Baseball is a game of failing slightly less than your opponent, but Jeff Banister has a frequently-used phrase when talking about the little successes that dot the horizon of trip-ups: “You need some Feel-Good,” the manager will say, inferring that the excitement of those successes is often the emotional sustenance as you traverse a 162-game desert crawl.
Between Yu going full Darvish and the offense putting up a figure-eight, today was a veritable oasis of Feel-Good.
It’s a good thing the Rangers didn’t panic and trade Yu Darvish after one start, huh? After throwing 6 innings of one-run baseball in his last start, Darvish one-upped himself and threw 7 innings of shutout baseball on Thursday afternoon, striking out 10, walking 2, and allowing 5 hits. His slider was vicious, screaming towards home plate, then ducking at the last second, playing Muhammad Ali’s you-can’t-touch-me dodge to the Angels bats’ Michael Dokes. Swing, swing, swing, miss, miss, miss. Ali did it 21 times in 10 seconds, but baseball moves a little more slowly: 19 times in 7 innings the Angels took a hack and came up empty.
And if Darvish was Ali’s sly head-fake, the offense was a persistent smattering of jabs, hooks, and uppercuts, starting in the first inning when Carlos Gomez led off the game with his third home run of the season. Then two more scored in the second on a Chirinos ground-rule double and a Profar single. The third inning saw a Nomar Mazara 2-run home run to make it 5-0.
The Angels finally got a scoreless inning in the 4th, and again in the 5th, but the knockout inning came in the 6th for Texas. Elvis Andrus led off with a double, then Gallo walked. After they both advanced a base on a wild pitch, Chirinos got his second and third RBI of the day with a single to right field. He would later score when Shin-Soo Choo singled, and that would make it 8-0, which is how it would stay until the ninth inning. Mike Scioscia emptied his bench and let a few guys get early showers.
Before we get to the ninth inning, though, let’s talk about the last little bit of Feel-Good: Mike Hauschild’s second MLB outing began in the 8th inning, and it wasn’t very long: he used just 8 pitches to log a 1-2-3 inning.
Okay, about that ninth inning: the Angels did eventually get to Hauschild. Albert Pujols singled, and Cliff Pennington walked. They would both score when Danny Espinosa hit his second home run of the series, which made it 8-3. It’s amazing how different a three-run ninth feels when you start with an 8-run lead instead of the 3-run version isn’t it?
Shrug it off, the Rangers won big. Darvish looked like an ace. 8 out of 9 Rangers got hits, and three of them got more than one (Chirinos, Andrus, Choo). The Rangers lead all of baseball in home runs after the blasts by Gomez and Mazara. The team has won two series in a row, both against division opponents.
Yes, there are questions still lingering. The back end of the bullpen is in flux, and Adrian Beltre’s calf is costing him significantly more time than expected. But today was a win, and there was a lot of Feel-Good. Now the team will fly to Seattle to try to take advantage of a floundering Seattle Mariners team.
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