Tuesday, September 29, 2015

1979 Topps - Bump Wills.

Bump Wills, shown here on card 369 of the 1979 Topps set, was looking to recover from the sophomore slump he encountered in 1978. The Rangers certainly expected a rebound.

Wills still had the starting second baseman's job nailed down. He played 144 games at second, down ten games from the previous season. He also pinch-hit in two games to bring his season total of games played to 146. Bump logged 1269 innings at second and committed 20 errors. His resulting .976 fielding percentage was two points lower than the league average. That was understandable in light of Wills' range being significantly greater than other American League second basemen.

Bump made 617 trips to the plate for the Rangers in 1979 and posted a .273 batting average. That was a 23 point improvement from the previous season. His .340 on-base percentage was also an improvement, just nine points though. While Wills struck out 58 times, he also walked 53 times. He continued to be have a little power but his 21 doubles were probably more a result of his speed. The three triples and five home runs he tallied proved he was not a slugger. He was a table setter though and scored a team high 90 runs for the Rangers while bumping in 46 RBI. Once again he proved himself to be a stolen base threat as he swiped 35 bags. That was down from the 52 of the previous season but still the most on the club. The eleven times he got caught were a cause for concern however.

All in all, 1979 was an acceptable return season for Bump Wills. He brought his batting average up significantly and his speed was still well above the average player. He needed to watch the caught stealing numbers and it would be nice if his on-base percentage were a tad higher. Still, the Rangers had little to complain about with their second baseman. If he could keep turning in similar numbers he would be able to stave off any challenges for his job.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Minor League Monday - Mark Petkovsek, 1990 CMC.

The Rangers drafted pitcher Mark Petkovsek in the first round of the June, 1987 draft. He started his pro career the same year with the Gulf Coast Rangers in Rookie ball.

Petkovsek, shown here on card 155 of the 1990 CMC set, finished the 1987 season with the Single A Charlotte Rangers. He would spend all of 1988 there as well. In 1989 the Rangers jumped Mark to Double A Tulsa. By the end of the season he was with Triple A Oklahoma City.

Based on Petkovsek's rapid rise, you might think he was a fire-balling lights out type of pitcher. That would be a misconception. In his first three seasons Mark had seen his ERA dip below three just once, during his 1988 season in Charlotte. His time in Tulsa in 1989 was the only stretch he had where he posted a winning record. Just why Texas kept moving him up is somewhat of a mystery to me.

Petkovsek would spend the entire 1990 season at Triple A with the Oklahoma City 89ers. He appeared in 28 games for them, all starts. Over the 151 innings Mark pitched, he posted a 5.25 ERA and a 1.517 WHIP. That ERA looks a bit rougher when you consider one he did toss a complete game shutout during the season. On the other hand, that indicated he had some potential to be very good. Petkovsek could strike out opposing batters - he did it 81 times in 1990. Of course, he also issued 42 walks as well. Mark saw his record dip back below .500 as he ended the season at 7-14.

None of Mark Petkovsek's 1990 numbers were anything to write home about, even at the beginning of the steroid era. Texas was not pitching-rich but Petkovsek needed to see his ERA drop some if he wanted to make that last step from Triple A to the Majors. Being a first round pick, he probably had a few more chances left but sooner or later Texas was going to decide he wasn't working out and either trade or cut him.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Senators Saturday - Darold Knowles, 1970.

Darold Knowles, shown here on card 106 of the 1970 Topps set, was coming off a great 1969 season. He had served as the Senators closer and made a trip to the All-Star game. Washington was counting on Darold to continue to anchor the back end of the bullpen in 1970.

Once again in the closer role, Knowles appeared in 71 games for the Senators. That was by far the most appearances of any pitcher on the staff and 18 more times than he took the mound in 1969. Darold's 119.1 innings pitched were also a big increase from the previous season but came in second to Jim Hannan in the bullpen. To be fair, Hannan was more a swingman than a true reliever.

Knowles lowered his ERA twenty points from the previous season to 2.04 but his WHIP climbed 91 points to 1.324. He struck out 71 while issuing 58 free passes. Darold notched 27 saves, up 14 from the year before but ended the season with a 2-14 record.

