Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fences and a Trip to Houston.

Wow! I knew I had gotten busy this summer and slacked off the blog. I didn't realize it has been almost a month since I posted. Lots going on that ate up my posting time. In the meantime the Rangers managed to get their magic number to clinch the American League West down to two games. Looks like they might well clinch in Oakland again.

Perhaps the biggest thing I had going was a fence replacement. This last spring a portion of our back fence blew down. The neighbor and I repaired it but it was obvious the time was short before a new fence would be needed. We crunched numbers and decided to wait until September to get the project done. Out came the old fence and in went the new. At least for about 60% of my yard. Now one of the other neighbors is talking about replacing the fence between us within the next month or so. That's going to take some more time but will almost completely give me a new fence to keep the dog and kids in.

In the midst of the fence endeavor, Spiff Jr and I took a short trip down to Houston to follow the Rangers to Minute Maid Park. We watched the game on September 12th. Took some time to walk around the park before the game. It was my first time in an enclosed stadium and I wasn't really impressed. Not that there was anything just terribly wrong, Minute Maid is a nice park. I just prefer outside baseball I guess. Hopefully the Rangers new enclosed park will be left open most of the time. The other thing that struck me was that there were almost as many Rangers fans there as Astros fans. Hopefully the Rangers can avoid that problem as well. The Rangers winning the contest in extras put a great finish to the night.

Of course, we had to check out the local card shop before the game. I found the Houston Sports Connection online prior to our trip and we made it a point to get there. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't Duane's Sportscards in Arlington. The shop employees were friendly and we picked up some needed supplies. The shop was cluttered though and seemed to be focused on high-end cards and autographed memorabilia. I didn't see a single quarter box or very many common cards at all, even of the Astros. We did manage to find several game-used and autographed Rangers cards though, including the pictured 2004 Leaf Second Edition Kevin Mench auto. The prices on those weren't unreasonable but it didn't take long for Spiff Jr to run through his budget. I think he would have preferred some lower priced cards to take a look at. All things considered, if I am ever in Houston again I will probably try to stop by again.

All in all the trip was great. We had some guy time, hit a card shop, and got to a game. Can't beat that. Unfortunately the fall is just as busy as the summer was. Another fence project, Spiff Jr back to playing ball, and several other family activities could make it a challenge to keep up on the posting. I'll do my best though to stay on top of things and not be a stranger.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rangers top Mariners.

Last night the Rangers kicked off a three game series against the Seattle Mariners. From this point on, 24 of the remaining 30 games in the season are against other American League West teams. If somebody is going to try to make a move to knock Texas out of first place, it's now or never.

The Mariners had to go through Yu Darvish, shown here on card 125 of the 2013 Topps Heritage set, last night to beat the Rangers. They weren't able to do it. In 6.2 innings Darvish struck out nine while allowing three earned runs. To be fair, two of those runs crossed home after Yu was relieved by an ineffective Jake Diekman with two outs in the seventh inning.

Keone Kela took over from Diekman to end the seventh with no further damage. Kela also handled the eighth without incident. Sam Dyson came on in the ninth and notched his 30th save of the season.

While all that was going on, the offense was not silent. The Rangers scoring charge was led by Carlos Beltran, whom I do not have a Rangers card of. Carlos went 3-for-4 at the plate with a home run, double, and two RBI. Ian Desmond and Adrian Beltre also chimed in with doubles while Nomar Mazara contributed a triple. All told, the Rangers put six runs on the board. Enough for a 6-3 victory.

Always good to down a division foe. Nice effort by Darvish to tamp down the potent Seattle offense. Also a very good night for Beltran to break out of career-worst slump. I was beginning to wonder if he had fallen off the age cliff. Diekman is not really a concern with his troubles, after all it was his third outing in a row. He probably just needs a day or two off to be back to the Jake Diekman Rangers fans are used to.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Darvish did what?

Ok, I know Thursday is normally a game-used or autograph card day. Problem is, I don't have any game-used or autograph cards of Yu Darvish, something I must remedy soon. Anyway, Yu's 2013 Allen and Ginter card, number 74, will be filling in today.

