Twenty games over .500 once more, 5.5 games up on the second-running Athletics, and in sole possession of the best record in the American League. It's nice to be able to enjoy watching Rangers baseball again:
● The resuscitation of Scott Feldman's once nearly dead season seems all but complete, as the calendar has flipped to August and he has continued rolling -- this time, with 7.2 frames of two-run ball, as well as his third consecutive start where he allowed fewer than one walk/hit per inning (in this case, it was six hits and one walk against four strikeouts). It was also, in many ways, the archetypal Scott Feldman game plan in action: attack the zone, don't yield free bases, and trust the defense, which has produced dramatically improved results of late. Case in point: two months ago today, Feldman's ERA was 7.04. As of this morning, it's down to 4.52, and his fielding-independent ERA has fallen to 3.92.
There was a definite element of cruddy batted-ball luck that contributed to his downfall during that late May-early June window, but, in watching Feldman, I also get the sense that he has noticeably sharpened both the command and the quality of his stuff since that period, and when you're able to do that, you're able to exert greater control over your own fate. You also do that by avoiding free passes and minimizing potential damage, and by issuing only one walk last night, Feldman has now logged nine consecutive starts where he has allowed one or fewer walks -- a streak that matches John Burkett (06/11/97-07/25/97) for the third-longest such streak in franchise history. Roy Oswalt may reclaim a rotation spot yet this season, but the likelihood of him reclaiming it from Feldman appears to be slipping further and further down the drain.
● Feldman -- and, later on, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando -- also made the most of just four runs of support, with two of those runs being plated during a patently bizarre third inning that, in truth, should have produced more than just two runs. After Mike Olt, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus opened up the top of the inning with a ground out/single/double sequence, Josh Hamilton flicked a 1-2 slider into short left field, and Kinsler easily trotted home from third base, while Royals left fielder Alex Gordon futilely attempted to cut down Andrus at the plate as he scampered from second to home; in the process of doing that, Gordon uncorked a throw that sailed well over the cutoff man's head.
Andrus, meanwhile, slid in safely underneath the tag, and the ball popped in and out of catcher Salvador Perez's mitt anyway, so it all presented a golden opportunity for Hamilton to advance from first to second base ... but he didn't, and the ensuing discussion at first base looked something like this, as Hamilton and first-base coach Gary Pettis jawed back and forth over what appeared to be a baserunning mistake of some sort by Hamilton that resulted in his failure to take the extra base (click the .gif for the extended, larger version of this exchange between Hamilton and Pettis):
The very next pitch was then laced back up the middle by Adrian Beltre to advance Hamilton to second base, and the pitch after that was chopped by Nelson Cruz out to shortstop Alcides Ecscobar, who booted the ball out behind second base. Hamilton made the turn at third base, but third-base coach Dave Anderson apparently did not wave him home, and Hamilton ended up staying put, with Beltre then being caught in a rundown between second and third base (as he was under the erroneous assumption that Hamilton would keep churning towards home), and Cruz being tagged out on an extremely close play as he attempted to advance from first to second base. As the FSNSW telecast cut away to commercial, their cameras captured Hamilton barking at Anderson.
During his post-game interview with Bryan Dolgin, Ron Washington indicated that Beltre was caught in a rundown as a result of him focusing on the ball/play and falsely assuming that Hamilton would break for home on the error, when, in fact, Anderson had held Hamilton up at third base. Washington reportedly also stated after the game that Anderson should have sent Hamilton home, but there are no specifics available as far as what, exactly, went awry there on Anderson's end ... and Hamilton, by virtue of attending a post-game function at Kauffman Stadium, was not available after the game to discuss any part of that series of unfortunate events on the basepaths.
Just an idle thought here, but, man, even if he had cause for it, and even if they were having a reasonable back-and-forth discussion that wasn't nearly as hostile as it looked, Hamilton getting up in Pettis's face and having it captured by every camera in the stadium just makes me cringe.
● The other two runs on the night were plated by Mike Olt, courtesy of a fourth-inning sacrifice fly and a sixth-inning single that scored Mike Napoli and Michael Young, respectively. He was also charged with an eighth-inning error when he couldn't snare a sinking cross-diamond throw from Adrian Beltre, which exposed what is probably the biggest deficiency in his defensive skill set at first base -- that is, his mastery of handling not-so-great throws (including picking low throws out of the dirt), which is going to take time and repetition to fully develop.
But, nevertheless, it was yet another encouraging performance on the whole, as Olt has not appeared overmatched at the plate in any perceptible way as of yet, and while he hasn't torn the cover off the ball in his first two major league starts, he's doing the sorts of things on the offensive side that are likely to curry favor with the coaching staff, and, hopefully, bolster his playing time.