Thursday could have been a lot worse for the Texas Rangers, but it also could have been a lot better.
The Rangers escaped New York with a 10-6 win on Thursday afternoon, avoiding a four-game sweep at the hands of the dreaded Yankees -- the other heavy weight in the American League.
Thursday's game, even though it was a win, certainly was sloppy.
Let's start with the good, though. The Rangers were very resilient, and almost seemed to refuse to let the Yankees sweep them away. After coughing up a 4-0 lead, the Rangers found them selves down 5-4 in the top of the sixth inning. David Murphy doubled, scoring Michael Young and advancing Adrian Beltre to third to tie the game, before Craig Gentry laced a two out, two strike single to give the Rangers a 7-5 lead.
The Rangers nearly gave the lead back, as the Yankees cut the deficit down to 7-6 in the bottom half of the seventh. Texas added another two runs in the eighth and another in the ninth on an Elvis Andrus single to give Texas' bullpen some insurance, and the 10-6 lead that they'd go onto win by.
Speaking of Texas' bullpen, congratulations are certainly in order to Tanner Scheppers, who picked up the first victory in his big league career, despite allowing one run in two thirds of an inning.
Michael Kirkman, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan each pitched a scoreless inning, shutting New York's offense down.
Now, for the not-so-good.
The offense blew a golden chance to blow the game open in the top of the third inning. Michael Olt lead off the inning with a double, and was promptly followed up by walks by Elvis Andrus and Michael Young, loading the bases for Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton struck out swinging, Adrian Beltre grounded into a fielder's choice to third base weakly, as the Yankees cut down the lead runner at home, and David Murphy, who did collect three hits on the day, struck out.
It's tough to really pile on Hamilton, since he's been playing well as of late, but his at bat in the third was awful. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Hamilton struck out on three pitches, predictably, striking out swinging, and looking awful in the process. Hamilton needs to force himself to have better at bats.
Derek Holland was sort-of-kind-of-good. He was excellent through the first five innings, allowing just one baserunner through the first five frames. Then, the wheels came off the wagon in the sixth inning.
Ichiro Suzuki led off the inning with a single before advancing to second on a fielder's choice. Derek Jeter drove him in, and advanced to second base on a throw home that should never have been made putting Jeter in scoring position with one out. Jeter would score on the very next play, as Nick Swisher laced a single up the middle, pulling the Yankees to within two.
After Holland got Mark Teixeira to chase a 3-2 pitch in the dirt, it looked like Holland might get out of the inning preserving the 4-2 lead.
That wasn't the case. Holland served up a meatball to Andruw Jones on the very first pitch, that Jones crushed off the second tier's facade, completing his mini-implosion.
Ron Washington's questionable lineup decision was brought into the spotlight on the very next play, when a seemingly innocent flyball was hit into right center field, where Michael Olt went over to make the routine play. Olt did not make the play, as the ball bounced right off of his glove, putting Casey McGehee on second base.
I get it. Washington wants to find ways to get Olt's bat into the lineup. I can understand experimenting with him at first base, the most innocuous defensive position on the diamond. Right field, however, is not an easy place for a third baseman to play. It's especially not easy during a bright, sunny, day game in Yankee Stadium.
It's a decision that's equally as poor as batting Michael Young second in the lineup and playing him at second base... which Washington did as well on Thursday afternoon.
The series in New York taught us that the Rangers have work to do if they're going to get back to the World Series for a third consecutive year. The Yankees proved that they can beat Texas with the bats (8-2), and proved that they could win the close games over the Rangers (3-2, 3-0).
The Yankees did it with ace CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, no less.
Make no mistake, the Rangers are good team, borderline great. They're going to win the AL West, barring an '07 Mets-esque collapse. They're going to be dangerous in the playoffs, but they lack a pitcher who can go toe-to-toe with somebody like Sabathia or Justin Verlander.
Rangers fans won't like to hear it, but the Yankees are currently the class of the American League, and they proved that this week. This isn't to say that the Rangers can't beat the Yankees, they can. The Yankees, though, should be favored to win the pennant come October.
Hopefully, this week serves as a wake up call for the Rangers.