four-game series. The teams also split eight regular season games in 2010, and then the Rangers won the series that really matter, taking the ALCS 4-2 to earn the first trip to the World Series in club history.
Injuries crush Yanks: The Bronx Bombers have aged quickly. With shortstop Derek Jeter going back on the disabled list right before the All-Star break and former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira out for the season after wrist surgery, the Yankees have a total payroll of $98.5 million on the DL. That's more than 16 teams' Opening Day payroll for 2013. Notable Yankees on the DL include Rodriguez ($29M), Teixeira ($23.125M), Jeter ($17M), center fielder Curtis Granderson ($15M) and oft-injured infielder Kevin Youkilis ($12M).
Cano, Kinsler playing well: Somehow, All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano stays hot for the Yankees despite little protection in the lineup. Cano is batting .415 with a .519 OBP over a Yankees season-high 12-game hit streak. He’s also driven in 12 runs in that span, including two in each of the last two games. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler also has played well despite a merry-go-round behind him in the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Three different players have batted second in three games since the All-Star break. Kinsler was 4-for-12 and drove in two of the Rangers' seven runs against Baltimore in a weekend sweep by the Orioles.
Rodriguez has a Grade 1 strain of his left quadriceps and will not join the Yankees for the start of Monday's four-game series against the Rangers. Rodriguez is out seven to 10 days and will head to Tampa for treatment.
You can read more about A-Rod's latest injury here.
|ESPN senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to discuss the latest Rangers news.
Yes, A-Rod could make his long-awaited 2013 debut at Rangers Ballpark once his 20-day rehab assignment ends. Rodriguez had hip surgery in January.
Rangers fans -- who have booed Rodriguez unmercifully since he orchestrated his way out of town via a trade to the Yankees in 2004 -- aren't likely to give A-Rod a warm reception upon his return to the Yankees lineup.
Then again, with the way the 2012 season ended and the way his offseason has gone with his name attached to the Miami Biogenesis clinic, Yankees fans might have a rough welcome for him too.
BOSTON -- Nelson Cruz has had more memorable nights at Fenway Park than almost any player in the American League.
Cruz, who came in batting .417 at Fenway, had another one in Tuesday's 17-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Cruz had his 14th home run in the top of the sixth -- a good thing. He went head-first over the short right-field fence on a home run by Mike Carp in the fifth inning, landing on his shoulder as he attempted to steal a home run -- a painful thing. He misplayed a fly ball down the right-field line in the bottom of the sixth for a three-base error -- a bad thing.
"It was a tough night," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The home run was fantastic. I don't know what happened on the ball [down the line]. It wasn't our night."
Cruz was also named in an ESPN "Outside The Lines" report that broke during the game as one of about 20 players -- including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun -- whom Major League Baseball will seek to suspend in connection with the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal.
If the suspensions are administered, the PED scandal would be the largest in American sports history.
Cruz was informed by Rangers media relations about the report after the game.
"I cannot say anything about it," Cruz said. "I guess it's part of the process. They are doing their jobs."
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said "no comment" in an email reply when asked about the ESPN report.
|Former MLB general manager and ESPN Insider Jim Bowden offers insight into the Nelson Cruz PED allegations and discusses possible Rangers moves with Ben and Skin.
The Rangers issued a statement Tuesday morning that reads: "The Texas Rangers were contacted late last week by Miami New Times regarding the story posted this morning. At that time, the Rangers contacted Major League Baseball on that inquiry. The team has no further comment."
Here's an excerpt from the story:
But there are also several prominent professionals in Bosch's records who have never before been linked to steroid use. According to his July 2012 client sheet, Bosch sold $4,000 of product to Nelson Cruz, whom he nicknames "Mohamad." Cruz, the power-hitting Dominican outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has whacked 130 bombs in his eight-year career without any links to performance-enhancing drugs. Until now. Bosch writes in his 2012 book: "Need to call him, go Thur to Texas, take meds from April 5-May 5, will owe him troches and... and will infuse them in May."
The clinic was run by Anthony Bosch and after the newspaper received the notes, they interviewed six customers and two former employees and said that the interviews "corroborate the tale told by the patient files, the payment records, and the handwritten notebooks" kept by Bosch.
