Well, I can't say I saw this coming.
Jamey Wright outpitched Roy Oswalt on Saturday afternoon, and the Texas Rangers defeated the Houston Astros, 7-2. Not only was it Texas's 4th consecutive win and their 7th win in nine games, but the victory locked up the coveted Silver Boot trophy for the Rangers. Very impressive stuff. I just pray it doesn't come to a screeching halt when Monday's road trip begins in Detroit.
Unfortunately, Jamey Wright's success appears to be more of a fluke than him dominating the Astros lineup. The 32-year-old right hander only gave up two runs on three hits in 5.2 innings, but surrendered a whopping six walks, and hit Mike Lamb with a pitch in the 6th inning. Wright's five strikeouts are an indicator that he at least missed some bats, but generally, you're not going to walk six batters and get off the hook as easily as Wright did on Saturday.
The Rangers lineup went down rather quietly against Oswalt in the first four innings, but came through in the 5th inning with a three run rally to put Texas up 3-1. Houston fought back to make it 3-2 in the 6th inning, and had men on 2nd and 3rd with two outs when manager Ron Washington called in Frankie Francisco to take over for Wright. It turned out to be a perfectly timed managerial move, as Eric Bruntlett flied out to end the threat.
The Astros threatened again in the 7th inning against Francisco, putting men on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. Again, Ron Washington ended up making the right call, bringing in C.J. Wilson who promptly struck out Mike Lamb on three pitches. Texas pieced together a nice four run rally in the 8th inning to seal the deal, cheating Eric Gagne out of yet another save opportunity in the process.
It was yet another impressive home crowd for the Rangers, as the official attendance was 42,315 for Saturday's 2:55 game. According to ESPN.com, Texas is drawing an average of 31,745 at RBiA this year, a nice little increase over last year's average attendance of 29,490 per game. Of course, these numbers may fall as we enter the later summer months, especially when school starts in August.
Kenny Lofton came just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle on Saturday, which would have been the first of his 17-year major league career. He hit a double in the first inning, a triple in the third, and a single in the fifth, but only got a pair of walks in his final two at-bats. Weak.
Lofton's now hitting .289/.375/.408 on the year with 16 SB, and I'm pretty sure he'd be a useful piece for several playoff contending teams. I'm going to really miss Gagne and Lofton, if and when they're dealt; you can criticize Jon Daniels for his trade history, but you can't criticize him for these two signings, because they've been everything that we could have asked for thus far.
Also, do you remember the idea this offseason that Kenny Lofton would provide similar offensive production to the departed Gary Matthews Jr? That's pretty much turned out to be the case; Lofton has the aforementioned .289/.375/.408 line with a .272 EQA, while GMJ is hitting .286/.343/.454 with a .268 EQA.
Dave Sessions on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram blog has a complete list of the 10 longest home runs in RBiA history, which is certainly worth a look. Paul Sorrento's mammoth 491 foot blast in 1999 comes in at #1; I still remember watching the game on TV when he hit that. If I remember correctly, the ball either traveled to the very back of Greene's Hill in dead center field, or completely cleared the hill. That was absolutely ridiculous.
By the way, the home run came off of super spare Mark Clark, whom Joe Siegler reminisced on a few days ago. Remarkably enough, the Rangers won that game 7-6, as they scored a run in the bottom of the 8th in a tied game. I love Retrosheet.
Speaking of spares, Scott Lucas did a nice analysis comparing Sammy Sosa to some former Ranger DHs, such as Phil Nevin, Brad Fullmer and Andres Galarraga. Despite the lovefest for Sammy this year, he's only marginally better statistically than most of the failed bits we've run through the DH spot recently.
Since being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma on June 5th, Nelson Cruz has hit .375/.475/.917 with 7 HR in 48 AB for the Redhawks. However, with the crowded outfield situation at the major league level, I don't expect Cruz to be recalled anytime soon. Victor Diaz and Marlon Byrd certainly haven't done anything to deserve a demotion; I guess Lofton being traded or Wilkerson being designated for assignment would create room, but whatever.
The Rangers will take on Houston for the final time in 2007 on Sunday night, as they gun for a season-high five wins in a row.
Perhaps something can be salvaged from this season yet?
Sunday, June 24th Game Preview
Houston Astros (31-43) at Texas Rangers (30-44)
Chris Sampson (6-5, 3.70 ERA) vs. Robinson Tejeda (5-7, 6.29 ERA)
7:35 PM CST in Arlington, Texas (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
TV: KDFI/My27 | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM