When I say "whose world is this?", you say, "the world is yours, the world is yours, the world is yours ..."
● I'm supposed to have some sort of snappy lead-in on Matt Harrison's effort, but it's just not coming to me, so I'll say this: when he's on and locked in and commanding the zone with authority, there isn't another Rangers pitcher who makes the art of pitching look any easier than Harrison. The Rangers needed somebody to step up in the wake of an abysmal showing in Oakland, and we got Harrison at what was pretty close to his very best, because he was in control of the Giants from the first out all the way to the 27th out -- and in the process, he maximized the Rangers' chances of grabbing another game or two this weekend, as he bought an invaluable full day of rest for a bullpen that will probably end up pitching at least 8-10 innings this weekend in relief of Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando.
A few sub-bullet points on his effort, in no particular order:
○ Harrison's 111-pitch shutout goes down as the third of his major league career, and, as you might have already guessed, is easily among the three greatest starts of his career; the only two legitimate contenders are from August 16th, 2008, when he blanked the Rays for eight innings (not a shutout) and amassed eight strikeouts while allowing just three hits and no walks, and May 8th, 2009, when he shut out the White Sox on five hits with only one walk against five strikeouts. His actual first shutout came on September 12th, 2008 against the Athletics, but he was dinged for five hits (two of the extra-base variety) and four walks that night, and, consequently, I'm inclined to knock that start out of the uppermost echelon of Harrison starts to make room for his latest triumph.
○ Harrison allowed exactly one baserunner to make it to second base on the night, and that runner (Barry Zito) ended up being tagged out a split-second later by a quick-reacting Ian Kinsler when he overslid the bag at second base. Harrison also retired the last seven Giants he faced on the night in order -- the first five on ground outs, and the last two on strikeouts, permitting him to finish with just five singles allowed and no walks allowed against four strikeouts, and with an absurd, career-best ground-to-fly ball ratio of 22-to-3 (per ESPN Stats & Info).
He doesn't have the best ERA among Rangers starting pitchers, but he does now boast the best fielding-independent ERA among the bunch, and has now put together a nice little four-start run during which he has allowed just six runs in 30.2 innings and thrown up a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18-to-5. I've gotten the sense a few times in the recent past that the assumed post-season starting rotation -- I know, I know, provided that Texas gets there -- would comprise Yu Darvish, Roy Oswalt, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland, with Harrison being left on the outside looking in, but the season is still young, and Harrison is making quite a bit of noise from his mid-rotation pulpit right now.
● Every Ranger, sans Matt Harrison (who ended up batting five times on the night), collected a hit last night, with Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton both shaking off their recent power outages to go yard, and a No. 8-hitting Craig Gentry (5-for-5 with four singles and a double) recorded only the 31st instance in franchise history of a Rangers player collecting at least five hits in a game and not making an out at the plate. Here are the 10 most recent instances:
|1||Josh Hamilton||2012-05-08||TEX||BAL||W 10-3||5||5||4||5||1||0||4||8||0||0.373||3|
|2||David Murphy||2010-09-20||TEX||LAA||L 4-7||5||5||1||5||1||0||0||0||0||0.155||3|
|3||Esteban German||2009-09-09||TEX||CLE||W 10-0||5||5||1||5||1||0||0||1||0||0.019||9|
|4||Ian Kinsler||2009-04-15||TEX||BAL||W 19-6||6||6||5||6||2||1||1||4||0||0.249||1|
|5||Josh Hamilton||2008-05-16||TEX||HOU||W 16-8||6||5||4||5||0||1||2||5||1||0.388||3|
|6||Michael Young||2007-07-17||TEX||OAK||W 11-4||6||5||1||5||2||0||0||3||1||0.207||2|
|7||Michael Young||2006-06-18||TEX||ARI||W 10-7||5||5||3||5||1||0||1||3||0||0.421||2|
|8||Michael Young||2006-04-21||TEX||TBD||W 13-7||5||5||1||5||3||0||0||5||0||0.382||2|
|9||Eric Young||2004-07-11||TEX||BOS||W 6-5||5||5||1||5||1||0||0||0||0||0.119||6|
|10||Alfonso Soriano||2004-05-08||TEX||DET||W 16-15||6||6||1||6||2||0||0||4||0||0.465||3|
Gentry, at this point, is hitting .341/.402/.443 with premium outfield defense/speed, and that's certain to get some people clamoring for a role expansion -- but I'm with Jason Cole here in that giving him a full-time role would likely expose the bat, and that the best option is to continue utilizing him as a platoon option who, in those games that he doesn't start, gives you a nice late-game defensive boost in the outfield and/or functions as a enormous pinch-running weapon in close-and-late spots. He's still going to produce some very nice and very inexpensive value in his present role, anyway.
● I threw this question out on Twitter last night after I had seen it happen a few times, and I was apparently not alone in that observation, because I was inundated with responses to the effect of "yes, I'm seeing it too, and it's bugging the hell out of me," along with a few strange "yeah, but other first basemen do it, so whatever" quips:
Is anyone else vaguely bothered by how quickly MY takes his foot off the bag at 1B when he catches an incoming throw?— Joey Matches (@BBTiA) June 9, 2012
What I was getting at, of course, was that it seemed as though Young was making it exceptionally easy for the first base umpire to call an incoming runner safe, because he was nearly instantaneously pulling his foot away from the bag after fielding the incoming throw; there may have even been an instance or two where he actually had already pulled his foot slightly off the bag before making the catch, and while I'm sure there's at least a little bit of a benefit-of-the-doubt thing going on there with the umpire, that's still the sort of thing that should make you a tad nervous. To his credit, though, Young seemed to curtail that bad habit near the very end of the game, so perhaps something was said to him about it.
And as I was also reminded of on Twitter: if Young's twitchy footwork at first base was the only legitimate gripe we could muster on the night, then we were all having a pretty damn good baseball night.