DALLAS - There’s this inverse relationship between how well the Rangers play and how much fun the opening paragraphs of the weekend wrap-up is. When things are really bad, I get to meander and play at being a Serious Writer, whereas when things are going well we kind of want to focus on what actually happened, so things get more droll.
In this case, the Rangers just swept the NL leading Nationals in DC, so this is the opening paragraph.
In Friday’s opener, Andrew Casher started opposite former Ranger farmhand Tanner Roark (in case you forgot, Texas traded both Roark and Ryan Tatusko for Cristian Guzman in 2010. Guzman played his last major league game that season, while Roark has had two 5 WAR seasons for Washington. The game ain’t fair sometimes).
Cashner gave Texas seven strong innings, allowing only one run (a sixth inning double-single sequence) while walking two and striking out four. I’m not nearly baseball smart enough to explain 2017 Andrew Cashner to you. If you look at him one way, you see the results and you're happy, but you look at him from a projection standpoint and run away screaming and on fire. I’ll stick with my lizard brain on this and just let’s hope he keeps on keepin’ on.
Meanwhile poor defense gave Texas a 1-0 lead as a third inning grounder to short to lead off from Elvis Andrus turned into a friendly-scorer single; Jonathan Lucroy turned it into a no-doubt RBI and a 1-0 lead two batters later with a single. The pattern then repeats in the fifth; this time Shin Soo Choo reached via error, and Lucroy cashed it a two-run homer with two outs.
Minor drama came along in the ninth as Keone Kela took over, but after allowing two baserunners with one out he was lifted for Matt Bush. One inherited runner came in with a fly that dropped between Hoying and Mazara, but all that did was bring the final score to 5-2.
Saurday’s game brought more of a 2016 magic feel to it. Martin Perez pitched strong enough; keeping the Nationals off the board until departing in the sixth inning. Unfortunately, he departed with two men on base, and incoming Tony Barnette allowed both to score (one on a sac fly, one a two-run Adam Lind homer) to set the score to 3-1 Washington.
The score remained such until the ninth inning. Choo lead off with a homer, bringing the deficit to one run. Andrus became the game-tying runner with a single and stolen base. After the Nats walked Adrian Beltre, Nomar Mazara doubled to bring Andrus home and move pinch-runner Pete Kozma to third.
Let’s note Pete Kozma is listed at 6’0’’. Were he one inch taller, he might have had the length to beat Bryce Harper’s laser throw from deep right, but, he isn’t, and, he didn’t, and the inning ended with the score tied at three apiece.
Now’s a good time to note this game started at 11:00 CST. Yeah, an 11 AM start time to a Saturday game.
Anyway, a combination of Jose Leclerc and Alex Claudio brought the game to the tenth, where Kela took over and shut down the heart of the Nats’ lineup in order.
Then, in the 11th, Joey Gallo was finally called in to pinch hit and promptly doubled with two outs. The Nats elected to walk Mazara to match up Shawn Kelly and Robinson Chirinos. Spoiler: it didn’t work. Chirinos snuck a ball just over the left field wall, and gave Texas a 6-3 lead. Keone Kela returned for the bottom of the frame and brought with him three swinging strikeouts to preserve that score and a series win.
Then, on Sunday... well, there’s no way to say this except to say it; Austin Bibens-Dierkx outmatched Max Dang Scherzer.
Yeah. No. Seriously. Ok, so he gave up a homer to start the game, and a single two pitches later; the next 19 Nationals would then sit down in order, because baseball doesn’t care if you’re a 32 year old rookie who was the #4 on a AAA club a month ago pitching against one of the finest pitchers on planet earth.
Choo tied the game in the third with a solo shot, and the score remained 1-1 until the eighth. With one out, a Delino Deshields grounder handcuffed third baseman Anthony Rendon, and Jurickson Profar worked a six pitch walk to end Scherzer’s day.
Choo then walked, and the Rangers had the bases loaded without a hit. A passed ball by Matt Wieters brought Deshields home, but, still, baseball doesn’t generally let you really small ball your way to a big inning; you still need an extra base hit or two here and there to really put your mark on a game.
Luckily, Noted Power Hitter Elvis Andrus was up. He hit a grounder, again to Rendon, that bounced cleanly over the third baseman’s head and just inside and down the line, bringing home Profar and Choo and leaving him standing on third, swiping across his jersey emphatically.
Jose Leclerc struck out the side swinging in the bottom frame, but this brought a minor crisis to Texas; do you use Keone Kela a third straight day, after two innings the day before? Do you keep the needle in the red with Matt Bush? Do you use Jeremy Jeffress, who had recently had a week plus to rest, but was used Friday?
Or do you use Alex Claudio? Guess which one they did. They went with Claudio I am not good at suspense. He did what Alex Claudio does, which is induce weak contact, getting grounders from Ryan Raburn and Bryce Harper, and a sharp liner off the bat of Daniel Murphy went right into Adrian Beltre’s glove. 5-1 was the final, and 3-0 the record for the weekend.
From one stinking swamp to another
The June March continues, as Texas heads to Houston for three. Houston is… doing pretty well.
In Monday’s opener, Yu Darvish will start opposite Houston righty Joe Musgrove. Darvish has allowed nine runs in his last three starts. All of them have come from homers; ergo, if he removes the homers, he removes the runs, right?
Tuesday’s starter for Texas is not officially announced at press time. It is unlikely to be the debut for Tyson Ross, whose last start in Round Rock we’ll not speak of in this family forum, but also will make his next start in a Texas uniform. From a schedule standpoint, it would be one day early for him. Whatever the Rangers starter, he will be opposed by Lance McCullers.
In Wednesday’s finale, Andrew Cashner will match up with Brad Peacock. Peacock was probably strutting around with his feathers out after last weeks six inning, nine strikeout game versus Texas.
It’s noteworthy that a series win will again bring the team back to .500, and probably within a game of the wild card standings. While you don’t want to pin too much hope on a one-game playoff, that seems to be the more likely route to playing past 162 games for this team.
Be better than Joe at suspense by following him on Twitter @thejoeursery.
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