Tuesday night in Anaheim — an 8-3 Rangers’ victory — was a throwback to the exhilarating, high-tempo, championship-style baseball that propelled Texas to the World Series in both 2010 and 2011, as well as a reasonable facsimile of what the club ought to look like if they hope to compete for a 3rd in 4 years.
In the game, the Rangers stole 6 bases; 3 by Leonys Martin, 2 by Elvis Andrus, and Craig Gentry even pitched in with one against a left-hander in the top of the 9th. And thanks to a 5-14 night with runners in scoring position, 5 of those 6 stolen bases were inevitably cashed in as runs.
Yu Darvish wasn’t his prettiest on Tuesday, even admitting as much. In 7.0 innings on the bump he capitulated to a ghastly amount of runs (3) and hits (8), walking 3 and punching out only 6 Angels in the process. His ERA ballooned from 2.66 to 2.72.
No but seriously, Yu Darvish is worth better than a quality start even when he’s in a malaise on the hill. That’s the guy we, as Ranger fans, get to witness every 5th day, and, at the very least, for the next 4 years after 2013.
In 4 starts since returning from the DL on July 22nd, Darvish has allowed 4 ER (3 coming on solo HRs) on 18 hits in 26.1 IP — good for a 1.38 ERA, an xFIP of 2.79 — with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 35:9. The Rangers are 3-1 in those games.
We love Yu not only because he’s really good at throwing a baseball into a glove from 60 ft. away, but that he is also very pleasing aesthetically on a television screen; from the grace of his mechanical soundness to the polarizing movement on his pitches, he is a joy to watch.
And for the same two reasons, I imagine he isn’t very fun to hit against.
Offensively, the Rangers were more David than Goliath, peppering all 12 of their hits for singles. And yet, they were able to extract 8 runs, which in part helps explain why stolen bases are not just a poor man’s game; they carry extreme value, but not only because the Rangers happened to capitalize several times at the plate on Tuesday with runners on base.
Going from 1st to 2nd, or 2nd to 3rd, isn’t always going to work out as swimmingly as against Chris Iannetta and the Halo pitching staff. There are consequences to being aggressive against pitchers adept at holding runners, or catchers with a particular prowess for gunning down threats.
But when successful, stolen bases create higher-leverage pitches from the opposition, and, with a little BABIP help, can drastically alter the game’s complexion. For the Rangers, replacing Nelson Cruz is more than home runs and RBI; they are shifting the game-plan to supplement the theoretical loss of offensive production. And they have a lot of guys who are more than capable of ripping off a bag at will, starting with Elvis Andrus, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, to Ian Kinsler, and Jurickson Profar and Engel Beltre will have to pick their spots, as well.
With Oakland’s loss, the Rangers are now within 1.0 game of the division lead. Having won 8 of its last 9, the Rangers are now 32-14 against the American League West in 2013. After tomorrow’s series finale in Anaheim, Texas goes to Houston for 4 before embarking on an 8-game home stand, where they’ll be playing Milwaukee (twice), the Mariners, and Astros.
Let the good times roll.