The up and down story of the Texas Rangers in these first few weeks of the season continues.
Following their disappointing series loss against Seattle, Texas came out and crushed the White Sox last night, 8-1. There's little not to like about this big win, which puts the Rangers at 6-7 and just one game behind the first place Mariners. In fact, the entire division is separated by just a game and a half.
First thing's first: Robinson Tejeda was excellent, showing the kind of form that he did in the home opener win against Boston. He allowed just one run, a Jim Thome blast to dead center field on a 96 MPH fastball tailing away, which MLB Gameday shows was not even a strike.
Altogether, Tejeda surrended three hits and four walks, while striking out three. Another thing reminiscent of that Boston start: Tejeda recorded 14 flyball outs, with most of them being harmless, lazy popups. Then again, Jon Garland recorded 14 flyball outs too, and he's traditionally a groundball pitcher.
The only problem for Garland was that he gave up some fly balls that didn't stay in the yard. In fact, the entirety of the Rangers' offense came from home runs last night - all in the 5th inning or later. Texas did nothing through the first four innings, but with one out in the 5th, Hank Blalock came back from a 1-2 count to work a walk. That turned out to be the turning point in the game, as two batters later Brad Wilkerson launched a line drive home run into the right field seats to put Texas up 2-1. It was the 100th home run of Wilkerson's career.
The Rangers would never look back.
The unstoppable Ian Kinsler widened the lead to 5-1 in the 7th inning with a huge three run shot off Garland, his seventh home run of the season. His monster start is worthy of some slight caution - after all, Chris Shelton hit 10 home runs in April last year with an OPS of 1.186, but wasn't very good the rest of the way. And we all remember what happened with Kevin Mench after his home run streak. But right now, I don't see any warning signs that this is just some fluke. Kinsler looks for real.
This morning I was reminded of something that made my stomach turn - in 2004, John Hart had agreed to trade Ian Kinsler and pitcher Erik Thompson to the Colorado Rockies for Larry Walker. Thankfully, Walker used his no-trade rights to veto the deal. How big of a bullet did the Rangers dodge there?
And then, of course, there was the moment that is garnering the most national media attention - Sammy Sosa's home run. With two outs in the 8th, reliever Mike MacDougal intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to get to Sosa with two men on and two outs. Sosa fell behind in the count 0-2 before depositing a 97 MPH fastball into the right center field seats, complete with his trademark leap.
After the tremendous booing that Sosa received at the hands of the White Sox fans, that felt really good. Sammy also hit an opposite field double the previous inning, and was on base when Kinsler blew the game open with his HR. Not bad, considering that he was initially not expected to play on Tuesday night. Some of his swings still aren't looking that great, but he's starting to appear a bit more focused at the plate these last few games. There may still be some hope.
The top four batters in the lineup - Lofton, Catalanotto, Young and Teixeira - went a combined 1 for 15 at the plate last night. Tex has just one extra base hit, a double, in 46 at-bats so far. Concerned yet?
Kinsler batted seventh on Tuesday between Blalock and Wilkerson, but Ron Washington notes it may be only a "temporary" move up in the batting order, due to Ozzie Guillen's tendencies to play late-game matchups. I hope this isn't the case. Washington also says that Blalock sitting against left-hander Horacio Ramirez on Sunday was just to get him a day off, not because of Hank's struggles against lefties. Blalock is expected to play on Wednesday night against Mark Buehrle, who he is just 2 for 26 against in his career.
Kameron Loe is expected to throw in a side session today in preparation for his start against Oakland on Saturday. The Rangers hope they can get 75 to 80 pitches out of him.
After reviewing more video, Brandon McCarthy does not believe he was tipping his pitches in his poor start on Sunday. In fact, here are his comments on the matter:
"It just comes down to this," McCarthy said, "I got beat."
At least he's honest.
Wednesday, April 18th Game Preview
Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox
Kevin Millwood (2-1, 3.71 ERA) vs. Jon Garland (0-0, 4.32 ERA)
7:11 PM CST in Chicago, Illinois (U.S. Cellular Field)
TV: FSNSW | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM