Normally in my recaps I try to narrow down about 4 plays that defined the outcome of the game. With this afternoon’s doubleheader, I decided to find only 2 moments in each game. You can call that a cop out or accuse me of being lazy if you want, but it’s been a long day.
These were the moments that mattered…
1) Novice Up the Middle — Brandon Inge is not a second baseman by trade and this became apparent in the 1st inning of the 1st game. With no out and Adrian Beltre on first, Inge fielded a Michael Young ground ball between Beltre and second. Rather than trying to go around the fielder, Beltre just stopped. Inge threw to first, probably thinking they could turn a 4-3-6 double play. Instead the throw sailed wide and both runners were safe. Texas was already up 3-0 at that point and would add 5 more runs before the inning was over.
2) Three Little Letters, S.D.I. — Matt Harrison came out in the bottom of the 1st with an 8-run lead, but he didn’t give the Tigers an inkling of a thought that they were in this game. He got Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera to ground out and struck out Brennan Boesch. Harrison delivered a 16-pitch shutdown inning, which is exactly what you wanted to see.
1) Stuck On Two — For the second game in a row, Neftali Feliz was perfect through the first 10 hitters. In the 4th, he faced Prince Fielder with Boesch on base and 2 out. He got ahead of Fielder 0-2, but the rotund first baseman battled back, fouling off a few pitches and eventually taking a walk. Feliz then got ahead of Delmon Young 0-2 before surrendering a hit that tied the game. He couldn’t get that third strike on either Fielder or Young and it cost him 3 runs by the end of the inning.
2) Missed It By That Much — The Rangers eventually pulled within 1 run and threatened in the 9th. Jose Valverde was not sharp, walking two of the first three batters he faced. Elvis Andrus had a chance to tie the game with one out and nearly walked himself. With a 3-2 count, Andrus hit a well-struck fastball on a line to left field. The fielder went back and back and back, reaching up at the last moment and pulling it down in the webbing of his glove. Another inch and both runners probably would have scored. It’s a game of inches, they say.
Also of note…
- In defense of Inge, he has played a whopping three games at second base in his career and every one of those has come in 2012. He should be at third, but was moved to make room for Cabrera who was moved to make room for Fielder.
- Harrison pitched very well, going 7.2 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 earned runs, walking none, and striking out 6. He likely would have gone a full 8 innings and given up only 1 run if not for a bloop hit by Boesch.
- Unfortunately, he did give up that bloop hit. Koji Uehara came in to finish the 8th and Cabrera took him deep. The pitch wasn’t a good pitch to hit…unless you’re Miguel Cabrera. It was letter high and probably a foot inside, but Cabrera muscled it over the wall in left. After giving up 3 runs, Harrison’s ERA blew up from 0.64 to 1.66.
- Beltre was taken out of the 1st game after legging out a double in the 2nd inning. The team is calling it a hamstring strain and hoping it’s only a day-to-day injury. No one seems to think that it will sideline him for very long.
- Mike Napoli homered in his 5th straight game in game 1, but his streak would end there. He did not start game 2, but pinch-hit late and struck out.
- Verlander did not look like himself tonight. His fastball hovered in the low 90s. He adapted, though, proving that he’s a pitcher and not just a thrower. A steady diet of off-speed pitches kept a tired looking line-up from scratching out more than 1 run against him.
- National media made a lot of Verlander facing the “best line-up in baseball” and surviving in game 2, but I think that’s something of an oversimplification. Beltre was supposed to DH against Verlander, but he was injured. Napoli also sat out most of the game and Josh Hamilton was the DH, which meant that Craig Gentry, Yorvit Torrealba, and Mitch Moreland were in the line-up. Those three are fine hitters in their own right, but the Rangers are a lot more dangerous when Beltre and Napoli are squeezed in there somewhere.
- Feliz looked great for most of the game. Some tried to equate his 4th inning with a Derek Holland meltdown of old, but Feliz just kept pitching. When the night was done, he’d gone 8 innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits with 4 walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 hit batter. He’s supposed to be the #5 pitcher and he went nearly pitch-for-pitch with Verlander. I’ll take that.
- Feliz also saved the key guys in the bullpen from having to work the late innings. The same can’t be said for the Tigers, who watched Joaquin Benoit and Valverde throw a ton of pitches (33 and 30 respectively) to record 6 outs. Though the Rangers lost this game, they may have an advantage late in tomorrow’s game.
- The 8 game winning streak is over, but the Rangers sit in the rarefied air of a 12-3 record. They’ve also won 7 of their first 8 games on a tough road trip and have guaranteed at least a split in Detroit. You can rest assured that this team is for real, even if they lose a game every once in a while.
This 4-game set ends tomorrow afternoon at 12:10 Arlington time. Colby Lewis will take the hill and try to secure another series win for Texas.
Press on, Rangers fans.