Thursday, June 23, 2016

Good news, Bad news.

Yesterday was a good news, bad news type of day for the Rangers.

On the good news side, Cole Hamels dominated the Reds en route to another Texas win. Hamels struck out eight over six innings while giving up just one run. Jake Diekman had an unusual outing and coughed up three runs but otherwise the bullpen was great once again.

The offense picked Diekman up with Ian Desmond and Shin-Soo Choo homering as the bats put up six runs. Final: Texas - 6, Cincy - 4. Since this was a two game series and the Reds took game one, I am not sure if this counts as a series win or loss. Either way a win is always good news.

On the bad news side of the ledger, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis joined Yu Darvish on the Disabled List. Anytime a club has three starters on the DL there is cause for concern. Dutch got put on the shelf with left shoulder inflammation. He is slated to be out at least two weeks but it could be longer. Hopefully in the mean time he can get things figured out. The team has recalled Luke Jackson from Triple A to fill the hole on the pitching staff.

Colby Lewis, shown here on a signed 2002 Fleer card, is an altogether different matter. Not only was Colby having a great year, he won't be back in action for at least two months. Lewis left his last start early and an exam revealed he had a strained lat muscle in his right shoulder. Having Colby down will definitely hurt the Rangers.

A.J. Griffin is due to make his return from the DL on Saturday and Nick Martinez and Martin Perez will have to step up with Lewis and Holland gone. Hopefully they can bridge the gap until Darvish returns from the DL. If they can then perhaps the club can avoid dealing some of their prospects for a starter to keep them in the race.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Choo keeps the train rolling.

Once again, Derek Holland didn't last long enough to get a decision last night against Baltimore. Dutch went just 4.1 innings and allowed three runs before being yanked. That performance was enough to leave the Rangers behind 3-1 going into the bottom of the fourth. Fortunately Shawn Tolleson, Tony Barnette, and Sam Dyson kept the Birds off the board for the rest of the game.

In the bottom of the fourth Texas rallied. Prince Fielder scored on a Bobby Wilson sacrifice fly to bring the score to 3-2 O's. That brought up Shin-Soo Choo, shown here on card TEX-13 of the 2014 Topps Texas Rangers team set. Choo shot a single to right that scored Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland. That put Texas up 4-3 and that was the final score.

This game was a makeup from a rain out in April so it counted as a series of its own. The Rangers win gives them ten straight series wins.

On the upside, the bullpen has been unbelievable recently. After some struggles early, the relief core has been lights out and is directly responsible for several of the wins on the recent road trip as well as last night. Also good to see the offense working. Seems a different guy comes through every day and that's key. Depth and versatility is what is keeping this team rolling. Very exciting to see their come from behind ability.

Of course there is always a shadow. In this instance it's Derek Holland. Dutch needs to get whatever it is wrong figured out and fixed. The wheels have really come off the wagon for him this year. Fortunately for the team, the rest of the rotation has picked things up. That won't make much difference for Holland when the front office patience runs out. Judging by how fast he's been pulled his past two appearances, he's now on a very short leash. That likely puts him on a short list as well and he could be looking at the bullpen or being designated for assignment if he can't pull things together.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sweep!

The Rangers finished up a ten game road trip last night in St Louis by putting up a second come-back win in a row against the Cardinals.

Texas started Martin Perez while the Cards sent Mike Leake to the hill. The Rangers struck first with a run in the first inning but the Redbirds came back with a run in the second and one in the third to take the lead. A Mitch Moreland home run in the fourth tied the game up and a Nomar Mazara long ball in the 6th gave Texas a 3-2 lead.

Unfortunately, Perez stumbled in the bottom of the sixth and allowed a run before leaving the game with the bases loaded. Tony Barnette finished the inning but not before a second Perez base-runner crossed home. That left the Rangers down 4-3 with three innings left to play.

After coming up empty in the seventh, Texas managed to load the bases after Moreland hustled into an overturned out call at second. If Mitch hadn't been really moving, the inning would have been over. That brought up pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar, shown here on card FN-5 of the 2014 Topps The Future is Now subset. This year seems to be Profar's future and he continued the trend by lining a single into center. The hit scored Rougned Odor and Moreland. That gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead.

In came Matt Bush and Sam Dyson to keep the Cards bats quiet in the eighth and ninth respectively. The Texas victory resulted in the first at home series sweep for St Louis since 1983 and gave Texas an 8-2 record for their road trip. It also pushed the Rangers to 20 games over .500 and gives them a 8.5 game lead over second place Seattle.

The run by the Rangers so far this season has been unbelievable. Before the club broke training camp, I thought this team had a chance for something big. Now I am starting to get real excited. Probably more so than for any Rangers squad since 2011. Barring something unforeseen occurring, the rest of this season is going to be an exciting ride for the Rangers and their fans.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Powering up!

Today we have former Ranger Hank Blalock featured on card ST-HB of the 2005 Fleer Showcase Swingtime set. The card includes a piece of one of Hank's jerseys and is numbered 56/610. Other than picturing a power hitter, it has little to do with today's post. That's what happens when I'm about out of game-used or autographed cards of the current roster.

Last night the Rangers played game three of four in Oakland. The A's are always tough at home and since Sonny Gray was on the mound I figured it was going to be a rough night for Texas. It was for most of the game.

Opposing Gray was the recently unpredictable Derek Holland. Dutch is becoming more and more like the Mother Goose rhymes girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good; but when she was bad she was horrid. Holland was good through two, allowing no A's runs. However, he fell apart in the third as the A's put up three. Two more Oakland runs in the fourth convinced Jeff Banister to pull the plug before it got worse. Five runs, four earned, in 3.2 innings counts as horrid. In came the bullpen. That's been a portent of doom for Texas this year, but not last night. Martin Perez hurled 2.1 scoreless innings. Matt Bush, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson all followed with a scoreless inning each.

Meantime the Rangers offense took on the task of coming back from a 5-0 hole with Sonny Gray still on the hill. Sonny kept the Texas bats quiet until the sixth inning when a five run outburst drove him from the game. Interestingly, the Rangers scored those five runs on just twenty pitches. Part of the comeback consisted of home runs by Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos. Robinson's was a solo shot while Rougie's was a two-run blast. The uprising tied the game.

In the seventh inning Chirinos hit his second home run of the game to give the Rangers a 6-5 lead, the first lead they had all night. Not to be outdone, Odor hammered his second shot of the game in the eighth to take the tally to 7-5. That's where it sat when the Rangers recorded the 27th out to end the game and take the win.

All in all it was a wild night. Nothing like a pitching melt down and a dramatic comeback against to make for a good night in the end. While Holland is concerning, it was very nice to see the bullpen manage 5.1 innings of scoreless ball. It is also great to see Odor and Chirinos powering up. Now to get the rest of the offense on board this afternoon to back Colby Lewis as he finishes out the series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On and off the DL.

Well, the Rangers lost big last night to the A's due to a pitching meltdown. About the only good things to mention from the game are Mitch Moreland, Ryan Rua, and Shin-Soo Choo going deep.

That's right, Choo is back from the Disabled List. He was originally slated to get activated today but Texas brought him back a day earlier than expected. Good thing too, Adrian Beltre hasn't been back in action since encountering a hamstring issue in Seattle. No word on when he'll be back. Choo led off and went 1-for-4 with a walk and his solo homer. Nice to have him back and good to see some power in his return.

Of course, the game might have gone differently had Yu Darvish, shown here on card 351 of the 2014 Donruss set, made the start. The game was Darvish's regularly scheduled spot. However, he got pulled early from his last start with neck and right shoulder stiffness. Yesterday the Rangers placed Yu on the the 15 day DL. A MRI apparently showed no structural damage to his shoulder or neck but he will remained shut down until the stiffness subsides. Hopefully this is just a hiccup in his return from Tommy John surgery and not the beginning of becoming injury-prone. If Texas can ever see Darvish and Cole Hamels active in the same rotation the results could be nothing short of amazing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

15 over!

Well, once again I have no unposted cards of the players who most deserve to be featured from yesterday's game. That means Mitch Moreland, shown here on 2015 Allen and Ginter card 326, gets the nod. Mitch made some noise yesterday and contributed so it's not a reach to have him up here.

Yesterday afternoon was the rubber match of a three game series in Seattle. With the Mariners mounting the most current challenge to Texas in the American League West, the series carried weight. Cole Hamels took the mound for the Rangers still looking for his 2,000th strikeout.

Cole got some offensive support in the fourth inning as the Rangers put three on the board. Two of those runs came via a Moreland longball. Another three spot in the sixth accounted for the rest of the Rangers scoring for the day. Of note, Elvis Andrus, who has struggled in day games this year, went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored, two RBI, and a stolen base. Ian Desmond also got in on the action as he went 2-for-five with a pair of RBI as well.

Hamels ended up going a strong seven innings while giving up just one earned run. He also struck out five to reach the 2,000 level. Hamels left the game with a 6-1 Rangers lead. Unfortunately the bullpen stumbled, as they have been want to do this season, and the Mariners managed to push three runs across before the end of the game. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs Robinson Cano hammered what appeared to be a RBI double into the right field corner. Fortunately for the Rangers, Cano assumed he had second easily. Nomar Mazara had other plans. He played the ball off the wall, turned, and fired an unbelievable 220 foot laser to Andrus. Elvis slapped the tag on a surprised Cano to end the game. Seattle fans left the park in stunned silence. Rangers manager Jeff Banister later said that Mazara should have been credited with the save.

Great to see the guys leave Seattle with the series win. The victory also puts them 15 games over .500 for the first time this season and creates some breathing room in the AL West. They now have the best record in the American League and are tied for second best in baseball. Of course, they are slated to begin a four game set in Oakland tonight and the A's have always been a tough nut at home.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ouch!

Well, the Rangers lost 3-1 to the Houston Astros last night. It was the first Houston win in seven tries at Arlington this season. Fortunately Texas had a cushion in their lead over Seattle in the American League West.

To add injury to loss, the Rangers saw Yu Darvish leave the game in the after five innings. He experienced tightness in his right shoulder. A preliminary exam didn't reveal any damage to the shoulder and Yu said he felt like he could play catch today. There will undoubtedly be a follow-up exam though so nothing is certain yet.

In the eighth inning another potential disaster struck. Adrian Beltre, shown here on card GMR-AB of the 2014 Gypsy Queen Relics set, called for a trainer after running from first to second. He ended up being taken out of the game with tightness in his left hamstring. He will be reevaluated today, which was supposed to be his regular day off anyway.

Jeff Banister was non-committal on the injuries, saying he was waiting to see how the follow-up evaluations went before making any comment. Hopefully his comment will be that both players are fine and just needed a little extra loosening up. The Rangers really need both Beltre and Darvish at this point in the season. For Rangers fans still suffering nightmares from 2014, the potential injuries are triggering concerns.