What a difference two games can make.
The Texas Rangers took 2 out of 3 against the Oakland Athletics in their home weekend series, something the Rangers badly needed after their disappointing 2-4 road trip. Things began badly on Friday night, with Brandon McCarthy being shelled to the tune of six earned runs in only one inning, but got much better through the weekend.
Rangers 7, Athletics 0
Kameron Loe made his first start of the season on Saturday night. It could not have possibly gone any better. Kam, also affectionately known as "The Snake" for his pet seven-foot Columbian red-tailed boa constrictor, spread just three hits and one walk over 5.1 shutout innings. And if you watched the game, you'll know he looked even more dominant than those numbers suggest.
Despite the team limiting him to just 82 pitches, Loe punched out five with the aid of his devastating sinker. One of the biggest arguments against Loe being in the rotation is that he can't strike people out, and allows too many balls to be hit into play. But if his performance on Saturday coupled with his spring training performance is any indication of the future, Loe is going to be a cornerstone of the Rangers rotation for years to come.
Kameron did leave some dirty laundry out there when he left the game, though: C.J. Wilson came on with A's on 2nd and 3rd and only one out in the 6th inning, and the Rangers nursing a 1-0 lead at the time. After walking Nick Swisher to load the bases, Wilson proceeded to fan Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley to escape the inning, pumping his fist as he left the mound. Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve hypothesized that Wilson's 3-2 strikeout pitch to Bradley may have been the gyroball; C.J. admits to having thrown at least one gyroball against the Red Sox earlier this year, so it's certainly possible.
The Rangers would add another run in the 7th before blowing the game open with a five run 8th inning, with most of the damage being done by Matt Kata on a huge three run jack. Benoit, Aki and Gagne all pitched shutout innings to wrap up a nice 7-0 win.
Rangers 4, Athletics 3
Sunday saw Robinson Tejeda and Chad Gaudin facing off in the rubber match, but things did not go well for most of the game. Tejeda had his usual excellent stuff, but gave up nine hits in 6.1 innings and a painful two-run homer to Shannon Stewart that put Oakland up 3-1 in the 5th inning. Not only did the home run just barely clear the wall in left field, but it came on an 0-2 count with two outs. In the meantime, Texas wasted numerous scoring opportunities throughout the game.
The Rangers' luck would begin to change for the better in the bottom of the 8th, though. After loading the bases with one out, Sosa drew a walk off of Justin Duchscherer to make it a 3-2 game. Oakland manager Bob Geren brought on his closer, Huston Street, to face Hank Blalock. He fell behind in the count 0-2, and for a minute it looked like the Rangers would once again fail to come up with a big hit.
But this time, Blalock delivered. Hank pulled a nasty breaking pitch that was down and several inches outside of the strike zone into right field, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs. Just a tremendous job by Blalock on a pitch that he usually swings and misses at, or pops up if he's lucky. Biggest hit of the year to date? I'd say yes.
Eric Gagne came on in the 9th to close things out, but had to leave the game on a 3-2 count to Mark Ellis after landing awkwardly during his followthrough. Aki came on and got himself in a bit of trouble, but retired the last two A's to lock up the game and the series.
Now, for some Monday morning notes:
- Eric Gagne is officially listed as day-to-day with a right hip strain, but Michael Young was a bit more blunt in his post-game remarks about Gagne: "He said his a** hurt." At least it's not another back injury, but unfortunately Gagne appears to be finding new and exciting ways to get hurt. How huge does Jon Daniels' decision to not trade Aki this winter look right now?
- Michael Young is 2 for his last 33 at the plate and is now hitting .162/.195/.297 in 74 at-bats, with no signs of his slump ending anytime soon. No idea what's going on with him, but he's completely out of whack at the plate. The Rangers badly need him to pick things up, because he's killing the offense in the #3 hole.
- The Rangers will try to trade Bruce Chen before putting him on outright waivers to try and get him to AAA Oklahoma City, since there's a decent chance another team will try to claim him.
- Brad Wilkerson may be available to play in tonight's game against Seattle. He's been on the bench for several days battling a sore left knee.
- Jamey Wright hopes to begin throwing again by the middle of this week as he fights inflammation in his right shoulder. Yeah, don't hurry back.
- The four steals by the Rangers on Sunday were they most they've had in a game since recording five steals against Boston on August 6th, 2001. That includes Buck Showalter's entire four year tenure in Arlington.
The Rangers will try to make it three wins in a row tonight. I sure hope they do, because it's a lot more fun writing about a winning team than a losing one.
Monday, April 23rd Game Preview
Seattle Mariners (5-9) at Texas Rangers (8-10)
Cha Seung Baek (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Kevin Millwood (2-2, 4.91 ERA)
7:05 PM CST in Arlington, Texas (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
TV: FSNSW | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM