For the better part of the last four years, I've been able to plant myself in front of some form of television or laptop screen and watch no fewer than nine out of every ten Rangers games in real time as they were happening. For the last couple of weeks, though, that ratio has been south of 50 percent as a function of priorities related to grad school, and it's been killing me. It's been bumming me that I haven't been able to watch and/or write about this team in the same way that I was able to do for so many years, and it especially bums me that I wasn't able to enjoy last night's historic clubbing of the Red Sox as it happened ... but I did eventually watch the game, I did eventually come up with what made it historic, and, well, here you go:
● At the outset of his stellar four-plus WAR campaign of two years ago, Colby Lewis threw up a 38-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first five starts (spanning "only" 32.2 innings), delivered a minute 2.76 ERA, and limited opposing batters to a very Jeff Mathis-esque .195/.286/.297 showing. Add his seven innings of two-run ball from last night to his other two starts made during this young season, and Lewis's 2012 strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at a logic-defying 22-to-1 mark, with his triple-slash line (.260/.278/.416) being a tad less impressive, but his ERA (1.83) verging upon microscopic in spite of a .340 BABIP on the young season. And last year, Colby sucked at the beginning of the season, so make of all of that what you will.
I don't know why he flipped the switch last night after a first inning that seemed to have nightmare potential written all over it (read: Boston never had a chance after the first inning), or why his control/command are supercharged right now, or when his degenerative hip condition is going to flare up again (if it does at all), or if there's any aspect of his current performance that is remotely sustainable ... and, frankly, maybe we're not supposed to know. Maybe I don't want to know. Maybe it just doesn't matter, and maybe we're not supposed to tempt the fates by wondering about when this is going to end. That probably sounds a little strange coming from me, but there you go.
● With last night's throttling safely in the books, the Red Sox have now officially played 7,363 regular-season games at Fenway Park since the beginning of the 1918 season ... and have allowed 18 or more runs on 29 or more baserunners for just the eighth time during that period. Before last night, the last such occurrence was a 20-11 loss to the Yankees on August 21st, 2009. And before that? You'd have to dial the calendar all the way back a game against the visiting California Angels on June 20th, 1980. The Rangers, for their part, have now scored 18 or more runs on 29 or more baserunners on the road for only the fourth time in franchise history, with one occurrence in 1986, one in 1999, and the last being the 30-3 destruction of the Orioles back in August 2007.
● You probably didn't realize this at the time that it was occurring (I certainly didn't, in large part because of those aforementioned reasons but also because, well, who in the hell would realize this in real time?), but the savage beating endured by Red Sox setup man Mark Melancon wasn't merely of savage proportions. It was, in fact, of historic proportions. In the span of only 26 pitches, the punch-drunk right-hander allowed a double-walk-homer-homer-walk-homer sequence that sent the Red Sox' win expectancy spiralling from "yeah, there's still an outside shot, but better luck next time" territory down towards something more closely approximating "you got knocked the --- out!" See how I neatly intertwined the movie Friday and the Rangers there? Stay tuned for my very special "Michael Young is the Rangers' Voldemort" dissertation in the year 2014.
So, Melancon allowed six earned runs without retiring a single Rangers batter. Again dating back to 1918, there have been 859,233 individual regular-season pitcher appearances; before Tuesday night, there had been only 97 recorded instances where a pitcher yielded six or more earned runs without retiring a single batter, with Melancon's night of horror becoming the 98th such instance. "Yeah," you're thinking, "but 38 of those instances have been recorded since 1990, so this really isn't so unusual that it merits this long and meandering lead-up." And, yeah, that's a decent point -- but Melancon is now the only pitcher in that entire set to have allowed three homers during the course of his outing.
Yeah, that's right. Melancon is the first pitcher in major league history to allow six or more earned runs on three or more home runs while failing to record a single out, representing a certain kind of awful that transcends merely calamitous and approaches apocalyptic. Melancon's clubbing was so horrific in nature that it vaulted him into legitimate contention for the title of "single worst appearance by a pitcher in baseball history," and while you wouldn't be too far off base in apportioning a large share of the blame to the Boston coaching staff, let's not lose sight of the team responsible for meting out such brutal punishment.
● Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz together went 6-for-11 with three home runs and a walk last night, thereby raising their aggregate OPS by a grand total of 334 points. Napoli has homered three times in the Rangers' last 14 innings, which works out to something like a 98-homer pace extrapolated over 162 regular-season games. If you can get them both clubbing the ball simultaneously over this much-hyped difficult stretch ahead on the schedule, you're looking at ... well, among other things, you're looking at a terrifying problem for opposing game strategists when it comes to tackling the back end of the Rangers' lineup, which is now hitting .290/.337/.522 as a whole with the second-best wOBA (.366) in baseball.
● The Rangers are tied for the best record (9-2) in baseball. The Rangers have scored more runs (63) than any team in baseball. The Rangers have allowed fewer runs (27) than any team in baseball. The Rangers have thrown the last-place Angels and their pre-season division-winning hype in a five-game hole less than two weeks into the season, and the same writer who trumpeted the Angels' potential best-in-AL status around the time of Opening Day tweeted this last night:
Talked to two AL evaluators today who strongly believe Rangers are the best team in the majors, with a bit of a gap between TEX and others.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 18, 2012
Something tells me this team is out to finish what it started once and for all.