The upside to this depressingly rain-beset series that the Texas Rangers just slogged through is that a reinvented Scott Feldman and a seemingly renascent Brandon McCarthy will now start Games 143 and 144 against a largely punchless Athletics lineup, with perpetual X-factor Dustin Nippert possibly furthering his rotation candidacy shortly thereafter in Game 145 and hopefully keeping the October dream alive that much longer.
Herein also lurks that growing downside, unfortunately, as the Rangers' current rotation alignment would place two Angels-opposed starts of enormous consequence into the presently unsteady hands of Kevin Millwood and Derek Holland -- a proposition which clearly isn't all that appealing right now, given the undiagnosable command problems that are sprouting up at the worst possible moment for a ballclub that suddenly needs a lot of things to go very right in a very short period of time.
[All that negativity being disposed of, much love to Tommy Hunter. Much love. You can justifiably argue that he's not as good as he's pitching right now, but the Rangers are effectively out of the post-season picture by this date if not for his invaluable contributions, and if he ultimately becomes nothing more than a No. 4-caliber workhorse in due time ... well, those, like most all halfway usable starting pitchers, are extremely valuable. Some teams even like to pay $42 million for such valuable entities.]
To wit, a dearth of stuff isn't really the prevailing issue with either embattled hurler right now, nor is injury (apparently), and not being able to ascribe their recent struggles to something material and concrete -- such as noticeably diminished velocity over a multi-start sample, or a candid admission of fatigue or pain -- is inherently frustrating.
When things go terribly wrong, we like to know about what the root cause is and thusly shift into problem-solving mode, trying to identify some correctable flaw that can be swiftly addressed and get the ball rolling back in the right direction. It's human nature for us to want to fix what we perceive to be broken, and when we know that there's something broken but don't quite know how to fix it, the irritation quickly mounts. This, in my mind, is where both Millwood and Holland seem to be right now.
While the decision to engage in a Sunday mechanics-sharpening bullpen session rather than fiddle with his standard post-start pastime (long toss) indicates a willingness on Millwood's part to remedy whatever has rendered him a team-killer in his recent starts, the Rangers nevertheless seem to be contemplating the idea of giving Millwood a one-start breather -- an idea which sadly makes a whole lot of sense and which Texas would likely be prudent in putting into action. With fatigue being the probable culprit for his disastrous second-half skid, how much good is another intensive round of off-season conditioning at the behest of the team president really going to do performance-wise in 2010?
The mediocrity of Holland's Sunday evening start seems to be getting downplayed a little bit by the local press, primarily because it was better than his two most recent putrid efforts, but the reality of the matter is that a patently below-average Mariners lineup made alarmingly sharp and consistent contact against an assortment of poorly located pitches. There's something to be said for sticking with your high-upside rookies through thick and thin (e.g. Elvis Andrus, although he's made it pretty easy to stick with him), but right now Holland cannot be relied upon to capably perform, and it would probably serve the Rangers well to think long and hard about reverting back to Dustin Nippert with Holland's rotation spot.
Kneejerking? Perhaps so, but the immediate, season-end focus is no longer on development. It's on maximizing the chances of winning and keeping the dream alive ... by whatever means necessary.
Post-Season Odds Update: Boston, 84-58 -- 91.7 percent (+5.4 percent); Los Angeles, 86-56 -- 92.6 percent (+2.0 percent); Texas, 80-62 -- 15.8 percent (-7.2 percent)
Quick Hits: Congratulations to Ichiro! for notching his ninth consecutive 200-hit season; wait, has he really been in the league nine years already? ... Elvis Andrus's current 15-game hitting streak matches the longest by any Rangers rookie in club history, tying George Wright (1982) and Jerry Browne (1987) ... According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, teammates of Mariners player representative Brandon Morrow clearly communicated that they were not interested in remaining in Arlington for a potential split doubleheader on Monday, and it seems possible, if not probable, that the league would have put the kibosh on the idea.