So here we are. After all of that panic a week and a half ago the Rangers finished off their series in Toronto with a split, swept the New York Yankees, and now did the same to the Tigers albeit in a short two games series. The Rangers now have 17 games left, a 10 game lead in the AL West, and the Magic Number is down to 8. The Rangers are going to win the American League West. I'd wager what is important now, and what was important against this Detroit Tigers, is getting the team back to June 2010 form for October 2010. That means getting Josh Hamilton back on the field and seeing if Frank Francisco can ramp up enough in these final weeks to perform at a level that makes it wise to include him on the postseason 25 man roster.
Against the Tigers, the Rangers scored 22 runs in the two games, 11 per. Frankly, after that offensive explosion, not much else went right for the Rangers. In game one, Derek Holland didn't make it into the 5th inning even though his stuff was excellent. Unlike previous starts where his stuff wasn't as good and teams were punishing him with home runs, Holland's stuff was really good he just couldn't locate at all. He ended up walking two batters and hitting two batters in his 4 innings of work. The Rangers also committed two errors and were sloppy in the field otherwise early in the game partially due to unusually high winds and partially due to allowing unusually high winds to make them make bad decisions.
Dustin Nippert pitched 4.1 innings in that first game of the series. He came in with the game still in questions (tied at four) and then didn't allow a run in his entire stint. This was significant because the Tigers were the team that put him on the disabled list back in July after taking a ball of the head on a come-backer in Detroit and also because he is Dustin Nippert. He isn't very good. He won't make the playoff roster. But it was very nice to see a yeoman's performance akin to what Matt Harrison did to the Tigers that very same night Nippert was struck in Detroit. Long Relief is a thankless job but sometimes it is needed far more than we know. Nippert's work kept Darren O'day out of a meaningless game. It kept Darren Oliver from pitching another inning that he can save for October. Dustin Nippert might not be very good but his efforts on Tuesday night are appreciated.
Now that Derek Holland needed efforts from Dustin Nippert to win a game he started, do you think this solidifies in the Rangers mind that Tommy Hunter is their #4 starter in the playoffs if they need one? I still hope they go with Holland because I think he has a better chance to win a playoff baseball game for the Rangers, but I get the feeling Derek had a steep uphill climb to surpass Tommy Hunter and he probably just rolled back down the hill.
I'm pretty sure David Murphy found a mysterious oriental skull that allowed him to transforms himself into Josh Hamilton, and vice versa while Josh Hamilton's body heals.
Consider this Texas Rangers fans: With all the likelihood in the world, the next team you head to the Ballpark in Arlington, your Texas Rangers will be the 2010 American League West Division Champions.
So what did we learn against Detroit?