For every game as wild and enduring and crammed with hot-button topics as Saturday afternoon's five-hour affair, you get maybe 10 or 15 games like last night's that, come September, we'll have a hard time recollecting. The game happened, the results count, and there were a few really cool moments, but there was nothing there that could foreseeably leave an indelible impression on the viewer. Matt Harrison functioned as a grounder-inducing machine for eight innings, Mike Napoli struck a killer opposite-field blow, and there was a bizarre almost-inside-the-parker for good measure, but there was little of lasting note beyond that. I wouldn't call it a boring game, per se; it was just a game with no real unique characteristics.
With that said, though, there are two quick thoughts on my mind:
● I was quick to try and build a connection between Mike Napoli's two homers in the last two days and him being "back" (or at least closer to his old form than he had been of late), but, upon further reflection, a few things stood out to me: (a) Napoli cranked both homers to straightaway right field, a somewhat uncharacteristic occurrence for somebody whose ripped the majority of his homers to left/center field last season, and (b) Ron Washington's reasoned post-game comments on the significance of the homer:
"That was a big hit for us. We certainly needed it and he needed it for his own well being. But you don't come out of a slump in two days. You just got to keep swinging. I think he'll let you know in the next week or so if he's out of a slump. He's starting to feel much better up there at the plate and (what) we got out of him tonight, we certainly needed."
I think, that, generally speaking, we're all a bit quick in trying to convince ourselves that Struggling Player X is on his way back after a great game or heroic moment even when, as Washington says, the process of working out of a slump is typically more gradual in nature. I had it suggested to me last night that the three-run Napoli shot was indicative of his timing still not being where it needs to be, and that it was primarily a function of his innate strength. Perhaps. That's one way of looking at it. In any event, Napoli was a hero last night. I'm hoping that he does a bit more of that in the weeks to come, and I kind of imagine that he will get it figured out again -- even if that means only being a 120-125 OPS+ guy, rather than the insane 173 OPS+ hitter he was last season.
Because, you know, that probably ain't happening again.
● The quick return of the Angels to .500 form and current seven-game winning streak brings me back to the #gauche controversy of last month, which, to my recollection, kicked off when various Rangers voices on Twitter (especially Jamey) made it a point of keeping written tabs on the Angels, and Kevin Goldstein remarked that it was "kind of gauche" to monitor the scoreboard in April, and all hell broke loose thereafter. I never directly commented on that skirmish, but will say this: I never saw the issue with "scoreboard-watching" the Angels. I don't see it now, either.
Certainly, there was an element of mockery/sarcasm in many of the Rangers-originating tweets about the Angels during the month of April (many of which were also my own), but there was a more significant force driving the seemingly undue focus on the Angels than a desire to make fun of their plight -- fear. You figured the Rangers still had the edge over the Angels on a true talent basis going into the season, but the margin was not huge ... and even though the Rangers are clearly asserting themselves as the prime rib of the American League, the Angels are still hanging out there on the periphery of the race as a team with the value-producing assets needed to win chunks of games in a hurry.
I'm not exactly scared of the Angels at this point, but I respected what they were capable of doing in April, and I still do respect what they're capable in May -- and that, I think, is what helped fuel the deluge of April attention, when the Angels shot themselves in the foot with some horrendous early-season play and corkscrewed themselves into a tremendous hole, and what is driving our continued focus on the Angels as of right now. Yes, six of their last seven consecutive wins have been earned against the Athletics and Mariners. No, I don't think this is ever really going to become a true divisional race. But I'm going to continue to warily eye the Angels, and I couldn't care less if that makes me gauche, or tactless, or whatever the hell else people are calling it nowadays.