Texas Rangers: Marc Rzepczynski

Dazzling Dozen: Napoli's Game 5 double

November, 24, 2011
We've arrived at No. 1 in our Dazzling Dozen. Some of you won't agree with our choice and that just shows how many memorable moments this team had in 2011. Any of our top 4, really, could have been No. 1.

No. 1: Mike Napoli's two-run double in Game 5

With the series tied at two games each following Derek Holland's stellar performance in Game 4, the Rangers hosted Game 5 in front of 50,000-plus at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Knowing the series shifted back to Busch Stadium for Games 6 and 7, the Rangers felt like they had to win Game 5 to have a good chance at winning the World Series.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
AP Photo/Eric GayMike Napoli's double drove in two runs in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the World Series.
The Cardinals scored two runs in the second off starter C.J. Wilson, but the left-hander shut them down after that. The offense responded with one run in the third and another in the sixth to tie the score. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Ranger fans got to see a little bit of everything.

Octavio Dotel came in to pitch and allowed a double to Michael Young, who clapped his hands as he arrived at second as the potential go-ahead run. Adrian Beltre struck out and the Cardinals decided to intentionally walk Nelson Cruz and bring in left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to pitch to left-handed hitter David Murphy. But Murphy, who seemed to save some of his best at-bats for the postseason (and hit just .215 against left-handed pitchers in 2011), hit a hard grounder to the mound that bounced off Rzepczynski's leg and rolled to second baseman Nick Punto, who couldn't field it cleanly enough to get Murphy. The infield hit loaded the bases with no outs.

Mike Napoli arrived at home plate and, with no one apparently ready in the bullpen, stepped in to face Rzepcyznski. It was puzzling because Napoli crushed left-handed pitching in 2011, batting .319 against them. Rzepcyznski said he wasn't surprised to still be in because left-handed hitter Mitch Moreland was on deck and sometimes he pitched to a right-handed hitter with a lefty waiting. It's worth pointing out that manager Ron Washington altered the bottom of his lineup when the series got back to Arlington to put Napoli in the 8-hole between two left-handed hitters just to make Tony La Russa have to decide how to pitch to Napoli.

But with no alternatives fully ready, there was little choice. Napoli got a pitch he could hit on the outside part of the plate and drove it the other way for a two-run double. The fans went crazy and immediately closer Neftali Feliz started to get warm in anticipation of a save opportunity.

The craziness of the inning wasn't over. After Rzepcynzki struck out Mitch Moreland, Lance Lynn came in from the bullpen. When La Russa saw him trotting in, he was confused. He had called for the right-hander, figuring that finally closer Jason Motte was ready. But in came Lynn.

"I said, 'Why are you here?'" La Russa said after the game.

So Lynn intentionally walked Ian Kinsler and then left the game. Motte, who was finally ready, came in and struck out Elvis Andrus. But the damage was done. Feliz hit Allen Craig to start the ninth, but the speedy runner was thrown out at second by Napoli. Feliz struck out Lance Berkman to end the game and give the Rangers the franchise's biggest win to that point.

After the game, La Russa was left to explain some strange decisions with his bullpen. He said the ballpark was so loud as the 51,459 fans screamed that there was miscommunication between the dugout and the coaches in the bullpen. He wanted Motte up and throwing to pitch to Napoli, but they thought he said Lynn. La Russa said Lynn was not supposed to be available and didn't want him throwing to Kinsler and that's why he was walked. But Motte wasn't up and throwing quickly enough to get warm for Napoli, forcing Rzepcynzki to throw to him. Motte didn't start throwing until Lynn walked out of the bullpen. In other words: The Cardinals couldn't seem to get things straight as to which pitchers were supposed to get warm. And the Rangers took advantage.

Kinsler was asked after the game: What if the Rangers win the World Series in part because of the noise level of the crowd?

"They all get rings," said Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, though he added that he's not buying.

He added: "If that's the truth, I can believe it, because it's been incredibly, incredibly loud. I think everyone in here has said it before, we've been to Tampa, Detroit, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, and this is the loudest outdoor ballpark we've even been at. They are great fans. It's a great way to go out. Hopefully, they'll be that loud screaming at the TV when we're in St. Louis."

