Rangers Top Mariners 3-1 To Sweep Third Straight Series And Extend Win Streak To 11

The second half of the season resumes as the Rangers take on the Mariners in Seattle.

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An Annual Tradition: The 11 Game Winning Streak

Magic Number: 63

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The Mariners are bad. We know that now. They are a bad team. They should lose a lot more games than they win, mostly because their offense is roughly as potent as the Mexican food you can find near their ballpark. So, sweeping them is not nearly as impressive as sweeping even a mediocre team like, say, the leaders of the AL Central, let alone the beasts of the AL East.

That said, sweeping a team on the road is still an accomplishment, no matter how bad they are. MLB teams just are not bad enough to expect to be swept at home, let alone a four game series. Then when you factor in a pitcher who will likely one day have a plaque in Cooperstown starting one of those games, and a total victory of 17-2, to cap off an 11 game winning streak, and it starts to be pretty special, even against a bad opponent.

This year is going to condition us to expect an 11 game winning streak every year. Rangers fans had only seen something like that once before 2010, and now they have seen it twice in as many years.

Struggling Mitch Moreland served as the offense today, when he followed a David Murphy single and Mike Napoli walk with a home run to right. In the second inning, it seemed like it was a great start to a one-sided game, but ended up being the only scoring on the day. Adrian Beltre and Napoli each had doubles in later innings, but each were stranded, and those were the only other extra-base hits in the game as Texas could not do much against former Rangers prospect Blake Beavan.

The offense did not need to show up, though, thanks to Matt Harrison pitching well enough to take advantage of the Mariners offense being themselves. Harrison was not especially good at finding a mostly-fair strikezone, but it was in there enough (63%) for his pretty nasty stuff to get 10 swinging strikes; four coming on his fastball topping out at close to 96 miles per hour, and five on his change. That resulted in only four strikeouts, but also just one walk, and with the support of the Texas defense (particularly one Elvis Andrus today), and coming against the Mariners that will, often get you a quality start. In this case seven and two-thirds innings pitched, five hits, and one run allowed.

A man who did look legitimately great was one Neftali Feliz. Pitching for the third straight day, he found the strikezone with 11 of his 17 pitches, with a fastball hitting 99 miles per hour, a couple tosses of what looked like a cutter, and seven swinging strikes (one on the "cutter"). It was the kind of stuff we like to see from Feliz, and against Seattle it just makes the hitters look silly. Two strikeouts and a shallow pop fly were all he needed for a dominant save.

The Rangers' prospects look so bright right now you have to wear sunglasses to look at them. 11 wins in a row and still counting, 14 games above .500, a four game lead in the division, and a chance to really put the division out of reach in the upcoming series against Anaheim. Even before the games were played today, Baseball Prospectus had the Rangers as a one-in-ten shot to miss the playoffs. They are not suddenly the best team in baseball, but they have firmly put themselves in the conversation as the best of the second tier of teams, and are looking as magical as they did at this point in 2010 (with a better showing against Baltimore!).

You now have the rest of your Sunday evening to reflect on how nice being a Rangers fan is these days.

Do not think about soccer.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

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

  1. Matt Harrison 24%
  2. Mitch Moreland 19%
  3. Mike Napoli 69%

Adrian Johnson's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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Image courtesy of Shaggieshapiro Says.

 


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Good Times

Magic Number: 65

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The Rangers are on fire, and too many words would only take away from the greatness. The Rangers scored five runs in Seattle, in a game started by Felix Hernandez. That is a good reason to be happy.

One of those runs was scored when Elvis Andrus -- who also had three hits -- alertly ran home when Hernandez tossed a ball to first too lazily. It was one of the coolest things to happen this year, and must be seen to be believed. Elvis Andrus flashed, again, why he is probably the best baserunner in baseball, and that is a good reason to be happy.

Two of those runs scored on home runs by Ian Kinsler, who, despite some vitriol from fans about his pouting and pop-ups, is having one of the best seasons in the American League. That is a good reason to be happy.

The only thing standing between the Rangers and 38 consecutive scoreless innings is a couple singles and some good Franklin Gutierrez baserunning. The ending of the streak is a bit sad, but the fact that the Rangers have only allowed one run over that stretch is still a good reason to be happy.

Texas has now won 10 in a row, the longest streak this season in the Majors, and the third longest in franchise history. Their +66 run differential is by far the best in the American League outside of NY/BOS, and only the Red Sox have more wins. Thanks to a double header split between the Angels and A's, the Rangers now have a three game lead in the AL West. All these are great reasons to be very happy.

This is the happy portion of 2011. Hopefully it's not the happiest.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

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

  1. Elvis Andrus 27%
  2. C.J. Wilson 25%
  3. Ian Kinsler 21%

Gary Cederstrom's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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VOTE FOR THE PLAYER OF THE GAME!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Rangers Opponents' Remain Scoreless In Second Half

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Magic Number: 67


Final - 7.15.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Texas Rangers 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 6 0
Seattle Mariners 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 1
WP: Colby Lewis (9 - 7)
SV: Neftali Feliz (19)
LP: Doug Fister (3 - 11)

Complete Coverage >



First thing is first: the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have not had a winning season since Sid Bream outran Barry Bonds's arm, are in first place. For real.

