Liriano Dominates Rangers As Twins Win 6-1

C.J. Wilson takes the mound for Texas as the Rangers look to avoid losing two in a row to the Twins.

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No No-No, At Least

Final - 6.12.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 2
Minnesota Twins 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 X 6 9 1
WP: Francisco Liriano (4 - 6)
LP: Matt Harrison (5 - 6)

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Francisco Liriano has had a bad season thus far, but he has also had a good career when he has been healthy, and has some incredible stuff. Amusingly, in the midst of a bad season, he threw his first career no-hitter on a day when his stuff was not quite there for him.

Today, his stuff was there for him, and that was a Rangers nightmare. Without lefty-killer Mike Napoli, the Rangers threw out a heavy LHH lineup against Liriano, and the combination was a disaster. Most of the game was simply the terror of a potential no-hitter, or worse, as Liriano was perfect through six innings, making the Rangers look completely foolish at the plate. This was no lucky perfect start -- though there was some good Twins defense -- this was simply a combination of a very good pitcher and a very out of it lineup.

In the seventh, Elvis Andrus reached on an error, and the perfect game was broken up, but Liriano still finished the inning with a no-hit bid. At that point, it was still a one run game, but the way Liriano was pitching it felt over. The eighth, however, saw the no-hitter quickly broken up by an Adrian Beltre single, and then even the shutout broken up Yorvit Torrealba singled him home.

Unfortunately, the Liriano "melt down," likely, to how long Liriano had to sit during the bottom of the seventh, where everything fell apart for the Rangers. Thanks to some good luck, Matt Harrison had managed to keep the Twins off the board outside of one run in the first, but he was nailed by a Danny Valencia b-line to start the seventh, and had to leave the game while Valencia reached first. Mark Lowe replaced him, and was not as lucky (or as good).

Lowe has actually been a pretty good reliever this year, especially for someone who is just supposed to be bullpen filler and not getting the big leverage. Sunday, though, he was really bad. Nearly every plate appearance resulted in solid contact, and with a couple of balls just past Andrus and his first homerun allowed on the season, he allowed five runs (including Valencia) against just two outs.Though we should be careful about taking Lowe's good season at face value -- since it was just over 16 innings pitched prior to today -- we should be even more careful about taking this one game as a sign that he is suddenly bad. Regardless, he was very bad and took a close game and put it out of reach.

Maybe the way it ended felt better than a 6-1 game normally would, because the Rangers at least managed to carve out a couple of hits and a run when a perfect game seemed imminent. Maybe Mark Lowe had trouble getting ready on short notice. Maybe (likely) this was a game the Rangers were going to lose more often than not, anyway. It was still the ugly end to a very ugly series. Buried inside was a dominant Rangers victory, but otherwise it was an overall one-sided 1-3 performance in Minnesota, which has seemingly become a house of horrors for Texas.

This 20 game stretch which is the hardest of the year most likely is still going well, though now just barely. Thanks to this awful series, and the poor performance against Detroit, a lot of the good done by beating up on Tampa Bay and Cleveland has been undone. It is still far from time to panic, of course, but it is frustrating how quickly a feel-good stretch can turn in to something that is merely OK.

Good riddance, Target Field. We hate you.


FanGraphs Win Expectancy


Biggest Failures

  1. Mark Lowe -17%
  2. Michael Young -12%
  3. Ian Kinsler -10%

Doug Eddings's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball



Colby Lewis Stokes The Fires Of Panic

Final - 6.11.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 5 0
Minnesota Twins 5 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 X 8 12 0
WP: Scott Baker (4 - 4)
LP: Colby Lewis (5 - 7)

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It was over as quickly as it began.

Colby Lewis began the year with a few bad starts, looking like something might be wrong and the rotation might be in trouble. Then settled down, looking more like his 2010 TORP self from the end of April to the start of June, and fans had reason to think everything would be okay going forward.

Now, Lewis has strung together two games that are not just bad but horrendous in a row, and panic is probably going to hit a new high. This was awful.


That was Colby Lewis today. His velocity was actually not particularly alarming, and the slider continued to make guys miss, but the command was terrifying. Through his fifty pitches, he struggled to find the strikezone, and when he did found it -- as those bright blue squares tell you -- he found a lot of it, and the Twins turned those fat pitches in to hard base hits. He allowed five runs to start the first, another run in the second, and he -- and the Rangers -- were done quickly on national television.

