As a Rangers fan, I find nothing more maddening than watching an AL West rival celebrate a walkoff win on their home turf.
Yeah, this was one of those nights.
Texas squandered a brilliant start by Kevin Millwood, and lost in the bottom of the 9th inning to the Anaheim Angels on Friday night, 2-1. Millwood pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Not only did tonight mark his 300th career start, but he also notched his 1500th career strikeout. It's probably his finest 2007 effort to date, topping his start last Sunday against the Orioles when he gave up one run in six innings of work.
After throwing a no-hitter through the first 3.1 innings of the game, shortstop Orlando Cabrera rapped a hard single past Michael Young into left field to break up Millwood's no-hit bid. Vladimir Guerrero followed with an infield single off Millwood's leg that landed in fair territory down the third base line. After a brief visit by manager Ron Washington and trainer Jamie Reed, Millwood gave up an RBI single to Gary Matthews Jr. to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead.
Texas responded in the next inning, with a leadoff double by Gerald Laird coming around to score after a sacrifice bunt by JHJ and an RBI single by Ramon Vazquez. Unfortunately, Kelvim Escobar was dealing, and it would be the last offense that the Rangers could muster for the night.
The Rangers got their last big chance to score in the top of the 8th inning, when Kenny Lofton hit a one out double down the left field line. Michael Young grounded out, Mark Teixeira was intentionally walked, and Sammy Sosa flied out to end the threat.
Joaquin Benoit surrendered a leadoff double to Matthews to begin the bottom of the 9th inning, after pitching a solid 8th inning. Ron Mahay came on in relief of Benoit, and although he induced a Garett Anderson groundout, Casey Kotchman hit a sharp single past Desi Relaford at second base to score Matthews and end the game. A string of expletives began shortly after that, along with the TV remote being thrown across the room.
Very, very frustrating loss, and although Texas was going up against one of the best pitchers in baseball this year in Escobar, that doesn't make this one sting any less. One run is unacceptable, bottom line. Most of the blame goes towards Michael Young, Sammy Sosa and Marlon Byrd, who went a combined 0 for 12 at the dish tonight. Two of those performances are somewhat unexpected, while one of them really isn't. I bet you can guess which one that is.
Speaking of Sammy, he is now 3 for 27 during the month of July, with all three of those hits being singles. T.R. Sullivan writes that the Rangers have had little trade interest in Sosa, but also that they have no intentions of releasing him. If he doesn't pick things up dramatically very soon, I don't know how the Rangers will even have a choice in the matter.
By the way, Jason Botts went 1 for 3 tonight for the Redhawks with four walks. Nelson Cruz went 3 for 5 with a pair of walks himself, including a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning to give Oklahoma a 9-8 victory over Round Rock.
Ron Washington had a pre-game meeting with Brad Wilkerson to explain why he wasn't in the starting lineup tonight, as Teixeira's return creates another logjam in the outfield. Needless to say, Bad Brad isn't real happy:
"I don't know what to say," Wilkerson said. "I think my performance over the last month kind of speaks for itself. It's not my decision who is going to play, and I'm not going to dwell on it, but I think I've had some big at-bats and big hits. It's kind of a change. Somebody was going to get hurt from [Teixeira's activation]. I guess it's me tonight."
I think I sense a bit of resentment on Wilkerson's part concerning Teixeira's return, but then again, can you really blame him? The guy finally has a little bit of success for the Rangers, and he's back on the bench. Washington hopes to put a "balanced rotation" in place in the outfield, but much of the problem could be solved by not playing Sosa against right-handers, period. Too bad that won't happen.
There's mixed news on the Vicente Padilla injury front; the bad news is that he departed yesterday's start in Frisco with tenderness in his right forearm, but the good news is that he reported feeling "significantly better" on Friday.
Padilla only threw 57 pitches in what was originally planned to be a 65-pitch outing before exiting the game. He'll throw a bullpen session on Saturday, and will make an 80-pitch rehab start on Tuesday if that goes well. Texas still hopes to activate him against Oakland on July 22nd.
Aki Otsuka was still not available tonight, with his sore right elbow still bothering him:
"It's better than it was four days ago, before the All-Star break," Otsuka said. "Today was much better. But I still have some feeling when I'm on the mound. I'm hoping either [Saturday] or Sunday."
Jim Leyland apparently tried to apologize to Michael Young after Tuesday's All-Star Game for not playing him, but Young wouldn't allow him to do so, saying that it wasn't a big deal and that it was "just an All-Star Game." Pretty classy move on Leyland's part, and my frustration with Leyland earlier this week has more or less worn off by now. Instead, I've moved on to other people to get mad at, like Blake Beaven.
And finally, Jean Jacques-Taylor of the Dallas Morning News ripped Mark Teixeira in his Friday morning column, saying that he's a chronic complainer who doesn't want to accept responsibility for the club's struggles in 2007. Personally, I think Taylor brings up some pretty valid points. It's probably best for all parties involved that Teixeira be traded sometime in the next three weeks.
Here's to hoping the Snake can turn around the Rangers' fortunes on Saturday night.
Saturday, July 14th Game Preview
Texas Rangers (38-51) at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (54-35)
Kameron Loe (5-6, 5.36 ERA) vs. John Lackey (11-5, 2.91 ERA)
8:05 PM CST in Anaheim, California (Angel Stadium of Anaheim)
TV: KDFI/My27 | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM