Texas Rangers: Matt Holliday

ASG doesn't go as planned for Rangers, AL

July, 11, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Texas Rangers had hoped that with eight All-Stars on the AL squad -- and all of them understanding fully how important homefield advantage is in the World Series -- they could have a positive impact in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

It didn't work out that way.

Most of the Rangers weren't able to do much to help the AL, but even before any of them could hit or pitch in the game, the NL had built a sizeable lead.

Justin Verlander came out lighting up the radar gun, but couldn't darken the lower part of the strike zone. He gave up five runs on four hits in the first inning as his fastball, which hit 100 mph on the Kauffman Stadium radar gun at one point, was up too high.

Verlander said he understood that the game meant something.

"But we're here for the fans," Verlander said. "The fans don't want to see me throw 90 on the corners."

Instead, they got to see 100 and a bunch of National League hits. Verlander admitted that by throwing that hard that soon, he hadn't had a chance to settle into his delivery rhythm. In other words: He sacrificed some command for velocity.

That's fine in an exhibition game, but not so great in a game that decides home-field advantage in the World Series. Or one that tries to be both, as it seems these All-Star Games do.

Verlander said he wasn't trying to give up runs, obviously. But he also didn't approach the game like a normal start, either. And he didn't look like Cy Young or MVP Justin Verlander in the process.

"I just expected him to be Verlander -- go out and get outs like he always does," AL manager Ron Washington said. "It just didn't work out."

The Rangers' players, like the rest of the AL roster, couldn't do much once they got behind. Matt Harrison allowed three runs on four hits -- all with two outs -- in the fourth to effectively put the AL too far behind to rally. Harrison retired the first two batters he faced on four pitches, but after Rafael Furcal tripled, NL manager Tony LaRussa went to his bench and a familiar face in St. Louis Cardinal Matt Holliday. The right-handed hitter belted a single opposite field to score Furcal. Then Melky Cabrera hit a home run into the AL bullpen in left field to score two more runs.

"I had fun," Harrison said. "I wanted to pitch better, but it was my first All-Star Game and I was taking it all in. The pitch I threw to Furcal was a good one and he got it. But the one to Cabrera for the homer was right down the middle."

That homer helped Cabrera claim MVP honors for the game.

Read the rest of the story here.

Bullpen wrap: Evolution of Neftali Feliz

October, 25, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Neftali Feliz has this impulsive little knack for having to rescue himself before saving the game.

[+] EnlargeNeftali Feliz
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireNeftali Feliz once more made things interesting toward the end, but once more he got the job done.
If the strong-armed closer had the Texas Rangers faithful biting their nails in the ninth inning of Game 4 (a non-save situation with a 4-0 lead), he must have had 6 million in the Metroplex in near-cardiac arrest as he flirted with danger before fanning Albert Pujols in a power-on-power matchup in the 4-2 Game 5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals for a 3-2 World Series lead.

Feliz's M.O. this postseason has been to be so jacked up when he hits the mound that he sails fastballs up at the eyeballs and puts the lead-off man on with a free pass.

This time, he plunked Allen Craig with a 1-2 slider. The major issue there is that the mighty Pujols was up next representing the tying run.

"That's not the guy you actually want to see at home plate with somebody at first base," shortstop Elvis Andrus. "But we know how good [Feliz] is. He's a young guy with a lot of talent and you see him growing as a pitcher. You see it in that at-bat. He threw three or four nice breaking pitches to put Albert off-balance and you see the difference on that last swing."

Feliz quickly got ahead of Pujols, 0-2, using a second-pitch slider to get a foul ball. Pujols then laid off three pitches that Feliz hoped he would chase to go to a full count. On the sixth pitch, Craig took off and Pujols fouled it off. On the seventh pitch, Craig was running again, and again Pujols fouled it off just trying to stay alive.

"When we saw him with two strikes," Feliz said, "we saw with my breaking pitches that he was slow with his bat."

Feliz's eighth pitch whistled off the plate as Craig churned for second. Pujols reached for it and swung through it. Craig had no chance, gunned down for a second time by catcher Mike Napoli with Pujols at the plate.

"That was a very important at-bat," Feliz said. "Of course, I was trying to make the best pitches I could because I had a runner on base. Fortunately for me, I was able to get the job done."

The Drama King wasn't quite ready to let the 51,459 at Rangers Ballpark celebrate a final home win of the 2011 season. Feliz walked Matt Holliday to bring up lefty Lance Berkman.

Just as Feliz has done all postseason -- despite having just two more strikeouts (10) than walks/hit batters (eight) in his 10 appearances -- he struck out Berkman with an 81 mph slider. The five-pitch at-bat included two sliders, a cutter in the dirt and a pair or high 90-mph fastballs.

His array of quality pitches and varying speeds continued an evolution for one of the hardest-throwing closers in the game.

"I feel confident about my breaking pitches, my slow stuff because I have to show them and prove to them that I can work with them at any count and I can work with them on any count and work against them with more than my fastball," he said.

The only number that really matters for Feliz is six: Six saves in six opportunities.

Defensive difference: Matt Holliday's arm

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Back in the fourth inning when the bats began to explode and the game was still in doubt, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday threw a perfect rope to catcher Yadier Molina to nail Mike Napoli, who was tagging on Ian Kinsler's fly out down the left-field line.

The inning-ending double play ended a wild inning in which the Cardinals scored four times in the top half and then limited the Texas Rangers to three runs in the bottom half. It proved the closest the Rangers would get in the 16-7 Game 3 loss that put the Cards up 2-1.

The set-up: After falling behind 5-0 in the top of the fourth, Texas bounced back and cut St. Louis' lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the inning and was looking for more with Napoli on third, Yorvit Torrealba on first and 30-30-man Kinsler coming up with one out. On Torrealba's line single to right field, Napoli rounded third and got the stop sign -- and it appeared wisely -- from third-base coach Dave Anderson.

"I'm on second base, I'm not the fastest guy in the world," Napoli said. "Trying to keep a rally going and thought that was the right player. Kinsler was coming up. The guy can drive the ball out of the park."

Only Kinsler popped it up down the left-field line. Holliday caught it just inside fair territory and his rocket throw took one hop to the right of home plate. Molina snagged it and made a sweeping tag just ahead of the sliding Napoli.

It was easily the biggest defensive play in an offensive game.

"That's the play. Kins hit a fly ball fairly deep and I'm not fast enough to score. He made a perfect throw," Napoli said. "You try to put pressure on a defense and try to make bad throws and he made a perfect throw."

Mike Napoli says no to postseason replay

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- First base umpire Ron Kulpa admitted that he blew the call at first base in the fourth inning of Game 3 that would have finished off a double play for the Texas Rangers and instead triggered a four-run inning for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mike Napoli was the victim. He had to come off the bag to snare Ian Kinsler's wild throw that sailed to the left of first base. As replays clearly showed, Napoli applied the tag to Matt Holliday's shoulder well before he reached first base. Kulpa quickly called Holliday safe, motioning to show that he had beaten the tag.

"I saw the replay when I walked off the field," Kulpa said, "and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag."

Later in the inning, Napoli made a two-run throwing error and the Cardinals led 5-0 when the top of the fourth finally ended.

The NFL, NBA and NHL all make use of some form of instant replay. Major League Baseball does too, but will only stop play to consult a video replay monitor to determine if a home run was fair or foul or hit the wall or was interfered with by a fan.

Kulpa's missed call at first was met with disbelief from Napoli and argued by manager Ron Washington, but no matter how many times fans saw that the call was wrong before the next pitch was even thrown, the umpires had no recourse to check a replay and reverse the call.

To that end, Napoli didn't hesitate to provide a one-word answer when asked if he is in favor of video review in the postseason.

"No," he said.

One inning, one night Mike Napoli won't like

October, 23, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Napoli had one rough night.

The Texas Rangers' catcher, part-time designated hitter and part-time first baseman, which is where Napoli was stationed for Game 3 of the World Series, was involved in bad call, a bad throw and a bad tag-up, all in the span of one wild fourth inning that proved pivotal in the St. Cardinals going up 2-1 with a four-hour-long, 16-7 victory Saturday night.

It all started with a fantastic snare of Ian Kinsler's wide throw attempting to complete a 6-4-3 double play. Napoli lunged to his left, made the catch and swept his left arm down and applied the tag on Matt Holliday's left shoulder at least a step before Holliday hit the bag.

First-base umpire Ron Kulpa didn't see it that way. Napoli couldn't believe it, throwing his arms up in the air and muttering under his breath. Manager Ron Washington entered the discussion. Replays clearly showed that Napoli made the tag in time and Kulpa acknowledged it after the game.

"I thought he was out," Napoli said. "He called him safe and there's nothing you can do about it. We had a chance to minimize the inning and we let it snowball."

A single, double and intentional walk later off Rangers starter Matt Harrison and the Cardinals led 2-0 and had the bases jammed for struggling eight-hole hitter Jon Jay. He squibbed one to the right of the mound. Napoli charged, picked it up and made a tough, off-balance, side-arm throw to the plate looking for the force out.

The throw tailed and skipped past catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Two runs scored for a 4-0 St. Louis lead.

"I just yanked it," Napoli said. "Didn't make the play and it cost us."

Ryan Theriot singled next and it was 5-0. Suddenly Harrison's night was unraveling around him.

"I'm not mad at anybody for making an error. I mean I walk guys," Harrison said. "The defense has been outstanding for me all season. It was a tough play, he was coming in on the ball and a running throw. He's been behind the plate, so he hasn't been playing much first."

Napoli was at first because the .105-hitting Mitch Moreland has been put out to pasture and Washington opted to use Michael Young at designated hitter and Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate for the first time in the series.

The fourth inning worsened for Napoli when he tried to score on Kinsler's one-out fly ball down the left-field line. Texas had already gotten three runs back in the inning and had a chance for more.

"I was hoping it would go foul," Kinsler said, because he didn't think he hit it deep enough for Napoli to score. He didn't.

Holliday, the man who benefited from the gift call at first, threw a laser to catcher Yadier Molina and Napoli was a dead duck.

Albert Pujols and the Cardinals ended up scoring a dozen more runs, so five in the fourth might be considered old or inconsequential news. But who knows how things unfold if the Rangers minimize the Cardinals' top half of the fourth and maximize the bottom?

Pujols speaks to the media this time

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Outside of the Rangers ninth-inning comeback victory in Game 2 of the World Series, there was St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols refusing to speak with reporters as a big story.

Pujols said he was available for about 20 minutes, but he wasn't seen in the clubhouse by some reporters. In Game 3 on Saturday night, after a three homer, six RBI performance, Pujols was at his locker, back turned as a large contingent of reporters approached him.

It sparked Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter to joke Pujols was going to talk. Pujols did, just not at his locker. He did so in the interview room.

The big deal with Pujols speaking with reporters following Game 2 was his error allowing a base runner to advance during that critical ninth inning.

No errors on this night just an offensive outburst from Pujols, one of baseball's best hitters.

"What can I say?" he said. "To tell you the truth, I just come and get ready to play. I've been in that situation before where people just blow things out, and it is what it is and you can't really think about that. My main focus is we are in the World Series. The sad part of that was that you got two great quality pitchers and nobody talked about that, about Jaime and Lewis. Nobody talked about that."

Pujols referred to the Rangers' Colby Lewis and the Cardinals Jaime Garcia.

Cardinals DH Lance Berkman was asked did Pujols use the criticism he received from the media for not speaking after Game 2 as motivation?

"It was the least [of our] concern what you guys thought about it," he said. "I don’t think it was an answer. Nobody is criticizing his hitting, they just said he didn’t hang around and answer questions to the media. I don’t think there’s anything to that."

Matt Holliday didn't see fan toss a ball

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- An unidentified fan threw a white ball onto the field in the bottom of the seventh inning during a sacrifice fly by Nelson Cruz.

The fan, wearing a white T-shirt with blue sleeves, tossed a ball just as St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday made the catch of Cruz's fly ball.

"Didn't see it," Holliday said when asked about the fan. "That's never happened to me before."

The fan, sitting in the front row of the left-center field seats, was escorted out of the seating area five minutes later by four security guards. As security waited to take the fan and his friend away, he started texting on his phone. As the fan who threw the ball onto the field was leaving, he walked up the steps and raised the Hook 'em Horns sign, which is the University of Texas hand sign.

The run that scored on Cruz's sacrifice fly made the score 14-7 in favor of the Cardinals.

Fan ejected after tossing ball onto field

October, 22, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- An unidentified fan threw a white ball onto the field in the bottom of the seventh inning during a sacrifice fly by Nelson Cruz.

The fan, wearing a white t-shirt with blue sleeves, tossed a ball just as St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Hollidaymade the catch of Cruz's fly ball.

The fan, sitting in the front row of the left-center field seats, was escorted out of the seating area five minutes later by four security guards. As security waited to take the fan and his friend away, he started texting on his phone. As the fan who threw the ball onto the field was leaving, he walked up the steps and raised the Hook 'em Horns sign, which is the University of Texas hand sign.

The run that scored on Cruz's sacrifice fly made the score 14-7 in favor of the Cardinals.

Keeping his pitches and pitch count low

October, 22, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Harrison is no different than Derek Holland or even C.J. Wilson for that matter. When he fails to keep his pitches down, he falls behind in the count and into trouble.

And, unfortunately for Harrison, that's been the case in the postseason and why he doesn't have a start beyond five innings even though he's been the Rangers' most effective starter behind Colby Lewis.

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington would like to get him into the sixth in today's pivotal Game 3 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark, but that will be up to Harrison.

"Definitely not walk three people each game," Harrison said, giving his key to staying in the game. "The first time was a little bit of jitters in the playoffs when I pitched against the Rays, but the Tigers have a good lineup. They had a lot of righties and they made me work a lot of deep counts. Hopefully, I can get some quicker outs this time, maybe put some more balls in the strike zone, but in a good spot in the strike zone and get some quicker outs."

Harrison proved his most resilient over the regular season and he had stints where he was near-dominant. In the postseason, he's walked six batters in 10 2/3 innings, again his major undoing. Opposing hitters are batting just .225 off him, second-best among the starters behind Lewis (.191) and he's the lone starter to allow fewer than 10 hits in the postseason (nine).

He'll face a string of Cardinals right-handed hitters that can take it to the gaps for extra bases or out of the park in Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, David Freese and Lance Berkman. Allen Craig, who tagged Alexi Ogando as pinch-hitter in each of the first two games will serve as the designated hitter.

Harrison managed to get out of jams in his two postseason starts with a sinker that induces ground balls. For much of the season, Harrison led the majors in groudball double plays until his teammate Wilson passed him late in the season. The Cardinals don't run particularly well and the DP-ball could be a significant weapon again.

"I think his sinker is his key pitch," Washington said. "He gets a lot of ground balls and he gets a lot of double plays when people get on the bag. But, he's also developed his secondary pitches, change-ups and his breaking ball. He can throw them at any time in the count. When you can do that, you can keep batters off-balance."

And, if he can avoid throwing too many of them, he might work his way deeper into Game 3 and give his chance to take a World Series lead for the first time in franchise history.

Unsung hero: Mike Adams' sigh of relief

October, 21, 2011
ST. LOUIS -- Between Alexi Ogando's second consecutive blown opportunity and Neftali Feliz's sudden save job, there was Mike Adams' wild ride in the eighth.

Rangers play-by-play announcer Steve Busby breaks down the club's Game 2 win over the Cardinals.

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Acquired for just this pressurized, late-game situation, Adams made his club hold its breath before he could finally exhale. The Rangers fell behind, 1-0, in the seventh and Adams entered in the eighth needing to keep it a one-run game.

As a former National Leaguer, Adams was a perfect 8-for-8 in his career against St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. But with one out, that nearly changed with one walloping crack of the bat. Pujols launched Adams' 94 mph fastball high into the heavy, chilly night air and deep to right-center. Nelson Cruz went back, back, back ...

"Right off the bat I didn't think he hit it as well as he did," Adams said. "I saw Nelson dropping back and I was like, 'Oh boy,' and luckily we saved about three feet right there. Sometimes, you need a little luck on your side."

Cruz made the grab at the wall and there were two down. But the Cardinals weren't out. Not yet.

Lance Berkman kept the inning alive with a sharp grounder into right field. Matt Holliday then worked a six-pitch walk and things were getting dicey. But aiding Adams' cause was the fact that Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had pulled dangerous hitter David Freese for Daniel Descalso as a defensive substitution at third base.

It meant that instead of the NLCS MVP who is batting .422 in the postseason coming up a runner in scoring position, Adams would face the .143-hitting Descalso. Adams got him with a slider that bounced to Ian Kinsler for an easy out to end the inning.

"The main thing is you got to go out there and keep them from scoring a run right there," said Adams, who is tied for the team lead with Ogando with nine postseason appearances. "You keep it a one-run ballgame and give our boys a chance to take that lead. If we just give them opportunity, keep them in the game, they're going to come back and give us the runs we need."

Indeed they did.

It wasn't how he'd draw it up, but Adams will take his first career World Series win.

One down, one to go

December, 30, 2009

It always helps to get a clearer picture of market value when it comes to free agents. One way to do that is to see what the "big boys" get and where they land. The two largest fish in the free agent hitting lake are Jason Bay and Matt Holliday.

One has now found a home. Bay agreed, according to an ESPN.com story, to a four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets. The deal includes a vesting option that could push it over $80 million for five years.

It will be interesting to see what happens now with Holliday, a Scott Boras client.

But maybe that will give the Rangers and other parties some more information. The club has shown interest in Jermaine Dye and Vladimir Guerrero. They'd like to get a right-handed bat, preferably on a one-year deal, to put in the middle of the lineup. They've also inquired about left-handed hitting Jim Thome as a DH.

Stay tuned.



Colby Lewis
10 5.18 133 170
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182