Thursday, April 21, 2016

Squeaker.

So, former Ranger Alexi Ogando doesn't have anything to do with last night's win over Houston. However, I don't have any game-used or autograph cards of the key players from last night. Alexi was part of one of the best Ranger bullpens ever. There is a connection there as the win last night was in large part due to the bullpen.

Cole Hamels took the hill last night looking for his tenth straight win. Pitching in and out of trouble, Hamels lasted 6.2 innings and allowed just one Astros run - a long ball in his last inning of work. A lot of Cole's success was attributable to nice defensive work behind him.

Meanwhile, the Texas bats were largely ineffective against 'Stros starter Doug Fister. Rougned Odor was an exception to the rule though. In the second inning Rougie parked a ball in the right field stands to score two runs. That would be it for the Rangers.

Hamels left the game after hitting a batter in the foot in the seventh, it was his third hit batsman of the game and a career high for him. None of the hit batters appeared to be intentional. Sam Dyson came in and finished out the seventh with no runs. Dyson started off the eighth before giving way to Jake Diekman with one out. Diekman fanned both batters he faced to send the game into the ninth still 2-1. Shawn Tolleson gave up one hit in the ninth but otherwise shut Houston down to pick up his fifth save of the season as Texas came out on top by a hair.

Great to see the guys secure the series win and string together three wins in a row for the first time this season. Also extremely encouraging to see the bullpen back to clicking after their early struggles and hold the lead in a squeaker. This pen was projected to be one of the best in baseball this year and, if Texas is going to go anywhere, they are going to need to live up to their potential.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Start of the Silver Boot.

Well, the Rangers and Astros kicked off their season series last night as the 'Stros came to Arlington. As usual, the winner of the season series gets the somewhat coveted Silver Boot trophy.

Prince Fielder welcomed the visitors to town with a two-run home run in the first inning to start off the scoring. Ian Desmond singled in Adrian Beltre to give the Rangers a three run first.

Houston came back with two runs off starter Derek Holland in the top of the second. That would be all the runs Dutch would surrender as he battled through five with a high pitch count. Derek also picked up five strikeouts while issuing just one free pass.

With the exception of Keone Kela surrendering two runs in the seventh and Shawn Tolleson one in the ninth, that was all the Astros' scoring for the game. Meanwhile the Rangers put up a run in the third, two in the sixth, and a final run in the seventh. The final Texas run came on a solo home run by Mitch Moreland, shown here on card #TEX-16 of the 2014 Topps Texas Rangers set. Final: 7-5 Texas. Kind of neat to see the scoring begin and end with home runs.

Nice to see the offense clicking and putting some runs on the board. Also good to see Holland keep the team in the game in spite of obviously not having his best stuff. With the exception of Kela, the bullpen seems to have tightened down as well. Kela is a point of concern though. His ERA is now at 7.11 and he has not been consistently effective in relief. Hopefully he can pull it together before too much longer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

1980 Topps - Mickey Rivers.

Well, with the rain out on Sunday and the day off yesterday, there isn't much current Rangers news to talk about today. The club did announce a two-year extension for third baseman Adrian Beltre. That's good news for sure but I would prefer to save my Beltre cards to post when the team is playing.

Going to take the down time to knock out another card in the 1980 Topps set, number 485 today. Mickey Rivers came to Texas in a mid-season trade on July 30, 1979. The Rangers sent Oscar Gamble to the Yankees in return. Several minor leaguers also went back and forth between the two clubs as part of the trade.

Nailing down the center field job in 1980, Rivers would appear in 147 games for the Rangers. He played center field (his only defensive position in 1980) in 141 of those games and served as the designated hitter in four more. The remaining appearances were pinch-hitting assignments. In the 1200 innings Mickey played in center he would lead the American League with eight errors. That left his fielding percentage at .979, four points lower than the league average. While Rivers might have led the league in center field errors, he also led the league in double plays turned from center field with four.

Making 661 trips to the plate for the Rangers, Mickey posted a .333 batting average (team best and fourth in the AL) and a .353 on-base percentage. He struck out more than he walked - 34 whiffs compared to 20 walks but his 210 hits led the team and were third best in the American League. He scored 96 runs while bumping in 60 RBI. Rivers had a little power as well, he knocked 32 doubles, six triples, and seven home runs. He also had a little quick left in him as he stole 18 bases while getting caught just seven times.

All in all, 1980 was just the sort of season the Rangers wanted to see out of Mickey Rivers. Mick didn't have to carry the weight as a lead-off hitter anymore, Bump Wills had that covered, but the team wanted him to be able to provide some speed and power at the top end of the lineup. He did that admirably and looked to continue as the Rangers center fielder in 1981.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Senators Saturday - Jim King, 1965.

Well, another Little League game today so you'll have to make do with another pre-scheduled Senators Saturday post.

Jim King, shown here on card 38 of the 1965 Topps set, was entering his fifth season with the Senators. He was one of the few remaining players Washington got in the expansion draft. King suffered a bit of a power and defense dip in 1964 and was looking to rebound and keep his starting spot in right field.

Jim appeared in 120 games for the Senators in 1965, he played in the field in 88 of those games. All of his playing time in the field was in right field. Both the number of games he played in and the 589.1 innings he logged were significant drops from the previous season. Using his limited time to the fullest, King committed just one error all season for a .993 fielding percentage. That was well above the league average .978 fielding percentage. Jim also had much better range than the average American League right fielder.

King made 309 trips to the plate for the Senators in 1965, a drop of 169 plate appearances from the previous year. He saw his batting average drop 28 points to .213 while his on-base remained about the same at .337. Jim still had some power left in his bat though. He hit ten doubles, two triples, and 14 home runs. He walked 44 times while striking out 50 times. King bumped in 49 RBI while scoring 46 runs of his own.

While 1965 had been a decent season for Jim King, it had not been what he needed it to be. Facing challenges for playing time from several other players, he had not been able to put together the standout year at the plate he needed to keep from losing playing time. The drop in batting average was also significant and concerning. Jim would likely face more challengers for his job in 1966 and really needed his bat to return if he wanted to keep his spot in the Washington outfield.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rougie grounds The Birds.

Something had to give last night as the Rangers welcomed the Orioles to Arlington to kick off a four game series. Texas got hot on their road trip and had Cole Hamels slated to take the mound against the O's. The Rangers were undefeated in Hamels' last 12 starts. On the other side of the ledger, Baltimore has gotten off to a torrid start and was carrying a 7-1 record as the got to the ballpark.

It looked like the Rangers were on the short end of the stick as the Birds knocked Cole out in the sixth. They were leading Texas 3-1 when Hamels took his long walk to the showers. Tom Wilhelmsen came in a tossed a double-play ball to end the inning and limit the damage.

In the bottom of the sixth the Rangers managed to tie the game. That brought Rougned Odor to the plate. Odor, seen here on card 412 of the 2015 Topps Heritage set, laced a double into left field to send two runs home and give Texas a 5-3 lead. The next batter, Elvis Andrus, singled to bring in Rougie and finalize the score at 6-3 Texas.

Keone Kela, Sam Dyson, and Shawn Tolleson came in succession from the bullpen and held Baltimore scoreless for the final three innings to nail down the win. Tolleson picked up his third save of the season while Wilhelmsen got the vulture win.

Always good to see a come-back win like this, especially against a hot club like the Orioles. Even better to see the bottom part of the lineup producing in critical situations. Between Andrus and Odor, the center infield is looking pretty good for Texas this season. Also nice to see the bullpen shake off their early season stumbles, put out a fire, and keep it out for three innings.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Returning home.

Well, the Rangers lost the final game of their road trip last night to the Mariners 4-2 in ten innings. That puts them at .500 as they come home to face the Red Sox tonight. Since they left on the trip a game under .500, I think one has to count the trip as a success. Hopefully they can keep the ball rolling as they return home.

Speaking of returns, I still have a few through the mail requests trickling in now and then. This 1992 Donruss card of Donald Harris was one that came in this past week. I sent it out on January 23rd. Mr. Harris was kind enough to sign it and a 1993 Topps card and return both of them. Also coming in was a success from former Ranger first baseman Will Clark. Thanks to both players for taking of their time to sign and return my cards.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Holland, Beltre put Rangers on top of M's.

Well, the guys are looking good in their second go-round against the Seattle Mariners, this one on the road. Texas won the first game of the series on Monday night and last night Derek Holland took the mound for his second start of the young season.

Holland, shown here on card 88 of the 2013 Topps Archives set, pitched 6.2 innings. He struck out and walked two while keeping Seattle off the board. Andrew Faulkner finished out the seventh inning with a strikeout. Phil Klein tossed two flawless innings to complete the game. Just like that, Derek picked up his first win.

On the other side of the ledger, the Rangers went on a romp. Adrian Beltre led the way as he went 2-for-4 with a home run, double, and five RBI. Elvis Andrus kept up his quiet offensive revival with a 3-for-4 night that included a double and a RBI. Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua also went 2-for-4 and everyone in the starting nine, except Ian Desmond, had a hit, run scored, or RBI. By the time the dust settled, the Rangers had punched eight runs across on 12 hits. That's some nice run support.

Great to see the Texas bats wake up. You can't hammer your way to a winning season but having the offense is a definite must. Also good to see Dutch have a good outing. The Rangers are counting on him staying healthy and having a good year this year. It seems that the club's chances are much better if Holland lives up to expectations. Last night was a step in the right direction. Now it's on to this afternoon's game and possibly a sweep of the Mariners.