Wow, what a night for the Texas Rangers. Coming in to face Brandon Morrow, who has been quite good this season, and with Derek Holland on the mound, whose last start was a little shaky, Rangers fans were right to be worried that the game might not be an effervescent triumph. Fortunately, Morrow looked shaky, Derek Holland kept it together, and the Ranger hitters turned it up a notch, leading to a powerful victory over the Blue Jays.
Some notes from the game:
Nelson Cruz – What a staggering performance. Cruz carried a nice little hot streak into the game, but he really put it all together against a few different Jays pitchers. Moreover, all of his hits were real blasts, except the groundball through the gap. Cruz has always been kind of a streaky hitter, and a sustained power streak from him would be absolutely critical in revitalizing the Rangers from the doldrums they’ve been experiencing.
Derek Holland – Terrific performance tonight, showing that Holland might have turned the corner from his last start, a disastrous mistake-filled outing against the Astros where he gave up 5 runs in 5 innings. This start in particular was fairly impressive showcasing his ability to consistently avoid walks, and his potential to rack up the strikeouts. Holland has been up and down all season, so we might be in for a continuation of the rocky road ahead, but he looked good enough against a good team that he might be ready to go on an extended bout of dominance.
Mitch Moreland – Often thought of as the weak link in the Rangers offense, Moreland had another terrific game at the plate, going three for five. Two hits were RBI singles, and the other was a terrific double. His natural hitting talent has shone through recently, and he’s been stroking singles and doubles all over the place, and showing terrific power. Compared to last season, Moreland already has almost half his 2011 home run total in one fifth as many plate appearances, and has maintained a decent walk rate and cut his strikeout rate significantly. I wrote earlier in the season that I had very high hopes for Moreland this season, and I maintain that we should still expect Moreland to prove himself to be a league-average 1B. In fact, at present, if we ranked 1B by WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Moreland would be sandwiched between Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez, in 10th place, despite having a little over half the plate appearances of those guys. Moreover, despite the Albert Pujols resurgence, he was such a detriment to his team for the first part of the season that he has not yet made his way back to replacement-level territory, finding himself in sandwich between such luminaries as Matt Hague and Matt Downs, second-string 1B for the Pirates and Astros, respectively. So it goes.
Its nice to get a great win like this, when the Rangers take a good team to task with all facets of the game. Its even better when it happens at home, and it features so many exciting plays, such as the grand slam, two upper deck home runs, and 9 strikeouts from Derek Holland. Hopefully the Rangers can continue to put together games like these at home and keep the fans coming through the turnstiles. Revenue will be an important consideration when the Rangers are deciding how to handle possible deadline transactions, and how to replace Neftali Feliz if his elbow problems aren’t as easily conquered as the A.L. West.