Texas Rangers: Roy Oswalt
|Ron Washington joins Ben and Skin to talk about all the questions surrounding the Rangers heading into the offseason.
First, let's start with what we know. Yu Darvish, under contract for five more years, is the unquestioned No. 1 starter in this rotation. And the Rangers certainly hope he stays healthy and productive and fronts this rotation for a long time. Darvish was consistent and impressive in his final eight starts, including a great performance under playoff pressure.
Matt Harrison had the most consistent season of any starter, making the All-Star team and taking a huge step forward mentally. He attacked hitters and didn't allow bad innings or bad games impact him negatively. He learned from his mistakes and gained some confidence.
Derek Holland did not have the season the Rangers -- or Holland -- expected. I've listed him as the club's No. 3 pitcher, but where he falls in the rotation may depend on what kind of offseason work the club does on the rotation. Holland dealt with a stomach virus in June and then went on the DL with left shoulder fatigue. He ended up going 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA in 29 games (27 starts) with 145 strikeouts and 52 walks. He did finish the season a bit better, going 5-0 with a 3.88 ERA in his final 10 starts. But Holland is the first to admit that he took a step in the wrong direction this year and needs to bounce back. He's under contract for the long-term, so I expect the club to be patient with him.
But after Holland, how do things shape up? Ryan Dempster finished the year in the rotation, but is now a free agent. He'd like to return to Texas and I could see that, but only under the right kind of deal. Dempster has quality stuff, but his splits in 2012 with Texas were telling. He pitched well against non-contending teams (Minnesota, Cleveland (twice), Kansas City, Boston and Seattle), going 6-0 with a 1.88 ERA in six starts. But against teams in the hunt for the postseason (Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Baltimore, Oakland), he was 1-3 with a 9.09 ERA in six starts. He's a funny guy who keeps the clubhouse light and he could provide some nice depth. But his value had to be hurt by those splits.
There are internal candidates. Alexi Ogando could be one and that's a question we'll get into later. Martin Perez came up and made some starts down the stretch. He hasn't lived up to the potential, but is still young and could get a shot in spring training. Justin Grimm had a memorable debut, but also struggled at times coming straight up from Double-A. Robbie Ross could still be a starter long-term, but that may not happen in 2013. We'll see. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz could prove to be nice additions at the midpoint of the season, but they can't be factored into the rotation as spring training begins.
So this is an area that must be addressed this offseason. The Rangers could look at potential free agents. They could, perhaps, try to go after another big name (Zack Greinke, anyone?). But with Darvish showing his stuff in the final two months of the season, they don't have to do that. The key is depth. They have to find some more arms so that they've got the ability to compete for some of those final rotation spots.
June 2: After the Rangers' sloppy 3-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim, manager Ron Washington called a rare team meeting. He reminded his squad to make the fundamental plays and that they weren’t playing to their capabilities.
June 3: Hamilton is named AL player of the month for May after a league-high 12 homers and 32 RBIs. He also hit .344 for the month. Nelson Cruz hit the longest homer hit in the big leagues at that point, 484 feet way up the hill in left-center in Anaheim.
June 4: The MLB draft begins and the Rangers take Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo with their first two picks. The club signs all of its first 10 picks.
June 7: Derek Holland is placed on the DL with left shoulder fatigue and Alexi Ogando is tabbed to take his place in the rotation. The A’s beat Yu Darvish and take three of four from the Rangers in Oakland.
June 10: Ogando injures his groin trying to beat out a hit in a start against San Francisco and has to come out of the game after three perfect innings. He ends up on the DL. The Rangers take two of three from the Giants.
June 12: Colby Lewis pitches a complete game in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks for Texas, giving the bullpen much-needed rest.
June 16: Justin Grimm, called up from Double-A Frisco with all the injuries, makes his big league debut and pitches a quality start against the Houston Astros.
June 19: TV broadcaster Dave Barnett undergoes tests after an on-air issue the previous night in San Diego. He does not return to the booth in 2012. Steve Busby takes his place with Matt Hicks joining Eric Nadel on radio.
June 23: Roy Oswalt makes his Rangers debut. He gives up one run in six innings in a 4-1 Texas win.
June 24: Texas gets its 22nd sellout of the season, breaking the club record for sellouts set in 1994.
July 1: Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli are voted into the All-Star game as starters for the AL squad, leading a club-record eight players into the game (Darvish would get voted in by fans a few days later). It’s the fifth straight All-Star Game start for Hamilton. LHP Matt Harrison, closer Joe Nathan, second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus also make the team.
July 2: Harrison is named AL pitcher of the month for June after going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in six starts. He had 24 strikeouts and 10 walks and opponents hit .224 against him.
July 3: Roy Oswalt gives up 11 runs (nine of them earned) on 13 hits -- both career-highs -- in a 19-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
July 7: Derek Holland returns from the disabled list and gets a quality start, allowing three runs in six innings in a 4-3 Rangers win in 10 innings over the Twins. Nelson Cruz’s walkoff double ended a five-game losing streak.
July 8: Jurickson Profar hit a home run and Mike Olt had an RBI double in the Futures Game as part of All-Star week festivities. Later that night, Ian Kinsler hit a walkoff single in the 13th to give the Rangers a win over the Twins right before the All-Star break.
July 10: The NL beats the AL, 8-0. All of the Rangers play except for Darvish.
July 18: Lewis is activated off the DL to start against the Oakland A’s. After three weeks on the DL with forearm tendinitis, Lewis allowed one run in five innings.
July 22: The Rangers lose to the Angels in the final game of a three-game series and are five games up in the AL West as they leave Anaheim.
July 23: Lewis has a torn flexor tendon in his elbow that will require surgery, ending his season. It’s a huge blow to the club. Lewis was the team’s best postseason pitcher in 2010 and 2011. Perez is called up to pitch in his place.
July 27: One of the bigger fish in the trade deadline pond landed in Los Angeles with the Angels as Zack Greinke was dealt to the Rangers’ AL West rival. Josh Hamilton was 0-for-4 against the White Sox and his average dipped to .145 in July. Some of the fans in Arlington booed the slugger after he struck out in the game.
July 30: Texas falls, 15-8, to the Angels and see their lead in the AL West drop to four games. The club acquires catcher Geovany Soto and cash considerations from the Chicago Cubs for minor-league pitcher Jake Brigham and a player to be named or cash.
July 31: About 10 minutes before the trade deadline, the Rangers acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs for minor leaguers Christian Villanueva (third baseman) and RHP Kyle Hendricks. Dempster gives the Rangers a veteran in the rotation that posted a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts in the NL in 2012. The Rangers announce that Neftali Feliz, scratched from his rehab start two days ago, will have Tommy John surgery. The Angels beat the Rangers, 6-2, to climb to within three games of the AL West lead.
April 6: The Rangers win their fourth-straight Opening Day game. Michael Young’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth broke a 2-2 tie and the Rangers beat the White Sox, 3-2.
April 11: Texas holds a news conference to make official Ian Kinsler’s long-term deal. He signs for five years at $70 million with a $5 million buyout or a $10 million club option for the sixth year.
April 12: Joe Nathan can’t close out the game and the Rangers lose to the Mariners. Nathan goes on a streak of perfect save opportunities after that.
April 21: The Rangers beat Detroit, 10-4, in the first game of a doubleheader to go 7-0 on the road and 12-2 on the season.
April 23: Ivan Rodriguez announces his retirement at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and is honored by his former team.
April 24: Darvish dazzles the Yankees, striking out 10 in 8 1/3 shutout innings against one of the top lineups in the game in a 2-0 Rangers win.
April 30: Josh Hamilton doesn’t play on the final day of the month, held out with a sore back. But he finishes April with a .395 batting average, nine homers, 25 RBIs, 64 total bases and a .744 slugging percentage.
May 5: Adrian Beltre hits a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the 11th to give the Rangers a 5-2 win in Cleveland.
May 8: Hamilton makes history, belting four home runs at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He becomes the 16th player to hit four in a game and the first since 2003. His 18 total bases are one shy of Shawn Green’s big-league record set in 2002.
May 11: The Rangers defeat the Los Angeles Angels in the first meeting between the two teams in 2012. The win pushes Texas eight games ahead of the Los Angeles.
May 13: Texas beats the Angels, 13-6, to take two of three in the series. They end the series five games up on Oakland and eight ahead of Los Angeles.
May 15: The club announces that longtime broadcaster Eric Nadel will be inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in August.
May 18: Nolan Ryan said he believes it’s unlikely anything would happen on a long-term deal for Hamilton during the season.
May 19: David Murphy hits the first inside-the-park home run of his career and the 23rd in franchise history in a 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros.
May 26: Hamilton, not feeling well and needing an IV and oxygen after the game, hit a two-run homer in the 13th inning to help the Rangers to a come-from-behind win over Toronto.
May 29: Roy Oswalt agrees on a contract with the Rangers for $5 million plus incentives for the rest of the season. He heads to the minors to get some work in before he’s ready to come to the big leagues.
May 30: The Mariners beat the Rangers 21-8 in a score that looks more like one you’d find across the street at Cowboys Stadium.
Dec. 2: Tim Purpura, former Astros GM, is named the Rangers’ director of player development.
Dec. 6: The Rangers meet with Bob Garber, C.J. Wilson’s agent, during the winter meetings.
Dec. 8: The Los Angeles Angels sign Wilson and Albert Pujols on the final day of the winter meetings, making the AL West even more competitive.
Dec. 14: The Rangers place a bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish through the posting process. They wait to find out if it was enough.
Dec. 19: Around 10 p.m. Texas time, the Rangers find out their bid of $51,703,411 was enough to give them a 30-day negotiating window with Darvish.
Jan. 1: The Rangers host Darvish, his father and his agents for a few days. They get a tour of the ballpark and look at areas where Darvish could live if a deal is worked out. The Rangers treat it like a recruiting visit, wanting to impress Darvish in the hopes of getting a contract done.
Jan. 3: The Rangers send cash considerations to Baltimore for Brandon Snyder, who makes the club out of spring training.
Jan. 4: Mike Adams has offseason hernia surgery. He begins spring training behind but catches up.
Jan. 13: Club officials meet with Prince Fielder and his representatives at a Dallas-area hotel. Both sides want to gauge interest and figure out where each is as Fielder looks for a new team.
Jan. 20: Darvish is officially introduced in a crowded news conference with plenty of reporters. He said he wants to do his best and help the team. He also poses for pictures on the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Jan. 24: Reports surface that Fielder is going to sign a nine-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.
Jan. 30: A few Rangers officials meet with Roy Oswalt over lunch to discuss potentially signing the free agent.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers' offense couldn't convert in the key situations -- a recent problem for this club -- and the Baltimore Orioles did, winning yet another close game (no one was better in close games than Baltimore this season) by a 5-1 score. Texas couldn't take advantage of a tremendous performance by Yu Darvish and the AL will have a new representative in the World Series.
What it means: The Rangers' season is over after a late-season collapse. A club that led the AL West by five games with nine to go (and four with six to go) dropped eight of its last 10 to lose the division to the A's and the AL wild-card game to the Orioles. They led the AL West for all but three days in 2012 and won't play in the ALDS. ... Baltimore will head home to host the New York Yankees for the first two games of the ALDS.
Offense disappears: As has been the case the final few weeks of the season, the Rangers offense didn't deliver in key situations. The fourth inning was a prime example. Nelson Cruz and Michael Young had back-to-back one-out singles to put runners on the corners. But the Rangers couldn't get the runner home from third with less than two outs. Mike Napoli struck out and then Geovany Soto had a check-swing strike on a 3-2 pitch. ... Give Joe Saunders credit for wiggling out of trouble, but the reality is that Texas had multiple chances -- the Rangers put a batter on base in the first five innings and managed just one run, which scored on a double play.
Hamilton gets booed: Josh Hamilton, perhaps playing in a Rangers uniform for the final time, was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a double play and a roller to the mound. The final strikeout came with a runner at second and two outs in the eighth. Hamilton saw eight pitches -- all strikes -- in the four at-bats. It ended Hamilton's rough stretch the past few weeks and a terrible last few days for him. He dropped a routine fly ball in shallow center field Wednesday in the division-deciding game and then couldn't deliver on Friday.
Controversial decision: Manager Ron Washington decided to pull Darvish with two outs and a runner at second base in a 2-1 game in the seventh inning (Darvish was at 91 pitches). Washington elected to go with the lefty-lefty matchup with Nate McLouth coming up. He decided on Derek Holland, who threw 50 pitches Wednesday in Oakland and struggled. Holland threw a wild pitch to put Ryan Flaherty at third and then gave up a single to left to McLouth to give the Orioles a critical insurance run. ... Koji Uehara, who has held lefties to a .188 average this season and has been very good against them since coming back from the disabled list, didn't pitch until the eighth, where he struck out the side. That included left-handed hitters Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.
Darvish dazzles: The 26-year-old was phenomenal, proving he could handle the big-game pressure. He gave up three runs (one was unearned and another scored when Holland gave up the two-out single) on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. His slider was a tremendous out pitch as he got most of his strikeouts on the pitch, which just drops out of the zone on hitters. ... Darvish got nothing from his offense and hung in, putting up zeroes and at least giving the Rangers a chance to do something.
Double plays: The Rangers took themselves out of three innings with double plays Friday. And even the inning they scored was shortened because of a double play by Hamilton that scored the run, but allowed Saunders to keep it a one-run game. ... After Craig Gentry got on first because of an error by first baseman Mark Reynolds, Ian Kinsler hit into a double play to clear the bases. ... Kinsler got a one-out single in the fifth and Andrus hit into a double play.
Can I get an interpreter?: When Darvish started stretching his neck in the sixth, Soto went to the mound to check on him and looked to the dugout. That brought out assistant athletic trainer Kevin Harmon, Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux. Joe Furukawa, Darvish's interpreter, tried to come out and was initially sent back by the umpires. But he was allowed onto the field after the umpires conferred. MLB has a rule that allows interpreters to come to the field in case of injuries.
Very early (unearned) run: It took the Orioles just four pitches to get the lead. Michael Young tried to backhand a ground ball to first by McLouth and couldn't get a handle on it. Moments after the error, McLouth stole second easily. He scored when J.J. Hardy hit a ground-ball single up the middle that scored McLouth for the game's first run. ... Darvish then got out of the inning without allowing any further damage, striking out two batters along the way (Davis and Wieters) on sliders.
Rangers tie it quickly: Texas seemed to have an opportunity for a big first inning. Kinsler walked and Elvis Andrus singled on a hit-and-run to put runners at the corners with no outs. Hamilton hit into a double play, which scored the run. But it also kept the Rangers from having a better chance at scoring more runs. Still, the club managed to tie it right away thanks to the top two guys in the lineup.
Great catch: Kinsler had a nice defensive play in the second. Jim Thome smoked a ball on a line between first and second. Kinsler quickly jumped and snagged it to his left. It was a quick-reflex play that prevented a run.
Hanging in: Credit Saunders for his grit and manager Buck Showalter for his decision to start the veteran. Despite numbers that did not seem favorable at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Showalter went with Saunders anyway and it paid off. Saunders put a runner on in each of his first five innings, but allowed just the lone run in the first. He did a great job of getting out of trouble and getting the Rangers to chase pitches outside of the zone.
Two more: Baltimore turned a 3-1 game into a 5-1 game in the top of the ninth, getting two runs off Rangers closer Joe Nathan. The Orioles scored them with a big one-out single from Manny Machado and a sac fly from McLouth.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Texas Rangers couldn't hold a 5-2 lead Wednesday -- or a four-game lead with six games to play -- and watched as the Oakland A's won the AL West, snatching the division from them on the final day.
Josh Hamilton's error was the game's most memorable play as he trotted in to catch what appeared to be a routine, lazy fly ball but ended up overrunning it as it glanced off his glove. That broke a 5-5 tie and the A's were on their way from there.
Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse shortly):
What it means: The Rangers will play Friday in Arlington against the Orioles in the AL wild-card game at 7:37 p.m. CT.
Hamilton has big error: Hamilton inexplicably missed a shallow fly ball by Yoenis Cespedes that would have ended the fourth inning with the score still tied. He appeared to see the ball, coming in toward it. But it looked as if he overran it, and the ball glanced off the top of his glove. The error allowed two runs to score, breaking a 5-5 tie and putting the A's ahead by two. ... In between innings, television cameras caught manager Ron Washington having a lively conversation with Hamilton.
Dempster out early: The Rangers starter lasted just three innings, coming out of the game four batters into the fourth. Dempster gave up a leadoff walk -- usually costly -- and three straight hits as the A's closed the gap to 5-3. He didn't record an out and was taken out in favor of Derek Holland.
Fourth inning the difference: After Dempster struggled early in the inning, Holland couldn't get out of the jam. Coco Crisp hit a two-run double that was inches inside the right-field line to tie the score. Holland appeared ready to keep it tied, but Hamilton's error changed all of that.
Wasted chance in seventh: Beltre singled and Nelson Cruz doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs in the seventh against right-hander Ryan Cook, who was pitching in his fifth consecutive game. Cook got Michael Young to ground out and struck out David Murphy and Mike Napoli to end the threat. It was another disappointing offensive inning for the Rangers, who haven't consistently delivered the big hit.
Beltre ties it: With the Rangers down 1-0, Adrian Beltre hit an RBI single to score Ian Kinsler from third. It was particularly noteworthy in that Kinsler was at third with less than two outs, a situation that has been a problem for the Rangers in recent weeks.
Big inning: That third inning was a huge one for Texas. They got five runs, starting with that Beltre RBI. They did it by doing what the game asked. They just put balls in play, got some good fortune, and took advantage of Oakland's mistakes.
Taking advantage: Still in the top of the third, Mike Napoli hit a popup that should have been the final out. But it appeared that A's third baseman Josh Donaldson didn't see the ball, forcing catcher George Kottaras to try to make the play. The ball sailed a bit and he missed it, and it dropped in fair territory. That put runners at the corners for Geovany Soto, who got a single up the middle to score another run. That hit ended an 0-for-16 skid for him.
A's score first: Oakland got the first run of the game, scoring off Dempster in the first inning thanks to three straight hits with one out, including an RBI double by Brandon Moss. ... Dempster did a good job of keeping the A's to one run, though. He had runners at second and third with one out and managed to wiggle out of it, getting Josh Reddick to pop up in foul ground and striking out Josh Donaldson on a nice slider that dropped out of the zone.
Pouring it on: The A's scored four in the eighth inning, with all the runs charged to Alexi Ogando. The reliever just didn't have it and the A's were relentless. One of the runs was unearned when Kinsler couldn't get a full handle on a ground ball as he tried to shove it to second to start a double play.
Tidbits: The A's announced a sellout crowd of 36,067 for Wednesday's game. That included 1,000 standing-room only tickets. ... The A's came back from at least a four-run deficit six times in 2012, including Wednesday. ... The A's added a run in the eighth on a solo shot by Derek Norris.
Up next: The Rangers will play in Friday's AL wild-card game against the Orioles in Arlington at 7:37 p.m. CT on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. Yu Darvish will get the start.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The AL West is now officially up for grabs with one game left in the 2012 season. Oakland's 3-1 win over the Rangers pulled the A's into a tie with Texas with game No. 162 on tap for Wednesday afternoon. It's the first time since April 9 that the Rangers haven't had sole possession of first place in the AL West.
The Ranger bats have disappeared recently and the club has lost six of its last eight and eight of its last 12. That slump, combined with Oakland's five-game winning streak and victories in eight of their last 10, has pulled the A's even after the Rangers had a four-game lead after last Thursday's win over Oakland. Some quick thoughts on this game (more to come from the clubhouse):
What it means: The Rangers and A's will face each other Wednesday with the winner claiming the AL West crown and the loser playing in the AL wild-card game Friday. ... The loss also means that the Rangers need a combination of things to happen to claim the No. 1 seed. But to simplify it, if the Rangers win and the Yankees win or Baltimore loses, Texas will face the Tigers in the ALDS. If they lose, they'll face either the Orioles or the Yankees depending on what happens Wednesday. That game could be played in Arlington if Baltimore loses tomorrow. Stay tuned on the blog for more explaining all of this.
Double plays hurt: Once again, the Rangers couldn't produce enough runs to get a win. They managed just one -- on a Josh Hamilton double in the third. They had a few chances to create something, but double plays hurt. Elvis Andrus walked to lead off the sixth, but Hamilton hit into a double play to erase him. Michael Young's infield hit in the sixth didn't matter as Mike Napoli hit into a double play. In the fourth, Nelson Cruz got on thanks to an error and didn't get to second as Young hit into a twin-killing.
Early chance squandered: Adrian Beltre hit the first pitch he saw in the second for a double off the wall in left-center. But he never scored. Cruz grounded out and Beltre couldn't move over. Young got some good fortune when a high chop went off starter Travis Blackley's glove for an infield hit. But then they had some bad luck when Napoli's line drive -- and it was hit hard -- went right into the glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who reacted quickly. Geovany Soto then struck out looking on a great curveball.
Costly Cruz error: Cruz charged a single by Derek Norris with runners at second and third and no outs in the fifth, but bobbled the ball as he tried to get a handle on it to make a throw. That allowed Brandon Moss to score easily. With Cruz's arm, it's possible he might have had a play at the plate had he come up with it cleanly. And it's also possible that Moss scores anyway. But the bobble meant he had no chance to get him. That second run was the go-ahead run in the game.
Hamilton drives one in: With two outs and Ian Kinsler at first base, Hamilton was nowhere near two off-speed pitches and fell behind 0-2. But on a third breaking pitch (curve) that Blackley hung, Hamilton timed it right and hit it to the wall in right-center for a double. Kinsler kept running and when second baseman Adam Rosales dropped the relay throw, allowing Kinsler to score without a play at the plate. Had he not dropped it, it probably would have been close. But credit the Rangers for getting aggressive and forcing the A's to make a play, which they didn't.
Kinsler struggling: Coming into the game, Kinsler had one hit in his last 18 at-bats. And he didn't get a hit Tuesday. He is batting .199 (27-136) in his last 32 games. ... Kinsler is a different hitter on the road than at home -- with 70 points separating the two numbers coming in. He was hitting just .223 on the road before Tuesday and couldn't get a hit. ... Kinsler's last hit with a runner in scoring position was Aug. 31. He is 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position since Aug. 15.
Harrison's night: Matt Harrison came out with a quality start, but was unable to hold a 1-0 lead. He gave up three straight hits to start the fifth and two runs, which gave the A's the lead. ... With two outs and no one on (and after Harrison got Yoenis Cespedes on a pickoff/caught stealing), Jonny Gomes tagged a solo shot to give the A's an insurance run. ... Harrison finished with three runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts, but got the loss.
Blackley better: Blackley gave up five runs in the first inning in a loss to Texas last week and lasted just that lone inning. But on Tuesday, he was impressive, going six innings and giving up just the one run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Tidbits: The Rangers' bullpen did what it could to keep it close. Alexi Ogando pitched a scoreless seventh, Michael Kirkman got both left-handed batters he faced in the eighth and Roy Oswalt struck out Cespedes to end the eighth. ... The A's announced 30,660 as the attendance with a 12,000 walkup.
Up next: RHP Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.18 ERA in NL/AL) pitches for the Rangers against RHP A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA) of the A's at 2:37 p.m. CT in the final regular-season game of 2012.
Cruz has managed to stay healthy all season. And that's a big step for him. He was on the disabled list twice last season and three times in 2010 with hamstring or quad muscle strains. But this year he's played in 154 games, tops of anyone on the team.
"That's good," Cruz said. "I've stayed healthy. I've played a lot of games. I want to be on the field and that was my goal before the season and I'm glad I could play that many games."
Washington has relied on Cruz while others have needed breaks for injuries. And all along he's wondered if a patented Cruz hot streak -- and when Cruz is hot he can be searing, just ask the Detroit Tigers from last year's ALCS -- would surface. It hasn't really happened yet this season, but Cruz is showing signs. He's had consecutive multi-hit games, is using the big part of the field for extra-base hits and hit a home run Friday, ending a 21-game drought.
"I feel good (at the plate)," Cruz said. "I've had ups and downs. The whole season has been like that. It's good to finish strong, especially the five games we have left. Hopefully, I can do it like I have the past two days."
Cruz said that every time he hits the ball well, he thinks a streak is coming and he hasn't been able to sustain it. Still, he's put up solid numbers. He's got 23 home runs and 88 RBIs. The RBIs are a career high. Cruz is batting .262 with 136 strikeouts, which is also a career-high.
"He's durable," Washington said. "He wants to play. In batting practice, he does what he should do. He tries to stay in the big part of the field. It's transferring that to the field that's the key."
* Martin Perez is currently in the bullpen. If he's not needed, he would start Monday. Washington obviously wants to get the game in today. Rain would likely mean a day-night doubleheader and would complicate the pitching situation. If Perez doesn't start Monday, Scott Feldman, Justin Grimm or perhaps Roy Oswalt could be candidates.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Washington said. "We have to play this string out and see what happens. But it's all hands on deck."
* Washington has faith that Koji Uehara and Alexi Ogando can handle the eighth inning or whatever is needed. Mike Adams is out for an undetermined amount of time with a strained cervical (neck).
* Robbie Ross has struggled lately and Washington said he thinks much of that is Ross' inability to throw inside to right-handed batters. The skipper wants to see Ross use that cutter more to the glove side. Right-handed batters are hitting .241 against Ross while lefties are batting .220.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Angels got four runs off Rangers starter Ryan Dempster and then added more off the Texas bullpen in a 7-4 win. Jered Weaver had another solid start, giving up just two runs in seven innings for his fourth straight win over Texas.
What it means: The loss means the Rangers didn't reduce the magic number on their own tonight. They'll wait and see if it goes down from three if the A's lose. ... In the race for the No. 1 seed in the AL, the Rangers' loss combined with the Yankees' win means Texas is one game up on New York. Baltimore also won, so the Rangers are two games up on them.
Dempster falls to Angels again: Dempster has struggled against the Angels since getting traded to the Rangers on July 31. He gave up four runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings Friday, which was his best start against them in 2012. ... In three starts, Dempster has a 11.19 ERA and an 0-2 mark. He had allowed 13 earned runs in his previous eight innings against the Halos. ... He gave up two solo home runs and issued four walks. He also had seven strikeouts and couldn't get through the sixth. It was a 4-1 game when he left.
Dempster splits vs. contenders/non-contenders: Dempster has made five starts against teams contending for playoff spots (once against the Yankees and Orioles, three against the Angels). In those starts, he's 1-3 with an 8.46 ERA (against just the Angels and Yankees, the ERA is 11.44). He's started in six other games for Texas (vs. Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland twice, Kansas City and Seattle), all wins, and has a 2.32 ERA.
Weaver shuts the door: The Angels' ace got his fourth straight win over Texas. Nelson Cruz was the only Ranger able to drive in runs off him in seven innings. Weaver gave up five hits and had five strikeouts with two walks. ... All five of Weaver's strikeouts came in his final three innings.
Leadoff homer: One night after Ian Kinsler led off the game for the Rangers with a homer, Mike Trout did the trick for the Angels. It was Trout's fifth leadoff home run this season and his 29th long ball of 2012. ... He also scored his 125th run on the homer, a new Angels' season record. ... He is one homer and three stolen bases away from becoming just the third 30/50 player in MLB history. The others: Eric Davis and Barry Bonds. ... Mark Trumbo had 29 homers in 2011, second-most by a rookie in Angels history. Tim Salmon had 31 in 1993.
Another solo shot: The No. 9 hitter, Chris Iannetta, hit a one-out solo homer off Dempster in the third. It was Iannetta's ninth home run of the season. He's hit two homers against Texas this year.
Great catch over the fans: Rangers fans didn't exactly make an effort to keep Alberto Callaspo from getting a foul ball in the seats near third base. Still, Callaspo did a terrific job of catching it, leaning over and snagged it for an out on Ian Kinsler in the third.
Over 100: Josh Hamilton and Kinsler both have more than 100 runs scored this season. Kinsler is at 102 and Hamilton got to 101 after hitting a double and then scoring on Nelson Cruz's sac fly.
Overaggressive: Adrian Beltre tried to get to second after a throw came home following his single. But Iannetta made a good throw to get Beltre. So instead of runners on the corners and no outs, it was a runner at third (Hamilton) and one out. Cruz got the run home with a sac fly, but the out hurt the club's chances to get more.
100 RBIs: Beltre hit a two-run homer in the eighth, giving him 100 RBIs for the season. That's the third straight season Beltre has had at least 100 RBIs. It was also his 36th home run.
Koji K: Koji Uehara has now retired 20 straight batters, getting all three he faced in the ninth Friday. He has retired 12 of those batters via the strikeout.
|Rangers play-by-play voice Eric Nadel looks ahead to the Rangers' potential playoff opponents, the health of the bullpen and more.
Boomstick: Nelson Cruz hit his 23rd home run, a solo shot, and now has 88 RBIs on the season, a career-high (one better than 2011). ... The homer ended a streak of 21 games without one. ... That was Cruz's second home run this season off Weaver. He hit a grand slam off Weaver on May 13. ... Cruz may be heating up. He was 2-for-3 on Thursday with a double and an RBI and had two more hits Friday with two RBIs. ... Cruz was thrown out at second base trying to turn a single into a double and stayed down briefly after he was tagged. He got up after manager Ron Washington and the trainer checked on him and stayed in the game. He was holding his back a bit.
Up next: LHP Derek Holland (11-6, 4.50 ERA) goes up against the Angels and RHP Ervin Santana (9-12, 4.93 ERA) at 3:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Fox. Join us for a live in-game chat.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers took an early lead and held on as the A's tried to rally, winning 9-7 in front of 43,796 on Thursday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers reduce the magic number to three and are four games up on the A's in the AL West, which is what the standings looked like when Oakland arrived Monday. ... It also means they'll stay at least one game in front of the New York Yankees for best record in the American League.
Leadoff homer: Ian Kinsler started the bottom of the first with a home run, pounding a 90-mph fastball over the left-field wall to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was Kinsler's seventh leadoff homer of the season, the most in the majors. The home run tied Kinsler's club-record of seven leadoff long balls in a season (he did it in 2009 and 2011 as well). ... The homer made up for Kinsler's mistake in the field in the first; he made a high throw to first on a double play attempt. It was a throw he normally makes with no problem.
Michael Young had a clutch at-bat, a two-out single to score Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz to put the Rangers up 3-0. ... Mike Napoli followed with a two-run homer to right-center. It was his 21st home run and ended an 0-for-11 skid with six strikeouts on this homestand. He does have four home runs in 10 starts since being activated from the DL.
Hits with RISP: For the past six games, the Rangers were struggling with runners in scoring position (they were 3-for-20 in the first three games of the Oakland series and on a 1-for-25 streak coming into the series). But they came through when it counted Thursday. They had two at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first and got a single and a home run to drive in four runs. Texas was 3-for-3 with RISP through the first two innings.
Two-out runs: The Rangers had five of them, including four in the first inning. Josh Hamilton added another two-out RBI when he doubled home Elvis Andrus in the the second. It was his 125th RBI of the season.
|Rangers pitcher Ryan Dempster quells fans from panicking after back-to-back losses to the rival A's, the mindset of the team heading into the postseason, how he's fit into the clubhouse since the trade and more.
Adams' odd line: Mike Adams gave up three home runs in two-third of an inning, surrendering solo shots to Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick in the eighth. He mixed in two strikeouts as well. Adams hadn't allowed a home run since May 1, when Toronto's Brett Lawrie hit one. It pulled the A's within two runs.
Koji Ks e'm: With no one on and two outs, manager Ron Washington went to Koji Uehara. The A's pinch-hit left-handed catcher George Kottaras, who struck out on a splitter. Uehara has now held left-handed hitters to a .197 batting average with 18 strikeouts in 61 at-bats.
Up next: The Los Angeles Angels come to town for a three-game set. Ryan Dempster will go up against Jered Weaver. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and TXA21.
|Rangers pitcher Ryan Dempster quells fans from panicking after back-to-back losses to the rival A's, the mindset of the team heading into the postseason, how he's fit into the clubhouse since the trade and more.
At this point, Ryan Dempster is penciled in as the starter. But Darvish's stiff neck has felt better every day. Darvish tossed on Wednesday and he was out on the field throwing prior to Thursday's game.
Darvish was scheduled to pitch Tuesday and was pulled because of a neck tightness. He has been receiving treatment and has been steadily better. If Darvish is healthy, the club could decide to insert him in the rotation on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels. If not, he'd pitch on his regular day, which is Sunday.
* David Murphy was given the day off today. Washington said he's been looking to get Murphy a day off and with a day game after a night game and lefty Travis Blackley on the mound, he felt Thursday was a good day to do it. Craig Gentry is in center field with Josh Hamilton shifting to left.
"This is the most I've played," Murphy said. "Everybody is worn down a little bit. I think it catches up with everybody at some point."
Murphy acknowledged that he's been in a bit of a rough patch. He's 1-for-12 on the homestand and is batting .231 in his last 20 games.
"You can see him slowing down a little bit," Washington said. "I thought today would be the perfect day. He'll be back in tomorrow."
* Washington said right now Martin Perez is starting next week. Perez lasted just two-thirds of an inning on Wednesday and the bullpen had to pick him up. Roy Oswalt came in and had two scoreless innings, but the veteran isn't sure how many pitches or innings he could go if he started next week. He's been down for a while and then pitched two of the last three games and admitted he was a bit gassed in the second inning of his appearance on Wednesday, so he might not be a viable option. Washington indicated the club was likely to keep Scott Feldman as the long man in the bullpen. We'll see if anything changes based on how the standings look this weekend.
* Washington is pleased he has his main bullpen pieces available today, though he's hoping Matt Harrison can pitch deep in the game. Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Robbie Ross and Alexi Ogando are all ready to go today if needed.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Martin Perez couldn't make it out of the first inning, the Texas Rangers fell behind early and could not catch up in an 9-3 loss to the Oakland A's. Some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers have lost two straight and the magic number remains at five to clinch the AL West. The A's close to three games behind the Rangers with one game remaining in the series. ... The Yankees won earlier Wednesday, making them just one game back of Texas for the best record in the AL.
Rough first: Perez gave up five runs on six hits and could only get two outs before he was taken out by manager Ron Washington. He left too many pitches up and didn't get much help from his outfield. Perez threw just 24 pitches in his outing. It was the shortest outing by a Rangers starter since Derek Holland lasted just two-thirds of an inning on July 2, 2011.
Outfield issues: It was not a good first inning for the Rangers outfielders Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. Cruz misjudged a fly ball off the bat of Stephen Drew (an 0-2 pitch, in fact) and watched it short-hop the wall over his head for a double. Hamilton charged a single by Josh Donaldson and it bounced right by his glove, nearly rolling to the wall. It was scored a single and a two-base error and it allowed two runs to score. Two batters later, Hamilton didn't take the proper route to a fly ball and it went over his glove for a triple, scoring another run.
Oswalt pitches well: Roy Oswalt made a case to start Monday's game, when the fifth starter spot will be needed again (as long as he feels up to going four innings or so). He pitched 1 1/3 innings and after allowing two hits, was able to bear down and get three strikeouts to keep the A's off the board.
Chipping away: The Rangers immediately began to eat away at the A's 5-0 lead after the first. Texas got one run back in the bottom half of the inning, when Elvis Andrus hit a double off the Southwest Airlines sign in left-center to score Ian Kinsler. ... In the second, Texas loaded the bases as the Nos. 6-8 hitters got on (two singles and a walk by Mike Napoli). Mitch Moreland hit a ground ball to second and Napoli made a nice slide to help break up the double play attempt. The Rangers got a sacrifice fly from Andrus to close the gap to 5-3. But that's as close as the Rangers got.
Patience: Kinsler showed plenty of patience in his first two at-bats. He drew walks on both of them, but also fell behind in the count and worked starter Jarrod Parker for 17 pitches in those two walks. He added a third walk in the game in the ninth, seeing 10 pitches in that one.
Walk in the park: Wilmer Font walked the only two batters he faced in the third inning. One of those was Josh Reddick, who was in an 0-for-29 slump at the time. ... Tanner Scheppers came in after Font and, after striking out Derek Norris, walked Cliff Pennington before giving up a two-RBI single to Drew.
Eating up innings: After Washington used four pitchers in the first 3 2/3 innings, he asked Yoshinori Tateyama and Justin Grimm to go the rest of the way. Tateyama didn't give up a run in 2 1/3 innings and Grimm allowed one -- with two outs in the ninth.
Middle of the order: The Nos. 3-5 hitters did very little for the Rangers on Wednesday. The only one of the trio with a hit was Adrian Beltre, who singled with two outs in the fifth. Hamilton was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Cruz had a walk and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
RISP issues: The Rangers were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They are 3-for-20 with RISP in this series. They were on a 1-for-25 streak before that as well.
Up next: LHP Matt Harrison takes the mound in an attempt to split the series and reduce the magic number to three. LHP Travis Blackley toes the rubber for the A's. The game is at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.
"I was surprised I had good command," Oswalt said. "I kept the ball where I wanted it."
Oswalt said he was a little sore after and when asked if two innings is about right for him with the forearm discomfort, he said yes.
"It would be hard to throw four innings right now," Oswalt said.
Oswalt said he's not trying to think about the postseason roster, instead focusing on hopefully getting another appearance or two in the final week of games. Oswalt said he doesn't plan on throwing today and will see how his arm feels Wednesday.
Manager Ron Washington said he was pleased with how Oswalt responded and that he'll continue in that role when needed in middle relief.
* Mike Olt said his foot is feeling better. He took swings in the cages and was planning on running. He wasn't sure if that meant running on a treadmill, in a pool or on the field.
* Washington said he hopes his team will celebrate the AL West with as much enthusiasm as they have the past two years. He doesn't want them taking it for granted. The magic number sits at five going into tonight's game.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers came back from a two-run deficit after six innings and beat the A's in walk-off style, winning 5-4 on Adrian Beltre's single. Beltre did it all Monday, tying the game with a homer and then winning it. Here are some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers go up five games in the AL West and reduce the magic number to five, as well. ... The A's loss also means the Los Angeles Angels close to two games in the wild-card race (they didn't play Monday). The Angels play Seattle for three games starting Tuesday night before coming to Arlington on Friday.
Walk-off win: Texas got the victory in the ninth as Adrian Beltre singled home Mitch Moreland for his 19th game-winning RBI of the season. ... Moreland and Ian Kinsler had consecutive singles and were bunted over by Elvis Andrus (his 16th sac bunt of the season). The A's then intentionally walked Josh Hamilton and pitched to Beltre, who got the hit up the middle.
Amazin' Adrian: Beltre keeps showing why he's this club's MVP this season (if you ask me). With the score 4-2 A's in the seventh with two outs and a man on base, Beltre blasted a 1-2 pitch from Pat Neshek. It was Beltre's 35th home run of the season. Besides the fact that it was yet another clutch hit at a big time for Beltre recently (see the home run vs. the Angels on Thursday), it came off the right-handed Neshek, who had allowed just four hits in 46 at-bats against right-handed batters before that Beltre hit. It was the first home run Neshek allowed to a right-handed batter.
Hamilton's homer, walk: Hamilton, returning to the lineup for the first time in nearly a week, said he could see just fine and showed it in the fifth, as he belted a 441-foot home run into the home run porch in right field. It was his 43rd home run, putting him one ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who is vying to win the Triple Crown. ... But just as important was Hamilton's walk in the seventh that made Beltre's homer a two-run shot. Hamilton was down 1-2 in the count before showing some patience and working that walk.
Holland struggles mightily: Derek Holland didn't have any command Monday. Consequently, he was out after just three innings. He needed 77 pitches in those innings and gave up four hits -- two of them homers -- and had two walks. It was his shortest start since May 30 versus Seattle, when he allowed eight runs on eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings in a 21-8 loss in Arlington.
Homers: Holland gave up two long homers to left-center field, one to Josh Donaldson (with a man on) in the second and a solo shot to Yeonis Cespedes in the third. ... He has now allowed 30 homers this season; that's sixth-most in the AL.
Behind in count: Holland faced 15 batters. He had a 3-ball count on eight of those batters.
RISP streak ends: The Rangers ended their 0-for-24 streak with runners in scoring position in the second inning when Moreland hit a bloop to left-center to score Michael Young from third. ... The Rangers ended up loading the bases after that single with two outs, but Andrus struck out to end the inning.
Unearned run: Oakland helped the Rangers score in that second inning. Third baseman Josh Donaldson made an off-balance throw on a soft bouncer and first baseman Chris Carter dropped it. The error was charged to Donaldson. Young alertly went from second to third as soon as the ball got away from Carter and scored on Moreland's hit.
Pennington produces: Perhaps the best at-bat of the night belonged to Cliff Pennington off Robbie Ross in the sixth. Down 0-2, Pennington worked the count back to 2-2 and then hit a single to left field. Pennington was batting .167 with five RBIs in 102 at-bats before the RBI single.
Straily solid: Dan Straily gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 6 2/3 innings on Monday. He had eight strikeouts, tying a career high, and pitched well once runners got in scoring position. But once Beltre homered to tie it in the seventh (two batters after Straily left), Straily got a no-decision.
Big double play: The Rangers got a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in the top of the ninth to end the inning. It came after closer Joe Nathan walked Stephen Drew and then struck out Seth Smith to start the double play.
Up next: RHP Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA) takes on LHP Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.86 ERA) in the second game of this four-game series. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.