Boy, the last game of that homestand was a letdown.
But looking on the bright side, Texas won 2 out of 3 games from both Boston and Tampa Bay, and continue to make the season-opening series against Anaheim look like more and more of a fluke. There's still some nagging issues affecting this team, though.
Wednesday's series finale against the Devil Rays found the Rangers falling behind 6-1 after a rough start from Robinson Tejeda, but Texas climbed back into the game to make it 6-5. Michael Young played no small part in the comeback, smashing a solo HR in the 1st inning and a three run shot in the 6th. Ian Kinsler also chipped in with his 4th home run of the year. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay held the Rangers scoreless through the last three innings to prevent the sweep.
When the Rangers failed to do anything in the bottom of the 8th, leaving the game up to Sosa, Blalock and Wilkerson in the bottom of the 9th, I think a lot of people knew the game was over right then. They were right. Sosa took some of the worst cuts at the plate I've seen out of him yet, including swinging late on a 89 MPH fastball from Al Reyes. Blalock has had a pretty good start all things considered, but in classic Hammer fashion he struck out swinging trying to pull a ball that was at neck-level. And Wilkerson worked the count to 3-1, but grounded out weakly on ball four to end the game. That sequence of events was more discouraging than the Rangers failing to tie the game up, for me at least.
Now, regardless of how you feel about the entire concept of protection behind a hitter, I think it's fairly clear that teams are not pitching to Teixeira. Heck, why should they? There's a nearly automatic out in Sosa batting behind him. In fact, Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball did an interesting analysis on the situation, which would seem to confirm the suspicion that Teixeira's productivity this year is being neutered by Sosa's miserable batting line. That's not to make excuses for Tex, who is not doing much with the hittable pitches that he is seeing. But if Sosa does not pick things up considerably, the Rangers are going to have to make a move. I still think Sammy can be a capable DH against left-handed pitchers, but right now he has no business in the lineup against righties. By the way, all but two of Sosa's at-bats have come against right-handed pitching this year. His batting line against them? .115/.148/.115. Uggggly.
On the subject of Wilkerson, make sure to check out Scott Lucas's great report detailing his struggles at the plate. Needless to say, Lucas doesn't sound particularly optimistic.
With three scoreless innings from Kameron Loe and one from Joaquin Benoit, the Rangers now have the 4th best bullpen ERA in baseball, sitting at 2.20 after 28.2 relief innings. Unfortunately, they're still behind the Angels, who are 3rd with a 2.17 ERA. Neither club can touch the Padres, though, whose bullpen has yet to allow an earned run in 28.1 innings.
Speaking of Loe, he may get a chance to crack the rotation sooner than many of us thought. Evan Grant confirms that Jamey Wright is headed to the disabled list with shoulder soreness after his horrible start against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. This organization seems to be headed in the right direction, but it's things like this that make me shake my head sometimes. If Daniel Haigwood is lost on waivers so that the team could get one bad start out of the mediocre Jamey Wright, I'm not going to be a happy camper. In any event, Kameron Loe or Bruce Chen are in line for the next start from the #5 spot in the rotation, which is set for April 21st against Oakland. Although I'd like to see Loe get his big chance, I'd honestly be happy with either of them.
So who's taking Jamey Wright's roster spot? Eric Gagne, who is expected to pitch tonight against the Mariners. Let's hope his appearance finds him nailing down a save.
Kevin Millwood faces Jarrod Washburn at 9:05 PM CST tonight on KDFI/My27.
As a special note, the weather situation throughout north, central and east Texas this afternoon appears to be quite dangerous as far as severe weather and possible tornadic activity. Stay safe out there.