The report says the newspaper attempted to contact the players listed in the notes through their teams but was unsuccessful. Cruz has never failed a test done through MLB.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Michael Young snapped a tie with a run-scoring single in the 10th inning to lift the Rangers to a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium. Young’s hit came after a leadoff triple by Ian Kinsler off Royals closer Greg Holland.
What it means: The Rangers, 82-55, moved 27 games over .500 for the first time this year and 5 ½ games ahead of Oakland in the American League West. By taking three of four in Kansas City, the Rangers have won their last six series.
Strategy foiled: Manager Ron Washington played the percentages in the seventh inning when he lifted starter Scott Feldman for lefty Michael Kirkman with lefty-hitting Eric Hosmer at the plate and Texas leading by one. Hosmer foiled the strategy with a homer to left-center that tied the game at 4-4 and ended Feldman’s chance of getting a win for the first time since Aug. 4. Nevertheless, Feldman can reflect on a positive outing. He allowed six hits and three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings.
Twice as nice: Back-to-back homers are becoming standard operating procedure for the Rangers. They did it again Thursday, with Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre going back-to-back in the fourth inning. It’s the ninth time this year that Texas has had back-to-back homers and the second time in the Kansas City series. On Monday, Beltre and Nelson Cruz went back-to-back.
Select company: When Beltre hit his 30th homer Thursday, it marked the second consecutive year in which he has hit reached that plateau. Beltre, 33, joins a short list of players who posted back-to-back seasons with 30 homers or more at 32 or older. That list includes Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez.
Royal defense: When they face the Royals next year, the Rangers may be somewhat leery about taking daring leads. That’s because Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez has made an impression in this series with his throwing ability. Perez picked off Kinsler at third Tuesday night and picked off Craig Gentry at first Thursday. Perez leads the Major Leagues in pickoffs with four this season. Kansas City used more good defense to thwart the Rangers in the eighth. With two on and two out, Cruz hit a liner to deep center, but Lorenzo Cain raced back for a lunging catch to take away two RBIs from Cruz. In the ninth, Hosmer leaned over the first base railing for an acrobatic grab of Geovany Soto’s foul popup.
Soto delivers: Soto doesn’t have a high batting average, but he came through with some big hits at the start and finish of the series. Soto got Texas off and running with a three-run homer in the series opener and blasted a go-ahead RBI double off Luke Hochevar in the seventh inning of the series finale. The Rangers can only hope it’s a glimpse of things to come.
ARLINGTON, Texas – This one was a rout from the first inning. The Texas Rangers looked like a well-rounded contender again in the blowout of the Toronto Blue Jays, not the struggling Texas team seen over the last week and a half.
What it means: Can this be considered evidence that the Rangers’ funk is over? Texas had lost six of nine before Thursday’s day off. They responded with one of their most dominant performances of the season.
Phenomenal first: After Derek Holland struck out the side on 13 pitches in the top of the first, the Rangers bats that had slumbered in Seattle rocked Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow. Texas scored six runs in the first inning -- one shy of their total from the three-game series in Seattle -- and batted around before chasing Morrow from the game with two outs.
It was the shortest start of his career for Morrow, whose ERA shot up from 2.63 to 3.47 after giving up six earned runs on five hits and three walks while recording only two outs.
Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler set the tone and started the trouble by working a 13-pitch walk. The major damage was done by the bats of Adrian Beltre (two-run single), Nelson Cruz (three-run double) and Mitch Moreland (RBI single).
Big night for Boomstick: The hits and RBIs tend to come in bunches for Cruz.
Cruz went 4-for-5 with a grand slam and eight RBIs against the Blue Jays. It was the second eight-RBI game of his career, making him the only Ranger in history to have eight ribbies more than once. It was the American League-leading ninth three-plus-hit game of the season for Cruz.
Cruz had a bases-loaded double in the first inning and a majestic grand slam in the seventh. Cruz powered the ball an estimated 414 feet the opposite way into the upper deck of the home run porch.
The Blue Jays tend to bring out the best in Cruz. His previous eight-RBI performance came against Toronto on July 22, 2011.
Dutch Oven dazzles: Holland, who had been inconsistent this season, had his best start since his spectacular performance in Game 4 of the World Series.
Holland had a season-high nine strikeouts while allowing six hits in 7 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs, the first on a solo homer by Edwin Encarnacion and the second after reliever Mark Lowe let an inherited runner score.
