Texas Rangers: Hideki Matsui
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis was solid, giving up just three runs in 7 1/3 innings, and the offense helped him out with two in the first, two in the fifth and four in the seventh. Texas got five more in the eighth after Lewis left. The win means the Rangers will be at least 2.5 games up in the AL West depending on what happens to the Angels tonight at home against the Yankees. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse):
* It didn't take long for Lewis to give up his 33rd home run of the season, tops in the AL (and second in the majors). He walked Hideki Matsui with two outs (started him with a strike and threw four straight balls) and then gave up the homer on a 1-0 fastball to Josh Willingham. It was Willingham's third homer off Lewis in 14 at-bats. It gave the A's a quick 2-0 lead.
* But Lewis settled down. He located his fastball better, took advantage of no jet stream and got ahead in the counts. He also settled into a nice rhythm, pitching quickly and not allowing the A's hitters to get comfortable. It was a much better showing than his last start, when he gave up four runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. Lewis struck out seven batters and was in command after the first. He gave up just five hits.
* He retired the first two hitters in every inning but his last one, the eighth. After getting the first out, his eighth straight, Lewis surrendered a single to Jemile Weeks and that was it for him after 99 pitches. He received a big hand and waved to the crowd before entering the dugout. Now he's scheduled to get seven days of rest before his next start.
* Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the first inning Friday, belting a double to left to score Ian Kinsler. Beltre was hitting .364 during the streak going into the game. The Rangers had a banner hanging from the fourth floor in center field that read: "Congratulations, Adrian 2000 Hits." He got his 2,000th hit at Fenway Park during the club's last road trip.
* Kinsler took a lead-off walk, his team-leading 78th. He was seventh in the AL in walks coming into the game. He ended up on third thanks to an error on A's starter Brandon McCarthy.
* David Murphy, filling in impressively for Nelson Cruz, had a solid at-bat in the first inning. He fouled off three pitches after falling behind 1-2 in the count and eventually hit a 2-2 pitch to center for a sacrifice fly to score Michael Young. It was Murphy's 18th RBI in his last 14 games.
* With a runner (Mitch Moreland) at second after a leadoff double in the second, Endy Chavez was not able to get a sacrifice bunt down to get him to third (popped it up). Craig Gentry singled to put runners on the corners, but Ian Kinsler lined out to short and Elvis Andrus popped up. It was a wasted opportunity for Texas in a tie game.
* With Kinsler at first and one out in the fifth, the Rangers called a hit-and-run, allowing Kinsler to score from first on a double by Elvis Andrus. Kinsler got a good read on the ball, seeing that it was going to get over the head of Coco Crisp, who was not playing deep in center. The hit gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Andrus' bat is really working. He hit .381 (8-for-21) on the recent six-game road trip.
* Give Andrus credit for running hard with two outs. He was sprinting from second when third baseman Scott Sizemore bounced a throw to first on a ground ball by Adrian Beltre. First baseman Brandon Allen wasn't able to glove it and Andrus scored to make it 4-2.
* Josh Hamilton was scratched from the lineup because his wife, Katie, went into labor and had the couple's fourth child (all girls). Stella Faith was born at 6:35 p.m. and mother and child are doing well. For more, click here.
* Gentry, who wasn't even in the lineup until Hamilton was scratched (birth of his fourth child), started the seventh with a bunt single off reliever Michael Wuertz. The speed got things going. He stole second (even on a pitch out) and then scored on Andrus' single. The Rangers just kept hitting with five straight singles (Gentry, Kinsler, Andrus, Young, Beltre) before a pitching change. Texas scored four runs in the inning.
* Moreland, who was 3-for-31 with 11 strikeouts in his last 10 games, had two hits. That included a single against lefty Craig Breslow. Moreland was batting .231 against lefties coming into the game.
* Mike Adams came in for relief and gave up a two-run homer to Matsui. He has allowed three homers since coming to the Rangers.
* Young had four RBIs thanks in large part to a bases-clearing double in the eighth that made it 11-4. By the way, the 9-1-2-3 batters scored all 11 runs for the Rangers. And the Nos. 2-6 hitters had all but one of the RBIs.
* Napoli hit his 25th homer of the season and he belted it to right-center and easily over the Rangers' bullpen. He is now one home run shy of his career-high, set last year with LAA. It was 428 feet without a jet stream.
* Neftali Feliz got an inning of work after not pitching in the last six games.
