When it comes to places to visit, Washington is at the top of the list.
There’s no real need to dive into why (the center of the free world, amazing buildings, history, good eats), though my opinion is based solely on visits during non-winter months and reasonable stretches of low-humidity days.
It strikes me as one of those destinations where I wouldn’t want to live, because I wouldn’t want to become numb to my surroundings. It’s kind of like Las Vegas and Hawaii in that regard.
But I think I would be OK if the Texas Rangers were somehow realigned to the National League East, or the Washington Nationals were put in the American League West. I could handle three visits here a year.
The Rangers might not want that, though it might be an easier sell after the weekend they had at Nationals Park.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-1 sweep-clinching victory.
1. The second career start for Austin Bibens-Dirkx didn’t start too darn well. The Nationals opened home run, single against the right-hander, and then didn’t do squat for the next 19 batters.
The performance was, obviously, the best of Bibens-Dirkx’s young big-league career and topped this season only by A.J. Griffin’s shutout at San Diego as the best outing by a Rangers starter.
“It seems like he had about six different versions of off-speed pitches,” Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said. “I felt like I had some pitches to hit and couldn’t quite barrel them up. Can’t really pinpoint why. Sometimes he was able to mix and match his off-speed for strikes, which made it a little bit difficult. You’ve got to tip your cap to him.”
So, now what do the Rangers do with Bibens-Dirkx?
Tyson Ross declared that he is ready to return, and he will do so next weekend. The Rangers like Dillon Gee, who doesn’t pitch all that differently than Bibens-Dirkx. Both have experience at making pitches, just at different levels.
But to not give Bibens-Dirkx a second chance after that — seven innings, three hits, one run and, again, 19 straight retired — would be both a slap in the face and a bit foolish.
Go with the hot hand. Go with a guy who clearly is making the most of the opportunity he had been seeking for 12 years. With Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner, Martin Perez and Ross, that’s a fairly legit first four.
Bibens-Dirkx isn’t going to be any worse than any other candidate for the No. 5 spot. The Rangers have to see if he can replicate that.
It’s highly unlikely that he would be able to retire 19 in a row again. That’s a Rangers rookie record, after all. But he has been effective every time he’s been allowed to pitch, and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t be again.
Until he proves otherwise, or until Cole Hamels comes off the disabled list, Bibens-Dirkx needs to be the guy. That would allow Nick Martinez to fill a missed role in the bullpen as a bridge from the middle innings to the late innings, and Gee can pitch in the long role as he’s done previously.
It looks like Gee will start Tuesday at Houston, followed by Cashner, Perez, Darvish and Ross. Bibens-Dirkx needs to be next in that order.
What more can he possibly have to do to have to earn it?
2. Raise your hand if you thought the Rangers would sweep the Nationals. Anyone? Anyone?
Didn’t think so.
But they did, and now they have ol’ Mo on their side as they face the Houston Astros the next three games. And they have Darvish on Monday in the opener.
He said he has been watching other pitchers work effectively, causing a light bulb to go off. He was efficient Wednesday against the New York Mets and pitched into the eighth inning.
If Darvish is looking for someone’s lead to follow, after apparently not wanting to follow Cole Hamels’ example, Max Scherzer would be a good choice. Scherzer piles up strikeouts and manages to work deep into games.
He works quickly, which Darvish absolutely does not. Scherzer seems to realize that his stuff is so good that he doesn’t have to out-think hitters. Sometimes he must, but he’s been around long enough to know when and how.
Darvish has, too, yet the methodical approach sometimes allows hitters to collect themselves when on their heels. A quicker-working Darvish could cut out any chance of a hitter getting back into an at-bat by getting the ball and throwing it past him.
And Monday would be a good time for Darvish to work efficiently and quickly and an Astros team that worked him pretty hard in five innings June 2. He allowed only three runs, on a fifth-inning homer by Carlos Correa, but he threw 104 pitches.
He said that he has an adjustment in mind for the start. Maybe it’s working quicker and attacking, as Scherzer does.
Perhaps Darvish was watching Sunday.
The Rangers want him playing every day. Truth be told, he wants to be playing every day. The only place to do that is at Triple A Round Rock.
And that’s what’s left of Profar, the super prospect in 2012 and 2013 whose career was derailed by a shoulder injury in 2014 and 2015. He has no place to play with these Rangers.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have a place somewhere in the majors, but it would have to be on a rebuilding club. Profar said it himself: If he’s playing every day, he’s fine.
Playing at Triple A has allowed him the chance to figure out left-handed pitching, as he finally has struck on a timing mechanism that is allowing him to put into play balls that he would usually foul off.
He’s probably the Rangers’ best defensive middle infielder, and he loves playing shortstop. But he’s not a first baseman, despite playing there Saturday, and he’s not a third baseman, despite playing there Friday and Saturday.
Profar isn’t an outfielder either, despite what he experienced in the World Baseball Classic and early this MLB season.
If the Rangers are going to sell at the trade deadline, they need to see what they can get for Profar. He has no place to play with these Rangers.