Despite running out one of the worst lineups in recent team history, the Texas Rangers won on Father's Day.
With the backing of 11 runs of support from the offense, Kevin Millwood pitched six decent innings, and picked up his first win since April 13th in Seattle. It was a mixed bag for Kevin on Sunday; he gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in those six innings, including a pair of homers from Adam Dunn. But on the other hand, Millwood struck out 10 Reds, a new season high for any pitcher in the starting rotation.
Perhaps the most encouraging development was that Millwood seemed to get stronger as the game went on, with his fastball still hitting 94 MPH in the 6th inning when he struck out the side. He credits some minor changes in his delivery for his successful start, such as keeping his back straight while lifting his leg instead of arching his back. Millwood also retired 12 of the last 13 batters that he faced. He had his share of hiccups early on, but his outing is certainly something to build off of.
On a related note, ESPN's Jonah Keri thinks Millwood could be an attractive option for a contender closer to the trading deadline. He cites Millwood's health and affordability as two reasons, and names him as a potential bargain ala Bobby Abreu last July.
Let me just get this out of the way right now: I'm not interested in dealing Millwood. Not only would Texas likely have to pay a large chunk of the money remaining on his contract, but trading him now is essentially selling low - and consequently, I doubt Texas would get any type of front-line prospects in return. The Abreu comparison is especially worrying, because as you may recall, the Phillies got little value in return for Abreu.
In addition, who the heck would take his spot in the rotation? It's not like the Rangers have any monster pitching prospects in Oklahoma that are being blocked; Eric Hurley is probably the most advanced pitching prospect in the organization, but he shouldn't get called up before September, and probably won't establish himself in the rotation until sometime in 2008. Does Texas really want to take the risk of rushing Hurley, and possibly ruining him like Edinson Volquez?
Millwood can't be considered an "ace" at this point for Texas, but we all know he's capable of pitching better than he has this year, and I think dealing him right now serves no purpose other than to set the starting pitching situation further backwards. The Rangers made a commitment to Millwood, and they need to ride this thing out further than just a season and a half before making a decision.
Looking at the Texas lineup before Sunday's game, it wasn't hard to buy into the theory that Texas might get shut out. Here's the lineup, complete with each player's batting line for the season coming into the game:
- Kenny Lofton: .274/.358/.389
- Jerry Hairston Jr: .254/.316/.388
- Michael Young: .286/.333/.414
- Marlon Byrd: .384/.425/.438
- Frank Catalanotto: .183/.282/.358
- Adam Melhuse: .250/.333/.281
- Ramon Vazquez: .278/.321/.472
- Travis Metcalf: .250/.400/.667
- Kevin Millwood: .121/.158/.167 (career)
Pretty ugly, right? However, Texas would not lay a goose egg, as the offense scored in six different innings, including three runs in the 1st inning in support of Kevin Millwood, and four more in the 9th to put the game away. It was the 6th time this year that the Rangers scored 10 or more runs, and the first time since May 21st, when Texas beat Minnesota 14-4 in Arlington.
Adam Melhuse was probably the most pleasant surprise on Sunday, scoring 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and two runs scored. He's now 5 for 10 since joining the Rangers, and certainly appears to be a better bet as backup catcher going forward than Chris Stewart. Marlon Byrd also had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI, two runs scored, a walk and a home run, his first in a Rangers uniform.
Jamey Newberg brought up an interesting hypothetical yesterday concerning Marlon Byrd, which goes as follows:
"Texas agrees to terms with outfielder Marlon Byrd on a two-year, $3.5 million contract, with a club option for $3 million in 2010 ($250,000 buyout). The contract includes plate appearance incentives that, if all reached, could increase the two-year guaranteed term to $4 million. The contract erases what would have been Byrd�s two final arbitration years.�
Such a deal would certainly benefit the Rangers if Byrd continues to produce at the clip he is right now, hitting .390/.435/.494 in 77 at-bats for the Rangers this year. However, if Byrd reverts closer to his career .270/.333/.380 line, that's at least $3.75 million guaranteed for a 4th outfielder whose offense can only be considered passable if he's in center field. I love what I'm seeing from Marlon Byrd, but he'll have to keep doing it for me to believe this is more than just an amazing hot streak. Either way, though, I hope the Rangers keep him around for 2008.
C.J. Wilson, Aki Otsuka and Eric Gagne teamed up for three scoreless innings after Millwood departed to preserve the win. The Rangers are now 21-1 when leading after six innings, and have the 5th best bullpen ERA in the American League at 3.67. Of course, they also have the most bullpen innings in the majors.
There's trade rumors flying everywhere concerning the available relievers in the Texas bullpen, but Bill Madden of the NY Daily News mentions another possibility - the Cubs - saying that manager Lou Pinella will heavily push for GM Jim Hendry to deal for Gagne. Matt Murton and Felix Pie's respective stocks seem to have fallen a bit, and there's some other intriguing players in Chicago as well.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post quoted one NL executive in his column yesterday, who says that Jon Daniels is "the most gun-shy GM in baseball." Of course, that quote set off another firey exchange at the DMN blog, where Evan Grant and Tim MacMahon are sniping at each other over the value of draft picks.
Speaking of awkward exchanges, there seemed to be a rare tense moment between radio broadcasters Eric Nadel and Victor Rojas during yesterday's game. Nadel said that the Houston Astros had a right to sit Craig Biggio if he reached 2,999 hits while in Arlington for the series later this week, because Houston fans had a right to see him reach 3,000 hits at home. After several minutes of back-and-forth discussion, Rojas called the idea of sitting Biggio at 2,999 hits "weak" with an obviously annoyed tone in his voice, and Nadel trailed off.
Texas begins a six game homestand tomorrow, with three apiece against the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Hopefully Sammy Sosa can get his 600th home run out of the way against his old club, because I'm ready for the Jason Botts era to begin.