Tonight's (this morning's?) title is misleading, because it has been all of two games against a horrible offense, but the Rangers have still not allowed a run to score against them in the second half. That makes 29 straight scoreless innings now, dating back to the third game of the A's series prior to the break.

Friday, it was nearly a second straight complete game shutout, as Colby Lewis pitched a gem. Just like with Derek Holland Thursday, it carries with it the Seattle Mariners caveat, but it was still a well-thrown game, and you saw the things from Lewis you want to see. His fastball velocity was there, topping out over 91 and sitting just under 90 miles per hour. He struggled, as he does far too often, to get the velocity up until he was a few pitches in to the game, but he was near his peak after about a dozen or so, which is not too alarming. He was also still throwing hard in the ninth, and garnered a respectable nine swinging strikes with more than 70% of his pitches in the zone.

Unfortunately, he just was not quite efficient enough to go the distance. Ron Washington and Mike Maddux allowed him to go out for the ninth after 110 pitches, but after 121, he had allowed two singles, and was removed with an out to go, with eight strikeouts, two walks, and four hits allowed. Neftali Feliz needed to throw only two pitches to get the game-ending ground out and a weird save. Even if he could not do what Holland did, it was another spiffy start from the rotation, with some good signs from Lewis (which, of course, has been said before).

The offense had to deal with one awful strikezone, with more outside pitches than usual called strikes against lefties, and bizarre pitches more than a foot and a half high or inside called strikes against them on different occasions. Six hits, two walks, and four etched-out runs is nothing too exciting, but given the team, ballpark, and umpiring they were battling against, they may deserve a pass. There were just two strikeouts, on the plus side; one from Josh Hamilton, one from Endy Chavez.

Ian Kinsler had a perfect opposite field single and a hard hit double to lead the team in hits, and scored two of the four runs in the standout performance of the offense.

Texas's winning streak has stretched to nine, and the Athletics are a few outs from giving just gave them a 2.5 game lead in the division. It would be very nice to have some real breathing room in the division before the schedule gets tough again.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

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

  1. Colby Lewis 39%
  2. Ian Kinsler 7%
  3. Yorvit Torrealba 7%

Bill Miller's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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VOTE FOR THE PLAYER OF THE GAME!

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Dutch Treat

Magic Number: 69


Final - 7.14.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R
Texas Rangers 1 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 5
Seattle Mariners 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Complete Coverage >


 

It is very hard to feel better than opening up the second half with a dominating road win. Particularly after such a fantastic end to the first.

Tonight may feel a tad bit disappointing, though, if you watched. Derek Holland was on, and for five innings that meant perfect baseball; just about the point you start to care about what's happening. A Franklin Gutierrez walk to open up the sixth ended the perfecto, and a Chone Figgins hit afterwards ended the no-hitter. Something potentially special was suddenly just another game.

By the end, however, it was not just another game; it was the second straight complete game shutout from young Holland. I wish I could fully understand why he can't channel this excellence regularly, or at least be okay when he's at his worst, instead of putrid. I certainly couldn't fix it, but, maybe, if I understood, I would accept it better, instead of being aggravated by sometimes-wasted potential.

Tonight, though, that potential was on marvelous display. Yes, he shut down an awful offense in the Mariners, but shutting out any team on the road is a big deal, no matter how bad they are. No MLB team averages under a run. Holland's fastball was electric, averaging close to 95 -- even well after throwing 100 pitches -- topping out over 96, garnering six whiffs, and hitting the strike zone with regularity. The change-up kept hitters off-balance, and the slider was good enough to get a couple misses, but the star was that vicious fastball and how little the Mariners could do with it. Eight strikeouts, one walk, no runs, no relievers. Mariners or no, it was a tremendous start to the second half, and a reminder that Dutch has a very attractive ceiling in him.

The offense was good enough for most starts, let alone a shut out. Josh Hamilton homered in the first to start the scoring off, and Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli each added solo home runs of their own. Elvis Andrus capped off the scoring with a single in the sixth, his second to go with a walk. He also scored the third run when he advanced to second on a shallow fly out to center, then scored on a Michael Young double that was only a double because of Andrus booking around third. Though he was caught stealing later, Andrus had himself a game, both at the plate and, especially, on the basepaths, and I point this out so that I can point out the fact that he leads everyone in all of baseball in value added on the basepaths since he came on to the scene (per FanGraphs). He is magic on the paths, and that needs to be appreciated.

Another thing that needs to be appreciated is Ian Kinsler:

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The 2011 team that has now won eight in a row, and is sporting the best run differential in the non-NYY/PHI/BOS category.

GAME CHARTS

FanGraphs Win Expectancy

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Biggest Contributions

  1. Derek Holland 25%
  2. Mike Napoli 11%
  3. Josh Hamilton 10%

Fieldin Culbreth's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball

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VOTE FOR THE PLAYER OF THE GAME!

 


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