If I had told you that I was expecting much at all from Kameron Loe coming into tonight's start, I'd have been lying.
Loe, who had been shipped to Triple-A Oklahoma on Saturday, was a major factor in the Texas Rangers being on pace to have the worst single season starting rotation ERA in baseball history. The not-so-proud owner of a 1-6 record, Loe was ranked near the bottom of the league in the ERA department with a miserable 7.40 next to his name. It became even worse when you took away Loe's 8.1 innings as a reliever; Kameron's ERA as a starter was 7.71, and opposing hitters batted .321 against him.
But tonight, Kam rose above all of those ugly, ugly stats, and pitched perhaps his finest game in a Rangers uniform.
Loe gave Texas eight brilliant shutout innings, allowing just three walks and five hits while striking out seven Pirates, a new career high. His trademark sinker was truly on tonight, and Loe commanded it beautifully, inducing 14 groundball outs. Not only is Kam the first Texas starting pitcher to reach the 8th inning this season, but he did it with just 108 pitches. Just an absolute gem of a performance.
Could Loe's outing tonight perhaps be a precursor to him turning things around this season? It's still far too early to say, but during the FSN postgame show, Loe credited Redhawks pitching coach Andy Hawkins with helping him fix a mechanical issue in his delivery during his brief stint in Oklahoma City. Hawkins said that Loe's arm angle was too low; obviously, adjusting that helped him in tonight's start.
Tonight's game wrapup by Evan Grant in the DMN expands further on this, with the change in arm angle apparently making Loe's slider sharper as well. Loe also chatted with former "All-Star" pitcher Mark Redman about pitching philosophy, with Kameron sounding like he's going to rely more on his breaking pitches in the future.
This all begs a disturbing question, though: where is Mark Connor? What does this say about Connor's job competence if the AAA pitching coach was able to fix a glaring flaw in Loe's delivery in one day, but Connor wasn't able to do it in two months? Tim Cowlishaw may not be pinning any blame on Connor for this pitching staff's struggles, but I'm starting to come around on the idea that it may be time for him to go.
Nice showing by the offense tonight, as Texas pounded out six runs tonight in support of Kam Loe, with five of those against phenom Tom Gorzelanny. That's no small feat in itself, as Gorzelanny has allowed five runs to just one other team this year: the Cincinnati Reds, Texas's next opponent in their six game road trip. Gerald Laird's three run blast in the 7th inning put the Rangers up 5-0, and with the way Loe was pitching, essentially sealed the deal.
Kameron himself contributed nicely to the victory at the plate, going 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored. Not only is he the first Ranger pitcher to get a base hit since Ricardo Rodriguez on June 12th, 2005, but he's the first Ranger pitcher to cross home plate since Joaquin Benoit on June 19th, 2004. Oddly enough, both of those events happened in Dolphins Stadium against the Florida Marlins.
Big congratulations to Travis Metcalf, who collected his first major league hit and home run with one swing of the bat in the 6th inning.
Loe will make at least one more start while McCarthy is on the disabled list, and if he performs at anywhere near the level that he did tonight, the Rangers are going to be forced to keep him on the big league squad.
I would ordinarily say that this would force Jamey Wright out of the equation, but with Kevin Millwood apparently forgetting how to pitch, Padilla's health being a major question, McCarthy's blisters flaring up, and Robinson Tejeda's struggles, we can probably expect to see more of Jamey Wright than we're going to want to see.
Long live "The Snake."
Friday, June 15th Game Preview
Texas Rangers (24-42) at Cincinnati Reds (26-41)
Matt Belisle (5-4, 4.48 ERA) vs. Vicente Padilla (2-8, 6.28 ERA)
6:10 PM CST in Cincinnati, Ohio (Great American Ballpark)
TV: FSNSW | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM