Every Monday, we look back at the weekend's series and then preview the next week's series.
In 2005, the Texas Rangers won 79 games and lost 83. The LA Dodgers won 71 and lost 91.
The Dodgers picked sixth in the 2006 MLB Draft and took a Highland Park pitcher named Clayton Kershaw. The Rangers picked twelfth and took an Alabama pitcher named Kasey Kiker.
Sitting here, in 2014, would you trade eight of those wins in 2006 to have Clayton Kershaw at the top of the Rangers' rotation right now?
Yes, you would, and if you wouldn't, you should probably research a career in running headfirst into brick walls.
Every loss is precious. Every loss moves us closer to having our pick of every single draft-eligible player next summer. Losses to the Astros are doubly precious, because it creates some separation between the Rangers and a prime competitor for the worst record in baseball.
So, while I'm happy for you, Nick Martinez, I'm also gonna have to ask if you got the memo?
Friday's game started annoyingly and auspiciously, as Shin-Soo Choo singled to start the game, and Elvis Andrus sacrificed to move him to second. Sacrifices are bad, wasted outs are bad. Then again, the situation dictates that winning games is bad, so maybe sac bunting and wasting outs is good now? Perverse incentives are crazy things. Anyway, after Elvis moved Choo and his wispy ankle to second, J.P. Arencibia homered, which means the move to second was pointless, and the Rangers handed Miles Mikolas a 2-0 lead. Mikolas would make that stand up through five innings, striking out four while walking three en route to one earned run. Mikolas' development may be pretty far down the list of priorities, but if he turns into a functional fifth starter for 2015, it would be huge for this team.
The Rangers would only scratch one more run across when Adam Rosales scored off a Mike Carp single in the ninth; fortunately Neal Cotts DID get the memo and allowed three runs on a single-homer-single-double sequence sandwiched around strikeouts (with a groundout tossed in to round out the inning). 4-3 was the final.
Saturday's game was the one the Rangers felt best about winning, as Yu Darvish was facing off against Scott Feldman. Unfortunately, Darvish was as off as Darvish gets, and allowed 13 baserunners in four innings, running up a fairly historical pitch count of 113 to get 12 outs. Jon Singleton really smoked a couple of balls off Darvish and collected three RBI, which totaled Texas' run output. The good news is Phil Klein pitched a clean inning, collecting a strikeout and throwing eight of nine pitches for strikes. Of all the collected riff raff (get it? A Houston reference. Riff Raff is a Houston rapper known for his affinity with Dolce & Gabana brand items. Among... other things) in the Texas bullpen, Klein is one of the guys who could potentially contribute to a bullpen on a winning team, so getting over his initial bumps is a good thing.
On Sunday, Dallas Keuchel matched up against Nick Martinez; a favorable matchup for a team who's best interest would be to quickly and quietly lose the game. N-Mart, though, threw what may be his finest game as an MLB pitcher, going five innings, allowing seven baserunners (five via hit, two via walk) and two runs while striking out six. Of good note is Martinez allowed only one extra base hit, a ground-rule double to Jose Altuve in the fifth. Even better, Martinez got the next two batters to strike out swinging, stranding Altuve at second.
I suppose if Darvish doesn't turn in an effort worth standing up for, you might as well stand up for Nick Martinez in an effort like he put up. The offense backed him with homers from Beltre and Choo and scrapped together runs on wild pitches, sac flies, and infield hits. Roman Mendez, Shawn Tolleson, and Neftali Feliz combined to close out the last four innings with fairly little drama and no Houston runs.
If anyone ever invents a time machine, I'm going to go back to 2010 and tell myself to make a bunch of bets that in 2014, Shawn Tolleson will be a more dependable reliever than Neftali Feliz. Maybe then I'd go do something to prevent World War II, but I'm definitely doing the Feliz thing.
