On Sunday evening — Opening Day — Ranger lefty Matt Harrison struck out a career-high 9 Astros in just 5.2 innings of work;
Two nights ago, during Yu Darvish‘s masterpiece, he sat down a career-high of his own, 14, in 8.2 innings;
And finally, yesterday afternoon, Alexi Ogando K’d a career-high 10 in a mere 6.1 IP; it was Ogando’s first start since June of last year.
I assume you recognize the trend? Ranger starters were responsible for 33 strikeouts in 20.2 frames. If you’re doing the math, that’s 33 of 62 (53.2%) official outs coming where the hitter never left the batter’s box. Incredible. In total, the staff generated 43 strikeouts in the opening 26 innings of the series (because we didn’t have to pitch the bottom of the 9th in the first game), which is a new Major League record for strikeouts in an opening series in the modern era. (I believe the last time it happened was in 1900. You know, when William McKinley was off being all republican and shit.)
In yesterday’s 4-0 shutout, I quickly realized Alexi Ogando was snapping off a ton of breaking pitches. Rather than relying on some form of a change up — which is something Alexi experimented with over the past couple seasons — he instead varied speeds on two separate off-speed pitches, which essentially created the same effect. He primarily went to a slower breaking ball, which will probably be considered a curveball, even though it carries the same 11-5 rotation (from the hitter’s perspective) as his slider, which is 6-8 mph harder. We’re all familiar with how stiff Alexi Ogando’s fastball sounds when it penetrates the catcher’s mitt, so if he can use these secondary pitches as effectively as he did today, he’s significantly better than your run-of-the-mill middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Will he face the Astros every 5th day? No, unfortunately. But I do find it inspiring that Ogando, at least yesterday, flashed the ability to incorporate a 3rd pitch with some consistency.
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Now that the Houston series has ended, I think I’m finally ready — after 6+ months residing in the doldrums — for my baseball juices to reach regular-season form. It’s no knock against the Astros … it’s just, well, they are still only the Astros. The next team we play (LAA) is our main AL West competition. It’s at home. And it’s Josh Hamilton‘s first game against his former team.
So you could say it’s not exactly going to require a scholar to think up story lines.
As far as the rotations stack up, here are the match-ups we can look forward to:
Obviously the game which will garner the most headlines is the Sunday night TORP battle. Rangers’ fans are already anticipating Darvish’s encore; it’s just icing on the cake that Jered Weaver is his opponent, because he generally gets the best from Texas’s lineup. It’s going to be important in 2013 that the Rangers defeat their division rivals on a consistent basis, because in 2012 they were only 27-30 against Anaheim, Oakland, and Seattle.
Like every other series, and just like we did to Houston this week, it would be nice to win two out of three against the Angels. Even better, here’s to hoping Josh Hamilton goes hitless –