There are those games that jump out at us as memorable in one respect or another because they evoke laughter (see also: Jeff Francoeur), or thrills, or utter heartache, or blinding rage, or some other similarly powerful emotion ... and then there are the games like that which we endured last night that lead to a sort of paradox, in that they're somehow memorable despite the fact that all they make us want to do is curl up into the fetal position and sadly drift off into sleep:
- I'm not sure what else you can really say about Neftali Feliz at this point that Josh and I haven't already said -- in his first inning, the continued overreliance on the fastball cost him dearly when Alex Gordon easily parked one in right field for a game-tying home run, whereas in his second inning he worked in a few breaking balls of varying qualities and yielded no further damage, prompting this rather defensive remark from Ron Washington: "Last year he was using his fastball and he was getting people out and nothing was said. So he’s using his fastball now. [You could say] we got to go to his off-speed stuff, that’s easy to say. If Gordon [doesn't] catch that fastball, he pops it up, everything is cool, but he caught it and that’s the way it goes."
I want to be careful here about judging the situation from the outside, but it strikes me as a little strange that Washington doesn't acknowledge the stark difference in fastball command between this year and last, that Mike Maddux basically had to order Feliz to mix in more breaking stuff between innings, and that Yorvit Torrealba is just now catching onto the idea that a disproportionately heavy stream of fastballs isn't conducive to success -- particularly when the source seems so unsure of where they're headed from one pitch to the next. The narrative out there this morning is that Feliz may have finally turned a corner, but you'll have to excuse me if I'm not yet convinced of Feliz being "fixed."
- There was a moment deep in the night when Nelson Cruz, upon firmly connecting with a Louis Coleman pitch, seemed to have exorcised the 0-for-5 demons haunting him to that point in the game with a fly ball that traveled deep into the night, brought the remaining Ballpark contingent to its feet, prompted Dave Barnett to nearly fall out of his chair at the outset of his call ... and died on the warning track. And it was because of this particularly ill-timed instance of wind resistance on a ball that otherwise would have won the game -- and the 14th-inning strikeout that followed it -- that Cruz joined an especially unfortunate club: the 0-for-7 club, of which there are only 10 other members scattered over 39 years of Rangers baseball history.
[Of the 12 past 0-for-7 efforts posted up by that 10-player group, only one matched or surpassed the futility of Cruz's three-strikeout, no-walk effort last night: Ramon Vazquez, who went 0-for-7 with no walks and four strikeouts in a 13-inning loss to the Athletics on August 6th, 2007, in a game with so many other Rangers goats that Vazquez's inepitude could almost be downplayed.]
There was a glimmer of hope that the Nelson Cruz of 2009-10 was finally on the verge of showing up when he jacked home runs in each of the final three games of his recent injury rehab assignment, but instead we continue to deal with one betrayed by inconsistent swing timing and BABIP-related misfortune and mired in an extended 4-for-42, two-walk slump. There's every reason to believe he'll prove himself fine in the long run, but there are clearly some contact-related problems in play here that, until remedied, will be a significant drag on this lineup's offensive upside.