It's not having what you want / It's wanting what you got
The Tampa Bay Rays come to town for a four-game set today. The Rays are both a picture of what the Rangers could be if they turned in a slightly more effective effort earlier in the season (sitting at 57-60, albeit with a scant 1.6 percent chance to see the postseason) or if they could have been more successful in having sold off parts like Alex Rios or Neal Cotts (having acquired Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin, who should be significant parts when they're competing again, in exchange for ace David Price).
Speaking of Drew Smyly, the Rangers will see him Monday night as he starts for the Rays opposite Colby Lewis. Lewis's late resurgence is something of note; since the All Star Break, Lewis has pitched 27.1 innings of 2.30 ERA ball, with an opposing line of .216/.288/.330. That's super notable because situated in there is one of the worst starts of all time, ever. I don't know if Colby Lewis is coming back next year; he seems loyal to the franchise, but he also needs to be loyal to himself and get the best offer he can, because it's probably the last big contract he'll have a chance to sign in a career he's fought tooth and nail to rebuild and keep. Do what's best for you, Colby. You've earned it.
Tuesday's matchup will see Jeremy Hellickson against Nick Tepesch. Hellickson has only pitched 20.2 innings this year, due to offseason surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow (that seems like it should sound grosser than it does?) but he's back to his luck-influenced ways of 2011 that got him the AL Rookie of the Year award. Hellickson doesn't strike guys out a lot (career 6.38 K/9, 6.10 this year), walks enough guys (2.92 BB/9 career, 2.18 this year) and allows a goodly amount of homers (1.18 HR/9 career, 1.31 this year) but what he does do, or what he's the beneficiary of, is a lot of outs coming off the bats of opposing hitters (career .263 BABIP). When his BABIP is good, he's good (2.95 ERA in 2011, with a .223 BABIP). When it's not, he's not (.307 BABIP in 2013, 5.17 ERA).
Depending on contact for outs is a treacherous game, young Hellickson. The Nicks Martinez and Tepesch, as well as Mikolas, would be well to learn that.
Speaking of Mikolas, he faces Chris Archer on Wednesday. Much like his matchup against Keuchel, Mikolas is facing probably the best pitcher on the opposing staff in Archer. Archer has learned that to combat the fluctuations we see in BABIP, you must strike lots of guys out and not allow homers. Despite a .303 BABIP, Archer has a 3.53 ERA on the year. Why? He strikes guys out (8.04 per 9 IP) and limits homers (.39 per 9 IP). He hasn't figured out walking guys is bad yet (3.4 per 9) but if he does, he'll get really, really good really, really fast.
Finally, on Thursday's finale, the best pitching matchup of the series as Jake Odorizzi sees Yu Darvish. The Royals traded Odorizzi to get James Shields, and that seems to have blown up in their faces a bit this year as Odorizzi has virtually matched Shields in value (2.1 fWAR for Odorizzi, 2.6 for Shields). Odorizzi's peripherals look a lot like Archer's; 10.2 K/9, 3.42 BB/9, .88 HR/9, .316 BABIP, 3.89 ERA. Odorizzi shut Texas down for six innings in April, which seems like a thousand lifetimes ago.
We'll also see Odorizzi versus Odor, so set your DVRs for that one.
As a final note, we're all Colorado Rockies fans now. Colorado and Texas are tied at the top of theReverse Order standings as we await Monday's first pitch, so we need to cheer for them to outperform the Rangers the rest of the way. If the Rangers and Rockies ended the season tied, the Rangers would have the third pick of the draft, due to the Rockies having a worse 2013 record than Texas and the Astros getting the second overall pick as compensation for 'failing' to sign the top overall pick this year, Brady Aiken.
So, Colorado, let's go win some games, yeah?
This is normally the space reserved for telling you to go follow Joseph Ursery on twitter. We're still going to do that (go follow @thejoeursery on twitter please) but we're also going to donate this space to the Give Guilder Rodriguez a Cup of Coffee 2014 movement. Guilder's an 8 year minor league vet who's been with the Roughriders for most of the last five years. He's 31 years old, and he deserves to get some time on a Major League field this year. Guilder Rodriguez: Because Why The Heck Not?