The Rangers are getting AL best hitting from their deep lineup. The Rangers have a rotation where every member has a win by the sixth game of the season. And yet, while the offense and starting pitching was good again, perhaps the best part of this series with Seattle was the defense and bullpen.
The Rangers pen went eight innings over the course of the three game series and allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out four Mariners. But most importantly, they came into games with leads of two runs, three runs, and one run and they made those leads hold up each occasion. On Tuesday night, after Alexi Ogando debuted as a starter with six shutout innings, the bullpen bent a little but didn't break after Mark Lowe allowed three soft singles and a run before Darren Oliver came in allowed a single, and run charged to Lowe, before getting two big outs and a 1-2-3 8th to pave the way for a 1-2-3 9th for Neftali Feliz.
The Rangers have 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster and haven't had to utilize that depth too much so far. In fact, the last guy in the pen, Dave Bush, hasn't pitched as of yet. However, the reason the Rangers have that depth is because of concerns with the youth of the rotation and the middle-late innings in the bullpen. And although the terrific starts by the likes of Matt Harrison and Ogando have been great, they overshadow the work the bullpen has done so far to keep this team undefeated.
A big reason the staff has been good so far is, of course, the Rangers defense. In fact, a reason the bullpen didn't break in that game on Tuesday was because of the speed and range of centerfielder Julio Borbon. With two outs and the bases loaded in a 3-2 game, Oliver got Milton Bradley to pop up to shallow center. However, the ball was deceiving because of the powerful swing Bradley put on it and because of the early season wind causing balls to be a bit unpredictable. Initially it appeared that Borbon got a poor read on the ball, however he was able to close on it and make a game-saving catch to salvage the streak. While it is possible that with a better read another outfielder on the team could have caught that ball, there's no one else on the team that comes close to the closing speed and range that Borbon has. That's why he's out there.
Also, when Adrian Beltre came up in rumors as a potential player the Rangers might go after, there was some consternation that the Rangers were spending too much on a position it already had filled. And while Beltre hasn't earned his entire contract in these first two series, If you watched him in this series, you can see why the Rangers turned to him when they lost out on Cliff Lee as a method of improving defense to improve the pitching staff. Beltre is a you-have-to-see-him-to-believe kind of player on the field. While his defensive stats and reputation as a fielder are also great, there's something about defense that needs to be seen to enjoyed. If you look at a player's UZR you can't see a diving stop the same way you can look at a player's home run total and imagine them flying out of the yard. And seeing him now, though he isn't getting the results with the bat so far, he's an unbelievable fielder. For example:
I can hyperbolize with the best of 'em but I'll just quote Rangers radio announcer Dave Barnett when he said, after watching this play, that it was like "shades of Brooks Robinson." If you're a third baseman, there's no higher praise. Those of us dreaming of what a Beltre/Andrus left side of the infield would look like all winter have woken up from our slumber happy in knowing that it looks spectacular and will help this team as immensely as we had hoped.
Things that had happened since Elvis Andrus had hit a home run before hitting one off of Erik Bedard in the first inning on Monday night:
- Marlon Byrd was a Ranger and became a Chicago Cub
- Ivan Rodriguez was a Ranger again before becoming a Washington National
- Hank Blalock was a Ranger before becoming a Tampa Bay Ray and then out of the Majors :(
- Chris Davis was a Ranger again then he was a Red Hawk then he was a Ranger then he was a Red Hawk then he was a Ranger then he was a Red Hawk and then he was an Express
- C.J. Wilson was still an "erratic" 8th inning guy
- Colby Lewis was in Japan
- Cliff Lee was a couple of months removed from being in Cleveland before being traded to Philadelphia where they lost the World Series. He then got traded to Seattle, got traded to the Texas Rangers, lost in the World Series, again, and then signed with Philadelphia
- Michael Young was nearing the end of his first season at third base
- Ron Washington had just 60 days previously tried cocaine for the first and last time in his life
- Elvis Andrus would ride an elephant into our hearts