Strike up the band, everybody, the Texas Rangers are not going to lose 162 games this season.
Yu Darvish is scheduled to pitch Saturday, vowing to throw more strikes but keeping secret which side of the rubber he will work from. Hey, that’s big news to our friends in the Japanese media.
So is the Rangers winning after, according to many, their season was already over Wednesday night.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-5 victory over the Oakland A’s.
1. Just as the Rangers were never going to lose 162 games, Mazara isn’t going to bat .588 this season. But that’s what he’s batting after the best game of his career, going 3 for 5 with his first career grand slam and a career-high six RBIs.
He’s 10 for 17 this season.
He’s only 21.
He was an obvious topic of conversation after the game but was a topic beforehand in the daily media session with the manager. Jeff Banister said that the difference between 2016 Mazara and 2017 Mazara is a much better understanding of how to prepare each day and how to stick with his routine and approach.
Mazara came to the majors and was an early favorite to be the American League Rookie of the Year. He faded after the All-Star break, salvaged a 20-homer season with a decent September, and knew entering spring camp what he needed to improve.
When called up last season in early April, just as he played in spring training, Mazara went 100 mph. In doing so, he didn’t absorb all that was going on around him. Topping the list was what veterans do to survive day in and day out.
Though the Rangers are only four games into the season, Banister is confident Mazara can and will survive as a sophomore.
He won’t hit .588, but he’ll be a good player in a very good offense.
2. Claudio entered in the fourth inning facing the following situation:
Bases loaded. One out. A 30-home run hitter in 2017 batting. A right-handed batter, no less, and righties batted .310 against him in 2016.
Claudio got Marcus Semien to bounce into a double play when one swing would have tied the game. Claudio worked three more innings, allowing a hit and a walk, and again earning praise from manager Jeff Banister.
Count me among those who weren’t sold on Claudio until late last season and among those who still get a little uncertain when he faces righty hitters. It’s probably the fact that he throws so softly that butterflies land on his fastballs (thanks, Carla Tortelli LeBec).
But he doesn’t frequently allow hard contact, and he throws enough quality strikes that hitters are probably stunned to see their grounders to right to an infielder.
With Jake Diekman out indefinitely, some thought Claudio would pitch in more high-leverage situations late in games, and, indeed, Banister believes Claudio can pitch at any point in a game.
High-leverage situations often don’t appear in the fourth inning, but there was one Friday and Claudio won it.
3. Mazara had the biggest swing of the night, but Carlos Gomez had the biggest defensive play and provided the biggest offensive spark. And he did so in the span of five minutes in the first inning.
Gomez thrilled the crowd with a leaping catch in front of the Rangers’ bullpen to perhaps take a homer away from Matt Joyce, the game’s second batter. Gomez recorded all three outs in A.J. Griffin’s 1-2-3 first inning.
Gomez then started the second with a flare to center field and never hesitated in going for second base. He dived in safely, using his legs to put a runner in scoring position ahead of the heart of the order.
Shin-Soo Choo moved Gomez to third on the next pitch, and Gomez sped home ahead of Yonder Alonso’s throw home on a Mazara chopper to first. Rougned Odor followed two batters later with a two-run homer.
Gomez is a former Gold Glove winner in center field, the spot Ian Desmond had locked down when Gomez was signed off the trash heap in August. Gomez played left field well enough, but, in hindsight, should have been in center.
He became the leadoff hitter in September, and that’s where he’s going to stick this season as long as he’s collecting hits, drawing walks, showing power and being disruptive with his legs.
Gomez has done all three to start the season, including a 461-foot homer on Opening Day. Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but keep this in mind: He signed only a one-year deal in the off-season, gambling on himself that he could produce a big season and a big payday in free agency after the season.
Take comfort in that, Rangers fans, even though he might price himself out of the Rangers’ comfort level in the off-season.
4. A transaction that might not have made much of a blip Thursday is worth revisiting.
The Rangers traded left-hander Andrew Faulkner to Baltimore for a player to be named or cash. Yes, that’s the same Faulkner who was on the Opening Day roster last year and was once believed to be part of the next wave of starting pitchers who would make their way into the Rangers’ rotation.
But something happened between Opening Day last year and Thursday to change the Rangers’ tune on Faulkner, who was among the first cuts during spring training. He’s a good guy, so there are no boiling Keone Kela issues there. He was good enough to make the roster out of camp last year, and with the Rangers shy on lefty relievers with options, he seemed like a fit at some point this year.
Faulkner apparently fits the Orioles’ plans.
Here’s another thought: The Rangers needed a spot on the 40-man roster, and rather than put Faulkner on waivers, they got something for him in return. Don’t expect Zach Britton, but something.
The question then becomes, why would the Rangers need a 40-man spot?
Well, the Rangers will need a starter next weekend at Seattle, unless Andrew Cashner is so good Monday in a rehab start that the Rangers decide they can’t live without him April 15. The plan as of Wednesday was for him to make two rehab starts.
Of the candidates at Triple A Round Rock to make that start, Allen Webster would need a 40-man spot. Maybe that’s all it is.
Whatever it is, Faulkner’s fall from favor was a quick one.