One down, 4,255 to go ... right?
● Per ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett, the Rangers have placed Nelson Cruz on the 15-day disabled list and recalled outfielder Craig Gentry from Triple-A Oklahoma City. A bit more on this in a few minutes.
● Ron Washington has, over time, positioned himself as a sometimes-pariah in sabermetric circles, owing in no small part to his fascination with the sacrifice bunt -- a strategic gambit which he has already employed nine times this year in just 19 games -- and his seeming conviction in the value of advancing baserunners, even if an out must be relinquished to do it. We saw this bubble to the surface yet again last night, as Elvis Andrus was asked to drop a seventh-inning sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second base and nobody out with the Rangers in a two-run hole. Alas, the ensuing bunt failed to clear the area immediately in front of home plate, and Tigers catcher Gerald Laird easily gunned down the lead runner (Andres Blanco), effectively rendered it a "failed" sacrifice attempt.
Texas ultimately plated two runs in a single-strikeout-single sequence, knotting the game at 6-6, but clearly the sacrifice attempt did not achieve the desired effect ... and it's here where everything begins to come into focus. According to Tom Tango's run expectancy table, your chances of scoring one or two runs significantly increase -- and chances of scoring zero runs greatly decrease -- when going from runners on first and second base with no outs to runners on second and third base with one, so from the standpoint of pushing for exactly two runs in order to tie the game in the late innings, a successful sacrifice bunt actually makes some degree of sense.
However, this ignores several key aspects of the situation: Andrus has been a very solid hitter from a patience/bat control standpoint thus far this season, so (once again) you're taking the bat out of his hands in a situation where Joel Zumaya has just coughed up back-to-back singles, and his chances of dropping a successful sacrifice bunt are diminished by the lack of the "surprise" element -- Detroit knew Andrus was bunting all the way and adjusted accordingly. Once you consider that only about 70-75 percent of sacrifice bunt attempts actually result in "success" (e.g. out recorded, baserunner(s) advance), you find that it's not necessarily the correct call after all. It's a bit more open to debate than some of Washington's earlier sacrifice attempts, but still not something that I would have attempted.
● Somewhat lost in the excitement of Justin Smoak's promotion last Thursday night was Neftali Feliz's abortive attempt to pitch in back-to-back games for the first time in his major league career, a plan scrapped by his inability to get loose in the bullpen. So, last night he cleared that hurdle and accomplished the back-to-back feat, and ... well, bad things happened, primarily because he couldn't accurately locate his 94-95 mph fastball and record quality strikes, and consequently got rocked. Naturally, this has prompted some degree of criticism being aimed towards Ron Washington for electing to pitch Feliz in a four-run game the previous night.
If the goal is to properly leverage the bullpen and ensure that your best relievers are invariably saved for high-leverage situations (something which I feel that Ron Washington actually did a reasonable job at last season), then no, deploying Feliz in a four-run game wasn't the smartest call. However, I find myself wondering if those ripping Washington aren't committing a post-hoc fallacy to some extent -- yes, perhaps pitching the day before yet again adversely affected his ability to get loose/command/velocity/etc., but the fact of the matter is that all young pitchers are going to struggle, and while Washington didn't necessarily maximize Feliz's chances for success, it's certainly not a given that Feliz goes unscored upon even if he had pitched on multiple days' rest.