|Final - 4.21.2012||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|WP: Matt Harrison (3 - 0)
LP: Rick Porcello (1 - 1)
It's getting hard to keep coming up with superlatives.
When you recap a game, typically you try and highlight who looked awful and continues to look awful, but those players don't really seem to exist with the Texas Rangers. Koji Uehara is the closest thing, and he allowed another home run making people angry at him all over again. The home run was also on a way high and inside pitch to maybe the best hitter in baseball in Miguel Cabrera, and he had seven swinging strikes otherwise. Uehara will probably always have a problem with deep fly balls, but that doesn't stop him from being at worst an effective low leverage reliever.
And that's the worst it gets for Texas lately.
Matt Harrison was brilliant. Not good, not just great, brilliant. He allowed a few more hard hit balls than he had previously, and a few fly balls -- including an Austin Jackson home run -- but he was also on the road facing an elite offense. He still induced a ground ball on nearly half of the balls hit in play, had 11 swinging strikes, did a great job keeping his fast balls down in the zone, and did all this on the road against the Tigers with a strike zone that did not look terribly fair. Nearly eight innings with six strikeouts, no walks, and three earned runs (one on the Uehara home run) is pretty awesome in those circumstances.
The thing is, talking about how awesome the starting pitcher was has just become an every day thing with this squad. Of course he didn't have a lot of stress, since he had an eight run cushion before he even threw a pitch, but then picking out which position player is awesome has also become a trial in efficient wording.
Only Elvis Andrus failed to get a hit -- including Alberto Gonzalez -- but he had a walk, and he's also the shortstop. In fact, Andrus and Mike Napoli were the only Rangers without multiple hits, but Napoli had a home run for the fifth straight game, and he's also the catcher.
Every hitter on the team looks locked in. Poor Rick Porcello couldn't miss a bat, and doesn't have the defense to get away with that. In fact, if there is anything to really take away from these Tigers games so far, it's how important defense is. Defense was a major reason they lost the ALCS, and it's a major reason they're getting stomped half way through the first rematch in 2012. Repeatedly, ground balls would find their way past immobile corner infielders, or an inexperienced second baseman. A silly throwing error from said second baseman on top of that just made it a ridiculous effort. Defense doesn't show up in the box score, but the Rangers play it, while two of the media's favorite World Series opponents insist on putting awful fielders at third base; that helps you dominate your league.
There are few ways to describe the way this team is playing right now to really capture their dominance. Let's try real quick to talk about how great the Texas Rangers have been.
They haven't yet lost a game on the road.
They've started 4-0 in a brutal stretch where 8-7 probably should have been considered a victory.
They've already guaranteed at least a split in this road series in Comerica Park. They've destroyed two teams who figured to be among their closest competition.
They've had at least a share of the lead in the ninth inning in every single game this season.
Their run differential (+52) is nearly twice that of every positive American League team combined (+27). Their closest competitor, the Yankees, are only at +11. (H/T to Alkahar of Lone Star Ball for pointing this out.)
If the 2012 Rangers merely play .500 ball the rest of the way, they still win 86 games.
If the 2012 Rangers merely play at the same pace as the same pace as the 2011 Rangers, they still win 100 games.
This is a 1984 Tigers pace. While, yes, the season is still young, it is also nearly a tenth of the way through, the Rangers are not just winning but absolutely annihilating the opposition, and there was ample reason before the games were even played to believe they had a ceiling in the neighborhood of some of the greatest teams to ever play. At least as much as things could still go wrong, you cannot dismiss this start as anything less than great for their playoff odds, and potentially deserving of a shift in expectations for a team that already should have had high expectations.
Unfortunately, the main road block between their likely performance and that historically great ceiling is injuries, and we already have one with Adrian Beltre. Fortunately, he does not think it's serious, and could be back in a few days.
Now we have another game tonight, and that game features one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching at home, while the Rangers start someone for the third time in his career. That doesn't look good, but even if the Rangers lose they still look great.
If they win. . .
Biggest Contributions (What is this?)
- Josh Hamilton 16%
- Ian Kinsler 9%
- Mitch Moreland 6%
Biggest Play: Before an out had been recorded in the game, Josh Hamilton hits a three-run home run off Rick Porcello, making it 3-0 (17% win probability added).
Mike Everitt's Strikezone