Credit: Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 08: Starting pitcher Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 8, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Saturday, Jul 20 at 7:01 PM
Another All-Star game, come and go-(yaaaaaaaaaaawn)-one. With the oh-so-symbolic first game of the second half out of the way, let's get back to business. By business, I mean knee-jerk over-analytics. A couple of observations from the Rangers hosting the Orioles last night:
Derek Holland, grizzled vet. Last night was one of the more important performances of Dutch's career. Yes, I said that. He was tagged for three runs in a loss, so what's wrong with me? Well, eight strong innings is always nice. Then there's fact that he didn't melt down after the Wieters HR in the 2nd. Also good (albeit that is, you know, his job), but not mind-blowing, considering Holland's improvement this season. Last season, he pitches a clean first, gives up a blast in the 2nd and then, well, say goodnight, Derek.
So the real surprise last night came when Ron Washington visited the mound in the 8th inning, down two, with one on, two out and Chris Davis coming up. When Wash walked up to the hill everybody thought Derek was done for the night. Ron Washington, Derek Holland, everybody. But he wasn't. They had one of these:
You got this guy?
(Wash walks off)
Derek Holland and Ron Washington have always had a patient father/petulant son relationship on the mound. Wash goes out there to chew him out, take the ball from him (often over DH's protestations, possibly done in Harry Caray voice) or keep him loose (although that's more the job of cool uncle Mike Maddux and his bro-backrubs). But a manager coming to the mound in a tight spot, late in the ballgame, talking to his pitcher and leaving him in? Managers do that with veteran guys they trust.*
Profound for premier guys and crafty veterans? No. Profound for Derek Holland. Yes. Exclamation point. Oh and he was throwing 94 in the 8th; saving gas like a Prius. So the loss is still the loss, but the Rangers need this veteran, getting-it-done-in-the-trenches version of Derek Holland to have any hope of staying competitive in the AL West (the Los Anaheimafornia drumbeat has been slowly building out west, unfortunately) and the Rangers should be very encouraged by the maturity they saw from him last night.
Chris Davis loves swinging and missing at Rangers' pitching. To the tune of 11 K's in the last 5 meetings. I don't know that he loves it, so much as he can't stay away from its cruel trickery, much like Ron Swanson with women named Tammy. I shouldn't really revel in this, as I have no legitimate beef with Chris Davis. Still though, you know how sometimes you run into one of your exes - even one that you like - and they seem a little down or whatever? And then you feel uplifted because their life sucks worse than yours? That's how I feel when Chris Davis swings at sinkers in the dirt.
Lastly, AJ Pierzinski hit third last night. AJ Pierzinski cannot hit third. Ever. Do the batting order alphabetically or by height or hell, let that kid, Liam, who did the Ron Washington costume a coupe of years back set the order. But don't bat Pierzinski third. I don't know how that happened.**
AJ does a lot of things well: he's one of the all-time great bad-ball hitters***, good defender, smart ballplayer, extraordinarily obnoxious to opponents, and for many years he was second only to Roger Clemens at frosting his tips (although Rocket's 'do was likely, you know, enhanced). What he does not do well is hit in the middle of the order. AJ is not a patient hitter. He sees 3.27 pitches per plate appearance (seriously, he would be the guy to swing at a fraction of a pitch), which SPOILER is dead last among major leaguers with at least 200 PA. Dead. Last.
That doesn't make AJ a bad hitter. But with Adrian Beltre hitting behind him (who is 111th of 133 eligible with 3.65 pitches per plate appearance), you're giving the opposing pitcher a good opportunity at some quick outs in the middle of the order. Gotta make him work for it more than that. AJ is great at disruption/chaos in the latter part of the order. Beltre's perfect right where he is (he may not see a ton of pitches, but he does basically everything else well). Their strengths play to having these two split up in the order and if the Rangers want to get back into this series with the Orioles, whose starting pitchers have been pretty generous with runs all season, that's what they'd better do.
*Sometimes with disastrous results BTW. Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in one batter too long on the 2003 ALCS cost him his job.
** But I do have a guess:
AJ: Hey Skip, lefty on the hill.... Can I bat third tonight?
Wash: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... Oh, you're still standing there. (expletive) it, sure.
*** Something that catchers have a particular acumen for. See Ivan Rodriguez, Bengie Molina and a guy named Lawrence Peter Berra.