What it meant: The Rangers took a 3-2 lead back to St. Louis, putting themselves in great position to win the World Series. They ended up a strike away twice, but couldn't close the deal in Game 6 and then lost in Game 7. But it's considered one of the best World Series ever played, full of drama and even some craziness (like the eighth inning of Game 5).

The aftermath: Texas didn't win its first World Championship, but Game 5 showed once again what a huge home-field advantage Rangers Ballpark in Arlington can be. Those that attended agreed that it was the loudest they'd ever heard that park (even louder than Game 6 of the ALCS in 2010). It's the kind of atmosphere the Rangers hope to continue to see in postseasons to come.

Fans cause confusion on bullpen changes

October, 24, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Whether it was defeaning roars of "NA-PO-LI!" or the decibel level steadily increasing as the Texas Rangers tied Game 5 and then stood poised to take the lead, the noise impacted the bullpen's ability to hear manager Tony La Russa's voice over the phone.

"It must be loud," La Russa said. "I give the fans credit."

The odd choice of relievers was apparently because the bullpen couldn't hear La Russa correctly on the other end of the phone. What if the Rangers win the World Series in part because of the noise level of the 51, 459 fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington?

"They all get rings," said Kinsler, though he added that he's not buying.

Instead of closer Jason Motte getting warm in order to pitch to Mike Napoli in the eighth, the bullpen had Lance Lynn throwing. La Russa said if Motte was ready, he would have pitched to Napoli.

"Twice the bullpen didn't hear Motte's name," La Russa said. "They heard "Rzepczynski" and they didn't get Motte. I looked up there and Motte wasn't going."

La Russa was then forced to go with Marc Rzepczynski against Napoli with Motte not throwing. Napoli hit .319 against lefties this season and hit a two-run double to right-center to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.

"I called back for Motte and they got Lynn up," La Russa said. "That's why he wasn't supposed to pitch today, so I wasn't going to let him throw that hitter."

La Russa said he went out of the dugout and thought that it was Motte ready in the bullpen.

"They were yelling at me as I went out," La Russa said. "I didn't hear them. It wasn't Motte. So I saw Lynn, I went, 'Oh, what are you doing?'"

Lynn came in and issued an intentional walk to Ian Kinsler before leaving, certainly an odd sight in any game, let alone one in the World Series. That gave Motte time to get warm. But by then, the damage was already done.

"We had a chance with Rzepczynski's stuff to get Napoli," La Russa said. "He put a nice swing on a breaking ball."

The Rangers fans get a big assist, apparently, in the club's Game 5 victory.

"If that's the truth, I can believe it, because it's been incredibly, incredibly loud," Kinsler said. "I think everyone in here has said it before, we've been to Tampa, Detroit, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco and this is the loudest outdoor ballpark we've even been at. They are great fans. It's a great way to go out. Hopefully, they'll be that loud screaming at the TV when we're in St. Louis."

Rangers take lead on Mike Napoli's double

October, 24, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Year of the Napoli, as Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon called it, keeps on rolling.

Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli delivered a two-run, go-ahead double in the bottom of the eight inning.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa opted to leave left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski in to face Napoli, whom the Rangers acquired for reliever Frankie Francisco in an under-the-radar offseason deal because of his success against southpaws. Napoli drove a 1-1 slider into the right-center gap to give the Rangers their first lead of the night, scoring Michael Young and Nelson Cruz.

Rangers 4, Cardinals 2 after eight innings.

Nolan Ryan: No 2nd-guessing manager

October, 20, 2011
ST. LOUIS -- Texas Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan sits on the front row for most games, but he said he resists the urge to play armchair manager.

"Obviously, when you're not involved it's easy to second-guess things," Ryan said Thursday prior to Game 2 of the World Series that his Rangers trail 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals. "I don't second-guess our manager because he knows what's going on with his ballclub and his players, and he has a better feel for that than I do because he lives with these guys."

Washington was severely second-guessed after Game 1 for his managerial moves in the seventh inning. With the Cardinals leading 3-2 and the Rangers threatening with two on and one out, Washington pinch-hit Craig Gentry for David Murphy to avoid a left-lefty matchup, and then surprisingly sent up Esteban German for his first postseason at-bat instead of catcher Yorvit Torrealba to pinch-hit for pitcher Alexi Ogando.

Gentry struck out looking and German went down swinging on three pitches to end the inning.