1970 was a puzzling season for Darold Knowles. His ERA and saves both moved the right direction but his WHIP was concerning and the number of losses he incurred was downright alarming. Knowles had the stuff and Washington wasn't done with him. He was being watched though and needed to bring his A game to Spring Training in 1971.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

So long, Yogi.

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra passed away this past Tuesday at the age of 90. Yes, Berra was a Yankee but, he was still a good guy. As a kid I remember being fascinated by his and Satchel Paige's remarks. He played a role in hooking me on baseball. He's probably also the reason I latched on to Pudge Rodriguez, shown here on card BB-11 of the 2002 Donruss Elite Back 2 Back Jacks set.
2002 Donruss Elite Back 2 Back Jacks #BB-11
2002 Donruss Elite Back 2 Back Jacks #BB-11

Always displaying a positive attitude, Yogi was there for some big moments. D-Day, Don Larson's perfect game, ten World Series championships. He played alongside Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, and many other Yankee greats. In his first year of managing, he took the Yankees to the World Series. In typical Yankee fashion, they fired him immediately afterwords. He still came back years later and endured another firing before writing the team out of his appointment book. It took a lot to get to Berra though and he eventually forgave the team and returned to the fold.

The Yankees' loss was the Mets and Astros gain. They latched on to Yogi as if he had been part of their clubs. He led the Mets to an improbable World Series title. They didn't fire him immediately afterwords.

The world is a poorer place without Yogi Berra and we will never see his like again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

1979 Topps - Jim Umbarger.

Well, the next week or so is going to be real hectic. I know, just in time for the season to come down to the wire with the Rangers still in contention. Nevertheless, pre-scheduled posts will be the order of the day until things slow down a bit. Without further delay, on to 1979.

After an unusual 1977 season, Jim Umbarger won a spot in the Texas bullpen in 1978 following a great Spring Training where he posted a 1.93 ERA. Umbarger, shown here on card 518 of the 1979 Topps set, was unable to replicate that spring success in 1979 and didn't make the Opening Day roster. Instead he headed off to the Triple A Tucson Toros.

As an aside, this card has always interested me. It appears both of Umbarger's sleeves are torn out along the seams, the left more so than the right. I used to wonder why the Rangers couldn't afford to repair Jim's jersey. Seems to me now that the damage might not be accidental. Look at the gap on the left sleeve. Perhaps Umbarger tore out the sleeve to keep it from binding up on him when he went into his windup. Anyway, back to his 1979 season.

Apparently the Rangers decided to move Jim back to his old role of starter instead of sticking with the 1978 reliever gig. 20 of Umbarger's 26 appearances with the Toros were starts. He pitched 133 innings and got roughed up pretty soundly with a 5.75 ERA and an 1.767 WHIP. Looks like part of the problem was Jim's control, he walked 69 batters while whiffing just 73. Not surprisingly, he ended the season with a 6-10 record.

Needless to say, the numbers Umbarger put up in Triple A were not likely to get him recalled to the Big Show. He would split 1980 between Double and Triple A but again not get the call that season either. The Rangers released him prior to the 1981 season. Baltimore picked him up and assigned him to Triple A Rochester. They let him go after that season. Jim was back in 1983 and bounced between Double and Triple A for the White Sox and Pirates. Still no call-up. That was the end of the line. Umbarger hung up his spikes after the 1983 season.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Minor League Monday - Kevin Reimer, 1990 CMC.

By the time Kevin Reimer appeared on card 169 of the 1990 CMC set, he already had some Major League experience. Starting at Single A after the Rangers drafted him in 1985, Reimer spent three seasons with three different Single A clubs before moving up to Double A Tulsa to start the 1988 season. He was a September call-up that year and appeared in 12 games for Texas. 1989 would find him in Triple A with the Oklahoma City 89ers. A cup of coffee in Arlington showed he was still on the radar with the big club.

Assigned to OKC to start the 1990 season, Reimer appeared in 51 games for the 89ers. Texas had Kevin in their system mainly for his bat, he appeared in the field for OKC in just 26 games. 19 of those games were at first base and seven in the outfield. While he managed to avoid any errors in the outfield, his .989 fielding percentage at first was pretty rough.

Reimer made 217 trips to the plate for OKC and put up a .283 batting average. He had a little trouble with the strikeout as indicated by his 25 whiffs compared to 18 walks. He did manage to flash some power though: 18 doubles, two triples, and four home runs. That's what the Rangers were really watching for.

Apparently the powers that be in Texas decided Kevin was ready. On June 2, 1990 the Rangers purchased his contract from the 89ers. He would stay with Texas for the rest of the 1990 season. During that time Reimer appeared in 64 games for the Rangers, mostly as a pinch-hitter. He did play five games each in left and right field and appeared as the designated hitter in 21 games. In left field Kevin managed to avoid any errors but things were much uglier in right, as shown by his .778 fielding percentage.

In his 111 plate appearances as a Ranger, Reimer posted a .260 batting average and a .333 on-base percentage. Not too terrible for his first prolonged exposure to Major League pitching. He still had a tendency to strike out - 22 times as opposed to ten walks. The power was still there though and that was good. Kevin picked up nine doubles, one triple, and two home runs while bumping in 15 RBI and scoring five times himself.

All in all, Kevin Reimer had a pretty good season in 1990. By showing that he could hit major League pitching, he put himself in a position to make the Big Club the next spring. If he did that, he could say goodbye to OKC for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Senators Saturday - Bob Humphreys, 1970.

Bob Humphreys, shown here on card 538 of the 1970 Topps set, seemed to have carved out a spot for himself in the Senators bullpen since joining the team prior to the 1966 season. 1969 had been a decent year for Humphreys, even if there were a few warning signs to be aware of. 1970 promised to be a year for Bob to move his career one way or the other. It turned out to be one frustration after another.

Prior to the 1970 season, Humphreys did some workouts at the University of Maryland. One day the baseball coach there asked him to demonstrate a breaking ball for some of his pitchers. Bob obliged but injured his right elbow in the process. It was a second injury to the elbow and would take time to recover from in the pre-Tommy John surgery world.

Humphreys still reported for Spring Training in an effort to work through the injury. In the process he tore a muscle in his right shoulder. That earned him a trip to the Disabled List and a plane ticket to Triple A Denver for a rehab stint. After just eight innings over three games with the Denver Bears, Bob was back in the Washington bullpen.

Appearing in five games and pitching 6.2 innings for the Senators, Humphreys posted a 1.35 ERA, a significant drop from the previous season. On the surface things were looking good. However, Bob's WHIP climbed to 1.950 as he walked nine opposing batters while striking out just six. Those were indicators of impending trouble.

Apparently taking heed of the warning signs, Washington released Humphreys on June 13, 1970. Bob was surprised by the release but wasn't out of work for long. On June 15, 1970 the Milwaukee Brewers signed him. He would split the remainder of the season between the Majors and Triple A, using his knuckleball to take the stress off his elbow.

The Brew Crew cut Humphreys during Spring Training in 1971. He spent part of that season with their Triple A affiliate but couldn't put it all back together. Struggling and frustrated with his performance, he asked for his release and hung up the spikes on his playing career.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rangers in first! Trying to pad lead.

Well, the Rangers won the last two nights. Night before was a tight game that ended in the bottom of the ninth on a Mitch Moreland sacrifice fly. Rangers - 6, Astros - 5.

Last night was the opposite type of game. Martin Perez started for Texas and went seven innings while allowing just one Houston run. Andrew Faulkner came on in relief and stumbled a bit, allowing to Astros to score two more. That was it for Houston as Luke Jackson worked a scoreless ninth for Texas.

While the Rangers pitching staff turned in a respectable game, American League ERA leader Dallas Keuchel took the mound for Houston. I figured it was going to be a long day for Texas batters. It was a long day, but not for the Rangers. They scored six runs off Keuchel in the first inning, one in the third, and two more in the fifth. Dallas left the game after 4.2 innings and nine earned runs. Reliever Michael Feliz finished the game up for Houston and didn't fare much better, five earned runs in the last 3.1 innings of the game. Final: Rangers - 14, Astros - 3.

Of course, there were some big moments for the Rangers bats during the game. Prince Fielder hammered two home runs as he went 3-for-5 with five RBI. Mike Napoli, Rougned Odor, and Bobby Wilson also got in on the fun as they all had one long ball each to bring the Texas home run total to five for the game. Shin-Soo Choo went 3-for-4 with a double and three runs scored to keep his bat hot. Adrian Beltre went 2-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored. Elvis Andrus also joined in on the fun, going 2-for-5 with a double, a run scored, and a RBI. Most of the rest of the lineup got in on the action as well with Mitch Moreland being the only starter to have an 0-fer night.

The win last night lifts the Rangers to 1.5 games over the Astros in the American League West. It also means that, even if Texas loses the final game of the series tonight, Houston will leave Arlington in second place. Great to see. Of course, a win to start to open the gap would be nice as well.

Unfortunately, I don't have any game-used or autographs of Fielder, Nap, Odor, Wilson, Choo, Beltre, Andrus, or Perez. Since the whole scoring deluge put me in mind of some former Rangers teams and sluggers, I decided to post the 2003 Topps Finest Relics #FRJ-RP card shown above as a substitute. Rafael Palmeiro is one of those guys you expected to see involved in a night like last night.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Almost there.

Cole Hamels started against the Astros last night as the Lone Star showdown kicked off. He looked a bit rough, giving up a home run in the first inning as Houston took the lead. Cole was able to settle down though and ended up making it through seven, giving up a total of three Astros runs. The bullpen took over in the eighth and kept Houston off the board for the final two frames.

While the hurlers were doing their stuff, the Texas offense managed one run in the second on an Rougned Odor double. A two run shot by Mitch Moreland in the sixth helped the Rangers keep pace. That left it at three all headed into the bottom of the eighth. Prince Fielder, shown here on card 172 of the 2014 Gypsy Queen set, settled the issue with a two run long ball to put the Rangers up 5-3. That held up through the top of the ninth to give Texas the win.

With the victory last night the Rangers pull up to half a game back in the division race. They also kept one game ahead of the Twins for the second wild card and three games back from the Yankees for the first wild card and both of those teams also won. Things are tight and getting down to the wire.

Going into tonight's game, Texas is sending Derek Holland to the mound in an attempt to knock Houston out of first place. Dutch is carrying a 3-2 record and a 3.13 ERA since his return from the disabled list. It would be nice to see him come up big against Houston. If the Rangers can survive the pressure cooker they are in right now then a post season series should be nothing new.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Showdown time.

Texas finished up the first part of the current home stand yesterday by taking the rubber match from the A's.

Chi-Chi Gonzalez got the spot start as Texas gave their whole rotation an extra day of rest. Gonzalez held Oakland scoreless for five innings before running into trouble in the sixth. Errors led to a couple of unearned runs to go with the earned run Chi-Chi gave up. Keone Kela came in and closed out the fifth without further damage. The A's managed an additional run in the seventh but the bullpen was able to lock things down after that to hold them to a total of four runs.

Shin-Soo Choo led off the Rangers' scoring for the day with a solo home run in the bottom of the first. In the fourth inning Adrian Beltre, shown here on card AL-6 of the 2015 Topps set, hammered a two run shot into the Oakland bullpen to put the Rangers up 3-0. He returned to the plate in the fifth inning to launch a three run bomb into the Texas bullpen as part of a five run inning (Elvis Andrus had a two run single to bring in the other two runs). Rougned Odor finished off the home run parade with a three run dinger in the eighth inning. Final: Rangers - 12, A's - 4.

With the win, the Rangers kept pace with the Astros who have been thumping on the Angels the past couple of days. That leaves Texas 1.5 games out in the division race and still in control of the second wildcard slot. They are also just three games behind the Yankees for the first wildcard. Meanwhile, the Twins won't go away and remain just one game back of Texas in the wildcard hunt.

The Rangers home stand continues tonight in Arlington with the Astros coming to town for what is probably the biggest series ever played between the two clubs. If the Rangers can take three of the four games that will be enough to put them on top in the American League West. If they lose three of four they could find themselves on the outside looking in as the playoff fight continues. A split could maintain the status quo and that would only make the 'Stros happy.

Cole Hamels takes the bump for Texas tonight and it's time for him to bring the ace stuff. It's games like this that prompted Texas to trade for him and now's the time to prove the Rangers got a real ace. If Cole can keep the Houston offense quiet there's a real chance the Rangers could break out early. The Texas bats have been heating up lately and they may be able to continue that against Houston. It's showdown time in Arlington.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Senators Saturday - Mike Epstein, 1970.

1970 was Mike Epstein's fourth season with Washington. He appeared to have the starting first baseman's job nailed down and was coming off an outstanding season in 1969.