The offense was nearly equally pathetic, doing nothing against Scott Baker, allowing him to throw a complete game with just one run scored. The offense will have a bad day now and then, and this was one of them. They've had more than enough good days to make this a blip on the radar. For Lewis, though, this was a very bad sign. He's still been very good very recently, and showed that for a while this season, but for two games in a row now he hasn't even been good enough to be the last man in a Major League bullpen, let alone a top starter for a team with at least aspirations of making the playoffs. Few outside of the Rangers likely know what's wrong, how to fix it, or if it even can be fixed, but this is scary until we hear or see something.

A bad game all around, and not much to say about it other than the Rangers were awful. If they can manage to win tomorrow, they get a split on the road, which -- even against a hobbled Twins team -- is never a bad thing, but it will be hard to feel good about merely getting a split in Minnesota with a game this ugly on the record.

One more note for Fox on their national broadcasts: Get someone who actually does their homework before the games. Mark Grace had snarky comments about how the Rangers prefer to slug the ball but play awful defense, which is so off the mark it would be hilarious if it wasn't being spouted by the color man to a national audience. He coupled that with great insights, such as saying Scott Baker is good because he "just takes the ball," or how the Rangers' key to the game was "stay the course," while the Twins' key to the game was "just keep playing." Perhaps he was just too busy with other things this week to be on top of the teams he was supposed to cover, but he was awful and unprepared, and he chose to mask that inanity with snark and bad jokes. The game was bad enough to watch, but Fox made it even worse with a horribly inadequate analyst in the booth.

Hopefully you enjoyed your Saturday. Better days ahead.


FanGraphs Win Expectancy


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

  1. Colby Lewis -38%
  2. Ian Kinsler -3%
  3. Elvis Andrus -3%

Paul Nauert's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball



What Finishing A 7-0 Rain Game Looks Like

Final - 6.10.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 0 7 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 9 13 0
Minnesota Twins 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 3 8 2
WP: C.J. Wilson (7 - 3)
LP: Brian Duensing (3 - 6)

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The Rangers scored seven runs in the second inning to take a 7-0 lead in a game threatened my inclement weather. Familiar script, right?

Except, this time, the Rangers got to keep playing, and, as they likely would have the last time, coasted to an easy victory. Their first win ever in Target Field, in fact.

It was a day that was all about how awesome the Rangers position players were. Every Rangers starter but Andres Blanco and Nelson Cruz had a hit. In fact, every Ranger but those two, Elvis Andrus, and Josh Hamilton (who had a double) slapped multiple, and Michael Young showed good signs of breaking out of his slump with three hits to lead the team. It wasn't just the offense, though, it was the defense, highlighted by an incredible assist to third by Cruz and amazing infield stops by Adrian Beltre and Andrus.

What was unusual was the Rangers scoring nine runs with only two extra base hits the whole game. Every other hit was a single, they just mostly came in the second inning. Beltre opened the inning with the Rangers' only walk of the game (against just three strikeouts), and ended the scoring with a double for the only extra base hit of the inning. In between, there were six singles -- Hamilton making the only out -- and a reached-on-error. Beltre added another RBI single in the fourth, and Young did so in the sixth to give the Rangers nine runs with almost no power. For one day, the Rangers were an early 20th century baseball team, excelling on putting everything in play they could and hoping to string together enough singles to score runs. It was nothing if not exciting, and put the game out of reach early.

The strangeness of the game may just have been influenced by the umpires' decision to keep playing through the rain, which was particularly heavy in the second. Brian Duensing is better than a seven runs in two innings pitcher, and the weather at least had a small part in that, maybe a larger part. The Twins pair of errors in the inning came when Jason Repko slipped in the wet outfield and Alexi Casilla couldn't handle a strange hop on the infield grass. Those directly lead to runs and baserunners, and who knows how much trouble Duensing had hitting his spots in the rain.

On the other side, C.J. Wilson's performance -- outside of runs allowed -- was not necessarily his best, either. With three walks and a hit batter to just one strikeout on three swinging strikes, he was probably a tad lucky to have gone seven innings with three runs allowed. With the weather the way it was, it's not hard to believe that was the reason Wilson had trouble missing bats or finding the zone Friday (Dana DeMuth's small zone didn't help, either). We know he's better, and one game in the rain probably means even less than one game normally does.

Regardless, even without some good luck and defensive help, Wilson still pitched well enough to win handily simply because the Rangers did a better job than the Twins of punishing a pitcher battling the elements. For the ninth time in 15 games, they've delivered cheap Papa John's pizza to the people of the Metroplex, and, after an 8-0 Cardinals loss, it gives Texas the second best run differential in baseball.


FanGraphs Win Expectancy


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

  1. Mike Napoli 12%
  2. C.J. Wilson 9%
  3. Adrian Beltre 8%

Dan DeMuth's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball



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