Some miscellaneous observations from the Texas Rangers' third home loss in as many days on Sunday evening, which was played in front of a thoroughly disappointing school-night crowd of just 14,956:
? Don't let the abbreviated stat line (5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) fool you with regard to Vicente Padilla's outing - he was absolutely filthy, flinging low-90s heaters with sick late movement and complementing the cheese with quality secondary offerings and solid command; in the end, 68 of his 97 pitches went for strikes. Padilla hadn't struck out eight or more batters in five innings or less since August 15th, 2007 against Kansas City.
The top of the fifth inning became exceedingly dicey when the Nicaraguan bulldog loaded the bases with just one out and then proceeded to drill former Rangers hero David Dellucci with a 93 mph fastball (plating a run in the process), but credit Padilla for not losing his composure like we have seen him do so many times before and managing to escape the inning with no further damage to the scoreboard.
As for the pair of fourth-inning runs charged against Padilla, Josh Hamilton's uncharacteristic misplay of a hard-hit, but not particularly difficult to field single resulted in a quite generous triple being credited to Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo; he scored moments later on an RBI sacrifice fly that put the Tribe ahead 2-1.
Hamilton evidently charged the fast-sinking line drive believing he could dive for it, but pulled up when he realized he couldn't possibly reach the ball in time and watched helplessly as Choo's base hit rolled to the center field wall. There's a fair chance that neither of those runs score if Josh doesn't misread the play, and while it's obviously not fair to come down too harshly on Josh, it's a potential two-run mistake that might well have cost Texas the game.
Padilla deserved a far better fate than the one he ultimately received.
? Fifteen runs scored. Nineteen runs allowed. And, again, three losses in three games.
The Rangers' once-reliable luck in one-run games appears to have run dry.
? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Warner Madrigal's not very far away from being very good.
? Mike Hindman was right: Chris Davis has an absolutely ridiculous arm. Would loved to have seen a radar gun reading on his seventh-inning laser that easily beat Andy Marte to the first base bag; he seems very deliberate when he plants, loads and fires, but I swear the ball acts as though it's been shot out of a cannon once it's airborne.
All other things being equal, his arm alone could save at least a couple runs over the course of a full season - if not more than that. The jury's still out on his defensive range (see here), but what we've seen thus far is promising, and Davis is athletic enough and determined enough that it wouldn't really surprise me if he evolved into at least an average defensive player at the hot corner.
When you're the worst defensive team in the American League, you'll eagerly accept any modest improvements you can get.
? Don't look now, but the third-place Oakland Athletics (59-71) are just 3� games behind the second-place Rangers. Losing 14 of 17 games tends to have a pretty negative effect in the standings, after all.
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My concise, one-word evaluation of Brandon McCarthy's Saturday evening effort: inconclusive. The velocity was admittedly somewhat underwhelming (as was the command, though that more or less straightened out after the first inning), but bear in mind he still has arm strength to rebuild and a comfort level to regain, and the results he got with a change-up and curveball that ranged from above-average to occasionally downright devastating were really encouraging.
Would have really liked to see what he could have done if not for the game-delaying thunderstorm that passed through Arlington shortly before gametime, which ultimately limited his outing to just four innings and 75 pitches. Part of the same storm system blew a patio umbrella into oncoming traffic just outside of my workplace at around 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, which is only notable because Tyler drivers are already among the worst in the state and don't really need any additional obstacles.
Padilla, Kevin Millwood and Frank Catalanotto have all cleared waivers. Don't foresee a deal happening on any of these fronts before the August 31st waiver trade deadline, but desperation can breed surprises.
Olympic hero Taylor Teagarden is expected to reinforce the playoff-bound Oklahoma RedHawks when he returns to their lineup tomorrow or Wednesday. The 24-year-old backstop hit just .188/.313/.381 in Beijing, but cut down three of four would-be basestealers and snapped a 4-4 deadlock in Team USA's bronze medal game against Japan with a two-run double.
Nelson Cruz, fresh off a lengthy quadriceps-induced stint on the seven-day disabled list, won't be joining Teagarden.
Backup outfielder Jason Ellison was informed after Sunday's defeat that he was being designated for assignment to clear room for Cruz on the active and 40-man rosters; Nelson will meet the Rangers in Kansas City and "is expected to get substantial playing time" according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, although general manager Jon Daniels was intentionally vague when addressing the issue:
"I wouldn't necessarily say he's going to play every day, but [manager Ron Washington's] plan is to give him playing time," Daniels said.
With David Murphy (knee sprain) purportedly only a week away from returning, I have to question if Cruz will indeed receive one last legitimate shot at asserting himself as a lineup staple, or if the already crowded outfield mix of Marlon Byrd, Brandon Boggs, Catalanotto, Hamilton and Murphy will preclude a prolonged look.
Assuming he does get a fair shake, it will be fun to see what happens if Cruz begins to absolutely mash the ball in the majors like he did so often in Oklahoma City this season, when the 28-year-old slugger belted 37 HR in 383 AB, swiped 24 bases in 32 attempts, and produced an Albert Pujols-esque batting line of .342/.429/.695.
Eric Hurley (right shoulder inflammation) has been shut down for the remainder of the season.
RedHawks reliever Kazuo Fukumori has yet to win a professional game stateside in 39 appearances (four starts), which has to be close to setting some sort of futility-related record. The 32-year-old right-hander yielded four earned runs on seven hits in just a third of an inning last Friday, spiking his Pacific Coast League ERA to 5.28.
Good news, bad news time: Texas wields a $200,000 buyout on Fukumori's $1.4 million club option for 2009. Unfortunately, that option automatically becomes guaranteed if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list between the majors and minors this season; Fukumori recently landed on the seven-day disabled list with shoulder soreness, but was activated after just 10 days or so, and to my knowledge has spent no other time on the disabled list this season.
Sunk cost, anybody?
If the dynamic young trio of Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Blake Beavan (17 IP, 13 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 12 K in their last three starts combined) isn't the best three-man collection of minor league pitching talent currently in the Texas Rangers organization, it's pretty damn close. Beavan's name is more or less interchangeable with that of Kasey Kiker and Michael Main, but Beavan's long-term worth to this franchise has really grown in my eyes over these last five months.
And speaking of Kiker, look for...well, never mind.
You'll see soon enough.