The MLB Players Weekend is upon us, which means three days filled of goofy uniforms, unexplained nicknames, questionable socks and mass confusion.
The first inning Friday went like this for the Texas Rangers:
Poppa led off with a single, Tokki 1 struck out, Comando singled and El Koja singled in Poppa before Big Chill bounced into a double play. On the mound, Tricky worked a quick 1-2-3 inning.
Tricky was pretty good, pitching into the seventh inning. The offense never matched its first inning, and that wasn’t pretty good.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 3-1 loss to the Oakland A’s.
1. The Rangers will take what Nick Martinez, aka Tricky, gave them every start the rest of the way. He pitched well enough to give his team a chance to win, which is exactly what the Rangers wanted when they put him in Tyson Ross’ rotation spot.
Martinez didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, a solo homer by Khris Davis, and didn’t allow another hit until the seventh, a solo homer by Khris Davis. The A’s added two more hits and another run in the inning.
Martinez’s final line: Seven innings, four hits, three runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.
Any majors complaints? He had only one: A seventh-inning curveball to Davis that was supposed to bounce in but ended up hanging just high enough in Davis’ swing path.
Manager Jeff Banister didn’t have any, more than once describing the start as solid and firmly in the camp that the Rangers will take six more of those.
The question with Martinez, as always, is can he duplicate that performance? The Rangers would like to see five or six more of those this season, and probably need five or six more if they are to grab that second wild-card spot.
He said that the performance was a continuation of what he’d done his last two times at Triple A Round Rock, where he posted consecutive starts of seven scoreless innings. He worked with nice rhythm and had some swing-and-miss stuff as he matched his career-high with seven strikeouts.
Martinez said that his goal is to help the Rangers extend their season into October. He didn’t say this, but he realizes that this is an opportunity to springboard into 2018 when the Rangers will have three rotation spots to fill.
He is out of minor-league options after this season. There will be no more yo-yoing between Round Rock and the Rangers. If he wants to stick, the rest of the season and beyond, he needs to pitch like he did Thursday more often than not.
2. Delino DeSheilds started the game with a single and scored the only run for the Rangers. He also singled in the third and drew a leadoff walk in the eighth.
DeShields actually made an out, on a line drive in the fifth that turned into a double play as Drew Robinson tried to steal second.
It was a good time for DeShields to be an offensive best on a slow night for the bats. Carlos Gomez can come off the disabled list Saturday, and he said that the plan calls for him to be activated and be in the lineup.
The only thing that could prevent would be if the incision where his cyst was removed split open as he went through a full work out Friday. He said that there was some bleeding in the area Thursday after he took his hardest swings to date.
Let’s say that Gomez is activated. With lefty Sean Manaea pitching for the A’s, the righty-hitting DeShields and Gomez can be in the same lineup. The Rangers have been encouraged with DeShields against righties, so he and Gomez could both start Sunday against Jharel Cotton.
But Joey Gallo can come off the concussion list Tuesday, and that’s when the outfield traffic jam will be at its worst. That’s when Banister will have to make a decision.
The power, defense and energy of Gomez or the speed, on-base and run scoring of DeShields. A free-agent-to-be or a potential 2018 regular. A 1.9 WAR player (DeShields) or a 1.8 (Gomez).
There’s also the chemistry factor. Things are going well for the Rangers right now, Friday night notwithstanding, and Banister might want to stay with what’s working.
3. The Rangers have a Davis problem, like they have a Kyle Seager problem. Each guy really sticks it to the Rangers.
Davis’ two homers gave him 14 in 27 career games against the Rangers. Three of those came in a May game here last year, the one that cost Shawn Tolleson his job as closer.
Beyond Davis, Marcus Semien, Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce, the A’s are fielding a Triple A batting order against right-handers. The left-handed-hitting Joyce is a platoon player and likely will sit Saturday against lefty Cole Hamels.
So, the Rangers can’t let Davis beat them, and if the situation is right, they probably won’t let him. He got them once Friday with one out and none one, and again as leading off an inning.
It’s hard to do anything with him there except execute. Don’t fall behind, as Martinez did when he piped a 2-0 fastball to Davis in the fourth. And put him away when you have the chance, which Martinez didn’t do in the seventh.
The Rangers dropped a game in the wild-card standings, and trail Minnesota by two games. Seattle is just a half-game back after winning the opener of a big series at Yankee Stadium.
With the players now publicly saying that every series is important and every game is important, they need to win Saturday and Sunday to keep pace. Who knows what’s going to happen Tuesday-Thursday at Houston?
Hurricane Harvey will determine that. The Astros had no official word about the series other than to check back in Sunday after Harvey, hopefully, has petered out after making landfall Friday night.
Stay safe, South Texas.