I've been thinking about how much fun this last week of Rangers baseball has been (and, for that matter, baseball as a whole over this past weekend, thanks in large part to Philip Humber's controversial perfection and the ongoing case of Red Sox schadenfreude), and about last Friday's episode of #realtalk, and after much introspection and a round or two of weekend imbibing, I've decided that I've been putting entirely too much pressure on myself. You won't catch me referencing my love-hate relationship with Rangers baseball again for a while, and, starting today, I'm going to see what happens if I let my observations flow more easily and stop tripping over myself:
● So, with all of that out of the way, let's go ahead and dispense with the mathematical specifics of the Rangers' situation right now: after 16 games, the Rangers still boast the best record (13-3), highest runs-scored total (94), and lowest runs-allowed total (42) in baseball. They have won 27 of their 32 regular-season games, and haven't dropped back-to-back regular-season games since August 24-25th, 2011. They haven't allowed more than five runs to a regular-season opponent since September 17th, 2011. They outscored their opposition during this past 8-1 road trip by a 63-24 margin, and return home with their best 16-game start in franchise history tucked away just in time for Pudge's retirement and the Yankees' arrival in town.
I'm certainly not inclined to start writing divisional foes off in the last week of April, but the reality of the matter is that the two AL West clubs tagged with the greatest deficiencies in talent -- the Mariners and Athletics -- have already built up a combined 12-game deficit, and the last-place Angels enter the beginning of the work week down seven games. I don't think that necessarily puts Los Angeles in "trouble," per se, or even represents cause for much celebration; the Angels are still relatively close to Texas from a true-talent standpoint, and they're only 3-4 good days away from pulling themselves right back within striking distance. If there's anything I'm watching for specifically, it's (a) hints of clubhouse fracture/dissent, and/or (b) a panicky, irrational roster move, because either of those could prove more beneficial to Texas over the long haul than a hastily constructed seven-game roadblock.
● Colby Lewis was the recipient of quite a bit of love after pitching seven frames of two-run, seven-hit, no-walk baseball yesterday, and I love that he's been such a gem this year from both a run prevention standpoint (26.2 IP, 2.03 ERA) and a peripheral standpoint (24 K, 1 BB) this year; in retrospect, though, I can get why the Washington/Maddux brain trust elected to lift him yesterday even with potential extra innings looming and even with Lewis having only thrown 98 pitches. Per ESPN.com's Inside Edge scouting service, Lewis yielded eight line drives and 10 "well-hit" balls yesterday; Lewis hadn't allowed eight line drives in a single start since making his stateside return, and hadn't allowed that many well-hit balls in a single start since August 2010.
I can understand why the smarter play there might have been to ride Lewis for another inning, pencil Ogando/Adams/Nathan in for 3-4 innings, and then hope for the offense to push a run or two across in the interim ... but I can also see how the coaching staff would have decided that Lewis had pushed his luck enough for one day especially after his sixth inning, when Detroit tallied a hard-hit single and homer, and nearly went yard two other times. I can also see why Ogando/Adams didn't go more than two innings, given that Ogando's still on a 90-inning pace and faced potential unavailability for Monday's series opener with another inning, and given that Adams is the epitome of a one-inning guy.
● Remember the heroic game-winning Alberto Gonzalez suicide squeeze? Yeah, Gonzalez freely admits that it hit his leg (which Tom Grieve denied at first during the telecast, though that denial was quickly recanted), and the umpires admitted in a roundabout way that they blew the call, and the hardcore sabermetric set is wondering why there was a suicide squeeze invoked in the first place. The only real comment I have to offer here is that if you're a staunch advocate of expanded instant replay, you shouldn't look the other way solely because this particular blown call happened to benefit Texas. I realize that comes close to violating one of the basic tenets of fandom, but if you're serious about the calls being made correctly, then you should remain serious about it regardless of who benefits from which corrected call.
Although, with that said, I also sort of disagree with the insinuation that the blown call was responsible for the Rangers winning, as the bases would have still been loaded with nobody out and Gonzalez still standing in at the plate, and the probability would have still favored Texas pushing at least one run across. It would probably be easier to support that latter viewpoint if Mitch Moreland hadn't pitfully grounded out into a 5-2-3 force-out double play immediately after the Gonzalez incident, which dropped Moreland to .156/.250/.250 on the season. And yet, he still has more home runs than Albert Pujols. Have you ever thought about it?