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
DH Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
C Yorvit Torrealba
CF Endy Chavez
SP Colby Lewis
2B Jemile Weeks
3B Scott Sizemore
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Josh Willingham
RF David DeJesus
1B Brandon Allen
CF Ryan Sweeney
C Landon Powell
SS Eric Sogard
SP Trevor Cahill
Lewis (8-7, 4.29 ERA): Lewis is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his last four starts… He picked up a 13-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles in his last start on July 4, throwing seven innings (110 pitches) and allowing three runs on five hits, striking out four and walking three… The Independence Day win was his 10th quality start in his last 13 starts… However, the two homers he gave up raised his season total to an AL-high 22… Right-handers are batting .189 against Lewis (seventh-lowest in the AL), but left-handers are driving him for a .307 average.
McCarthy (1-5, 3.33 ERA): McCarthy is making his second start since coming off the DL on July 3 with a stress reaction in his right scapula… The 28-year-old is 0-5 over his last seven starts, the worst stretch of his career… Lost 2-1 to Oakland on July 4, throwing 6 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out five… Has had six career stints on the DL… McCarthy pitched for the Rangers in 2007-09… His best season in Texas was 2009 when he went 7-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 17 starts.
Hitters: Adrian Beltre has by far the most experience against McCarthy, going 6-for-17 with six RBIs, two doubles and a home run. Next in line is Michael Young, who has gone 3-for-8 with five RBIs, a double and a home run… As a team, the Rangers are batting .293 against McCarthy… Oakland’s lineup has seen Lewis numerous times with limited success against the righty, batting .250 as a team… Hideki Matsui is 6-for-16, and Ryan Sweeney is 3-for-9 against Lewis… Lewis has given up six long balls to the A’s.
"The main thing is just shortening his stroke up a little bit," manager Ron Washington said. "The end result of shortening the stroke is more contact, less strikeouts, maybe a few more single and doubles."
Last season it seemed Cruz would miss out on some home runs because he would hit the ball so hard and on such a line that it would scream into the wall with an astounding thud. Even Cruz would laugh when asked over and over if anyone hits the ball harder.
Not only did Cruz hit it hard, he put together one of the great offensive seasons in all of baseball and perhaps one that has gone severely underrated, or underappreciated, especially in the shadow of Josh Hamilton's MVP season. Nelson, a classic late-bloomer who was practically given up on by the Rangers a few years ago, hit .318 last season with 22 home runs, 31 doubles and 78 RBIs in 108 games.
Had he not missed multiple stints with hamstring issues, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs would have seemed inevitable.
Cruz was Mr. Clutch last season with five extra-inning home runs, tying him with Charlie Maxwell of the 1960 Detroit Tigers for most in major league history. His three walk-off homers led the majors last season. He transferred that success to the postseason. With 13 extra-base hits in the playoffs, Cruz stands alone in that category as the all-time leader in a postseason.
His seven postseason doubles ties for the all-time lead with Hideki Matsui, Mike Lowell and Jason Werth, and his 44 total bases is tied for third-most all-time with Barry Bonds and just behind Albert Pujols (46), Troy Glaus (47) and Carlos Beltran (47).
So what does Cruz, 30, do for an encore in what will be only his third full season in the big leagues?
"With his years in this game and his growing experience, there is definitely upside," Washington said. "You might see him this year, he might hit .289, he might hit 40 bombs, he might drive in 100 runs. Average is overrated. His job is production. If he gives me average I’m fine with that, but I don’t think we really know yet exactly what all Nelson Cruz is capable of doing because he has a ton of upside."
And that could be scary.
It was nearly four years ago (the trade was completed on Dec. 23, 2006) that GM Jon Daniels traded pitching prospects John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner for McCarthy. The thought at the time was that McCarthy was further along in his progression to the majors than Danks. But McCarthy couldn't stay healthy. He didn't pitch in the majors in 2010 and from 2007 to 2009 as a Ranger, McCarthy was 13-15 with a 4.68 ERA in 221 innings pitched. He pitched at least seven innings just four times in his Rangers' career, all of them in 2009.
Maybe a change of scenery will help McCarthy. The same could be said about Matsui. His numbers weren't bad in 2010 for the Angels: .274 average with 21 homers and 84 RBIs. But he didn't have nearly the impact that Vladimir Guerrero did in Texas after the Angels let him go.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The way the Texas Rangers are winning and Josh Hamilton is hammering the baseball, a day off Monday might seem like the last thing on this team's mind. Perhaps, but Hamilton will gladly take it.
