This is going to be one of those strange posts that I go ahead and throw up now and add onto rather than sitting on it until it's completed, so keep refreshing if you're into what I have to say about baseball this afternoon, I guess ... I think ...
● We're only a few hours separated from tonight's (primetime!) first pitch at Comerica Park, so I suppose the most relevant bullet point now concerns Ron Washington's Game 3 lineup, which features (a) Endy Chavez in left field in place of David Murphy, (b) Michael Young at first base in place of Mitch Moreland, and (c) Yorvit Torrealba at catcher in place of Mike Napoli, who will fill the designated hitter spot tonight. Torrealba logged three hitless at-bats against Matt Moore (at designated hitter) back in Game 1 of the ALDS, but has otherwise ridden the pine, and Chavez hasn't played at all since the penultimate game of the regular season back on September 27th at Anaheim.
Ron Washington explained last night that today's lineup changes would be about working Young and Torrealba into the field, but I also have to imagine that Moreland's struggles are helping drive this decision -- he didn't hit during the second half of the regular season, he didn't hit during the ALDS, and now he's not hitting in the ALCS, with his horrendous 0-for-4, three-strikeout showing yesterday begetting the 15th-worst single-game WPA from a batter with at least three plate appearances in post-season history. Total number of three-plate appearance games, dating back to 1903? 22,320. By win probability's reckoning, Moreland's performance yesterday was one of the least valuable offensive efforts by a hitter in post-season history. And so, away he goes ... for now.
● I've been asked by several different people to throw the spotlight on Scott Feldman after his yeoman's work in relief of Derek Holland yesterday, and, to that end, there are a couple of different couple of tweets out there that have resonated in my mind since last night -- one scouting-based, and the other more sensational but with an interesting idea buried at its core. The first, via the great Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout, was this: "Scott Feldman's stuff in his two post-season appearances may be the best of his career. 90-94 mph on the cutter and sinker, and both are sharp." The second, via Mike Hindman, was this: "Feldman earned that entire contract tonight." I haven't forgotten either one.
Now, of course, the reason why I call Mike's remark "sensational" is because I find it impossibly hard to conceive of any single-game performance being worth $10-plus million ... but then, that performance did have to have a hard, quantifiable (and possibly substantial) monetary value, didn't it? Because without Feldman's masterful long-relief work (and the efforts of those that succeeded him), there's a pretty decent chance that Game 2 swings to the Tigers. And if you're curious as to just how masterful that body of work was, chew on this: Feldman is just the 10th pitcher in post-season history to toss four or more innings in relief in a single game while allowing one or fewer hits and no walks or runs. The last pitcher to do so? The Mets' Roger McDowell, way back in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS against Houston.
All told, the Rangers' bullpen logged 8.1 scoreless frames in Game 2 -- a mark good for the second-most scoreless relief innings pitched by a team in a single post-season game, coming up just one out shy of the 8.2 scoreless relief innings posted by the Cardinals' bullpen in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series. For the post-season as a whole, Rangers' relievers now boast a 2.28 ERA over 27.2 total innings with an opponents' batting line of .192/.266/.283 -- and, even more incredibly, have not been scored upon in this series, with a cumulative ALCS pitching line that comes out looking like this: 12.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 16 K. I wouldn't count on continued perfection, but this is really something special.
● Still bummed Holland giving Texas a whopping 2.2 innings yesterday? Me too. That was a trainwreck, and the frightening thing is that even though I was on the road for the first inning and a half, the audible disdain in Eric Nadel's voice told me pretty much everything I needed to know about the actual quality of his work from one pitch to the next. Max Scherzer adjusted in the face of his early-game struggles. Holland didn't, falling hopelessly far behind in the count even after what should have been a cage-rattling mound visit from Ron Washington. By the end of his 76-pitch effort (that's a disastrously inefficient 9.5 pitches per out, for those keeping score at home), Holland attained the unfortunate distinction of being just the 17th starting pitcher in major league history to allow four or more walks and post no strikeouts during a post-season start.
But you know what? I'm sticking with Holland. I'm not bailing on the pitcher I professed so much confidence in last month ... the pitcher that delivered better than a sub-3.00 ERA and 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the final three months of the regular season ... the pitcher that has, to some extent, matured emotionally, and that is still arguably the second-best starting pitcher on this team. The enormity of Holland's failure yesterday did put my guard up, but jumping ship at the first indication of trouble is no way to manage a baseball team ... or, for that matter, to cheer for a baseball team. Throw Holland out there in Game 6, and have Feldman prepped to rush to the rescue if it looks like another short hook is going to be required. But please, please, don't lose faith.