For the Angels schadenfreude brigade, well, here you go:
● If you had asked me a couple months ago about what I thought the worst-case scenario vis-a-vis the Roy Oswalt signing would be, I would have told you that it would involve Oswalt suffering another major setback with his chronically iffy back, and the Rangers, as a result, recouping little to nothing in exchange for their $5 million investment. That, in hindsight, was a grave bit of misjudgment on my part, because I never seriously considered that we'd be deep into the month of August and Oswalt would have lost his rotation spot because of his continued difficulty in maintaining a sub-6.00 ERA. Let that serve as another cautionary tale about the fallibility of expectations -- just because you take a step back and look at a guy and mentally peg him as a No. 3-4 caliber starter doesn't mean that you're going to get run prevention on par with a No. 3-4 starter.
Anyway, the Rangers rolled Oswalt out there on the bump in a spot-starting capacity yesterday afternoon, extracted some good innings in light of the circumstances (4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, 0 HR), and then, after a single/sac bunt/bunt pop out sequence to begin the bottom of the fifth inning, Ron Washington made the call to yank Oswalt after just 62 pitches in favor of a lefty-lefty Robbie Ross vs. Colby Rasmus matchup. That decision deprived Oswalt of his chance to procure an oh-so-coveted win (which pitchers actually do still care about), and produced this half-amusing, half-cringeworthy camera shot of the Rangers dugout on the other side of the pitching change, where Elvis Andrus offered Oswalt a supportive pat on the shoulder and received an icy, speechless stare for his troubles:
Yeah, that probably won't win Oswalt any brownie points with the fan base, and won't assuage the perception that he's a me-first jerkwad who's disinterested in being a team player, but that all runs secondary to the fact that he gave the Rangers some good innings on short notice, and played a material role in bringing a win home yesterday. For what it's worth, Oswalt remarked that he was feeling a "little gassed" near the end of his outing after having not started for several weeks, but he also said he was still feeling pretty good at that point, and I think it would be a little disingenuous to condemn a well-known competitor like Oswalt for being pissed that he couldn't get that last out.
● Ross did, of course, retire Rasmus to extinguish that fifth-inning rally, then worked around three singles in the sixth inning without allowing a run, and Michael Kirkman ended up saving the Rangers' hide in the seventh inning by escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam of Tanner Scheppers' making, thereby giving him his single best appearance from a win probability standpoint (+0.30 WPA) of his major league career and preserving a still-narrow 2-1 lead for Mike Adams and Joe Nathan to carry the win home.
I'm still a bit skittish about Kirkman (he was bad last year in the majors, and not all that great at Round Rock earlier this season), but he's been on a serious roll over the last couple of weeks, and in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of bullpen construction, it's not hard to envision the Rangers throwing up their hands, exclaiming "oh, hell, why not," and tentatively slotting Kirkman as their second lefty out of the bullpen going into the post-season. You figured that they'd be more keen on acquiring a veteran lefty arm ala Darren Oliver on the cheap via waiver-period trade, but that deadline is coming up quick as well, and it may be that the Rangers believe that Kirkman is ready to take that plunge ... or that the price tags on lefty relievers even now just aren't worth paying.
● On Friday night, two runs wasn't enough. On Saturday afternoon. two runs was enough, as Nelson Cruz's two-run blast in the fifth inning accounted for the entirety of their offense, and so Texas, despite having scored just four runs on nine hits over the first two games of this series, will enter this afternoon's rubber match with a chance to claim the series behind Matt Harrison. If you're into the blame-apportioning game, though, there are plenty of guys towards whom you can direct your ire, including Ian Kinsler, who's currently mired in a 4-for-39 slump over his last 10 games and has watched his triple-slash batting line for the season crater to .264/.333/.424 (103 wRC+) as a result.
So, yeah, Kinsler's in a pretty bad way at the plate right now, and you want to see him get it going again and re-establish some offensive momentum and get himself back into a good place as we approach that mid-to-late September window ... but he made a play during that frightening sixth inning that served as yet another reminder of how you can contribute even when the bat isn't functioning properly, and why you want to try and keep your defensive range on the field maxed out as often as possible:
I believe the Rangers' telecast noted that this infield single would have scored the runner from second base if it had scooted past Kinsler's outstretched glove, and, frankly, I don't think that's a lock -- the lead runner was first baseman David Cooper, who I don't presume has exceptional wheels, and the ball figured to make it out into center field pretty quickly on the hard turf. So, perhaps Kinsler's snag doesn't change the outcome of this inning or the game one way or another.
This, though, is what we're talking about when we long for the best defensive alignment possible, and cringe at the notion of Michael Young playing an up-the-middle position (or, for that matter, anyone else playing a position where they're range-handicapped). Sure, we might gripe about it, and then we might look kind of silly when a couple of games might go by without a single tough defensive chance coming to pass, but that chance is going to arrive eventually ... and when it does, the game's outcome might very well hinge on that play.