Darvish vs. Verlander.
All day, I looked forward to tonight's game. With two of the best aces in the game going head to head, I just knew it was going to be a beautiful night of pitching. I guess I forgot about the potent offenses. Or something.
The Rangers got to Verlander first, scoring once in the 1st inning, after their own pitcher had thrown 11 pitches. But then Detroit took their bats to Darvish in the 3rd and jumped ahead 3-1. It was a pretty rough inning for Darvish, and I was sure he'd be done in the next few frames.
I was wrong. Darvish wasn't done, and neither were the Rangers.
In the bottom of the 3rd, the Rangers bats went crazy -- scoring seven times on four hits. Okay, so there was also a hit by pitch and two runs walked in that inning. It was not Verlander's night, and Geovany Soto was the last batter he faced. Soto...
Admittedly, I've been worried about Nelson Cruz this season. Some of that worry was for his bat, but most of it was for his glove. Today, he presented strong evidence that I need not worry about him just yet.
In the afternoon finale of the Oakland series, Cruz made a spectacular catch and hit a three-run home run. Cruz' heroics helped Alexi Ogando secure his fourth win of the season and to ensure the Rangers took the series. And thank goodness today's game was far less dramatic and stressful than last night's game.
The offense played a big role in that. Lance Berkman drove in two runs on a single in the 3rd. He had the bases loaded, so I naturally hoped for more, but I'll take two. The Rangers really broke out the bats in the 5th, scoring four times. Three of those came in on Cruz' aforementioned home run.
Ogando did plenty of work for himself, holding the Athletics...
Tonight's game felt a little like a late season game. Even though it's only May, I was hanging on every pitch at the very end. And my heart was pounding. Man, baseball can be such a rush. And such a downer at times too.
Mitch Moreland can't be feeling too down lately. He's been on fire this month. Tonight, he hit two home runs, and the second one -- a solo shot in the 10th -- proved to be very valuable as it gave the Rangers what we believed to be an insurance run at the time. It ended up being the winning run.
Mitch wasn't the only offense though. Adrian Beltre also hit a home run in the 10th and finished the night with three hits. Elvis Andrus had two hits. The boys didn't hit into any double plays tonight, but there were a few times they wasted runners in scoring position. So irritating.
For the record, Derek Holland did...
There's no better word to describe how the Rangers looked tonight in Oakland. It's like they didn't want to be there. And who can blame them? With banjo music in the 6th inning, who would want to be there?
Justin Grimm would probably like to forget the entire month of May. His ERA has inflated from 1.59 to 4.28 in his three May starts. The Athletics roughed him up pretty good tonight, scoring five times on seven hits during Grimm's five innings on the mound. It wasn't pretty.
Neither was the Rangers' offense. Or whatever you want to call it tonight. The only run they scored came on a Mitch Moreland home run in the 2nd inning. After that, it was zeros all the way across the board. Several of the batters seemed frustrated by the strike zone, but fans were just plain frustrated as they watched ... or maybe skipped the rest of the game to get to bed...
Tonight's win might have been the ugliest of the season so far. It was far far closer than it should have been.
I'll be up front and confess that I slept through the first four innings. I never take naps, but apparently my body needed one this afternoon. When I woke up a little after seven, the game was already in the 5th inning. And tied at one run each, courtesy of home runs by Adrian Beltre and Matt Dominguez.
Darvish had a heck of a time with Dominguez, who hit two home runs off him tonight. While he didn't look as sharp as usual, Darvish didn't have a complete meltdown at any point. He struck out nine and allowed four runs on four hits and three walks. A pair of errors by Ian Kinsler in the 7th could have been costly, but fortunately ended up being a non-factor ... except that it meant extra pitches for Darvish, who went...
I'm not even going to begin to speculate why Derek Holland seems so mentally solid this year. But I'm certainly grateful for it.
Tonight, he pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on 10 hits. He even navigated a few innings full of defensive nightmares, not letting them snowball into a slew of runs. That's maturity at play.
At the same time, I want to know who broke Nelson Cruz. Tonight is a game he'd probably like to forget (along with Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, which he'll probably never live down). He was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and at least three bad plays in the outfield. If I wasn't cringing, I was cussing at him. Come on, Nelson Robinson Cruz. Find the boomstick again!
Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland each brought their version of the boomstick, homering in the 2nd and 3rd innings, respectively. Moreland ended the night with two RBI, and Adrian Beltre was responsible...
Justin Grimm had an outstanding April -- two wins, an ERA of 1.59, and earning AL Rookie of the Month honors. But May hasn't been so kind for the Reaper. Tonight, his ERA ballooned a little more as he gave up five runs in the 1st inning -- on three singles, a double and a home run.
It was hideous, but I tried to stay optimistic. It was only the 1st inning after all, and I hoped a near-shutout in Chicago might wake the Texas bats.
Mitch Moreland hit a home run in the 2nd inning. The Rangers started a bit of a rally in the 6th when Jeff Baker hit a lead-off single, scooted to third on an Elvis Andrus double and then scored when Aramis Ramirez biffed on an Adrian Beltre hit. Andrus scored a little while later on a Nelson Cruz sac fly.
The gap was now just 5-3. Two runs isn't so insurmountable, right?
But then Ramirez atoned...
It's no secret that I've always had a special place in my baseball heart for Scott Feldman. I was probably among the very few who liked him toward the end of his Rangers tenure. And I will take full blame for his regression after that 2009 season. I bought a Feldman shirsey and he was never quite the same.
He seems to be OK with the Cubs though. Especially against his former team. Tonight, he held the Rangers scoreless and almost completely off the bases. Through seven innings, Texas only reached base three times -- two hits and a walk. Oh, and Feldman also collected an RBI. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Nick Tepesch was not having a good time with the Cubs' lineup. He only lasted four innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks. That 4th inning was especially ugly -- the Cubs scored five in that time. Chicago got another run off Michael Kirkman,...
The Rangers must have known somehow that I had a bad day and needed them tonight. They sure came through. What good boyfriends!
Derek Holland was pretty great. He tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing six hits and walking one while fanning six. He didn't have his usual meltdown inning, and he didn't seem to lose focus even after his teammates gave him a nice big cushion to work with. Now that's a sign of maturity I've been waiting to see from Dutch.
Speaking of that cushion, it sure was great to see the offense back at it tonight. They got one in the 2nd, but then busted the game wide open in the 4th. It started with a one-out Mitch Moreland single (he was 3 for 4 tonight, by the way, indicating he didn't like me dissing him last night). When Craig Gentry struck out, it looked like the inning might be over quick. But no. Ian Kinsler had other...