After having spent some time pondering the nationally televised Sunday evening extravaganza, and thinking about the causes of this second consecutive failed attempt at winning a rubber match, I've decided that I really don't have much to say about it. What can you say, really? It was fun to jokingly hype up Alexi Ogando as some sort of untouchable pitching demigod on the basis of his first two major league starts, but last night was a good example of what happens when you take a fastball-slider pitcher without a third pitch he really feels confident in and pit him against a dangerous lineup loaded with left-handed hitters in a ballpark that's extremely friendly towards such hitters. Sometimes it will still end up working out, but on other occasions -- like last night -- it won't.
There seem to be some scattered murmurings about the offense being clearly deficient without Josh Hamilton, and that may indeed prove to be the case over a larger sample, but it wasn't the case last night -- Texas piled up four runs on eight hits and a pair of free passes over 6.1 innings against CC Sabathia (and then slapped another run on Joba Chamberlain's ledger for good measure), with Hamilton's intrepid replacement, David Murphy, posting up a 1-for-3, one-walk effort. If we're solely focusing on one night, the issue wasn't Hamilton's absence, or even a lack of scoring output really; you must admit, however, that this is not a good time for Ian Kinsler (0-for-his-last-17) or Elvis Andrus (.176/.250/.314) to be shooting blanks at the top of the lineup.
I'll be mildly shocked if the more saber-educated media types don't seize upon the fact that the Rangers' bullpen technically lost three of the Rangers' last five games, and that Neftali Feliz didn't make an appearance in any of those losses, but yet again I didn't see much of a problem in not turning to Feliz with Eric Chavez at the plate in the bottom of the eighth in a tied game. I don't think holding Feliz back in that particular high-leverage instance was the problem; even if he's called upon and escapes the jam, the issue with road games is that you still need one more effective inning even if you manage to take the lead. Expecting your set-up pieces to successfully navigate the bottom of the Yankees' lineup isn't such an outrageous expectation there, I don't think.
The one and only thing you could conceivably ding the Rangers on there was leaving Arthur Rhodes in there for too long, a complaint with some potential statistical teeth behind it: after descending into that two-on, two-out jam with Chavez at the plate (which, of course, ended with Chavez banging the eventual game-winning single), Arthur Rhodes had already logged 25 pitches across two separate frames -- more pitches than he threw than in all but one appearance last season, perhaps suggesting that Cincinnati realized the 40-year-old's physical limitations and knew he was best used as a situational 15-to-20-pitch reliever even on full rest, and that counting upon him for more was a bad idea. If you want to argue that Rhodes should have been pulled sooner, the empirical evidence is there to support it ... but at the same time, I don't think playing the blame game is especially constructive after games like this.
And so the first-place Angels now blow into Arlington, boasting a run differential not nearly as impressive as that of the Rangers (+30 for Texas vs. +12 for Anaheim), but an identical win-loss record all the same. Feliz is, unfortunately, not replicable, and with all of the advantages imparted by home field now back in play, it's going to be especially interesting to see if Feliz actually does find some time in high-leverage, non-save situations going forward, or if there is still enough trust present in the O'Day/Oliver/Rhodes/Strop quadumvirate to let them keep pitching in the kinds of do-or-die situations that we saw in Detroit and New York ... or, for that matter, if the bullpen's ongoing issues truly will seal Ogando's fate once Tommy Hunter finally does make it back.