One of my favorite early season bits is the race to the first player to notch 1.0 fWAR in a season.
I know. I’m a total hit at parties.
Newly named American League Player of the Week Nomar Mazara is at .5 right now, within striking distance of the league leader in JT Realmuto (.7). Hey, early baseball is weird.
A large part of that Mazara .5 fWAR came from Friday’s game, when the Young Chill knocked in six runs, four via a game-breaking grand slam to make the score 8-0 Texas in the second inning. Unfortunately, the game got more dramatic later, until Alex Claudio came on and did that thing that Alex Claudio does where he just pitches effectively no matter what you ask him to do.
Get out a lefty? Claudio got it. Get us from the fourth to the seventh? Claudio got it. Three straight days pitching? Give Claudio a challenge!
That story kind of dovetails with one of the other developing stories in the Texas bullpen; the team has allowed a total of 33 runs. 15 have come in the eighth or ninth inning.
You *generally* don’t want a 8th or 9th inning guy topping out at 85 MPH on his fastball…. But…..
Let’s table that for now.
Long story short, Claudio took over in the fourth inning with one out and the tying run at the plate. Yes, the Rangers were up 8-0 the last time we really checked in, and that was just a paragraph ago. Five pitches later, they were out of the inning, threat eliminated. Claudio got it. Claudio got it for three more innings, allowing only two baserunners (one each via walk and hit).
That, plus some insurance runs, brought not only the first half-price pizza of the season (#Rangers7!) but the first win, thank you very much Ian Kinsler.
On Saturday, Yu Darvish started for Texas opposite Kendall Graveman, and; look. Let’s take an aside here.
Yu Darvish is really, really good, ok? That’s kind of the end of the conversation. If you want to qualify it further, as some local media types (including media types that are really only affiliated with sports nominally, and instead are really just male-centered talk radio with sports talk as an artificial flavoring, but, they’re really good at their jobs [when defined as that, ok, I’m getting too deep into the subtweeting here]) are wont to do, you’re really just ‘well, actually-ing’ things to an extreme end, and no one likes to be ‘well, actually-ed’, ok?
Yu is good. Full stop.
Yu was good Saturday, too, full stop. He went six innings, allowing only a single run. The nexus of this run was a questionable call on a ball; you could easily make the case that this was about the tenth such questionable call to go opposite of the way Texas and Darvish wanted.
What’s the old saying; once is a mistake, twice is a trend, three times is a behavior, ten time is my gosh what the world is wrong with you? Anyway, move the slider on the umpiring back to acceptable, and Darvish is pitching into the eighth inning with a shutout.
Not that it really mattered because his opposite, Oakland's Graveman, was dancing with fire all night. Absent a solo Mike Napoli homer to break up the no-hitter and shutout in the seventh, the Rangers did basically nothing with him, and there was really no art to what he was doing; his fastball was just that dude, all night. It happens. It seems magnified because it’s 16.6% of the Rangers’ total season right now, but it is what it is.
Mike Hauschild made his major league debut, and settled down after a leadoff double-single sequence with two strikeouts. It was a 6-1 April loss to a team that will flirt with 100 losses. Not much else to talk about.
In Sunday’s series finale Martin Perez took the ball opposite Sean Manaea, and the lefties dueled for most of the early going before finally turning in fairly matching uneven performances. Perez departed with no runs on his ledger, but he only went 5 1/3 innings and allowed eight baserunners; Manaea only allowed six baserunners, but every one of them ended up in his earned run ledger.
Three of those runs came off the bat of Joey Gallo in the second inning as he launched a three-run homer; two others would come off Gallo’s bat and onto Manaea’s statline, as two of the runners he left on base after departing in the sixth were brought home with a Gallo single to left. I’m not one to point at things as such and lift my eyebrows, but… I’m pointing to that plate appearance and lifting my eyebrows.
Perez’s unevenness could be a source of hope or concern, depending on how you look. The good? He threw 95 most of the day and had his Good Change working. That, and the 5.1 shutout innings.
The bad? He labored intensely through his final frames, and there’s a honest question of whether he was lucky or good.
He ceded to Jose Leclerc, who may have cemented himself as the Other Alex Claudio; a right-handed, change-throwin’ fireman who handles the high-leverage mid innings. Usuals Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Bush, and Sam Dyson handled the final three frames with varying degrees of aplomb, but none did anything to really knock the shine off a 8-1 series winner.
Go west, young Rangers
The team has a travel day today. You could spend that getting your taxes done, or you could just rest and enjoy an early respite, or you could head over to Surprise and catch Andrew Cashner making a rehab appearance (it would have been better had it remained in Frisco as scheduled, but the team moved him to Arizona on Saturday given weather concerns).
On Tuesday, Cole Hamels will oppose Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is 0-1 this season, with his lone appearance being a loss to the A’s (heh) where he gave up five hits and five runs while striking out five in… 5 1/3 innings. So close to symmetry. Texas saw Skaggs once last year, pitching six shutout innings with only two hits allowed.
On Wednesday, A.J. Griffin (palm and knee abrasions willing) will start opposite his former A’s teammate Jesse Chavez. Chavez held the Mariners to just one run in 5 1/3 innings of work in his previous start, striking out six while walking just one Mariner.
In Thursday’s finale, Yu Darvish will take the ball opposite Angels’ Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco. Darvish has a strong history against the Angels (7-2 career record with 3.78 career ERA vs LAA) and even stronger in Angels Stadium (5-2, 2.70).
What was your favorite moments of the first weekend of Rangers baseball? Share 'em with Joe on Twitter @thejoeursery.