You know, in a four game series, on the road, you usually take the split if you can get it. However, against the worst team in the American League, it's hard to look at a split as a win. Of course, the worst team in the American League hasn't played like the worst team in the American League against the Texas Rangers. They worst team in the American League Baltimore Orioles are horrible against practically every other team in the league, including 2-24 against Toronto and New York, but a juggernaut against the Rangers. It's inexplicable and something that I'll sit back and ponder after this season as especially peculiar if the Rangers somehow do something really special in the post season. Therefore, just to feel like the Rangers are making it out of Baltimore alive, I will have to force myself to accept the split and begin to look forward to home games because I'm as finished with Baltimore as the schedule says the Rangers are.
There was likely a point in the first game of this series with Baltimore, when the Rangers had just completed another late inning meltdown in a close game, where you could consider it the low point of the season. There was that six game losing streak in April that was tough but it was still way too early in the season to have the leverage to hold up as the low point.
There was the sweep at Target Field with the final game of the series being a nationally televised game in which Derek Holland left the game early while telling the home plate umpire he couldn't feel his arm. That loss was the Rangers fourth consecutive and dropped the team into second place for the first time in weeks. However, while a strong contender for lowest point, Minnesota was a difficult match-up and it didn't take long for the Rangers to reclaim first place again which they haven't relinquished.
The only other period of time that might qualify as a contender for lowest point of the season would be the series right before the All-Star break when the Rangers were swept by these Orioles. That series was miserable because it looked like the Rangers were just about ready to open up a huge lead before the break and then coast into the second half. Instead, they were swept, went into the half with a 4.5 game lead, and doubt began to creep closer than it had in weeks.
However, after getting swept in Tampa Bay, and currently being dominated by Brian Matusz, the Rangers really needed to pull through for Colby Lewis who was pitching one hell of a game and matching Matusz pitch-for-pitch to avoid severe depression. Instead, in the bottom of the 7th, after a couple of runners reached with one out, Brandon Boggs made perhaps one of the worst plays in right field that I've ever seen. On a lazy pop fly between right and center, he circled the ball instead of charging it and let it drop for what would be the only run the Orioles would need as Matusz and Koji Uehara finished off the second shutout against the Rangers all season. Worse, however, the Orioles would score four runs in that inning, all charged to Colby Lewis. It was brutal. It was demoralizing. Never did I assume the Rangers would not win the West while watching it, as I had long assumed they would, but I'm not sure I have been more frustrated at any point all season just because I know for a fact that this particular team is better than that 7th inning and the current 36 horrible innings of baseball they were mired in. Colby Lewis and Rangers fans deserved a better fate than that game.
But then, even with a loss that bad, with baseball, the good thing is you have another game to provide you some catharsis the very next night. And in this case, the Rangers avenged the night before and provided a lift at a time in which it was needed most. The main event was C.J. Wilson pitching perhaps his best game of his career. A three hit, 8 2/3 inning, career high 12 K affair that came out of necessity as the offense continued to struggle to put runs on the board. Instead of collapsing late, C.J. just kept putting up zeroes. Until a lead off double in the 9th, C.J. had only given up 2 two hits, both to Julio Lugo, and a walk to Jake Fox. Mitch Moreland's second inning home run that just barely cleared the left field wall would stand up simply because C.J. Wilson was masterful. For all of the concerns of how C.J. Wilson would fair as his inning totals began to rise, his second half performance has been outstanding, including an August FIP of 2.45 with a 10.22 K/9. If that kind of success continues, the Rangers might have the best top three starters in the American League.
That is, unless the Rangers are facing Baltimore and one of those top three is Cliff Lee. Nothing demonstrates the Orioles surprising success against the Rangers in a more confusing way than their success against Cliff Lee this season as well. Cliff Lee has given up 241 total bases this season and 51 of them have been from the Orioles. That's nuts. I'll never understand it and I'm glad the Rangers won't have to figure it out again this season.
God bless you, Kevin Millwood
So what did we learn in Baltimore?