Baseball is said to be a game of inches. That is a true statement, but it’s not always a game of inches. Sometimes it’s a game of not even close, as in when the Detroit Tigers beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 on Friday night, there was no play of mere inches that would have changed the outcome of the game. The Rangers played a losing brand of baseball and rightfully lost the game.
The game didn’t start out so poorly for the Texas Rangers. They jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning off of Josh Hamilton’s 31st home run of the year. Hamilton is now one home run away from tying his career high. Hamilton’s August RBI total has already surpassed his tally from the entire month of July.
Additionally, Scott Feldman got off to another strong start for Texas. Through five innings, Feldman had allowed one run on three hits and a walk. In all, he threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 22 batters faced. He only tallied two strikeouts, but he was getting the job done.
That about ends the part of this story where I mention the positive things that happened for the Rangers in this game.
The Rangers played the majority of this game like they were mentally disengaged. It mostly went downhill starting in the sixth inning, but even before that there were some cracks in the foundation. In the third inning, after an Ian Kinsler double, Elvis Andrus didn’t bunt scored him with a single, but was overly aggressive with no one out and Hamilton coming to the plate and was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw home. The throw was cut off and he was nabbed. Later in the inning, Adrian Beltre was hit by a pitch, and Nelson Cruz and Michael Young followed with back-to-back singles. No one else scored in the inning. If all had played out the same, Andrus certainly would have. Additionally, Mitch Moreland of all people was caught stealing in the fourth inning, with one out and Kinsler at the plate. I am an advocate of aggressive base running, but there are situations where the risk outweighs the benefit. In the early innings of a game, with the heart of the lineup at the plate, is that kind of situation.
In the sixth inning, Feldman was victimized by a two-out infield single and a Texas Leaguer that fell in to put two on for Prince Fielder. At this point, the Rangers got Robbie Ross warming up in the bullpen. If Ross were to enter the sixth inning, Fielder is the batter he should have been called on to face. Instead, it wasn’t until Fielder strode to the plate that Ross even began warming. If Ron Washington thought that he’d want to have Ross available if Miguel Cabrera got on base, why not have Ross start warming up before Cabrera’s at-bat was over, not after? Instead, Fielder hit a laser out to right field in what was an incredibly predictable three-run homer that gave the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.
From that point on, things only looked worse for the Rangers. The bullpen pitched a combined 3.1 innings, and in that time frame they walked five and struck out zero while giving up two runs. Overcoming a 4-2 deficit in the late innings would be tough enough, but when the bullpen gives up an extra two runs by gifting the other team baserunners it seems to sap all the energy out of the stadium. It certainly seemed that way tonight.
One of those two runs given up was on an inside-the-park home run. There’s not really a weird corner or unusual obstruction that is in play at the Rangers ballpark, so for there to be an inside-the-park home run, it typically means that someone really screwed up. It was no different this time. Austin Jackson looped a line drive down the right field line, and with nobody on base and no one to back him up, Nelson Cruz dove for the ball and ended up about six feet short. The ball bounced past him easily, and Jackson scored nearly as easily. It was the perfect punctuation mark to end the night. You can also add on that Cruz had to come out of the game after that with back stiffness. And then add on that two batters later, Cruz dropped the easiest can-of-corn inning-ending fly ball you may ever see. There, that is the real punctuation mark on the game.
I could mention the one other positive was that Michael Young was 3-3 on the night with a walk. However, all three hits were singles, and in the end nothing came out of them. He even had one of the Rangers two hits with runners in scoring position on the night, but didn’t get an RBI out of it. Young now leads the team in singles, and has a .275 batting average. He is still posting a career low .655 OPS.
The Rangers have a comfortable 5.5 game lead in their division that won’t get any smaller after Friday’s action. Early August games still don’t matter a whole lot to this team that is nearly a guarantee to make its third straight trip to the playoffs. Yet, bad baseball is bad baseball, and it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth like room temperature milk that expired six days ago. It’s a clean slate for Texas tomorrow. Unfortunately, it’s a clean slate that Justin Verlander gets to paint all over.
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