Rangers Leverage Game One From Rivals In Anaheim


Here, just look at it:


If you aren’t familiar with how a leverage index works, it’s quite simple, really: Depending on the context of the game (score, inning, outs), each team has a specific probability of winning. For instance, if your team is winning by 3 runs with 2 outs in the 9th inning (and no one is on base), they carry exceptional odds of winning the game. If there’s nobody out in a tied game in the 5th, odds are basically neutral. You get the picture.

Last night’s game was one of those rare back-and-forth, punch-for-punch, you-score-I-score baseball affairs; we typically see that more in football and basketball, where the offense controls their own destiny. In baseball, the offense doesn’t even have the ball in their hands.

As you can see, by the time Leonys Martin singled home David Murphy in the top-half of the 2nd, the Rangers Win Probability was already at 73.8%. (I understand it’s foolish to assume victory when the opposition still has 24 outs remaining, but just let the numbers bear themselves out.) By when the 4th inning ended, the Angels had just brought 3 runs across home plate against Ranger starter, Derek Holland, and odds tilted in the opposing direction, with Texas’ probability down to 35.2%.

Then Mitch Moreland doubled and tied it, 3-3, in the 6th — WPA went up to 43.7%.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Angels appeared to have wrapped up the game. Chris Iannetta effectively ended Holland’s night with a two-out RBI double — which was the last hitter Derek faced — and Jason Frasor came in and allowed a single to the backup 3rd baseman, Luis Jimenez. After the inning ended, the Angels led 6-3, and the Rangers’ Win Probability dropped to 9.5% — losing territory.

If you recall the game between LAA and TEX last July — in Arlington — the Rangers trailed 7-1 early in the game, and Jered Weaver was pitching for them; it didn’t look good. Over the middle-to-latter stages of the game, Texas pecked away enough to put themselves in position for a tie, and Ian Kinsler ultimately hit a game-tying HR in the bottom of the 9th to even the score at 7-7. 

Then Joe Nathan allowed two home runs in the top of the 10th, one to Chris Iannetta and another to Albert Pujols, and the Angels led 10-7 heading into the bottom of the frame. I’m not looking at the leverage index from that game, but a three-run deficit with three outs left in play doesn’t create particularly good odds of success. Probably somewhere south of 5%.

And yet, the Rangers eventually pulled it out, 11-10, in what was probably the most memorable game of the 2012 season. I know it’s only April, but last’s night’s matchup with the Angels was reminiscent of last year’s classic affair. And like last year, the Rangers eventually won.

In the top of the 7th, down by 3, the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out. In successive plate appearances to lead off the inning, the Rangers probability of winning jumped from 13.6% (after the Elvis Andrus single), to 20.8% (after Lance Berkman‘s single), to 31.6% (after the Adrian Beltre walk).

Things were starting to look up, but there was still damage needed to be done.

The next three hitters did just that: A.J. Pierzynski singled to left; Nelson Cruz made it 6-5 on a fielder’s choice to the SS; Jeff Baker tapped a ball back to the pitcher — which he booted. The game was even at 6 apiece.

In the 7th and 8th, Tanner Scheppers (2-0) locked the Angels down — we really might be seeing a 2nd major bullpen weapon in the making, next to Joe Nathan. He was, as what has been a recurring theme in 2013, remarkable.

The offenses remained stagnant until there were two outs in the top of the 9th inning, when Rangers’ catcher and the quickly-becoming-awesome A.J. Pierzynski launched a towering home run into right field.

Joe Nathan didn’t give up the lead. The Rangers (13-6) gained a game on second-place Oakland (12-8), and took a head-to-head matchup that you felt the Angels (7-11) needed much more than did Texas.

Tonight Alexi Ogando pairs up with Angel LHP Jason Vargas, in a game I will be in attendance for. Let’s win the series tonight, yeah?