Every Monday, we look back at the weekend's series and then preview the next week's series.
Every season has its peaks and valleys. In my experience, you don't always know you're in one or the other until after you've left it. The thing about 2014 is, we're pretty sure the whole season is a pretty crummy valley with lots of potholes; we're just going to have to wait until September to see where the lowest part was.
This weekend isn't going to be a top contender for the low point, but it certainly isn't going to be in the discussion for the high point, either.
It's like Jay-Z says: … 'Concrete jungle where dreams are made up. There's nothing you can do.'
Friday's Independence Day game saw Yu Darvish match up against Jonathon Niese, and it started off beautifully. Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a solo homer, and Alex Rios chased the Mets' starter with a line drive into his back (which turned out ok because the removal was precautionary and Niese looks to be ok). The Rangers were handing Yu Darvish a lead to protect against a long reliever; in any normal time that would be as close to mathematically guaranteeing a win as first-inning, one-run leads get.
Of course, in 2014 nothing is normal and Yu Darvish wasn't nearly as sharp as he normally is. He surrendered the lead in his own first frame, allowing a double, single, and homer to bring in three runs. He departed after the fifth allowing only one other run on an Eric Campbell double in the fourth. Notably, he doubled himself in the fourth, because he took pity on us having to watch NL rules baseball and wanted to give us something nice to hold on to.
The Rangers tied the score at 4 in the seventh, but Aaron Poreda and Jason Frasor combined to allow two Mets runs to score. The Rangers put one more on the board in the ninth but were unable to do any further damage and the 6-5 score was final.
One of the fatal afflictions of Friday's game was the inability to score more than one run per inning. The team changed that immediately on Saturday, scoring four runs in the opening frame on Andrus and Rios doubles and a Chirinos three-run homer. Colby Lewis was able to make those four runs stand up, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings. The right-hander has found a rhythm of late; this was his third straight start to complete the sixth inning after not doing so in 11 of his first 12 starts. It was also, not coincidentally, his third straight start without a walk. It's strange and sad to think about, but Lewis pitching like this for another outing or two could lead to his name being brought up in trade talks by buying teams.
The bullpen combined to allow three baserunners, two by walk and one hit, over the last three innings. Bartolo Colon swung so hard and awkwardly his helmet fell off. Adrian Beltre homered in the third.
Unfortunately, the Rangers would go on to score no runs in the next nine innings, as Zack Wheeler kept the team off the scoreboard except for a fourth-inning Robinson Chirinos homer for seven innings. Chirinos' nine home runs tie him for fourth in the league among catchers. He's tied with Jonathan Lucroy and Yadier Molina, for perspective. Given his control of the running game and his power, Chirinos has been one the bright spots this year.
To Nick Tepesch's credit, he completed six innings after allowing five runs in the first. To Nick Tepesch's detriment, he allowed five runs in the first.
Houston, we have any number of problems.
In any normal universe, a three-game series at home against the Astros is an opportunity to make up ground or build up a lead. In the strange circumstances of 2014, it's a dogfight to avoid being last place in the West, and a chance to avoid the embarrassment of losing the Silver Boot for the first time since 2006.
While in general it's best for the team to pile up losses this year (we want as many draft and international signing assets as we can get), this isn't the series to do that.
On Monday, the Rangers send Miles Mikolas to the hill against Jarred Cosart. Mikolas deserved better than what baseball and the bullpen gave him in his Rangers debut last week. The bar for the spot was set very low for him by Joe Saunders, though, and he's a more talented pitcher than his stature would indicate. While I love the fact that he's well known for eating a lizard, being well known for being an effective major league starter is a better fit for him.
On Tuesday, Brad Peacock will start for Houston, and Nick Martinez is scheduled to throw for Texas. Martinez reportedly “tweaked” his back while taking batting practice in New York and may not make his start. Phil Irwin was held out of his scheduled Triple-A start Sunday, which could mean we see Irwin on the bump Tuesday. But, we’ll break down the slated pitching matchup until further notice. While I generally caution against using pitcher won-loss records as anything more than a metaphorical hatrack (because how are you literally going to hang a hat on a won-loss record?), these two pitchers are a combined 3-11. I love what Martinez has done, but it comes with a huge caveat that he shouldn't have had to do it at the major league level this year.
Wednesday's ace-ace matchup of Yu Darvish and Dallas Keuchel has the makings of a series highlight. The current Astros lineup has 84 plate appearances against Darvish; they have 12 hits and 28 strikeouts in those. Dallas Keuchel is in the running for the last AL All-Star spot, which MLB lets fan voting via hashtag on twitter decide. As a reminder, baseball also lets the winner of the All-Star game have home field in the World Series, which means that the location of Game One and Game Seven of the World Series could possibly be decided by hashtags. What an age of wonder we live in.
Of particular note is that Wednesday is Dollar Hot Dog Night at the Ballpark. Go support your team, buy some cheap meat product, and maybe see the WFAA Baseball Blogging Team if you can find us. We'll be the ones loudly debating the comparative merits of Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro.
Joseph Ursery can be found here and on twitter.com at @thejoeursery. His main interests include fatherhood, craft beer, facial hair, and twenty-year-old middle infielders with patience and power. Oh, and cover songs, too. He really likes cover songs. “No particular reason why,” he says, but WFAA feels like there's more to this story.