Rangers Can't Complete Sweep, Fall 4-2 In Atlanta

The Texas Rangers resume their interleague schedule on Friday night as they head to Atlanta looking to snap out of their losing ways.

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Yorvit Torrealba And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Inning


Final - 6.19.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 9 2
Atlanta Braves 0 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 X 4 7 2
WP: Jair Jurrjens (9 - 3)
SV: Craig Kimbrel (19)
LP: Alexi Ogando (7 - 2)

Complete Coverage >



The Rangers leader in Win Probability Added on Sunday was Yorvit Torrealba, with just shy of an 8% chance of winning being produced thanks to his box score performance. That's what happens when you have two hits and one of the game's only two RBIs in a losing effort. His fourth inning hit helped a game that looked bad look a little better before it got too late.

The problem is, WPA does not capture all the things Torrealba did the inning prior to his RBI single which contributed to the game looking bad. The third inning started innocently with a Jair Jurrjens pop out, but that was followed by Jordan Schafer reaching on interference by Torrealba. Dan Uggla then reached on a ground ball single, and both runners advanced on what was ruled a wild pitch but was primarily a failure of Torrealba to stay in front of the ball. Then with a runner reached because of the catcher, and two runners in scoring position partly because of the catcher, Jason Heyward singled to bring home both runs and it was 2-0 Braves.

Yorvit wasn't done there, though. After another out, another single advanced Heyward to third before Alexi Ogando induced an infield fly by Alex Gonzalez to end the inning. Only, it didn't end the inning because Torrealba couldn't hear Michael Young screaming what everyone watching the game could hear: "I got it." Young was under the fly ball in plenty of time, but Torrealba ran in to him, anyway, and caused the ball to fall safely to the earth. With Heyward running, the run scored easily, and thanks in large part to mistakes ranging from bad to insane on Torrealba's part, the Braves had a 3-0 early lead.

Following his single, Torrealba was removed due to "fatigue," which is easy to believe. He's on pace for a career high in games caught, and this was his third straight start and second day game in a row. With hesitation to excuse him entirely, perhaps fatigue lead to his issues in the third, making him a bit more lazy and out of it than he would otherwise be. If he was actually fatigued, he probably never should have played, instead of being pulled midway through the game. Taylor Teagarden is very bad, but without Mike Napoli, giving him some playing time is a necessary evil, and may well have helped the Rangers avoid an early 3-0 hole.

Bad inning aside, though, the blame of Sunday's loss is not entirely on Torrealba (and/or Ron Washington for starting him). As mentioned, Torrealba was one of only two Rangers to bring a run home, as six Rangers were stranded in scoring position over the course of the game. While that may suggest some bad luck (unless you want to believe in choking), the fact that they only had a couple hard hit balls and hit well over half their balls in play on the ground suggests they were lucky to even score as many as they did.

Ogando, meanwhile, did not have such a hot start, striking out just three, getting only seven swinging strikes, allowing some hard contact, and lasting for only five innings. He also suffered a dramatic loss in velocity as the game went on, though at least he also avoided the walks, and probably could have had a quality start without so many concentrated mistakes by Torrealba.

Maybe the loss of velocity and inefficient start, and the weak contact by the offense, all relates to the same thing that had Torrealba pulled: fatigue. In Atlanta right now, it's 92 degrees with 40% humidity, trending to cooler at the time of this posting. This was the 10th straight game for Texas, the 14th on the road, and that weather at the end of this stretch could quite understandably drain a player. Jeff Wilson even tweets that Torrealba and Ogando required IVs after the game. If the Rangers just didn't have it, there are no bad signs to be found here, and not a whole lot for angst, it's just an off day in the midst of the season.

It is, unfortunately, disappointing to fall short of a big sweep, and to have to settle for a 10-10 record during this rough stretch. A win in Atlanta, and a .500 record during the toughest 20 games of the season, is a success, but after starting a series 2-0 and starting the stretch 6-1, it seems like things could go better. Unfortunately, super humans can't always be super human.

Disappointment doesn't mean things are bad. The schedule is easier starting tomorrow, and if the Rangers can play as well as they did these past 20 games, they will probably clean up with a lot more wins.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

Wpa_medium

Biggest Failures (What is this, I don't even. . . ?)

  1. Alexi Ogando -15%
  2. Elvis Andrus -13%
  3. Taylor Teagarden -10%

Cory Blaser's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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Rain Can't Stop Rangers


Final - 6.18.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R
Texas Rangers 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5
Atlanta Braves 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 4

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On May 30th, Adam Morris wrote a bit at Lone Star Ball about this being the toughest portion of the Rangers' schedule in 2010, saying going .500 over this 20 game stretch would be a success. That was something I agreed with, and with one game to go, the Rangers have ensured at least as much, getting their 10th win tonight in Atlanta.

If you happen to be a displaced Rangers fan, without the use of an illegal stream, you did not get to watch tonight's game thanks to Major League Baseball's insane blackout policies, but Eric Nadel and Steve Busby called a good one. Or, at least, a strange one.

Before an out was even recorded, the Rangers had a 2-0 lead, thanks to an Ian Kinsler walk, followed by a single from Elvis Andrus and a ROE by Josh Hamilton. With a patented Andrus-Hamilton double steal in the third and a Michael Young single, the Rangers had a 4-0 lead by the third inning. Stranded runners kept the offense from really breaking out, but the offense mostly had a fine day, with every position player reaching base at least once for the second straight game, and Andrus leading the way with three hits and two stolen bases (including home).

Unfortunately, the stranded runners meant the Braves got to climb back in to it. A Nelson Cruz error in the third kept the inning alive and allowed a run to score, with another run after to make it 4-2. That's where it stayed while the weather put the game in to hibernation in with two outs in the fifth; one out short of an official game.

To that point, Matt Harrison, was rolling. He had five strikeouts, just one walk, and 76 pitches. He had allowed two runs, but both came following a two-out error, so nothing earned. The rainout, it seemed, meant Harrison's good start would be turned over to the pen early, at best, or wasted, at worst.

Instead, the Rangers sent him out following more than a two hour break, and he answered the call well. Through another inning and two thirds, he seemingly suffered no loss to command or velocity, finding the zone nearly 80% of the time against his final six batters faced, and hitting the radar with higher numbers than he had in the middle innings, with another strikeout. A cutter against Brian McCann didn't cut, found too much of the plate, and was sent over the wall for Harrison's first -- and only -- Earned Run allowed in the game, but all told Harrison looked good, with 11 swinging strikes, 67% of his pitches in the zone, few hard hit balls, and nothing lost after a long rain delay.

His first replacement, Yoshi Tatayema, continued to do what he's done by crushing his opposition, striking out all three batters he faced. Tateyama has now struck out 12 of the 52 batters he's faced, and has not yet given up a walk; it might be time to be excited about him. Darren Oliver did not do so well, blowing the save with a Dan Uggla double after an error, but he managed to recover with a Wilkin Ramirez strikeout while the winning run was on second. Fortunately, on this night, that only delayed the Rangers win.

The 10th inning was the Adrian Beltre inning. During the rain delay, a lot of callers told Bryan Dolgin the Rangers needed to remove Kinsler from the lead-off spot, but Kinsler was just fine there today, as his lead-off single resulted in the game's first run, and he then led the 10th off with a double. That ended up being the winning run thanks to a Beltre double, and Beltre helped protect that lead in the bottom half by knocking down a hard hit Dan Uggla shot before recovering to throw him out at first. That play was bookended by two Neftali Feliz strikeouts, with eight swinging strikes in the perfect inning to close it out, and it might just be time to stop worrying about Feliz. It's scary he has the potential to be really bad like he was earlier in the season, but he has looked good to untouchable for a while now.

This game in some ways was a microcosm of this 20 game stretch. It started out very well, looked to be in jeopardy for a while, and ended up being just fine. Texas has clinched a win in Atlanta, and they have a shot Sunday to sweep. A sweep on the road is always good, and a sweep of a serious playoff contender on the road is great. If they pull that out, it would mean a winning record during the hardest portion of the 2011 schedule, even after some awful performances in Minnesota and New York, and that would be cause for some minor celebration.

It's all going to be okay, it seems.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

Wpa_medium

Biggest Contributions (What is this, I don't even. . . ?)

  1. Adrian Beltre 23%
  2. Neftali Feliz 19%
  3. Ian Kinsler 16%

Brian Gorman's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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Rangers Tomahawk Chop Their Losing Streak


Final - 6.17.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 0 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 1 6 12 0
Atlanta Braves 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 5 3
WP: Colby Lewis (6 - 7)
LP: Randall Delgado (0 - 1)

Complete Coverage >


 

Dear Colby Lewis,

Why can't you be like this every night?

Tonight was something of a microcosm, it seemed, of Colby Lewis's season. At times, he was as good as 2010, if not better, striking out 10 Braves with 16 swinging strikes; six on his fastball, which approached 93 miles per hour at times. At other times, he was awful -- in the same game -- with three walks, only enough efficiency to throw in to the seventh inning, and a few pitches hung over the plate. Two flat breaking balls and a high-80s fastball found the center of the plate and were hit hard, two leaving the park for solo home runs.

It's what Colby Lewis seems to be this season. At times, the command is perfect and he's unhittable. His slider makes people look stupid even on his bad days, but only on his good days -- or in his good innings, tonight -- does he have the command of his fastball to make that matter. Fortunately tonight, there was enough good, and enough help from the defense, for the net result to be good enough for a win.

Of course, some of that defensive support was himself.

Idir4o_medium


Thanks to the offense, the Rangers' five game losing streak fell in comfortable fashion. The hitters piled on young Randall Delgado for the first loss of his career with 12 total hits; four from Josh Hamilton, who hit a home run that seemed to find the stands as quickly as it touched the bat. Only the pitchers (hooray National League baseball) failed to reach base, each of the top five hitters scored runs, and Michael Young and Nelson Cruz combined for three doubles. Meanwhile, Neftali Feliz had another good outing with four swinging strikes -- including one a breaking ball -- and just two balls thrown in a perfect ninth inning to end it.

Though while it was comfortable, in a lot of ways, the Rangers were not quite as good as 6-2 shows tonight. Lewis had 10 strikeouts, but the Braves are one of the easiest teams in baseball to strikeout. The offense scored six runs on the road, but it was against a guy making his debut. Still, a win is a win, and the Rangers needed one badly. After three awful series in a row, the promising start to this difficult string of games was in danger of being wasted, but a win to open the last series of the stretch puts Texas in position of needing just to split the final two to escape with a .500 record -- which should be considered a success -- and have themselves a chance to do even better.

And at least they did it without too much drama.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

Wpa_medium

Biggest Contributions (What is this, I don't even. . . ?)

  1. Josh Hamilton 29%
  2. Nelson Cruz 17%
  3. Colby Lewis 13%

Larry Vanover's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

Strikezone_medium

VOTE FOR THE PLAYER OF THE GAME!

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