Yeah, it was a late one last night, a game that ran well past midnight central, and we've got a series finale running up on us very quickly, so let's dive right into the bullet points on the game that finally vaulted the Rangers to the 15-games-above-.500 high-water mark:
● Scott Feldman's moment in the rotation limelight seems right on the verge of coming to an end, as he'll get one, maybe two more starts at most depending on Derek Holland's recuperation schedule, and maybe none at all if Justin Grimm ends up relieving him of his temporary rotation spot ... but if this is the end of the line for now, he sent one hell of a going-away message by tossing six frames of two-run baseball, punching out five Padres against zero walks, and scattering just seven singles over the duration of an outing that actually included a few standout moments:
○ It wasn't a direct component of his outing, but Feldman showed hunger at the plate, clubbing a few foul balls with authority, lining out to deep left field at one point, and then rapping a sharp single into right field to plate a run in the sixth inning. You probably don't ever want to see Feldman at the dish in a legitimately important situation in, say, a World Series game, but I can definitely think of far worse options to run up to the plate in a true worst-case scenario than Feldman.
○ After corkscrewing himself into a first-and-third, no-out jam later in that same sixth inning, Feldman induced a huge swinging strikeout of prime trade bait Carlos Quentin, and then coaxed a ground ball from Yonder Alonso that would have ended up the inning via double play if not for Elvis Andrus's slightly errant throw on the turn; Alonso reached safely, and the lead runner was plated from third base. Feldman then proceeded to yield yet another single, which began to conjure all sorts of visions of another mid-innings meltdown precipitated by a defensive letdown ... but in one of the standout moments of the night, he went toe to toe with Nick Hundley, averted another cataclysmic meltdown, and ultimately struck him out swinging on a 3-2 count to extinguish the threat.
It's a bit of a non sequitur, but I found the unusually prominent symmetry of Feldman's pitch heat maps for both his entire night (on the left) and that particular Hundley plate appearance (on the right) to be rather interesting, albeit in a way that may not be interesting to much of anyone other than myself:
○ Over the course of his last three starts, Feldman has allowed 11 runs on 19 hits in 16.1 innings -- and has done so while amassing 18 strikeouts against just one walk and one homer. His run in the starting rotation may be done for now, but he came on very strong from a DIPS standpoint of late, and that's something that you should be happy to see regardless of whether you want him pitching in Texas for the stretch run or not.
● Despite an early scare that found Texas in a 1-0 hole after two innings, this felt like a game that the Rangers had well under control from the third inning onward, and that's largely attributable to the offense finally sort of snapping out of its bizarre little funk -- every starter (sans Mitch Moreland, who gets a bit more attention in a second) reached base at least once, and the No. 1-5 hitters collectively went 10-for-22 with four extra-base hits and a pair of walks, with Edinson Volquez being knocked out after failing to record an out in the sixth inning. I'm not sure why Bud Black elected to stick with Volquez and his fast-climbing pitch count when he could have pinch-hit for him with a runner on base during the previous half-inning, but, hey, you'll happily take it.
● Moreland entered Tuesday night's tilt with a pretty respectable batting line in tow (172 PA, .274/.327/.516, .357 wOBA, 121 wRC+), but he's out indefinitely after straining his left hamstring on an ill-fated attempt to beat out a bases-loaded double play in the second inning, and the Rangers now have to cope with the probable loss of Moreland for 3-4 weeks on the optimistic end (he'll undergo an MRI tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury and the corresponding treatment plan). With Moreland headed to the infirmary, you can anticipate Michael Young being your everyday first baseman, with Mike Napoli and Brandon Snyder shouldering some portion of that load.
There is already some talk of the Rangers potentially bringing up Mike Olt as an intermediate-term stopgap, and it's at least conceivable that they could end up going down that path, but you have to think that it's a pretty unlikely path -- they've got major league-tested options to cover for Moreland during his absence, so promoting Olt would be less a matter of necessity and more about the Rangers being certain that he would (a) get regular playing time and (b) would produce decent results from the outset.
Yeah, Olt is an elite third base prospect, but he loses some of his impact in the transition across the infield (both offensively and defensively speaking), and in addition to there still being a lot of miss in his swing, you're also talking about somebody with fewer than 300 plate appearances above the A-ball level, who has comparatively little experience facing upper-level pitching, and who could possibly have a very rough go of it if forced into a situation that he may not be ready to handle. There's going to be a time and a place for Olt to factor into the big league picture, be it through him being promoted or him being traded in a package deal, but I'm disinclined to believe that the time is now.