Date: Sunday, August 20th, 2017
Opponent: Chicago White Sox (46-74)
Starters: Miguel Gonzalez (6-10, 4.67) vs. A.J. Griffin (6-3, 5.07)
Good afternoon, everyone! It’s the last game of the home stand, and by sometime this evening, the Rangers will be either 7-3 or 8-2 for the ten game stretch. That’s a success by any measure, but consider that by sometime tonight, they will also either be 0.5, 1.5, or 2.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card position. Frame it in those terms, and the difference between a win and a loss tonight becomes a bit more magnified. After tonight, the team heads west to play the Angels and A’s before stopping by Houston before returning to the Cozy Cauldron we call Globe Life Park.
We’ll get to the real baseball stuff eventually, but first, we have some salacious gossip about Shin-Soo Choo’s new “Hottie”. Yes, I did a clickbait, and yes, I am sorry.
It’s the August 20th Baseball Texas Daily!
1. Shin-Soo Choo was going through a stretch of BABIP Hell. He was hitting the ball hard, but right at fielders, and it seemed that no matter what he did, he couldn’t break out of it. You would expect the hitting coach to be the one who helps a batter break out of this sort of thing, and that’s exactly what happened, but not in the way you might think.
Meet “Hottie”. Choo explained that Justin Mashore bought the troll doll (and its accompanying unicorn) to help change Choo’s luck. “That thing comes to the dugout every day,” Choo said with a wry grin.
It seems to be working: Choo’s three-run home run last night was part of a 4-for-6 effort.
Additionally, Choo has a new essential oils diffuser in his locker, replete with a small wooden crate of various oils and scents. Today, it's lavender. You guys, I think it's time to say it, and Moose has started the conversation:
Rangers are 60-61... know who else was 60-61? pic.twitter.com/YmYZXnnJv9— Moose (@moosejustrocks) August 19, 2017
If the Rangers are going to transform into the Cleveland Indians of the movie Major League, I'm calling it right now: Shin-Soo Choo is Pedro Serrano. (Hottie is Jobu, and Delino DeShields is Willie Mays Hayes, obviously).
2. Adrian Beltre is looking forward to the upcoming series against the Angels as an opportunity to gain ground on the currently-tied-for-the-second-wild-card-spot Angels, but knows that those head-to-head games aren’t the only important ones. “Every game for us is big,” he began. “We have about six weeks left, and we’re in the hunt for the Wild Card, but there’s a lot of teams there. So we have to take advantage of every situation that we can. Obviously the Angels are one of the teams in front of us, it would be more beneficial to us to at least win a series there.”
So the Wild Card, yes? But is the Division out of the question? It’s going to be difficult for anybody to catch Houston, but it’s not mathematically out of reach. We are what, 14 games out? (Editor’s Note: 14.5) I don’t even know how many games, but we have how many games left? 40 games? So anything can happen in 40 games. Yes, we’re looking at the Wild Card, but anything is possible. It’ll just be really difficult. I mean, it would be nice. It would be historic.”
The Rangers have been the AL West Champions for each of the last two years, but Beltre says that–while that would be the preferred method of making the postseason–a Wild Card spot is nothing to scoff at. “A playoff spot is a playoff spot, it doesn’t matter how you get there. For the last five years, three or four of [World Series participants] have been Wild Cards. Obviously if you want to choose, you’d rather choose to win the division and get in, but if it’s not available you have to get the best thing. And for us, that’s what it looks like. The Wild Card will be our chance, and we have to make a run for it.”
While Jeff Banister told us (recently, and repeatedly) that he is not a scoreboard-watcher, Beltre admitted that he does occasionally take a peek over at the left-field scoreboard during the game, but that this AL Wild Card race makes even that a confusing endeavor: “We do look at the scoreboard, yeah. Daily, we’ve been looking at the scoreboard. But like I said, you can’t know who to root for because there’s so many teams, you forget who’s in front of you. You look at it just to look at it, but you don’t really choose who you want to win because sometimes it’s too confusing.
3. Cole Hamels will start the first game against the Angels, and he also knows the importance of this particular series: “Obviously, winning is more important because when you lose to a team that is ahead of you can put yourself in a bind. They’ve been playing good baseball, we’ve been playing good baseball. It’s a matter of going out there and taking care of business.”
“Every series is a big series. In order to stay where we are and move up, every series is big. Every team is trying to do the same. It’s such a tight race with everybody seven or eight teams within a game or three games, you have to win every series. For us, it’s just continue to play good baseball. The hitters have putting up big innings. Our starters have to maintain the presence of pitching deep into ballgames. The bullpen is really starting to come around and lock in. You want to work well together at the right time and obviously this is heading into the right time.”
4. Jhan Maríñez and Ricky Rodriguez are, with Keone Kela and Jake Diekman still on the DL, two guys that seem to have a bit of time to prove their worth in the Rangers’ bullpen as the team hunts down a playoff berth. Jeff Banister admits that it has been an interesting proposition to figure out exactly what these two guys are capable of while also trying to win as many games as possible. “Yeah, that’s a challenge. Maríñez, obviously, has a little more history over in the NL with Pittsburgh than Rodriguez, who is pretty much an unknown. So everything we’ve been evaluating has been on-the-job right now. I obviously like both of them. Rodriguez’ stuff and composure has showed up very well. (I’m) getting a feel for a guy that might be one of those back-end players. Seventh, Eighth-type situations.”
“I tell you what, (Maríñez) threw some outstanding sinkers last night, kind of a power sinking fastball, nice velocity, the four-seamer seems to run (arm side), changeup seems to be a nice pitch for him, possibly a little swing-and-miss there, and then the slider is a good pitch, but maybe a little inconsistent (...) His stuff is good, good enough to play at this level.”
Maríñez, for his part, says he’s just happy to be here and contributing. "It's fun being here. I feel good about it. They brought me here for a reason. They know what I can do. It's all about winning. I can pitch in any situation."
5. Phil Gosselin, likewise, is happy to be around. He arrived mid-game last night after a last-minute call-up He told us he arrived “Yesterday afternoon, pretty late. I got here in the 6th or 7th inning. My flight got delayed a little bit, and it was a mess trying to get in here; the Cowboys game was just letting out, and all the roads were closed, so it was a mess getting here, but I did make it for the last few innings. I thought I was going to get in, we were up by a few runs, so I thought I might give somebody a (rest) or whatever for the last couple of innings. Didn’t end up that way, but looking forward to getting in there, whenever that chance is.”
On finding out that he was joining the Rangers, Gosselin tells us he was “...excited. Any time a team picks you up, it shows you that they want you, and the team here has had a lot of success these last few years, the won the division last year, and they’ve been playing really well to get back into the Wild Card this year, so (I’m) excited to join a good organization.”
It’s not an earth-shattering answer, but it’s the one you get. It would make for a great story someday if a player answered that question by telling us he had always rooted against his new team, and was planning to do everything in his power to subterfuge their season, but I won’t hold my breath.
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