Darvish had a rough night last night on the mound against the Reds. He pitched just six innings, allowing five runs. Only three of those five runs were earned but Yu battled his control as he walked five and hit a batter while striking out five. That's not normal Darvish.

Darvish taking his cuts at the plate is not normal Darvish either but the game was in Cincinnati and so National League rules were in place. It is generally accepted that the American League pitchers come off poorly on offense as compared to the National League hurlers. Last night was the exception as Yu hammered a solo shot in the fifth inning. Ian Desmond followed up with a long ball of his own to go back-to-back with Darvish.

Unfortunately, Yu's control struggles and some defensive miscues by Texas assured that his home run would not be the difference maker in the game. While the Rangers bullpen put up three scoreless innings in relief, the offense was not dependent on Darvish and Desmond alone. Nomar Mazara started off the scoring for the night with a three run bomb in the second inning.

By the time the eighth inning rolled around the score stood at 5-5. Desmond started off the Rangers rally by getting hit by a pitch. He stole second to advance into scoring position. Adrian Beltre, hero of so many games, came through again for the Rangers with a double that scored Desmond to give Texas a 6-5 lead that they held on to for the rest of the game.

While Darvish's pitching struggles are frustrating, they are not overly alarming. Yu is still on the road back from his Tommy John Surgery and bumps are to be expected. Very good to see the offense arrive early and pick Darvish up. Too often the guys have struggled to score runs with Yu on the mound. Tonight the team kicks off a tough four game set at home against the Cleveland Indians. Cole Hamels takes the mound against the Tribe, who are one win behind the Rangers for the best record in the American League.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

1980 Topps - Eric Soderholm.

By the time Eric Soderholm appeared on card #441 of the 1980 Topps set, he was no longer wearing a Rangers uniform. Texas picked up the veteran third baseman from the White Sox on June 15, 1979 in exchange for Ed Farmer and Gary Holle.

Soderholm played in 63 games for the Rangers. Texas picked him up to help fill in for ailing third baseman Buddy Bell as Bell struggled through his injury-plagued season. All told Eric would appear in 37 games at third base, 14 games as the designated hitter, and two games at first base for the Rangers. He was serviceable but below the league average at both third and first.

In his 166 plate appearances Soderholm walked 12 times and struck out nine times en route to a .272 batting average and a .325 on-base percentage. He scored 15 runs and knocked in 19 RBI. He also hit six doubles and four home runs.

On November 14, 1979 the Rangers traded Eric to the Yankees for Amos Lewis and Ricky Burdette. Neither one of those players would ever make it to the Majors. Soderholm would play through the end of the 1980 season as a backup with the Yankees and see some some action in the American League Championship Series as New York fell to the Royals. Eric would miss the entire 1981 season before the Yanks released him on October 13, 1981.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back on the Road Again.

Well, recently my family's trusty minivan finally gave up the ghost as the transmission failed. With the 13 year old van at a little over 180,000 miles, it was time for a replacement rather than a repair. It took some looking around, comparing, and shopping but we now have a new (to us) van and are back on the road.

The Rangers are also back on the road, kicking off another road trip last night in Tampa. Texas sent Cole Hamels to the mound while the Rays countered with Matt Andriese. Hamels put on an outstanding performance, chasing a no-hitter through five innings before losing it in the sixth. He had to settle for three hits in 7.1 innings while striking out ten and allowing just one run. A gem. Unfortunately, I have no Rangers cards of Cole Hamels, otherwise he would have been the card of the day today.

Tony Barnette relieved Hamels in the seventh but had problems and lasted just a third of an inning while allowing one run. Jake Diekman finished the game off, keeping Tampa Bay off the board for an inning and a third.

While all that was going on the offense was not silent. Well, at least after the fourth inning they weren't. With the score at 0-0 heading into the fifth, the Rangers were looking for a little offense to back Hamels on the mound. Mitch Moreland led off the inning with a solo home run to break the tie. Ian Desmond followed up with a single that scored Elvis Andrus from first to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

In the sixth inning the wheels really came off for the Rays pitching. Adrian Beltre, shown here on card 446 of the 2015 Topps Heritage set, hammered a long ball to lead off the inning. The Rangers reset the table for Nomar Mazara and he shot a single to right field to score Jonathan Lucroy. Jurickson Profar ended the scoring by walking with the bases loaded to force in Moreland. All told the Rangers sent nine men to the plate during the inning.

Adrian Beltre capped off the scoring for Texas for the night when he led off the seventh inning with another home run. It was his second of the night and the third inning in a row the Rangers led off with a home run. Final score: Texas - 6, Tampa Bay - 2.

The Rangers got some good stuff going last night. Hamels was dominant and it was nice to see the bullpen get a bit of a break. Also very good to see the offense show up and back Hamels. If the team can keep the bats going they should be able to have a pretty good trip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Better late than never.

Going into the ninth inning last night in Denver, the Rangers were trailing the Rockies 3-1. Texas starter Cole Hamels gave up two runs in six innings and Keone Kela allowed Colorado to add a run in the eighth. Meanwhile, the Rangers lone tally came on an Adrian Beltre homer in the seventh.

The Rockies brought in their closer, Carlos Estevez, to pitch the ninth and send the Rockies faithful home happy. The Rangers had other plans. Adrian Beltre singled to lead off the inning. Rougned Odor hit into a fielder's choice that resulted in Beltre being out at second. Jurickson Profar walked to move Odor to second. That brought Elvis Andrus, shown here on card BDPP86 of the 2007 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Gold set, to the plate with runners on first and second.

Elvis faked a bunt while Profar and Odor pulled off a double steal. That re-set the table with runners at second and third. Andrus shot a single to center. Odor scored easily and Profar turned on the afterburners to add a second run. Just like that the game was tied with Elvis on first base. That was the end of Estevez. In came Boone Logan to try to keep the game tied. The first batter he faced was Mitch Moreland. Moreland hammered a screamer into the right field corner for a clean double. That scored Andrus from first and gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Mitch got thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple and Nomar Mazara struck out to end the inning but the damage was done.

In came Jake Diekman for the Rangers. A strikeout and a double play later Texas was celebrating a 4-3 victory. Waiting until the ninth inning and rallying against a closer is never a good option but a late rally is better than none at all.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Minor League Monday - Rob Maurer, 1991 Line Drive.

Realized it's also been awhile since I posted a minor league card. Decided to go ahead and get one up while I am thinking about it. Today we see Rob Maurer on card 312 of the 1991 Line Drive set. Following a pretty decent 1990 season with Double A Tulsa, Maurer got promoted to Triple A Oklahoma City to begin the 1991 season.

Rob appeared in 132 games for the 89ers in 1991, 120 of those games were as the team's first baseman. In spite of the infield designation on the front of his card, he played nowhere else other than first. Maurer's defensive issues continued as he made 16 errors in the course of the season to end with a .985 fielding percentage. That was a tic lower than the previous year.

Offense was another story however. Rob made 564 trips to the plate for OKC and put up a .301 batting average - almost identical to the year before. His on-base percentage jumped up to .420 though, in spite of his 135 strikeouts. Maurer did walk 96 times and that was an improvement over his time in Tulsa. Rob scored 76 runs while accounting for 77 RBI. He knocked 41 doubles, three triples, and 20 home runs.

Maurer's bat caught the attention of somebody in Arlington and when the rosters expanded in September, he got a call to join the Rangers. Rob made his Major League debut on September 8, 1991. He appeared in 13 games total for Texas in 1991. Two of those games were as the team's designated hitter, four other appearances were at first base. In the ten innings he played at first Maurer was flawless in the field. Once again, his offense was another story. Rob made 19 trips to the plate for Texas and struggled to a dismal .063 batting average. He did get his on-base percentage up to .211 but hit just one extra base hit - a double.

While Rob Maurer struggled in his limited time with the Rangers, he put up a solid season with the 89ers. Some stumbles are to be expected when a young player hits the Big Show and the Rangers weren't giving up on Maurer. He would again be assigned to Triple A for 1992.