After retiring the first two Baltimore batters of the game on three pitches, Ryan Dempster gave up a double off the right field wall to Nate McClouth. McClouth would score on an Adam Jones line drive to right that skimmed off edge of Mitch Moreland's webbing, giving Baltimore and early 1-0 lead.
But from then on, Dempster looked like the pitcher the Rangers traded two prospects for at the deadline. He had all his pitches working and his sinker was hitting bats like a bowling ball.
Hard hit balls were few and far between; his final line was 8 innings with one run on four hits and two walks to six strikeouts. Many were disappointed when the Rangers didn't pull the trigger on a front line starter last month, but Dempster showed tonight that his cheaper price is unrepresentative of his potential.
The Texas bats remained relatively quiet early on. Adrian Beltre got things going in the fourth with a lead off single and Nelson Cruz followed with a walk. Back-to-back singles by David Murphy and Geovany Soto scored Beltre and Cruz.. Moreland reached on an infield single to load the bases and Kinsler drove a deep sacrifice fly to right that scored Murphy.
Dempster responded to the newly gifted 3-1 lead by pitching a scoreless top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Josh Hamilton ripped a line drive single to left and scored from first on a Nelson Cruz double to left-center, pushing the lead to 4-1.
Dempster followed this up by retiring the next nine Baltimore batters to end his night after eight innings.
The Rangers would add an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Young smacked a lead off double through the left-center gap and scored on a Murphy single to center to solidify the lead at 5-1.
Joe Nathan, who had been the only pitcher warming up, came in to pitch in the non-save situation. He was dominant himself, striking out the side. Former Ranger Chris Davis ended the game fanning at a 94mph fastball.
Moving forward, if Dempster can continue to build on this momentum, he could help the Rangers push for a #1 seed in the playoffs and solidify a postseason rotation that would look something like this: Harrison, Darvish, Holland, Dempster. Only the Angels feature a better 4-man rotation than the Rangers at this point, and their playoff chances seem to be fading away possibly.
On a tangential note:
I had the privilege Monday night of attending the Rangers Blogger Night. Several of us local Ranger scribes were invited to the game to test drive Fox Sports' new interactive web program: Game Connect.
Game Connect (which can be found here: http://gameconnect.foxsportssouthwest.com/mlb/rangers/) is a hybrid of a typical (and better) webcast you would find at ESPN.com or MLB.com, and a Twitter feed reminiscent of an AOL/Dateline chatroom.
I guess the idea is that you can tweet about the game while following a flashy webcast, but the game tracker is far from adequate. Limited access to in-depth player stats and a useless "gas gauge" for pitch counts are a couple of the numerous shortcomings.
The creator proclaimed that Game Connect wasn't meant to replace the viewing experience of a game, but rather "enhance" it. The main focus of the interface seems to be the Twitter feed. The feed, where any reasonably-minded person would obviously expect to find engaging and insightful commentary, is instead hijacked by an endless barrage of vaguely relevant tweets strung together by yet another commercialized hashtag: #FSRangers
Feel free to give Game Connect a try for yourself and tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. I guess I'll keep watching the game the old fashioned way.
A special thanks to the Texas Rangers and Fox Sports Southwest for hosting the evening. Food, drink, and service was first rate.