"It's my wife's birthday and it couldn't have been scheduled any better," Hamilton said after going 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the Rangers' 6-4 win Sunday night to take three of four from the Los Angeles Angels.
Tommy Hunter moved to 8-0 on the season, giving up three runs on three hits through 6 1/3 innings before three relievers held it from there. All-Star closer Neftali Feliz picked up his 28th save, but not before making things just a tad bit interesting in the ninth with runners at first and third and nobody out.
But, that's the way things are going for the Rangers. Defense, pitching and Hamilton at the plate are conspiring to leave the AL West in their dust. Hamilton raised his major league-best batting average to .357 after smoking a two-run triple and a run-scoring single in his first two at-bats followed by a single to left in his third.
"The biggest thing is trusting myself to do the things that I'm doing," Hamilton said. "I'm not trying to hit it out every time."
Hamilton's offense and defense were both on display during this big weekend series that drew more than 170,000 fans and more than 38,000 to each game. It's almost hard to remember how badly last season went for Hamilton, who struggled with injuries and never found his swing.
"This is not just healthy Josh," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "This is ridiculous Josh."
Kinsler called Hamilton the best player in the league, who should win a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and, yes, even the MVP. Now, Hamilton becomes the problem of the Oakland A's, a scrappy club that's moved to within a half-game of the Angels for second place and 7.5 back of the Rangers. Texas entered the four-game series with the Angels up by five games. They could have finished the weekend anywhere from one game up to nine up.
"It's big when you're playing a four-game series. You want to win it. We did," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I'm very comfortable with seven, but I'm not comfortable with where we are. We have another tough series coming up with Oakland."
Obviously, a strong showing by the A's at Rangers Ballpark in the three-game series starting Tuesday can give Oakland, which is 3-3 this season against the Rangers, momentum. After the series, the Rangers hit the road for nine games on the West Coast, starting in Anaheim, then Seattle and finally Oakland.
"We have to continue to play well," Kinsler said. "It's still early."
*Hunter fielded a line drive off his right hip in the sixth inning. He still managed to get the out and continue pitching. Washington said the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder took it off the belt area and said, "He had enough to absorb the shock."
Hunter, as he's done after each of his eight wins, heaped credit on the team's defense and lineup, the catchers and coaches. Finally, he gave a hint of what he thinks he's doing right to have run his record to 8-0 with a 2.31 ERA. "I'm throwing strikes, making them put it in play," Hunter said. "Fortunately, I'm throwing strikes and keeping those guys off the base paths."
Hunter had a stretch in which he retired 15 of 16 batters and 12 in a row. Catcher Bengie Molina said, "His ball moves so much on either side of the plate. He's so tough to hit. Whenever he hits his spots, he has a chance to win."
*Kinsler said the team took notice Sunday when the Angels traded for right-handed pitcher Dan Haren. "You definitely notice. You still need to beat them and you're still going to face tough pitching and you still have to beat tough pitching."
*The Rangers had three more baserunners snuffed out, but Washington said it doesn't bother him. He said he's fine with aggressive baserunning and that "he's not going to take that from them."
*Washington said he removed Hunter from the game after Hideki Matsui lined Hunter's 71st pitch into the right-field bleachers because he noticed Hunter was leaving his pitches up. Two of the three hits Hunter allowed were home runs. Torii Hunter launched one to dead center in the second inning. Tommy Hunter was upset with himself on the Matsui homer for going with away from his game plan and throwing a four-seam fastball.
*The Rangers have gone 12-3 in their last 15 series since the beginning of June.
*Chris Davis walked twice for just his second multi-walk game in two seasons. The other was May 21, 2009 at Detroit.
*Elvis Andrus snapped an 0-for-9 skid in the first three games of the series with two hits Sunday, including a double.
*Kinsler has reached base safely via a hit or walk in 25 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the majors. Mark Teixeira has a 41-game streak going.
There has not been two more consistent Texas players all season, and both were at their best again Sunday night as the Rangers took three out of four in the series and whisked the Los Angeles Angels out of town trailing Texas by seven games in the AL West standings. Hunter tossed a three-hitter over 6 1/3 innings and Hamilton drove in the first three runs of the 6-4 victory in front of 38,320 at Rangers Ballpark.
Hamilton entered the game with a major-league best .353 average only to take it higher. He got hits in his first three at-bats, recording a rocket two-run triple to deep right-center in the first inning and then a run-scoring line drive to left-center in the third. Even when he didn't make great contact, as was the case in the fifth, he squirted it through the hole for a single to left. He came around to score on Nelson Cruz's squibber into right.
