Texas Rangers: Vernon Wells
The Texas Rangers will look to rebound Wednesday after dropping the series opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. Justin Grimm will face veteran Andy Pettitte at 6:05 p.m. CT.
|Rangers manager Ron Washington joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit and offers his thoughts about Yu Darvish, Ian Kinsler and more. |
Pettitte (5-5, 4.20 ERA): After starting the season with a stretch of great outings, Pettitte has hit a rough patch lately. He's 1-3 in his last five starts and is 0-2 in his last two outings, giving up 20 hits spanning 13 2/3 innings in those games. ... In his last start, Pettitte gave up nine hits and five runs in a 6 2/3 innings as the Yankees fell to the Rays. ... Pettitte has struggled at Yankee Stadium this season as he's 1-3 with a 5.94 ERA in six starts. ... Pettitte has gone 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA in June, his highest ERA of any month. ... Pettitte is 11-9 with a 5.24 ERA in 23 career starts against the Rangers.
Hitters: A.J. Pierzynski has faced Pettitte 28 times and has a .321 career average against the veteran. David Murphy is the only Rangers hitter with a home run against the southpaw. Nelson Cruz (1-for-14) and Ian Kinsler (3-for-17) have struggled vs. Pettitte. Vernon Wells is the only Yankee that has faced Grimm and he struck out in the lone at-bat.
|Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley and Glenn "Stretch" Smith discuss the latest Rangers news, including the Yu Darvish-Justin Verlander matchup. |
The Rangers have a seven-game lead in the AL West and the best record in the AL. The Tigers are a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central.
Here's what to watch for as these two titans clash in Arlington:
Failing to sweep Houston: The Tigers arrive in Texas following a missed opportunity: They didn't sweep the Astros at home. While Texas swept the Astros in Houston over the weekend, the Tigers couldn't finish their series off against baseball's worst team Thursday. Detroit lost 7-5 to Houston as Miguel Cabrera's near walk-off grand slam fell just short in the bottom of the ninth. Houston had scored two runs in the top of the ninth against the Tigers' bullpen to take the lead.
Getting started: The Tigers are getting great starting pitching. Detroit's rotation leads the AL with 19 wins, a 3.32 ERA, 252 strikeouts and 26 quality starts. It doesn't get any tougher in baseball than Verlander (4-3, 1.93 ERA), Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.68), Anibal Sanchez (4-3, 2.05) and Doug Fister (5-1, 3.06). And the Rangers are missing the Tigers' No. 2 starter, flamethrower Max Scherzer (5-0, 3.98).
Valverde is back: The Tigers struggled to find a closer early in the season, even turning to former Ranger Joaquin Benoit for a spell. They believe they've solved their issue by returning to old closer Jose Valverde. The 35-year-old missed all of spring training before re-signing with Detroit, so he's not in pitching shape just yet, Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters this week. Valverde has converted three of his four save opportunities and has a 1.29 ERA in seven games. It will be interesting to see how things go this time around with Valverde. He was already one the most erratic closers in the game, almost always pitching himself into trouble and getting out of it.
Out of the Anaheim mess: How happy are Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells right now? They're out of Anaheim, where the Angels are off to an abysmal start. Meanwhile, Wells has double-digit home runs with the Yankees and Hunter already has 15 multihit games for the Tigers and is batting .325. He is two home runs shy of 300 for his career. Hunter has been as good as any hitter in baseball against Darvish, with six hits in 18 at-bats, tying him with the Angels' Alberto Callaspo for the most career hits against him.
Versus the West: The Tigers are 10-6 against the AL West but haven't played the Rangers yet. That includes a 6-1 mark against the Astros. The Rangers are 3-4 against the AL Central, splitting a four-game road series at Minnesota and losing two of three to the White Sox in Arlington.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers wasted little time in jumping on the Angels, using a six-run first inning -- that took a lot longer than expected thanks to a nearly two-hour rain delay -- on their way to a 10-3 victory. Texas had 15 hits. Yu Darvish pitched well, staying in after the delay, and Josh Hamilton added two more homers to increase his MLB-leading total to 17 this season.
What it means: The win means the Rangers are eight games ahead of the Angels in the AL West and move to a MLB-best 22-11. Oakland beat the Tigers, so the Rangers' lead remains five games over the A's, the largest division lead in the AL.
Darvish solid yet again: Don't let the line deceive you. Yu Darvish was very good Friday. He stayed loose through a 1-hour, 56-minute rain delay and got through 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs -- all of them on two homers (one by Mike Trout in the third, the other by Torii Hunter in the sixth) with seven strikeouts and three walks. Darvish's slider was very effective, but he didn't try to do anything fancy after he got staked to a 6-0 lead in the first. To Darvish's credit, he attacked hitters with his fastball and changed speeds with the slider but didn't appear to get caught up in throwing his entire arsenal.
Infield hits: The Rangers got things going in the first thanks to three infield singles. Elvis Andrus started it, followed by Hamilton (who slid headfirst into first even though no throw was made) and then Adrian Beltre. The Beltre grounder might have started an inning-ending double play, but Howie Kendrick didn't field it cleanly and then made an errant throw to first. Wilson then walked Michael Young to load the bases for Nelson Cruz. And that's when the rain came.
Flood gates open after rain quits: Cruz hit the first pitch he saw from Jerome Williams (who replaced C.J. Wilson) on the ground between shortstop and third base for a two-run single. That made it 3-0. Mike Napoli's ground ball was thrown to second, but the throw was not in time and the bases were loaded as another run scored. Then, Craig Gentry's two-run triple put the Rangers up 6-0 after the first inning.
Rain ends Wilson's start early: Wilson threw just 22 pitches (12 strikes) in his first start at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as an Angel. But a nearly two-hour delay forced Wilson from the game as Williams, the scheduled starter for Saturday's game, came into the game in relief. Wilson's line: 1/3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Torrealba hit by bat: Catcher Yorvit Torrealba was hit by Albert Pujols' bat as the slugger followed through on his swing in the first inning, and suffered a head contusion. He left the game after the rain delay. Pujols' bat broke, but the part of the bat he still had in his hands hit Torrealba in the head, knocking off his mask. He was looked at by manager Ron Washington and head athletic trainer Jamie Reed and stayed in for the next batter before he exited after the rain left. Napoli went to catcher and Mitch Moreland, who pinch-hit for Torrealba in the first after the rain delay, played first.
Hamilton homers twice: Josh Hamilton continued his ridiculous season (and, in particular, past week) at the plate. He had two home runs Friday -- one was a pitching wedge to right field with serious hang time, the other a 3-iron line drive -- and now has 17 homers this season. After the second homer in the fourth, Hamilton had eight home runs in his past 17 at-bats (five games). ... He has 17 home runs in the club's first 33 games (Friday was Hamilton's 30th game). According to baseball-reference.com, the only other two players since 1918 to hit that many homers in their team's first 33 games of a season were Cy Williams with the Phillies in 1923 and Frank Howard with the Senators in 1968. ... At one point, manager Ron Washington just shook his head at Hamilton, probably amazed (like everyone else) by what Hamilton is doing right now. ... It was his sixth career multihit game and his second of the season. ... Hamilton came up with first base open and two outs in the fifth and the Angels intentionally walked him.
Dugout warnings: Williams threw behind Ian Kinsler in the fifth. It's unclear why, though it's possible that it was because the Rangers continued to put runners on the move in a 9-2 game (and if that's the reason, I'm perplexed because it's the fifth inning and you never know if a team can scratch back in it with four innings left and if you wanted to send that kind of message, it would make more sense to hit Gentry, who had stolen one before ... so I don't know). Williams and both dugouts were warned. Darvish did end up throwing inside and hitting Mark Trumbo with one out in the sixth. It's unclear if that was Darvish's way of sticking up for his teammate. But that was Darvish's last batter, as Ron Washington opted to go with Mark Lowe to get the last two outs of the sixth inning.
Wilson booed during intros: It was not surprising to hear boos when Wilson was introduced by public address announcer Chuck Morgan. Read more about that here.
Napoli going triple crazy: Napoli, who went two years without a triple before hitting one Thursday night in Baltimore, hit another one Friday. He hit a long fly ball to left that Vernon Wells couldn't track down and he slid in just safely at third.
Aggressive running: The Rangers were aggressive on the bases as usual. Andrus and Gentry had stolen bases, while Cruz was thrown out. But Texas wasn't afraid to keep the pressure on, even with a six-run lead.
Streaks continue: Andrus singled in the first, pushing his hitting streak to 11 games and has been on base in 29 consecutive games this season, the current high in the big leagues.
Pujols 0-for-4: Pujols' batting average dipped to .192 after he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He didn't get a ball out of the infield.
Walk streak ends: Koji Uehara issued his first walk since Aug. 6, 2011 vs. Cleveland. He went a club-record 28 consecutive appearances without a walk before Friday. But he pitched a scoreless eighth.
Tidbits: Mike Trout was running on a pitch in the seventh and thought it was a foul ball. So after he got to second, he started to head back to first until someone yelled at him. The Rangers weren't covering the bag, so he wasn't tagged out, but he was smiling. ... Kudos to the crowd of 48,201, the club's seventh straight sellout, for staying through the delay. ... Moreland's homer in the seventh hit the ribbon board on the Home Run Porch in right (402 feet). It was his fourth homer of the season. ... Lowe pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
Up next: It's a quick turnaround, as the Rangers and Angels play at 12:05 p.m. Saturday. Matt Harrison will be on the mound for the Rangers.
Hard to believe just under a year ago he was on a plane out of town. Out of Anaheim that is, traded by the Angels, the only organization he had known as a professional baseball player.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a respected former big-league catcher and World Series champion with the Los Angeles Dodgers, told the "Mason and Ireland Show" on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles earlier this week that a personality conflict between he and Napoli was not why the Angels decided to trade Napoli to Toronto as part of the deal for outfielder Vernon Wells.
Scioscia said injuries and durability issues were at the crux of the trade. Just a few days after the trade, the Rangers swooped in and dealt relief pitcher Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for Napoli.
"We did not butt heads, that's absolutely false," Scioscia said on the show. "Mike had to work on stuff that didn't come naturally to him, more so than other catchers who maybe do it more naturally."
The Rangers have continuously praised Napoli's work behind the plate and his work at the plate with a bat in his hands remains absolutely stunning during the postseason. It's an offensive surge that started when he returned from a three-plus week injury on July 4. He finished the regular season batting .320 with 30 home runs. He was the hottest hitter in the American League from his return to the end of the season.
"I don't know. There's a reason they shipped me off," Napoli said. "Apparently they didn't think I wasn't good on the catching side."
That's about all Napoli had to offer on the subject. He laughed at the notion that he's not durable. And heck, you're running as hot as he is, why look to the past?
Napoli is batting .314 with three homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason. He even has a stolen base. If the Rangers can wrap up the World Series in Game 6, Napoli is the favorite to land MVP honors. While he's racked up the nine RBIs in and a couple homers in the first five games, the rest of the Rangers 10 RBIs and four homers.
"I know I'm doing well. It's a good feeling," Napoli said. "Every player comes to the field wanting to do something to help contribute. I'm helping to contribute during the World Series, which is what players want to do. I'm happy I'm able to do it."
|Arlington Bowie alumnus Vernon Wells talks about the Rangers-Angels series finale, the transition from the Blue Jays to the Angels, manager Mike Scioscia and more. |
Wells was a guest on Rangers Baseball Tonight on the Texas Rangers ESPN Radio Network. He enters the rubber match of this three-game series with a .215 season batting average in his first season with the Angels.
Last October, Wells was at Rangers Ballpark to see best friend Michael Young compete in the playoffs and World Series. Wells was spotted wearing a Michael Young Rangers jersey.
“I was like a kid going to watch ballgames again and cheering for your favorite player. It was fun watching him get to go through it,” Wells recalled. “It makes you want it that much more. I was happy to wear his jersey even though every time I wore it they lost. So, I stopped wearing it.”
On tonight’s warm-up show, Wells also talked about how big a game this is for the Angels and Rangers, the transition from the Blue Jays to the Angels, playing primarily on grass, Mike Scioscia and more about the above topics.
Follow Bryan Dolgin on Twitter @RangersRadioBD.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Former Texas Rangers pitcher Charlie Hough attended Tuesday night's game. Hopefully, he'll be back at Angel Stadium tonight to watch LHP Derek Holland try to become the first Rangers pitcher to throw three consecutive shutouts since Hough had a club record three in a row in 1983. Holland has a tough assignment against Los Angeles Angles RHP Dan Haren.
Holland (8-4, 4.32 ERA): The 24-year-old is looking for a career-best ninth win as he's set to make his 20th start of the season. He's coming off his two best starts of the season with consecutive nine-inning shutouts following his worst outing in which he failed to get out of the first inning on July 2 against Florida. In his last start, a 5-0 win at Seattle last Thursday, Holland scattered five hits, walked one and struck out eight while throwing 118 pitches. Holland has three total shutouts this season (also June 4 at Cleveland) which matches Jim Umbarger (1976) and Paul Kilgas (1988) for most every by a Texas lefty in a single season.
Haren (10-6, 2.75 ERA): The righty lost his last start at Oakland on July to snap a four-game winning streak. He gave up four runs in the loss after allowing just two in his previous three starts combined. In his last start against the Rangers on May 14 in Arlington, Haren did not figure in the decision despite allowing just one earned run in 7 2/3 innings. In 15 career starts against Texas, Haren is 4-6 with a 3.40 ERA.
Hitters: Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has Haren's number throughout their careers, batting .447 over 47 at-bats that includes 10 extra-base hits among his 21 hits. Beltre also has a team-high eight RBIs. Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton each have just five at-bats against Haren and both are hitting .400. ...Five Angels are hitting .300 or better against Holland, led by Alberto Callaspo (.556, 5-for-9). Torii Hunter is just 2-for-12 (.188) against the Rangers' lefty and Vernon Wells is 1-for-4 (.250).
As the Rangers head to Anaheim for a three-game series, we asked ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon to tell us a little bit about the Angels.
Q: The Angels played very well in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break. Can you tell us what's been the key or keys?
MS: Yeah, before this lost weekend in Oakland, they had won nine straight series. It was a very productive month. Why? The one-word answer is: power. They finally showed some, particularly at home, where they had been anemic through the first couple of months. Mark Trumbo has hit 18 home runs, putting him in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race. The two-word answer is: Vernon Wells. He finally got locked in, particularly in the power department.
Q: Mansfield's Jordan Walden has seized the closer's role. Talk about his season and why he's having so much success.
MS: It's pretty simple with him: It's raw stuff. After a bunch of injuries, the Angels finally realized he wasn't a starter at the start of last season and he has risen like a rocket since then. He throws 96 to 102 mph and he has developed a wicked slider. He has a little problem sometimes walking leadoff men, and that has usually been what's gotten him in trouble. But the Angels aren't complaining about having their rookie closer make the All-Star team and stabilize the back end of their bullpen. Sound familiar, Texas fans?
Q: Are Angels fans starting to see the better version of Vernon Wells? Why?
MS: He was a mess at the start of the season. One thing that hasn't gotten much ink is a strained hamstring that cost him the last week of spring training and started the season on the wrong foot. He finally got hurt, got some time to rest, and has steadily improved. He was hitting .179 when he came off the DL for a strained groin. He is a very good hitter, though he doesn't give you much on-base percentage. If he keeps driving the ball, the Angels should at least maintain a semblance of offensive continuity.
Q: How did the Angels feel about playing a scheduled doubleheader on Saturday in Anaheim? Was it worth it for the extra day after the All-Star break?
MS: As I understand it, they voted to approve it, with the caveat that they get Monday off. I guess if you're going to play four games in that depressing ballpark, you may as well do it in three days, right? Because they were off Thursday and Monday, even Sunday's one-third-of-an-inning from Joel Pineiro shouldn't punish their bullpen too badly for this big series.
Q: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starters the Rangers will face in the series?
MS: Tyler Chatwood is only 21 years old. He throws a hard sinker a lot of the time, sits in the low 90s. Until the Angels skipped him in the rotation, he led the AL in walks, so that's one way he can get in a lot of trouble. Dan Haren has been struggling sporadically lately, but he's one of the toughest starters around when he's on. He's one of the few guys who still throws a split-finger fastball, so he can get strikeouts at key times. Jered Weaver is having, by some key measures, the best four-month start of a season since Pedro Martinez in 2000. There's not much more I can say about him. He started the All-Star Game.
Q: Anything else about the Angels that Rangers fans should know heading into this series?
MS: They're talking about adding a left-handed hitter or middle reliever before the trading deadline, but I continue to hear they don't want to spend a lot of money. If the Rangers can land a knockout blow this week, they could set themselves up for an easy August and September. Then again, I wouldn't let a Mike Scioscia team stick around too long or things could get hairy, because he usually has them ready to play.
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.