This is the Rangers Reaction, of course, not the Houston Astros Reaction, unless we’re discussing the merits of the “wooo.”
But the Rangers, who beat the Angels 4-2 Sunday afternoon to snap a five-game losing streak, were the defending American League West champions two years running until the Astros took the division with a win Sunday afternoon. So, just for a second, let’s ponder the future of the West.
Does anyone in the division stand a chance against the young and talent-laden Astros over the next several years? The flippant answer is a resounding heck no. The best-case scenario for the Rangers and the rest of the division is that the top four clubs (not including the A’s who are in a full-on rebuild mode) takes shots beating each other meaning no one rises so fast and dominantly as the Astros did early in 2017. Houston got off to such a great start that it put the rest of the division in a chase mentality. The Astros built a 10-game lead on the division by the end of May and were able to hit cruise control before the All-Star break. The Mariners have some young exciting players and the Angels have the best player in the game in Mike Trout and have added another top slugger in Justin Upton. The Rangers, of course, have a couple of their own young sluggers they expect to have around for a long time, too, in Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.
Cap tip to the Astros for their first A.L. West title and their first division title since 2001, when the were still in the National League.
Here’s the Rangers Reaction:
1. The Legend of Beltre — Adrian Beltre could never play another game (God forbid) and his legend is secure. Instead, he keeps adding to his resumé of greatness. Just when you started thinking perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision for him to prematurely return from a serious grade 2 hamstring strain he rips a two-run double. That’s what he did in the first inning Sunday, using mostly his arms and hands to drive the ball with his lower half.
Beltre admits he’s only playing because the Rangers haven’t been (officially) eliminated from the post-season. Despite the potential danger of worsening the hamstring, not to mention the pain involved, Beltre is undeterred.
“It is dangerous but I’d rather blow it up trying to help my ball club than sitting around,” said Beltre, who said he didn’t ask team doctors what he was risking.
“I don’t want to know. We’ll find out if it happens. IF it happens,” he said, emphasizing the ‘if.’
Manager Jeff Banister remains in awe of his captain.
“I’m going to have to find a new dictionary to find adjectives for what he’s doing,” Banister said. “It’s incredible.”
Incredible works just fine.
2. Swing and a miss — The Rangers struck out 36 times in the three-game series against the Angels, including 15 times on Sunday. If you’ve watched the Rangers closely in 2017, you might expect they lead the majors in strikeouts. Not quite, but they’re close. The Rangers’ 1,364 strikeouts are sixth-most in the league, one behind the Diamondbacks. The Brewers lead the majors with 1,454. Of the six teams with the most strikeouts, only the DBacks have a winning record. Of the six teams with the fewest strikeouts in the league, three have losing records. Of note, however, two of the best teams this season are in that group, the Indians, who are tied with the Royals with second-fewest strikeouts, and the Astros, who have the fewest in the league with 987. Also of note, the all-time record for strikeouts in a season by a team is the 2013 Astros with 1,535. Oh, how things have changed.
3. Gallo bona fides — Joey Gallo was made for the StatCast era and Sunday was another fine example. His solo homer in the second was estimated at 490 feet by StatCast, which is the third-longest home run this season and longest of Gallo’s career. Gallo, as usual, wasn’t too impressed about the accomplishment after the game. Although his interest did perk up a tad when he was told that Nomar Mazara actually hit a 491-foot homer last April in Angels Stadium.
“Don’t tell him that,” Gallo joked. “That’s pretty cool. He’s just as strong as me. That doesn’t surprise me.”
The only longer home runs this season were hit by the Yankees Aaron Judge (495 feet) and Gary Sanchez (493 feet).
Beltre scoffed at the 490 estimate, saying it easily cleared 500 feet.
“It was unbelievable. There’s no way that was 490,” he said. “It was an impressive swing, impressive, two-strike swing. We all know [his] power but that was a really good swing.”
He joked that he could hit a ball as far.
“Of course,” he said with a smile. “I just don’t want him to look bad. I don’t need 500 feet, just 380. It’s a waste of power.”
Never leave us, Adrian.