Each team at every level in professional baseball goes into a doubleheader wanting to win both games but knowing full well that a sweep is tough to achieve.
With that, the Texas Rangers sent their ace to the mound for Game 2 after dispatching the Atlanta Braves 12-8 in the first game. Looking good, right? Well ...
It was series win, which comforted Elvis Andrus but not the aforementioned ace, ahead of two straight home series the Rangers really need to win against the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 12-8 win Wednesday and a 5-4 loss.
1. Cole Hamels was knocked around in the second inning, surrendering five runs. His throwing error didn’t help matters, nor did the leadoff walk and ensuing hit batsman.
Down 5-0, he did what a starter is supposed to do — stop letting the other team score. He actually threw five scoreless innings, but that second inning proved to be just enough for the Braves to avoid a doubleheader sweep and a three-game series sweep.
Afterward, Hamels was about as tough on himself as he’s ever been with the Rangers. The possible exception was after Game 1 of the American League Division Series last year.
He said that he hasn’t been able to pinpoint why he can’t put away hitters with any consistency. He hit Kurt Suzuki with a 1-2 slider, which was still stinging as he talked to the media.
Hamels expected to win. He tried to mince his words afterward about the Braves, who were 17 games below .500 before he took the mound.
“You’re supposed to beat teams that don’t have, necessarily, the good records,” he said. “That’s nothing against the players over there, but that outweighs the situation when you’re supposed to win. We didn’t do that, and that, obviously, comes down to what I wasn’t able to do out on the mound. I’m definitely the one at fault.”
Hamels didn’t stop there.
“If I were a betting man in Vegas, this is the one you put in all your chips,” he said.
Falling short of expectations is what’s making the season so frustrating for Hamels. The Rangers had most of the key pieces back from the 95-win division champions, and they expected to be better than one game over .500 with 23 games to play.
But they aren’t. Injuries have contributed, including one to Hamels and Jake Diekman and two to Adrian Beltre. Underperforming has contributed more, with multiple players not doing what they did last season and only a couple doing more.
“That’s what can be the frustrating part,” Hamels said. “We had the expectations, and we’d had results. We don’t have results, it can build over weeks and months. It’s a credit to what we’re doing and the guys who have come in. It’s going to be a fight to the very end.”
Hamels lasted six innings, which is three more than ...
2. Miguel Gonzalez, who doesn’t deserve a failing grade for his Rangers debut in Game 1 of the doubleheader as much as he probably deserves an incomplete mark.
The right-hander pitched only three innings, allowing four runs and two homers. He was at 60 pitches when removed for a pinch hitter in the fourth.
That doesn’t sound great, and he admitted afterward that he wasn’t very good. But he also wanted the chance to get better and to keep the Rangers in the game. