I’m trying to think of one good thing to say about last night’s game, and frankly, nothing comes to mind. The bottom of the 1st inning started out promising. Josh Hamilton actually watched a pitch, and then hit a ball he could handle for a sacrifice fly. Michael Young ripped a single up the middle that might have been the hardest ball he’s hit all season. Then Nelson Cruz actually took two balls, waited on pitch he could drive, and put one in the right field seats for a three-run homer. The Rangers’ sluggish offense spotted Yu Darvish a 3-run lead which he quickly blew, and it was all down hill from there.
After a 4-run 1st, the Rangers could only manage one more run the rest of the way, while Ranger pitching gave up 9 runs on 10 hits. Everything that looked promising in the 1st inning disappeared as the game wore on. Instead of being more disciplined at the plate, Hamilton struck out on 3 straight pitches in the 3rd, did it again in the 5th, and then was retired on 3 pitches in the 7th, and 3 pitches in the 9th. At this point he has to be the easiest out in the league. Throw him 3 pitches anywhere and then watch him walk back to the dugout. He was booed several times by the fans. I don’t think he realizes that the fans still love him, but hate that he doesn’t seem to care about making the adjustments he needs to get better. I’ve said it before. He knows exactly what he needs to do and just refuses to do it. Really, I’ve never seen a player be so obstinate about not changing his approach at the plate. As Nolan Ryan said earlier this week, he never saw Hank Aaron give away at-bats like Hamilton does.
Mike Napoli, who at one point looked to be improving, was 0-4 with 2 more strikeouts. He also managed to hit into another ending inning double-play. His ability to come up with the worst possible outcome in any given situation has to be unmatched this year.
Darvish looked awful, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He’s lost 3 out of his last 4 starts and his ERA has climbed from 3.21 at the beginning of June to 4.05. It’s 4.88 over his last ten games.
Ogando was awful too. He pitched 2 2/3 innings, and it was apparent that Washington was trying to stretch him out so that he might be moved back into the starting rotation. But, Ogando has not looked right since his return from the DL. He had a 2.08 ERA as late as June 10 and it has now climbed to 3.05. It’s 4.50 over his last 10 outings. He gave up 3 runs last night and walked 2. His control is not there, and when he does throw strikes they crush them. He gave up a 2-run homerun to Alexi Ramirez who only had 3 homeruns on the entire season.
The only bright spot is that, to everyone’s surprise, Yorvit Torrealba may be emerging as the better offensive catcher. He’s hitting .276 in his last 10 games (Napoli is hitting .229). In that same period, he’s only struck out 5 times (Napoli has 14 k’s). Yorvit has raised his overall batting average from .216 in early June to .236. Napoli is currently hitting .229. Yorvit was 2 for 3 last night with a walk and 2 for 4 in the previous game with the Red Sox.
So, the offense was bad, the pitching was bad, and guess what, the defense was bad too. The Rangers made 2 errors, both of which ultimately resulted in runs. In fact, I could have summarized this entire game in one sentence, and you would clearly know how poorly the Rangers played last night. “Adam Dunn stole second and it wasn’t even close.” Actually, that stolen base also ended with an errant throw from Torrealba that went into certer field. Dunn made it to third and scored on the next play.
The Rangers are now 58-40 and their divisional lead over the Angels was cut to 4 games. They are 5-5 over their last 10 games, while the Angels are 6-4 and Oakland is 8-2. The only team in the majors the Rangers have outscored in July is the Astros. Their team batting average for the month is good for 20th in the league and their OPS is 22nd.
Finally, to address some of the trade moves that were made yesterday. The one pitcher the Rangers seemed to really want to go after ended up with their division rivals when the Angels acquired Zack Greinke from the Brewers. There were some conflicting reports. One said the Rangers lost out because they were not willing to trade Mike Olt. Another said it was because they wouldn’t trade Martin Perez. Either way, Greinke will now be pitching against the Rangers. The only viable candidate left is Josh Johnson of the Marlins. It looks like the Rangers don’t like him and I don’t either. He’s 6-7 this year with a 4.14 ERA. I can’t even begin to imagine that as an improvement over any of the Ranger starters other than Feldman, and he appears to be coming around. In fact, Feldman has won 4 of his last 5 starts and the other was a no decision. In July, he is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. Johnson, on the other hand, is 1-2 in July with a 5.56 ERA.
There is one long shot candidate that I do like. The Mariners seemed to be signaling that they were willing to make some deals when they traded Ichiro to the Yankees. I would be willing to give up quite a bit, even some of the big name prospects, for Felix Hernandez. Hernandez has been consistently one of the best pitchers in the league, while playing for an absolutely horrible team. The Mariners are 45-57, but Hernandez has put together a 9-5 record with a 2.80 ERA for a team that rarely provides him with any run support. He’s 3-0 in July with a 1.93 ERA and would be considerably better than any starting pitcher the Rangers have. And that’s saying something given that Matt Harrison has been a pretty darn good pitcher this season. King Felix is a long shot though. I would be very surprised if the Rangers even made a “big” move now that Greinke is gone.