Washington said he played the percentages going to Gentry against Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and the chose German because he's a good contact hitter.

"You've got to give credit to Marc; he executed his pitches, and he eliminated Gentry," Washington said. "And I went to German simply because he's a very good contact hitter. He knows the strike zone extremely well, and once again, Marc executed his pitches, and when pitchers execute, usually the results that we got is what you get."

Those decisions were picked apart by the media, but Ryan, who might be surprised at times by a move or even disagree, said he will allow his manager the space to manage.

"That's why you have him, you have confidence and faith in him," Ryan said. "So, I think that when you hire somebody like we have in Ron, you put your faith in him and you've done the job and you don't second-guess him. He has a better feel for it than anybody else."
The postseason isn't always about the superstars because they tend to cancel each other out.

A lot of times, it's about role players or good players finding their rhythm at just the right time and turning in monster performances. All you have to do is look at the ALCS and NLCS.

Nelson Cruz hit six homers - no player has ever done that - and drove in a record 13 RBI to win the series MVP. In the NL, St. Louis third baseman David Freese hit two doubles, three homers and drove in nine RBI.

Get the point?

Here's a look at three Rangers who might provide the X factor:

David Murphy: Hitting eighth means Murphy will be probably be protecting Mike Napoli, but with the pitcher behind him he won't many quality pitches. Still, he has six hits in the past three games and has a hit in six of the eight games he's played.

Mark Lowe: Stop laughing. Think of him as a right-handed specialist at a key point in the middle innings, when the Rangers really need a strikeout. He had 42 strikeouts in 46 innings and 201 in 223.1 career innings.

Craig Gentry: He can run, bunt and play a terrific center field. In the late innings, when the Rangers need a run, Gentry who's swiped 20 bases in 21 attempts will be perfect. He's also capable of making a catch to save a game.

And three Cardinals:

David Freese: Has been phenomenal in the playoffs with three games of at least three RBI. Spend too much time focusing on Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and Freese will get you.

Octavio Dotel: The journeyman reliever has been a beast against the Rangers' lineup. Texas hitters are just 11 of 56 - a .196 batting average - with three homers and seven RBI. Adrian Beltre is just 5 of 22.

Marc Rzepczynski: The lefty has been death on lefties this season - they hit .163 with a homer in 104 regular season at-bats - and figures to have some key matchups with Josh Hamilton or David Murphy in late-inning, game-on-the-line situations.

Arthur Rhodes: Cards have pen edge

October, 18, 2011
ST. LOUIS -- Arthur Rhodes pitched half-a-season for the Texas Rangers. When they waived him to make room for two bullpen acquisitions -- Mike Adams and Koji Uehara -- at the deadline, he thought a last World Series chance might be gone, too.

But, here he is anyway, playing a key role as one of two left-handed relievers for the St. Louis Cardinals. That fact, two lefties out of the pen, Rhodes said, gives St. Louis the edge over a hard-throwing Texas pen that won all four ALCS games.

"Both bullpens are great. Both bullpens go out there and throw strikes and get guys out," Rhodes said. "But, we have two left-handers in our bullpen, I think they got one, Darren Oliver, right? So, I think we've got the advantage of the bullpens. We've got some right-handers in our bullpen that throw hard and they got some, too."

Actually, the Rangers have two lefties, too. Rhodes forgot about another late addition, Mike Gonzalez, who has entered three games specifically to face left-handed hitters. So maybe that evens things up.

At any rate, Rhodes has been solid with a scoreless and hitless 1 2/3 innings in five appearances. He's part of a bullpen that has been nearly totally overhauled during the season and has allowed Rhodes, who turns 42 next week, to move from one World Series team to another.

Rhodes and Marc Rzepczynski, another in-season acquisition from Toronto, give the Cards a 1-2 southpaw punch out of the pen, a weapon that could come in handy in late-game situations against Josh Hamilton.

"I was happy with what my role was over there, but teams are going to do what they have to do," Rhodes said. "I was one of the guys they let go, but you've got to pick your head up and St. Louis picked me up and look where I'm at now."



Yu Darvish
10 3.06 182 144
BAA. Beltre .322
HRA. Beltre 17
RBIA. Beltre 64
RA. Beltre 64
OPSA. Beltre .876
ERAY. Darvish 3.06
SOY. Darvish 182