One thing we learned for certain is day games at Comerica park makes for rather tortuous baseball. With each game of the series set for noon, there was a feeling of deja vu accompanying each contest. Wake up, turn on the game, watch foreboding baseball from America's most depressing city in a ballpark that thrives at discouraging the Rangers' success. And afterward all you had was an entire day left to stew knowing it would be hours of AL West combatant comebacks and less impressive divisional standings.
It started well enough. The Rangers scratched out a couple of runs off of Justin Verlander thanks to some well placed doubles over the head of Magglio Ordonez. For once, the Tigers couldn't muster a rally in their park against a Rangers pitcher as Alexi Ogando one-upped his six inning shutout debut as a starter by throwing seven shutout innings. Ogando left the game with a fluid-under-callous (Is it so hard to say "blister," Rangers?) issue but also left with a start to his season that looks like this: 2-0, 0.00 ERA in 13 innings with 8 strikeouts and four walks.
It wasn't until after Darren Oliver got through the 8th unscathed that we would even see anything to give us something to complain about. In the 9th, up 2-0, after a Ryan Raburn double, Ron Washington elected to have closer Neftali Feliz walk the trying run to face Victor Martinez as the go-ahead run. Of course, that potential tying run he walked was Miguel Cabrera. It was not a by-the-book call. The rule is, you never put the potential tying man on. And although you don't want Miguel Cabrera to beat you--because he can, that's what he does professionally for a living--you also have to consider that with a man on, the worst Cabrera could do is tie the game, Martinez could win it. So once again the Rangers were at the mercy of "The Gut," and even though it worked out, and would work out a majority of the time regardless as to what Washington would have called there, it still was a move that could have cost the Rangers the only win they got out of this series.
The Gut is something you have to learn to live with if you're a Rangers fan. Ron Washington isn't going anywhere. Nor should he, really. But he is going to make questionable strategic decisions in-game if he feels his belief is better than what the numbers say. It might drive people who trust the sample size of decades worth of numbers more than some wacky baseball-lifer's intuition crazy, but it is who Ron Washington is. As long as the Rangers continue to win, and as long as he expertly keeps the clubhouse happy, it's hard to get too upset when The Gut runs the show.
Of course, if you believe in baseball karma, The Gut got a tummy ache from its just deserts when the Tigers won the second game of the series on a Miguel Cabrera walk-off single in the 9th.
The wasn't the worst thing that happened in that game, however. Losses are going to happen. Losses for the Rangers in a day game in Detroit is practically guaranteed to happen. The worst thing to happen happened in the first inning when Josh Hamilton roped a triple to the right-center gap, slid head first though Brandon Inge who was, for some reason, blocking the bag like a catcher at home, to drive in Michael Young. It seems like it was a good thing because it meant the Rangers had a lead and the ball was shooting off the bat a little better than it was in a lifeless game one. But, no, a Josh Hamilton triple led to a Josh Hamilton broken arm when Hamilton listened to the whispering of third base coach Dave Anderson telling him that no one was covering home on a foul popup off of the bat of Adrian Beltre on the next play. Hamilton tried to beat Victor Martinez, who had moved off the plate to try to catch the popup, home in a foot race that Martinez had the angle on. And though a tough play for the catcher, Hamilton was out on a close play and then out of the game. Now Hamilton is out for 6-8 weeks and the Rangers are missing the American League MVP.
It's hard to blame Dave Anderson as Hamilton seemed to do initially. Anderson and Hamilton know full well the style of baseball the Rangers play on the bases is one that is more pretty well known as more aggressive than most teams. If the Rangers have the opportunity to take an extra base or steal a run, they try to do that, even if they aren't always successful. It's one of the things the team was most praised for in the playoffs last season and it was something they were still doing early this season. So while it might seem silly in retrospect to try a 50-50 play for a run in the first inning with a guy who is notoriously injury prone, that's who the Rangers are and it is hard to fault Anderson for giving Hamilton the green light there.
It's hard to blame Josh Hamilton for being frustrated, also. Here's a guy who was coming off an MVP season on a team that was at the time 9-1. He's unquestionably the Rangers best player. To have a major injury happen on a play where he didn't want to go but listened to the coach tell him he could try and sneak a run out of a weird play has to pretty demoralizing for a guy who hears about how brittle he is practically in every interview. That said, it's good that both he and Anderson have patched things up. No one wants to hear about Josh Hamilton throwing a coach under the bus. Ultimately, it's on Josh Hamilton to bear the burden of being injury prone and it's on us to bear the burden of rooting for a team whose best player likely won't be in there all of the time.
I don't even want to write about that last game. Here's a list of why:
- Bullpen Day
- Dave Bush
- Mark Lowe's fastball control
- Brandon Inge
- Brandon Inge
- Brandon Inge
- Brandon Inge
- Brandon Inge
So what did the Rangers learn in Detroit?
We're just lucky everyone made it out alive.