Martin Perez. Tanner Scheppers. Michael Kirkman. Yoshi Tateyama.
No, we’re not talking about members of the vaunted Round Rock Express pitching staff. Instead, this quartet represents roughly a third of the pitching the Rangers possessed leading them into the All Star break. And it hasn’t always been pretty, as we’ve witnessed our fair share of scares from each of them, but somehow Ron Washington and Mike Maddux have mixed and matched them in a way which avoided a complete collapse heading into the conclusion of the first half. We may not hear much from them for quite awhile once Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe get off the disabled list, but they fulfilled their purpose for what is another potential World Series season for the best team in baseball.
Sitting on a 4 game lead heading into last night’s decisive rubber match against the Twins, the Rangers had dropped 5 of their last 6, and were seemingly hobbling toward the much-needed All Star break. During July, the Rangers league-best offense has slumped into a triple slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) of .223/.295/.315, good for a team wRc+ of a measly 59, producing -0.2 WAR — 28th in baseball. If you don’t understand the lingo, don’t fret; I’m only saying the Rangers offense has been uncharacteristically dreadful this month. (To put these numbers into perspective, for the season, the Rangers triple slash line is .280/.343/.451, with a wRc+ of 110, and have produced 18.0 WAR.) As for the pitching in July, which lately has consisted of players like the ones listed above (plus the attrocious Scott Feldman in the rotation), they haven’t been much better than the offense. Since July started, the Rangers hold a team ERA of 5.60, 26th in baseball in that stretch. So, basically, poor hitting + poor pitching = not very good baseball. Luckily we’ve not had grave issues in either category during the duration of the season to this point, so for Texas to come out of the series against Minnesota with two wins is, well, pretty damn fortunate. As for the game…
I’ll just fast-forward to the important stuff. Roy Oswalt (who’s been nothing but terrible this season) fought through a lightning-filled 5.2 innings, allowing just one run on five hits. After him, Scheppers threw 0.2 innings, allowing no runs and a hit. Then Robbie Ross did his thing, and then Mike Adams after him. Still, the offense had yet to score.
When Joe Nathan came into the game in the 9th, the Rangers trailed 1-0, and even that seemed insurmountable given the anemic offensive output of late. Nathan allowed two runs (both unearned), and the Rangers were forced into a 3-0 deficit heading into the bottom of the 9th. Then, poof.
Ian Kinsler led off by reaching on a costly error by Twins shortstop Brian Dozier, and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Twins closer Glen Perkins. After an Elvis Andrus groundout (making it 3-1), Josh Hamilton popped out to 3rd. Two outs. Then Beltre hit a harmless single, and Cruz smashed a double. Still, two outs. Then Michael Young came up, and poetic redemption for the worst half-season of his career came crashing down like the thunder and lightning as he swatted an 0-2 Glen Perkins fastball into right-center, tying the game at 3. And just like that, all was again right with the world.
There was no real action until the 13th, the last inning, mostly just quality pitching from Yoshi Tateyama and Scott Feldman (who knew?), and squandered opportunities from the Rangers offense. But when Texas came to bat in the 13th, there again was Young, leading off with a mighty double down the line in right. To set up a double play, Minnesota intentionally walked David Murphy, and that went to hell when Mike Napoli busted a 2-1 fastball off his fists for an infield single. That set up a bases-loaded, nobody out scenario for 9th-place hitter Craig Gentry, who grounded into a fielder’s choice, eliminating the potential game-winning run at the plate, keeping the bases loaded with one out, as Ian Kinsler stepped to the plate. Not much longer after that, Kinsler deposited a walk-off single to the base of the wall in left-center, ending the night, and sending the Rangers to their best record going into the All Star Break in franchise history.
The Rangers are 52-34, tied for first in baseball in wins with the Yankees, and lead the American League West, still, by 4.0 games.