The lefty’s fastball touched as high as 96 mph, but Holland’s command was the most impressive facet of his outing. He allowed only one walk -- which didn’t happen until the eighth inning -- and consistently pitched from ahead in the count.
Hamilton HR drought ends: Josh Hamilton's solo blast into the home run porch’s upper deck in the second inning snapped his longest homer drought of the season. Hamilton had gone 11 games and 40 at-bats since his last homer May 12, when he wrapped up his historic nine-homer week. Hamilton’s 10 home runs this month ties a club record for May shared by Juan Gonzalez (1998, ’99), Alex Rodriguez (2001) and Vladimir Guerrero (2010).
It was Hamilton’s league-leading 19th homer. The last player in the majors to have 19 homers after 46 games was the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Hamilton is the fastest to 19 homers in Ranger history.
Torrealba finally goes yard: Yorvit Torrealba's home run drought was a heck of a lot longer than Hamilton’s. His 373-foot shot into the left-field seats in the third inning was his first homer of the season. He hit it during his 69th at-bat of the season. Torrelaba had seven homers in 396 at-bats last season.
Tidbits: The Rangers have scored six or more runs in an inning five times this season. Three of those instances occurred in the first inning. … Kinsler had not walked since May 13 before leading off the first by working a 13-pitch walk. … Beltre has nine RBIs in the last nine games. … Lowe allowed a run for only the third time in 15 appearances this season. … Attendance was announced at 46,789. It was the 14th sellout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this season, the third most in franchise history. … Craig Gentry pinch hit for Hamilton in the seventh inning. The Rangers announced that Hamilton’s departure was due to a head cold. … Blue Jays backup catcher Jeff Mathis pitched a scoreless eighth inning. A Rangers fan paid Mathis, who has a career .194 batting average, a backhanded compliment by hollering, “You’re a better pitcher than a hitter!”
Up next: Rangers righty Colby Lewis faces Blue Jays righty Henderson Alvarez at 2:05 p.m. Saturday.
In fact, his four wins in just six appearances is an MLB first.
The same rookie that has to "cowboy up" before games by toting around a toy mini-rifle and a plush horse while wearing a leather vest and a pink backpack retired eight straight Yankees, including future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez -- guys who made their MLB debut before Ross was in kindergarten.
"I think after [Jeter] grounded out, I think I had to get off the mound and give a sigh of relief," Ross said.
Ross knows he'll eventually have a bad outing, but for now, he said he's living in the moment.
"I didn't expect anything like this," Ross said. "Right now it's going the right direction, and I hope I can keep going in that direction."
It's not even that he didn't expect to win four games in April. Ross said he didn't even expect to be put into win-situations.
"I just expected to go in there, do some innings, and try to keep our team in the game," Ross said. "I never expected to get wins."
Talk about a pressure situation, too. In the fourth inning, Ross came in with runners on second and third with one out against the hot-hitting Eric Chavez. Mark Teixeira scored on a sacrifice fly, and Ross limited the damage by getting Russell Martin to line out to first.
|Rangers' relief pitcher Robbie Ross on his hot start to his rookie season.
"I was really just more focused on not walking [Chavez]," Ross said. "Just knowing we have a team that can make plays behind me when I'm pitching just makes my nerves and everything that I'm going through on the mound a lot easier."
At 18 years old, Ross was drafted out of high school in the second round by the Rangers. Now he's an integral part of the bullpen that helped Texas jump out to a 8.5-game lead over the Angels.
"It's like a dream come true," Ross said. "I just sit here and think -- this is a big team and a special organization and things like that."
He still knows his place, though. Technically, he is on pace to win 34 games this season. Even if he did, he would still be the rookie in the clubhouse who has to head out to the bullpen before games in his western duds while "Happy Trails" plays throughout the stadium.
"I don't think wins will do anything to it," Ross said laughing. "As long as I'm the rookie, I'll wear the outfit. As long as I can be around here pitching and enjoying this team, it's fine with me."
Ross has been a great surprise for manager Ron Washington. Opponents are hitting .179 against the bullpen's only southpaw.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Perhaps a Texas starter was due for a dud after the Rangers pitched well enough to have a legitimate shot of winning every game during their 13-3 start.