His offensive numbers are becoming mind-boggling. Hamilton has hit safely in 34 of his last 35 home games and has 34 RBIs in those games. He's 57-of-138 (.413) in that stretch. He has eight RBIs in his last seven games. In 48 games since June 1, he's batting a major league-best .432 (83-of-192). The AL Player of the Month for June is making a case for the same honor in July. The Angels finally kept Hamilton off the bases in his final at-bat in the seventh inning as he finished the four-game series 6-of-13 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
As for the 24-year-old Hunter, the surprise ace of the staff this season until Cliff Lee came aboard, all he did Sunday night was completely baffle the Angels' lineup through six innings on his way to becoming the first Rangers starting pitcher to get off to an 8-0 start. Torii Hunter's second-inning solo home run to dead center hardly fazed Tommy Hunter, who went on to retire 15 of the next 16 batters he faced.
His streak of 12 consecutive batters set down ended with a walk, his first of the game, to Bobby Abreu to lead off the seventh inning. But it would also serve as the warning shot to an abrupt end to Hunter's night two batters later. After he got Hunter to pop out, designated hitter Hideki Matsui poked one 327 feet down the right-field line to just get out of the park. The one-out homer on a 3-1 count cut the Rangers' lead to 6-3.
Hunter might have been losing his steam and his control in the seventh. Manager Ron Washington came to get Hunter after the Matsui home run, ending Hunter's night after 6 1/3 innings, three hits and just 71 pitches. He struck out one and walked one, but he'll want that Matsui at-bat back. The two runs raised Hunter's ERA from 2.09 entering the game to 2.31.
The inning before, Hunter took a line drive from Maicer Izturis off the inside of his right hip. Hunter quickly located the ball, picked it up and made a composed throw to first to get the final out of the inning, his third consecutive to retire in order.
*Darren O'Day and Frankie Francisco allowed no runs and one hit over 1 2/3 innings of relief. O'Day, by the way, lowered his ERA to 1.36 after his scoreless two-thirds of an inning.
*Closer Neftali Feliz made things interesting in the ninth by allowing hits to the first two batters he faced for a first-and-third jam. But, a consecutive fielder's choices -- the first of which scored a run -- followed by a groundout to third ended the game. Feliz recorded his 28th save, moving him nine away from matching the all-time rookie record (37 saves) set by Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2000. Feliz has 16 more saves than the previous franchise rookie record.
*Chris Davis' fourth-inning RBI double to left-center gave him his fourth hit in the four-game series and chased Angels starter Trevor Bell with just one out in the inning and the Rangers leading 4-1. It was just Davis' second RBI since being recalled and first since July 9. Davis, batting in the nine-hole Sunday, reached base in three of his four plate appearances, walking twice.
*Three more Rangers base runners bit the dust. Davis ended the second inning when he was gunned down at the plate by right-fielder Bobby Abreu. Davis was a dead duck and had no choice but to lower his right shoulder and barrel into Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, who absorbed the hit and held onto the ball. Vladimir Guerrero was an easy out at third base after Hamilton drove in Ian Kinsler on a line drive to left field in the third. Guerrero must have thought the throw from the outfield would not be cut off. Guerrero started to go back to second after rounding the bag, but when the throw came in behind him he continued on to third and was thrown out for the second out. In the fifth, Nelson Cruz was thrown out sliding into second going for the extra base when the throw after his RBI single to right went to the plate. Hamilton scored easily on the play, but Cruz's out ended the inning.
Before the game, Washington was asked half-jokingly if he would hold an off-day practice Monday to work on baserunning fundamentals. Washington laughed and said, "The baserunning will take care of itself. They'll figure it out."
*Cruz had a stellar series at the plate, going 7-of-15 (.467) with a couple of RBIs. Cruz extended his career-best hit streak to 14 games while increasing his average from .301 to .330.
*From the deparment of who looks this stuff up: Torii Hunter's home run off Tommy Hunter was the first instance this season of a batter hitting a home run against a pitcher with the same last name. The last time it occurred was exactly a year ago on July 25, 2009, when Mets third baseman David Wright hit a home run off Astros reliever Wesley Wright. So who looks this stuff up? ESPN Stats & Information, that's who.
*The four-game series drew 170,848 fans. Sunday's attendance of 38,320 didn't include 426 dogs at the park for bring-your-dog-night. It did include one former U.S. President. George W. Bush and his wife Laura had front-row seats. Team president Nolan Ryan sat next to Bush for much of the game.
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.