For anyone wishing to sign a petition to Commissioner Rob Manfred banning noon EDT/11 a.m. CDT game times on Saturdays, please let me know.
That extraordinary game time was in effect Saturday at Nationals Park, where players on both teams were groggy from the three-hour game Friday that ended after 10 p.m.
Throw in postgame meals, showers and buses to the hotel, and the earliest any Texas Rangers player fell asleep was midnight. The same holds roughly holds true for the Washington Nationals.
There is a reason for the early start: The Nationals scheduled their annual fund-raising gala for Saturday night. Word is that the Nationals scheduled Sunday’s game for 4 p.m. instead of the usual 1 p.m. so that players and coaches an recover from their hangovers in time for first pitch.
Must be some gala. (Note: I also plan to petition for a ban of 4 p.m. starts on getaway day. There’s no getting away for the beat writers Sunday night.)
Alas, the positive to the extra early start time was the chance to actually eat a decent meal and get to bed at a decent hour. All that’s needed is a little execution.
I don’t like my chances.
The Rangers, though, executed Saturday in the late innings.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-3 win in 11.
1. Put a check mark next to that one. If the Texas Rangers are to rally into playoff contention and secure one of the two wild-card spots, or maybe even make things a little uncomfortable for the Houston Astros, Saturday’s win might one to reflect upon as the start of something.
They showed their 2016 late-inning will to not go away. They won it thanks to the bullpen coming up big in the ninth (Alex Claudio), 10th and 11th (Keone Kela), a near-rookie (Joey Gallo) doubling as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the 11th, and with Robinson Chirinos making an in-at-bat adjustment to Shawn Kelley’s “sneaky” fastball. Their best player (Adrian Beltre) magically avoided the disabled list.
Martin Perez limited damage in the fourth and fifth innings in what rates as a nice bounce-back start for him after the Astros knocked him around last weekend. His fastball-curveball combination was as good as it’s been all season.
The question, of course, is can the Rangers sustain it?
They have played well in spurts, though not against teams of the Nationals’ caliber. Two wins against them, on the road no less, is significant, and the players have talked openly about it.
Plus, the Rangers remain three games below .500.
But they are going to get healthier and potentially get to full strength, where they haven’t been all season. Until then, they have to gain some ground and convince the front office that there is reason to believe the Rangers will contend.
The clock is ticking louder and louder on that with each passing game. The ticks have been muted some after two wins to start the weekend.
2. Beltre, down and out and in a walking boot Tuesday night and struggling Thursday to walk down the steps from the Rangers’ charter plane, started at third base Saturday and won’t go on the disabled list unless there is a significant setback.
Beltre claims that his recovery from this injury, and basically all others aside from the calf strain to start this season, is nothing more than him being a quick healer.
There has to be more too it than good genes. Perhaps a sensei who has Mr. Miyagi-like healing powers. Maybe, like Montgomery Burns, Beltre has so many things wrong with him that they all counter-balance themselves and quickly return him to good health.
More than likely, Beltre just has a robust pair of onions. And maybe a screw or two that could use tightening.
This is a guy who was once hit by a sharp grounder in one of his onions but finished the game and missed only two weeks. He even reproduced after that injury.
He also endured the effect of a botched appendectomy, which he doesn’t count because it wasn’t a baseball injury.
Nevertheless, since becoming a major leaguer, he has dealt with appendicitis, a banged up testicle, strains to every muscle in his legs, bone spurs in his ankles, bone spurs in his right shoulder, a torn thumb ligament and a back strain. And now a sprained left ankle.
When he retires, he should volunteer for medical testing. With any luck, he will be able to walk and stand pain-free when he’s inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Don’t get me wrong: Beltre hasn’t endured the same abuse as a former NFL lineman who needs a forklift to get out of bed each morning. But he’s withstood a lot in a 20-year career (so far), and it’s not going to get any easier.
I hope he’s paying his Mr. Miyagi well.
3. Perez has been dissected time and time again (talented pitcher with something keeping him from being better). But he was fairly solid, though not necessarily efficient, over five-plus innings against the best team in the National League.
On more than one occasion this season, though, the bullpen hasn’t been able to pick up Perez. To so Saturday would have been a tall task for any reliever, with runners at first and third with no outs.
It was almost a given that one run would score in the sixth. But Tony Barnette instead gave up three and allowed both runners he inherited to score in a continuation of his struggles with consistency after a strong rookie season.
The good news is that the Rangers bailed him out by rallying to tie in the ninth and win it in the 11th. Jeremy Jeffress, Jose Leclerc, Claudio and Kela posted zeroes behind him on a day in which Matt Bush wasn’t available.
The continued magical work by Claudio can’t be overstated enough. He is probably the Rangers’ third-best reliever, behind Bush and Kela.
Barnette can throw his name in that hat with a couple adjustments. He’s is a smart dude. He’s struggled before in his career, only to save himself in Japan and finally pitch in the majors. If any reliever can discover the cause for his struggles and bring himself out of them, it’s Barnette.
But he has fallen in the pecking order to the point that he’s nearly a long man, only unable to log three or four innings. He’s not going to pitch late in games, barring a bunch of others being unavailable on a given day.
Barnette will have to figure this out on flat ground and in short touch-and-feel bullpens before games. He does have options, though, as was explained over and over during the Sam Dyson downfall, the Rangers don’t have anyone better at Triple A Round Rock or elsewhere to plug in.
Bet on Barnette rebounding eventually. Just don’t bet on it right now.