We started hearing it in June. Sure, the Rangers were winning. The Rangers were winning more than they had ever won before. But they're beating the Houstons, Milwaukees, and Pittsburghs of the world. They're cupcakes, they said. They're delicious cupcakes that will be eaten by hungry AL rivals when it came time for dessert. Those rivals looked like they were wiping the entrees off the corners of their mouths and calling for the dessert cart as they watched the Rangers get swept by the Orioles before the All-Star Break. Little did they know, however, a little antacid would be in order as the Rangers would be tough to swallow.
The Rangers have played eleven games out of the break. Four of those against Boston at Fenway, three against Detroit at The House of Torment Comerical Park, and four against the Angels in front of 170+ Rangers fans, a couple hundred dogs, and Jamey Newberg's Newberg Night crowd. In those eleven games, the Rangers are 8-3 with three series wins. Perhaps these Rangers, now up seven games in the division, aren't dessert after all. Perhaps these Rangers are the main course.
- I know it's crazy to perpetuate the stereotype that Michael Young is "clutch" because he doesn't perform any better in RISP situations, he isn't superman in late inning situations, and he is still very limited defensively regardless of the situation, but in this series, there were large stretches where Michael Young was the offense. When asked if Thursday night's game felt like a playoff game, he matter-of-factly said: "I wouldn't know." I don't think he's trying any harder, and I don't know that there is a harder for him to try, but I get the feeling that Michael Young really wants to know what a Texas Rangers playoff game would be like and I really like that about him.
- Ironically, for those that marvel at, or at least shake your fist at, the Angels ability to outperform their pythag, they scored as many runs as the Rangers in this series (12-12) and still lost three of the games. How does it feel, Angels?
- On Thursday night, you watched Cliff Lee on an off night. 8.1 innings, 2 runs, and zero walks is an off night for Cliff Lee. It's a pleasure to watch Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee is a Texas Ranger and it is a pleasure.
- On Friday night, you watched C.J. Wilson on his most on night perhaps of his Rangers career. 8 innings, zero runs, zero walks. Zero walks. If Cliff Lee is having the impact on C.J. that his last two starts and a couple of mentions in the press seem to indicate, the Cliff Lee trade is without question a win for the Rangers.
- Jim Knox, ladies and gentlemen:
- I know that record is a pretty meaningless stat for a starting pitcher, almost RBI total for a batter meaningless, but Tommy Hunter's 8-0 impresses me. If ever a pitcher complains about the Arlington heat, they should look over at poor Tommy after a gutty 6 1/3 3 run performance and realize that they're complaining about something a fat guy just did and did well.
- However, with that said, there's no way Tommy is going to be able to maintain a .253 BABIP or 86.2 % strand rate. We are going to have to face an inevitable future where Tommy Hunter doesn't win every game he starts. Tommy Hunter is this year's Scott Feldman. Although I think he's a better pitcher than Scott Feldman, and won't have as drastic a fall off of results versus performance, statistically, he's pitching over his head. Also, Josh Hamilton didn't homer in Tommy's start. What's up with that? Regression has already begun, perhaps? Beware the health of your knees when you jerk them.
- Sometimes I forget Neftali Feliz. I think of Elvis, and Cliff Lee, and Josh Hamilton as these superheroes, these men who make baseball look so easy. I forget that Neftali Feliz is one of these special people, also. Because he is in the closers role, I am often forced to go into "OH GOD DON'T BLOW IT!" mode instead of, "I GET TO ENJOY NEFTALI FELIZ!" mode. I remembered when I saw him on Friday night destroy the Angels hopes of anything more than a split. I remembered as I watched him close out a 1-0 game with a sellout crowd screaming like it were October and he didn't flinch. It reminded me of when he debuted, which still hasn't even been a year ago, and how he dominated. Neftali Feliz is special and it is a shame that I forgot about that. Never again, Neffy.
So what did we learn against Anaheim?
There's still a lot of season left...for the Angels to battle the A's for second place.