Epstein, shown here on card 235 of the 1970 Topps set, appeared in a total of 140 games with the Senators in 1970. He made 517 trips to the plate and put up a .256 batting average. That alone wasn't all that impressive but his on-base percentage was .371, second only to Frank Howard in the starting nine. Mike helped his on-base percentage with his 73 walks. The 117 times he got rung up by opposing pitchers did not help. As you might guess from the number of whiffs, Epstein was a power hitter. He notched 15 doubles, three triples (tied for second best on the club), and 20 home runs (second to Big Frank) over the course of the season. He also scored 55 runs while bumping in 56 RBI.

Mike played in 122 games defensively for Washington, all at first base. He played 1044.1 innings and committed just 10 errors. That gave him a fielding percentage of .992, a point higher than the league average. Add in the fact that Epstein had more range than the average first baseman at the time and his defense appears more than adequate.

1970 wasn't a bad season for Mike Epstein but it hadn't been what he was looking for either. His defense had improved from 1969 and that was a positive point. However, Mike's offensive numbers had dropped across the board, with the exception of strikeouts. Not to terrible levels, but significantly from the previous year.  Since the Senators were starving for offense, Epstein probably wasn't going to be shipped out in the off-season. The front office had their eye on him though and he needed to get his production cranked back up if he wanted to avoid being traded before his value dropped too far.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Recent arrivals.

Had a couple of more autograph requests come back this past week. Both were former Washington Senators. Joe Hicks and Bennie Daniels both signed and returned two cards.

One of the cards Mr. Daniels signed and sent back was this mis-cut 1961 Topps card. It and the 1961 Topps card Mr. Hicks signed are now the oldest autographed cards I have in my collection. I sent my request to Mr. Daniels on August 25th and he got it back to me on September 4th. Pretty fast turnaround. Thanks much Mr. Daniels and Mr. Hicks.

I really enjoyed getting the returns from the Senators players. Great to be able to fill in some from the franchise before it moved to Texas. Speaking of filling in, I really need to fill in some more holes in my Senators team sets and current Rangers team sets. Looks like I am starting to run out of subject matter for Senators Saturdays and posts on the current Rangers run for the post-season. It would seem a trip to Duane's Sportscards is in order. Spiff Jr has been hinting that he would like a return trip there as well. I think we are going to try to shoehorn it in between other family activities this coming Saturday. Love to say hey to anyone else who might be there as well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Edging closer.

The Rangers were two games back of the American League West leading Astros when they started their game in Seattle last night. Texas was also in sole possession of the second wildcard spot in the AL. Neither of those positions were predicted by anyone at the start of the season.

Cole Hamels took the mound for the Rangers to face off with Taijuan Walker for the Mariners. Hamels did well through six, allowing just one run. Meanwhile Walker left the game in the fourth as the Rangers scored six total off him, one run was unearned. In the seventh Hamels stumbled and allowed three runs before finding the third out. That finished the night for him. Seattle scored two more off the Rangers bullpen in the eighth to run their total to six. Meanwhile the Texas offense kept going and put up one each in the sixth, eighth, and ninth. Final: Rangers - 9, Mariners - 6.

While the Rangers pitching was not the best, their offense picked an excellent time to break their recent home run drought. With only two long balls on this road trip, the club had been winning games with small ball. Last night was different. Mitch Moreland led off the parade with a solo shot in the second to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Shin-Soo Choo, shown here on card 120 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set, dealt Seattle a body blow with a three-run blast in the third. Rougned Odor continued his hot streak with a two-run shot in the fourth to help chase Walker from the game. Joey Gallo added some insurance in the eighth with a moonshot of his own. Very good so see some power flashing from the Ranger bats.

While Texas was handling Seattle, Sonny Gray and the A's blanked the Astros. The Twins and Angels lost as well. That moves the Rangers to one back in the AL West and  2.5 up on the Twins and 4.5 up on the Angels in the wildcard hunt. Great news for the Rangers. This evening they play Seattle again and once more tomorrow afternoon before heading home for a ten game home stand. During that home stand Houston comes to town for four crucial games. Hopefully the guys can use that showdown to get ahead of the 'Stros for good.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Minor League Monday - Gary Green, 1990 CMC.

