The Rangers, who have been playing uncharacteristically sloppy lately, needed a big win today. After Saturday night's loss, Ron Washington addressed his team, urging them to get back to playing "Ranger Baseball".
They did just that, as Sunday's win was an all-around solid performance, with solid pitching, defense, base-running, and plate discipline.
Matt Harrison led the way for the Rangers, putting together his third consecutive solid start. Harrison retired the first 12 batters he faced and did not allow his first hit until the fifth inning. His final line was 6 2/3 innings pitched, allowing three earned runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
The bullpen had a slight redemption as well. Alexi Ogando did surrender a run (that Harrison had left on) but other than that, the bullpen was near-flawless.
Elvis Andrus has struggled in the field lately, but he was absolutely stellar on Sunday, with two spectacular plays in the field: the eighth inning backhand in the hole and another near-identical play in the third.
More importantly, the Rangers did not commit an error today either
The Rangers had two great executions on the base paths this afternoon, both of which led to runs.
The first was a Mitch Moreland sacrifice bunt with no outs in the sixth inning. He successfully got the bunt down and safely advanced David Murphy to third and Mike Napoli to second. Ian Kinsler then grounded out to shortstop, scoring Murphy on the play. If not for the bunt, the grounder would have been an easy double play and Murphy likely would not have scored that inning.
The second came in the ninth as the Rangers were looking for an insurance run. Murphy reached first on a one-out walk and Craig Gentry came in to pinch-run. Everyone in Southern California knew Gentry was looking to steal. The Angels called a pitch-out on the exact pitch Gentry chose to steal on, but were unable to throw him out. Gentry would score on the next pitch, Mike Napoli line-drive single to left-center. Gentry came in, executed his job, and the Rangers notched an insurance run as a result.
The Rangers batters were patient, forcing Dan Haren to throw 104 pitches in only five innings. Haren's final line was five innings pitched, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
As a result, they were able to get the soft underbelly of the Angels pitching staff in the sixth and seventh innings, scoring three runs against Bobby Cassevah, including a monster two-run home run off the bat of Nelson Cruz. LA pitchers threw 193 total pitches Sunday, resulting in 14 hits and six walks for the Rangers.
Unlike hitting, which will come and go, pitching, defense, base-running, and plate discipline are all very controllable. The Rangers recent struggles have been mostly attributable to poor execution on defense. They corrected that Sunday afternoon, and also executed in the other three areas.
Washington's speech Saturday night obviously struck a chord with the team. The result, a 7-3 victory.