The Rangers won 8-2 tonight against Baltimore in a rematch of the Chris Tillman / Andrew Cashner matchup of July 17th. That first game resulted in a Rangers 3-1 loss as they swung-and-missed their way to a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The starting pitching was doing fine, doing pretty well in fact. But the offense appeared to be collectively the worst kid at a piñata party.
You know the feeling. You’re doing everything you know how to do. You’ve read the parenting books or you’ve showed up to work on time every day for years, or you’ve stopped smoking, or you’ve gone to marriage counseling or studied hard and turned in your homework. You’ve done what you know to do. And yet, you’re in a slump. Everything just sucks right now. These things come in waves, and right now you’re upside down and in desperate need of a surface to pop your head above and gasp a breath. Your lungs are burning and you don’t know how much longer you can do it. So, do you make an adjustment and try something else? Or do you trust that you’ve been doing the right thing and it’s about to work out?
In the heart of the order, and at the heart of the slump was Nomar Mazara. His 0-fer stretch extended through Tampa and into the homestand. It wasn’t until Wednesday’s third inning that a ball finally fell, snapping an 0-for-26.
“I watched a lot of video and everything was fine," Mazara told us after tonight's game. "I just wasn't lucky enough to get a hit. But I was hitting the ball pretty good, if you watch the games before. I told Mash (hitting coach Justin Mashore) 'I feel good, I don't feel anything I'm doing wrong,' and he told me the same thing when we watched video together. I told him 'Hey, I'm not going to put my head down; I'm going to keep working, and hopefully things will start coming my way'."
Tonight, they came his way.
In the first inning, with Shin-Soo Choo on base via walk and Elvis Andrus on via single, Mazara took a ball, then a strike, then he swung with the same swing that felt fine in the 0-for-26. This time, the ball yelped and jumped and ran to the right-center field wall while Choo and Andrus scored. The Rangers had a 2-0 lead, and the vehicle was in gear.
Andrew Cashner took the steering wheel from there, deftly maneuvering through seven innings of five-hit, one-run baseball, controlling his sinker well and mitigating the damage of the occasional hit by inducing a couple of double plays, though the bulk of his outs came on pop-outs. “He induced a number of pop ups tonight,” Jeff Banister noted after the game. “Really probably more than he’s had in a game. Generally he’s a groundball guy. We kind of joked about that inside the game. ‘Where are the ground balls at?’ (But) He got those when he needed them.” By the time Cashner gave way to Matt Bush, he had allowed just five hits–one of them a Jonathan Schoop home run for the lone run allowed–walked two, and struck out four.
By then, the score was well in hand. Elvis Andrus followed Choo’s second walk with a home run, his 14th of the season. Then Mazara doubled again, and scored when Adrian Beltre singled to make it, at the time, 5-0. It was career hit #2,997 for Beltre. #2,998 would come in the fifth, again scoring Mazara, who had doubled for the third time in one night. Beltre would later move to third on a Napoli double, and both would score on Carlos Gomez’ single up the middle. That brought the tally to eight, where it would stay.
(NOTE: IF YOU ARE SKIMMING, THIS IS IMPORTANT - ADRIAN BELTRE IS TWO HITS FROM 3,000. IF YOU CAN COME TO SATURDAY'S GAME, YOU SHOULD. Okay, back to the story.)
So what’s the difference between a slump that requires an adjustment, and one that requires a steel constitution and confidence that you’re doing the right thing? Here’s what Jeff Banister had to say: “You look at a hitter and you look inside. Hits aren’t always indicative of where a hitter is at. You look inside the walks, how they are making their outs, are there hard outs. In the streak of 0-fers, is there swing and miss there? The thing with Nomar, (he is an) extremely balanced hitter, the head stays still, for the most part through the swing. He’s got great hands. There are times where pitchers select to pitch guys a certain way. If they can stay there, they make it challenging. For (...) Nomar, the balance was there, the swing was there, there was some hard contact. There were some balls that were just missed. What you saw tonight is just a product of staying consistent with the process of the swing, the approach, and that pays off for hitters. He’s a very stubborn guy in the box. That’s what you want as a hitter.”
Mazara had a more succinct summation:
"It depends on how you feel at the plate. It's depends on if you're doing something wrong or not.
So there you go. This one’s for you. The single moms working a couple of jobs, or the Dads who can’t seem to get through to their daughters, or the workers who deserve a raise but got a parking ticket instead, or the husbands who can’t find the right words, or the students who worked hard but find themselves in summer school nonetheless. Are you doing something wrong?
Yes? Alright, you have something to fix.
No? Then hang in there. There’s a three-double night coming your way soon.