By the time the Rangers drafted Gary Green in the 1989 Minor League draft, he already had Major League experience. Green, shown here on card 163 of the 1990 CMC set, played in a total of 28 games in 1986 and 1989 with the San Diego Padres. Texas apparently thought he would be a good insurance policy for shortstop Jeff Huson.

Green ended up splitting the season between Triple A Oklahoma City and the big time in Arlington. With both teams he played only at shortstop.

Gary appeared in 55 games for the 89ers and got 193 plate appearances. He put up middle infielder type numbers with a .234 batting average and a .319 on-base percentage. He scored 19 runs and notched 25 RBI. He hit 11 doubles and four home runs. He did strike out 43 times while walking just 22 times - a disturbing ratio for a hitter with little power.

In the field for OKC, Green committed ten errors for a .961 fielding percentage.

Once in Texas, Gary appeared in 62 games and made 99 plate appearances. He continued to struggle at the plate as he put up a .216 batting average and a .263 on-base percentage. He scored 10 times and bumped in eight RBI but his power dried up almost entirely. He hit just three doubles to account for all his extra base hits. Green whiffed 18 times while walking just six to make his strikeout to walk ratio even more lopsided.

Gary was able to improve his defense while with the Rangers. He played 300 innings at short over 58 games and made just five errors. That gave him a .972 fielding percentage. Not only was that 11 points higher than his fielding percentage with OKC, it was only one point below the league average. Since Green had quite a bit more range than the average shortstop, the fact that his fielding percentage was about the same was a plus.

Shortstop was a crowded position for Texas in 1990 with Jeff Huson, Jeff Kunkel, and Gary Green all contending for playing time. Unfortunately for Green, he hadn't done anything to make himself stand out from the other two. He needed to come to Spring Training in 1991 and blow the doors off if he wanted to play in Arlington again for any length of time.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Senators Saturday - Casey Cox, 1970.

Joseph Casey Cox is sporting the red Senators look on card 281 of the 1970 Topps set. It's a look I don't particularly care for but it's what the team switched to in the late 60's.

1969 had seen the club move Cox from a full-time reliever role to a swing-man with more than a couple of starts. He responded with a pretty good season. That performance caught the Senators attention.

In 1970 the team decided to move Casey into the rotation on a permanent basis. He appeared in 37 games for Washington, with 30 of the appearances being starts. That was full-time in the rotation for Washington, nobody made all their trips to the mound in a starting role.

Cox tossed 192.1 innings over his 37 appearances. His watched his ERA jump to a rotation worst 4.45. His WHIP edged north as well to 1.326. Apparently Casey struggled a bit with his slider and sinker control as he walked 44 while striking out just 68. He ended the season with a 8-12 record.

1970 was a rough season for Casey Cox. The transition to full-time starter did not go as smoothly as the transition from full-time reliever to swing-man. Cox needed to regain control of his primary pitches and get the ERA and WHIP back down to at least the 1969 levels. If he could do that he might be able to stay in the rotation in 1970.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Better late than never.

Ok, the title of today's post can refer either to Derek Holland's 2015 season or to the timing of this post. Holland, shown here on card 258 of the 2010 Topps Heritage set, missed the first part of the season with a left shoulder sprain. Since returning he has been a front-line starter for the team. As for the timing, I meant to post this yesterday, before the Rangers lost to the Padres last night. Didn't get it done though so it's late.

On Sunday the Rangers finished out a trip to Baltimore. Holland took the mound for the getaway game as Texas went for a sweep of the series.

Holland pitched quite possibly the best regular season game he's thrown since August 8, 2009 when he shut out the Angels on three hits. Against the Orioles Dutch went all nine innings and allowed just three hits while striking out eleven Birds. He allowed no walks and no runs en route to his eighth career shutout. It was an excellent outing and one that shows the pitcher Holland really is when he's on.

While Derek was doing his thing, the Texas offense was busy as well. They put up six runs, thanks in part to the now electric Elvis Andrus who went 2-for-3 with a walk, RBI, a run scored, and two stolen bases. Prince Fielder and Delino DeShields also had multi-hit games as the club raised their season record to 68-61.

The win gave Texas some padding in their hold on the second wild card spot. It also brought them to three games back of the AL West-leading Astros as Houston fell to the Twins. Against all odds, things are looking interesting in Arlington as the season enters the final month of play.