Well, here you go:
● I didn't catch much of this past three-game set against the Rays (at least not beyond what I caught via the miracle of DVR), and, as such, I'm not going to make a full-fledged special effort to write about events which are now in the rear-view mirror and which I didn't view in person. There is one interesting little wrinkle I do feel compelled to point out, though, and it's the variation in how the Rays fared against Yu Darvish's fastballs on Tuesday and Matt Harrison's fastballs on Wednesday (keeping in mind, of course, that "fastball" is a blanket term tied to velocity, and that each pitcher throws several different fastball variations):
Darvish: 85 fastballs, 4 H, 0 HR, 3 well-hit balls, 16 swinging strikes
Harrison: 53 fastballs, 8 H, 3 HR, 9 well-hit balls, 4 swinging strikes
You can't get much more extreme in terms of disparate pitch treatment than this -- Darvish's heaters were devastating on Tuesday, as he missed Rays bats 18.8 percent of the time (a rate which, on a full-season basis, would rank as the second best swing-and-miss fastball this season behind only Aroldis Chapman) and allowed a minimum of hard contact. Harrison's fastballs, however, were brutalized, as he allowed three homers and nine well-hit balls on his fastballs for the first time in the window comprising 2009-present, which is as far back as the ESPN Stats & Info pitch-tracking database runs.
It's possible that Harrison's fastball was hit even harder back on an occasion or two back in his rookie 2008 campaign, but for all intents and purposes, this was Harrison's fastball at its very worst... and Darvish's fastball at its very best. Make of that what you will.
● The Angels are effectively dead and gone from the standpoint of claiming the division title, but the murmurings about the red-hot Athletics are starting to become audible, as Oakland has climbed within just 4.5 games of first place in the AL West by virtue of winning each of its last five games and 11 of its last 13 games. The Athletics were close to buried at the outset of June (they fell to 22-30 and nine games back of first place on June 1st), and seemed to be on the path to a disappointing 70-75 win season, but now they're in sole possession of the No. 1 American League wild card spot, and the Rays/Tigers/Angels triumvirate that was so vaunted before the season is staring up.
I'm not especially unnerved by the Athletics' rise in the standings, given that a 4.5-game deficit with a month left to go in the season is vastly more difficult to overcome than a same-sized deficit back in May/June, and given that the Athletics aren't nearly as threatening as the Angels from a true-talent standpoint (their third-order winning percentage in 2012 is some 30 points lower than the Angels' mark, and some 80 points lower than the Rangers). The fact that the Athletics just haven't gone away is meaningful to the Rangers, though, because in the minds of the players and the coaching staff, the division title isn't secure as of yet, and they're going to approach the game from the mindset of needing to hold off a surging and dangerous Athletics squad. That isn't a bad thing, either.
● Yeah, I know full well that this subject has been mercilessly beaten into the ground already, but it's worth noting that Michael Young has batted just .258/.310/.333 in the month of August, is once again sitting on a mid-.640s OPS for the season, and, in spite of his handful of big games this past month, has slumped his way back down to a 67 wRC+ and -1.7 fWAR for the season. If you're looking for a bright spot here, it's that his hard-hit contact and walk rates both spiked a bit in August, and maybe, maybe that has some predictive value that will translate into some sustainable level of improvement down the stretch, but it's still a pretty ugly scene on the whole, and that's disappointing.
Of course, as we've talked about before, the quickest and easiest way to bolster both Young's individual statistics and his value to the team is to slash his playing time against right-handers (375 PA, .242/.269/.317, .259 wOBA) while still capitalizing upon whatever value he furnishes against southpaws (146 PA, .333/.377/.415, .350 wOBA) ... but, again, I'm beyond the point of faulting Young or being mad at Young. He's putting in the work everyday to try and get back to where he once was, and, if nothing else, he's still giving Texas positive value against pitchers of a left-handed persuasion. The player isn't useless; it's the manner in which he's utilized that makes him useless.