For one night in Arlington, Sammy Sosa was hitting like he was back in the glory days.
And Eric Gagne was human.
Sosa went 2 for 4 with a two run double and a three run HR, and the Rangers survived a late comeback by the Mariners to hold on for an 8-7 win on Monday night.
Sosa showed he could still be a capable lefty masher against Seattle left-hander Horacio Ramirez, with his two run double in the bottom of the 3rd inning giving Texas a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the 5th, Sammy delivered yet again with a line drive blast into the left field seats that put the Rangers up for good at 6-3.
Sosa's updated batting line against LHP this year now sits at an impressive .338/.438/.622 in 74 AB - that certainly can't be bad for his trade value, however limited it might be.
Brad Wilkerson stepped in three batters later versus Ramirez, and clubbed a two run line drive home run that barely cleared the left center field wall. Exit stage left, Horacio.
Kevin Millwood was not at his best, loading the bases in the top of the 1st inning and then giving up a two run single to Jose Guillen with nobody out. After another single at the hands of Adrian Beltre to reload the bases, Millwood managed to strike out Richie Sexson, and induced a huge inning ending double play from Kenji Johjima to escape trouble.
He was passable the rest of the way, and was removed after just 5.1 innings, having surrendered eight hits and four walks during a 115-pitch outing. Ron Mahay allowed an inherited runner to score in the top of the 6th inning, adding a 4th earned run to Millwood's ledger for the night.
Mahay and Frankie Francisco combined for 2.2 innings of shutout baseball, bringing Texas to the 9th inning with an 8-4 lead. Ron Washington called on Eric Gagne to pitch in a non-save situation, and the results were not pretty, to say the least.
Gagne gave up a single-double-home run-single to begin the 9th inning, hanging several pitches down the middle of the plate. After a fielder's choice force-out at second base, Ben Broussard stepped in with a man on first and one out. Ichiro waited on-deck, having already gone 2 for 5 on the night. With Gagne's shaky pitching, disaster seemed imminent.
Broussard hit a scorching line drive to right field, but right at Marlon Byrd, who then loaded up and fired a strike to Mark Teixeira at first base to catch the napping pinch runner Willie Bloomquist; he had started running towards second at the crack of the bat. Incredible finish, and it only further cements "Byrdman's" place in my heart.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram blog notes that Gagne entered tonight's game with a 1.48 ERA and left with a 2.30 ERA, and the three runs he allowed were the most he's allowed since a four run outing on August 18th, 2004. Gagne had this to say after the game concerning his performance:
"It should be the same, it's a major-league game. Get people out," Gagne said. "I didn't do my job today, I went out there and I wasn't focused enough and I wasn't making my pitches. There's no excuse, you've got to execute."
T.R. Sullivan wrote earlier tonight about Robinson Tejeda's demotion to AAA, saying that the Rangers are adamant about Tejeda making some adjustments and straightening out his problems before getting another look at the major league level. Ron Washington, in particular, doesn't seem too pleased with Tejeda's regression:
"It's all going to depend on Tejeda and how he goes down and does what he has to do," Washington said. "We want him to get into a program where he can be consistent with his delivery. He has to make sure he incorporates just one delivery instead of all those different ones that are causing his ball to scatter all over the place."
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News includes some more frightening statistics concerning Tejeda:
Among the 112 pitchers to start at least 12 games since May 1, Tejeda's 7.93 ERA is highest over that span. His 51 walks since May 1 are tied with Arizona's Doug Davis for the most in the majors.
Grant also notes that the Rangers are uncertain about what to do with the fifth spot in the rotation going forward, and that John Rheinecker could become the leading candidate for the spot with a strong start on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Sullivan thinks Texas could take a look at Mike Wood, Edinson Volquez or even Eric Hurley before the season's over. With this sudden jolt of instability to the starting rotation, I wonder if this doesn't slightly lessen the chances of Jamey Wright being dealt.
Aki Otsuka experienced no setbacks during an outfield throwing session on Monday, and is expected to throw again Wednesday. Texas hopes to send him on a brief rehab assignment on Friday or Saturday, which would give the Rangers a chance to activate him before the July 31st deadline. Bleah to that.
The trade winds blowing through Arlington seem to be stronger than Buster Olney thinks; Sullivan noted earlier tonight that trade interest in Mark Teixeira has picked up considerably, while Grant believes Texas may be able to get the most value by packaging several players together, such as Tex and Joaquin Benoit. This is shaping up to be a very entertaining week; let's pray Jon Daniels doesn't blow it.
Continuing with the T.R. Sullivan extravaganza, he has a new mailbag out tonight with questions ranging from when the next possible All-Star Game in Arlington might be, to concerns about C.J. Wilson's control issues. There's also a variety of fan-proposed trades, including the following:
Mark Teixeira for Erik Bedard and Nick Markakis. Yeah, I guess Daniels could call that one in to Orioles GM Mike Flanagan - if he wants to get hung up on, that is. An ace-caliber lefty, as well as a young, cheap and productive corner outfielder for Tex? Dream on.
Mark Teixeira for Andrew Miller and Magglio Ordonez or Brandon Inge. First of all, what are the chances of Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski trading Ordonez, who's in the midst of an MVP-caliber season? The answer is zero. Secondly, Brandon Inge is not much better, if any, than Hank Blalock at third base offensively, and does not fill a need for the Rangers. But hey, Andrew Miller's pretty good.
Mark Teixeira and Edinson Volquez for Tom Gorzelanny. I'm beginning to wonder if some Ranger fans understand the concept of "trades." You see, for a trade to be completed, both teams have to approve of it.
Sullivan also includes an intriguing throw-away line at the end of his column, saying that the Rangers have considered converting Vicente Padilla to a closer during "internal discussions." Very interesting, and certainly the first that we've heard of this.
And finally, Ron Washington does not seem to be a big fan of doubleheaders:
"I hate 'em," Washington said. "I hate 'em. I hate 'em. I hated them as a player, I hated them as a coach and I hate them as a manager. I hate them. Especially as a player because I'd go 0-for-10."
Hopefully this quote never reaches the ears of Ernie Banks.
Tuesday, July 24th Game 1 Preview
Seattle Mariners (54-42) at Texas Rangers (43-56)
R. Feierabend (1-3, 9.31 ERA) vs. J. Rheinecker (0-0, 12.00 ERA)
4:05 PM CST in Arlington, Texas (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
TV: FSNSW | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM
Tuesday, July 24th Game 2 Preview
Seattle Mariners (54-42) at Texas Rangers (43-56)
J. Washburn (8-7, 4.02 ERA) vs. K. Loe (5-8, 5.69 ERA)
7:35 PM CST* in Arlington, Texas (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
TV: KDFI/My27 | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM
* According to the Dallas Morning News, Game 2 of the doubleheader will begin approximately 30 minutes after Game 1's completion. So if it's one of those two hour long affairs, we could be looking at a much earlier start time than 7:35.