You just didn’t expect it to come from Derek Holland, which speaks to the wild-haired 25-year-old's rapid maturation within the last year, when he morphed from a roller coaster to a rock in the Rangers’ rotation.
|Rangers starter Derek Holland talks about the 7-4 loss to the Yankees and getting ready for his next start.
The outing snapped Holland’s personal winning streak of eight games, including his spectacular World Series performance, but continued his bad run against the Bronx Bombers. Holland is 0-5 with a 9.53 ERA against the Yankees in his career, although he tersely said he doesn’t read too much into those nasty numbers.
All due respect to the Yankees’ loaded lineup, but Holland simply didn’t pitch well in front of the sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
“It’s been a while,” manager Ron Washington said of Holland’s poor performance. “He’s been very consistent. And once again, you know, that’s a pretty good lineup. They do their business in that batter’s box. If you’re a little bit erratic and not hitting your spots and doing what you’re supposed to do, they make you pay.”
Sure, future first-ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter deserves credit for his four hits off of Holland, including a double that scored the Yankees' seventh run. And Alex Rodriguez, whose case for Cooperstown is clouded only by his admitted steroids history during his Rangers days, hit a towering blast into the visitors’ bullpen that blew the game open in the fifth inning.
But the Yankees’ bats, which beat up Holland for nine hits in his six innings, had nothing to do with the Dutch Oven’s biggest problem. He struggled with his command, allowing four walks, including a free pass to No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart to lead off the disastrous fifth inning.
“I’m pretty upset with myself,” said Holland, whose ERA soared from 3.10 to 4.78 after his first non-quality start of the season. “I didn’t battle as well as I usually had been before. The walks are what really killed me.”
Washington wasn’t too upset with Holland. In fact, the skipper sought the silver lining, saying that one bad inning was the difference in the game and praising Holland for putting up a fight despite the poor command.
The plan was to pull Holland after that awful fifth inning, but Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux changed their minds, wanting to save the bullpen as much as possible with long man Scott Feldman scheduled to make a spot start Wednesday. Holland gave the Rangers one more inning -- and gave up one more run -- before hitting the showers.
“He’s a tough kid,” said clubhouse leader Michael Young, who delivered what appeared to be a pep talk to Holland in the dugout after the sixth inning. “He’ll bounce back. He’s getting to be a real professional right now. He’ll make his adjustments, watch his film. He’ll be ready to roll in his next start.”
Added Holland: “It’s not like the end of the world because I had one bad start.”
No, it just ended a couple of impressive trends. And it extended a trend for Holland against the Yankees that isn’t exactly encouraging.
Fan voting has matched up Alex Rodriguez against the man who signed off on what was then the biggest contract in baseball history, Tom Hicks.
Rodriguez put up big numbers in Texas, but the Rangers finished in last place every year he was here. After being dealt to the Yankees, he took a shot at the "24 kids" he was forced to play with in Texas.
Hicks' ownership of the Rangers and Stars wound up in bankruptcy for both teams.
There are many reasons for fans to dislike both men. But only one will garner the title of Public Enemy No. 1. And it's up to you to make that choice.
Vote here and join the discussion here.
After two hits on Saturday, Young raised his average to .338, two points behind the leader, Boston Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.340) and a point behind second-place Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers (.339).
“The batting race is not my focus,’’ the 34-year-old Young, ever the team player, said Saturday. “My focus is completely on winning games.’’
Young is one of three Texas Rangers in their 39-year history to have won an AL batting title with a .331 average in 2005, 10 points better than second-place Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.
Other Rangers batting title champions are Julio Franco (.341) in 1991 and Josh Hamilton last season (.359).
Young made it a point to volunteer for duty Saturday, a day when many Rangers regulars enjoyed a day off, even though Felix Hernandez was pitching for the Seattle Mariners.
“When I put myself in the place of our players, that’s what I would do,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I’d be one of those that would tell the skipper that you can depend on me.’’
Young’s 155 starts in Texas’ 158 games this season are broken down this way: 68 at designated hitter, 38 at first base, 13 at second base and 36 at first base.
Washington said it was an oversight for Young to not at least be mentioned in the MVP discussion.
“When you look at all the things he does for this team, all the positions he plays,’’ said Washington, “it’s B.S. if they don’t talk about Michael Young.’’
NEW YORK -- Alexi Ogando didn't have it and the Rangers fell behind early and couldn't claw back, dropping the first of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. New York poured it on in the middle innings and ended up with 12 runs on 12 hits. Texas has lost four of its first five games on this road trip. Some quick thoughts on tonight's game (more to come from clubhouse shortly):
* Ogando had his worst outing of the season Tuesday. His command was shaky, leaving too many fastballs up and the Yankee hitters took advantage. The 27-year-old was gone after just 1 2/3 innings, by far his shortest start of the season. In fact, Ogando had gone at least six innings in all 12 of his previous starts, 10 of those quality starts.
* The six runs allowed in those 1 2/3 innings were the most he's given up in any outing all season. He's only allowed more than two runs three times this season -- twice in Yankee Stadium. He gave up five runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings on April 17. So he's got a 12.38 ERA against New York this season (both starts at Yankee Stadium).
* It was the second inning that ruined Ogando's night. It started with a broken-bat single by Alex Rodriguez and ended with Rodriguez coming up and Michael Kirkman coming out of the pen. In between, the Yankees got five more hits, including doubles by Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira. Posada's double put runners at second and third with one out. Ogando walked Nick Swisher on a 3-2 pitch and then gave up a single to left to Eduardo Nunez, who was hitting just .214 coming in. Ogando didn't get any luck either as Brett Gardner's didn't-mean-to swing hit allowed him to get just enough of the ball to put it in left field to score a run. Things were blown open by Curtis Granderson's two-RBI single and Teixeira's two-RBI double.
* The outing raised Ogando's ERA from 2.10 to 2.71. He was second in the AL in ERA before Tuesday's start.
* Michael Young's two-RBI single in the fourth extended his Yankee Stadium hitting streak to 16 games at new Yankee Stadium. He has a 19-game hitting streak in New York dating back to 2008 and the old stadium. Young is hitting .417 (20-for-48) at new Yankee Stadium in the regular season, the highest among players with at least 40 at-bats since the park opened in 2009.
* Young played in his 1,574th game for the Rangers, passing Rafael Palmeiro for the most games played in Rangers franchise history.
* Josh Hamilton is 2-for-16 in his last four games and has a .222 average in his last 15 games to go from .339 to .280. He did have a productive out in the fourth, moving the runners over on a squibber down the third-base line. That allowed Young to drive in both runs on a single in the next at-bat.
* Mitch Moreland's infield single off Sabathia's foot was enough to give the Rangers' first baseman a career-high 10-game hitting streak.
* Yorvit Torrealba extended his hitting streak to seven games. Torrealba is still red hot, hitting 10-for-18 in his last five games.
* Ian Kinsler came up with runners and second and third and no outs. The Yankees were playing to concede the run on a ground ball, but Kinsler popped up to right. Kinsler was frustrated as he walked back to the dugout. He returned to the lineup Saturday in Minnesota after being on MLB's Paternity List and is 2-for-12 on this road trip.
* Kirkman wasn't able to hold the Yankees at six runs. With two outs in the fourth, Kirkman hit Teixeira in the foot with two outs and then allowed a two-RBI double to Rodriguez. He gave up a double to Swisher with one out in the fifth and was replaced by Yoshinori Tateyama.
* Nelson Cruz made a nice diving catch to end the fifth inning on a Cervelli drive to right field. But Cruz is still struggling at the plate, going 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts the last four games (since an eighth-inning homer in Minnesota on June 9).
* Cruz's walk in the ninth was the first in 33 innings for the Rangers.
* Tateyama gave up home runs to Granderson and Cano, both left-handed hitters. The lefties were 3-for-5 off Tateyama on Tuesday and in 25 at-bats against left-handed hitters this season, Tateyama has allowed three homers. Lefties are 7-for-25 (.280) off Tateyama.
* We had a 41-minute rain delay before the game began.
* Derek Jeter was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain (Grade I). He's slated to return in late June and, depending on how things go, could end up getting his 3,000th hit against the Mets at CitiField.
* LHP Derek Holland (5-1, 4.41 ERA) goes up against RHP Ivan Nova (5-4, 4.30 ERA) in Wednesday's game. We'll be live in-game chatting when the game starts (hopefully at 6:05 p.m. Dallas time as scheduled).
Jeff Burroughs (1974): The outfielder claimed the award during a memorable 1974 season for Texas. The club finished 84-76 and in second place behind eventual world champion Oakland. That same year, Mike Hargrove earned rookie of the year honors, Billy Martin was named manager of the year and Fergie Jenkins was comeback player of the year. Burroughs hit .301 with 25 homers and a league-leading 118 RBIs. He is one of only five No. 1 overall draft pick to win the MVP. Hamilton, interestingly, could be added to that list today as he was taken first overall in 1999).
Juan Gonzalez (1996, 1998): In 1996, the outfielder hit .314 with a .643 slugging percentage, helping him barely edge past Alex Rodriguez for the MVP (Gonzalez got one more first-place vote). Like Hamilton, Gonzalez had one really spectacular summer month. He hit .407 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs in July. In 1998, Gonzalez had 100 RBIs before the All-Star break and finished top-5 in the AL in most of the key hitting categories. This time, it wasn't a close vote. In both 1996 and 1998, the Rangers won the AL West before falling in the first round of the playoffs to the Yankees.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez (1999): The Rangers were once again AL West champions and Rodriguez was a big reason why. He hit 35 homers, then a record for catchers. He was the first catcher to hit at least 30 homers, drive in 100 runs and score 100 runs in major league history. At one point during 1999, Rodriguez had a 20-game hitting streak. He also managed to steal 25 bases, fifth most by any catcher in history. He was named on all ballots.
Alex Rodriguez (2003): In his last season with the Rangers, the then shortstop won the MVP despite playing on a team that was 71-91. He led the AL in home runs, runs scored and slugging percentage. He had finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting five times before finally winning the award. Rodriguez pounded out 47 homers and 118 RBIs while hitting .298. He was 17-for-20 in stolen base attempts and had a .996 OPS, playing in all but one game.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Amazingly through 11 postseason games and seven victories, Texas Rangers rookie closer Neftali Feliz has yet to enter a single one in a save situation.
If he finds himself trying to close out a World Series game, the Rangers are apt to feel much more confident in their 40-save man after the 22-year-old found his footing in his final two appearances against the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
In the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, Feliz showed his youth and his nerves. He walked the first batter he faced in his first two outings. All season, Feliz had just three first-batter walks. The Rangers blew it off as first-time postseason jitters. But, when he walked two more in his first appearance against the Yankees in a blowout situation, there was some legitimate head-scratching.
Although Feliz has still not been tested in the ninth inning of a tight ballgame, the Rangers believe that he has at least overcome whatever nerves or adrenaline that severely increased the fireballer's walk ratio. In those first three appearances spanning 2.1 innings, He had five walks to just three strikeouts.
In three ALCS appearances, he did not allow a run or a hit, just the two walks in the 7-2 victory in Game 2. In his last two appearances, both big-lead situations in the ninth inning, Feliz turned the lights out quickly.
In Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Feliz needed 20 pitches to finish off Cliff's Lee gem. He struck out Derek Jeter with a 3-2 fastball, got Nick Swisher on a grounder and struck out Mark Teixeira on a 99 mph foul tip, Feliz's sixth pitch of the at-bat. Twice in the inning, Feliz hit 100 mph.
In the Game 6 clincher Friday night, Feliz again shut down the Yankees in order. This time he would need just 14 pitches in his most impressive outing of the postseason. Feliz recovered from a 3-1 count on lead-off man Curtis Granderson to get him swinging at 98 mph heat. Robinson Cano saw four fastballs and grounded out to second. Alex Rodriguez became Feliz's final victim and the last out of the series.
Rodriguez saw three consecutive fastballs at 100, 99 and 98 mph to fall behind, 1-and-2. Then Feliz threw his first curve ball of the inning. The bender was clocked at 83 mph and it buckled Rodriguez, who was rung up without a hint of an argument. In his last two innings, Feliz has two walks and five strikeouts.
If Feliz finally does find himself in the pressure of a save situation in the World Series, he can become the fifth-youngest pitcher ever with a postseason save, and the youngest since Pittsburgh's Don Robinson in the 1979 NLCS.
Surely, that moment is coming.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis' twisted and too often tormented path in and out of the big leagues and back again is practically unfathomable. On Friday night, with red, white and blue confetti raining down on the American League champion Texas Rangers, Lewis stood on the mound he had just conquered, hugging his biggest fan, his older brother, who most certainly understood.
Jack Lewis watched in awe Friday night as Colby pitched the game of his life on the grandest stage of a meandering career that had plunked him in Hiroshima the past two years. The near-look-a-like siblings squeezed one another as though they planned to never let go.
"For 25 years I've been watching this boy go through his ups and downs," Jack said. "He came out tonight, took the ball, took it in his hands and he was going to finish the job and he did. He told me this morning he's going to handle business, and he did."
Colby Lewis shut down the Bronx Bombers on three hits over eight innings, including four hitless innings to open the game. Lewis delivered the Rangers a 6-1 victory that vaulted the franchise into its first World Series after 38 years of futility in North Texas.
The lone run the defending champions could muster came on a bad call, a wild pitch in the fifth that actually wasn't. Replays showed the curve ball in the dirt skipped up and actually hit Nick Swisher in the shin and ricocheted to the backstop. The proper call would have sent Swisher to first and Alex Rodriguez back to third.
“I thought that curve ball hit Swisher, too,” Lewis said. “But, whatever.”
It didn’t matter. Lewis didn’t rattle. Even after the wild pitch that scored Rodriguez and then the next batter, Jorge Posada’s hard-luck double that hit first base and shot up over the glove of diving first baseman Mitch Moreland.
“I just told myself I have to stay after them and get another quick out,” Lewis said.
"I saw it from the bullpen [before the game]. His eyes," catcher Bengie Molina said. "His eyes were total focused on the game. He did awesome."
Lewis pitched calmly and in control throughout, lasting longer than he had in his previous two postseason starts, including his Game 2 ALCS win in which he went 5 2/3. He said he came to Rangers Ballpark relaxed even though he woke up feeling nervous. So Lewis took his 3-year-old son Cade to his favorite place.
“I took my son over to Bass Pro Shop,” Lewis said. “We just kind of hung out and walked around. He loves going to that place. I don’t know, it was just a real relaxed atmosphere. I took him home, he took a nap and I came to the park. It just felt really relaxed and comfortable.”
It showed. Lewis got stronger as the game progressed. Four of his seven strikeouts came in his final two innings. He fanned the side in the eighth, ending his day by fooling perennial All-Star Derek Jeter into a check-swing strikeout.
"He should feel like the king of the world in my mind," Jack Lewis said. "I mean he's been through adversity. Who would have thought? He went to Japan, got his career back together; we never thought he'd come home. He had to take his family over there, didn't know how to speak the language or anything. And here we are going to the World Series as the winning pitcher against the big, bad Yankees. Colby took care of business."
He had help along the way. Elvis Andrus robbed Rodriguez of a base hit to start the second. Ian Kinsler snared a Robinson Cano rocket on one hop and turned an inning-ending double play after one of Lewis’ three walks. And, Lewis got the run support he so sorely lacked during much of the season.
Andrus scored in the first, and in the fifth, after the Yankees tied it at 1-1 in the top half, Vladimir Guerrero finally came through with a monster, two-out double to center after Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked for the second time in three at-bats. That sent Lewis’ counterpart, Phil Hughes to the shower. Then Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Dave Robertson with a rope over the center-field wall for a commanding 5-1 lead.
“Just his character to be able to come back here and put himself in that position is incredible,” Kinsler said. “Colby has worked his tail off to get where he’s at. And tonight, he threw an unbelievable game for us.”
Over the next three innings, Lewis faced just 11 batters, allowing a two-out triple to Lance Berkman in the seventh and a two-out walk in the eighth.
“I felt like I commanded the slider and I said, ‘I’m just going to start ripping on it and see what happens,'" Lewis said. "And the curve ball was still there and it was a lot of fun.”
Especially in the eighth inning when the crowd of 51,404 started chanting his name. The Rangers’ first-round pick in 1999 said he had to step off the mound to soak in the moment and refocus on the task at hand. Then he struck out Jeter and headed to the dugout.
That’s when it hit him: Three more outs and the Rangers are headed to the World Series, and, yes, he was back. Back from all those years bouncing around the big leagues, the multiple minor-league stints and the shoulder injuries.
And, of course, those two wonderful years in Japan that convinced the Rangers to bring him back.
"After the eighth, I was walking off and I kind of just thought of the situation I was in, to have this opportunity,” Lewis said. “It was just a great feeling.”
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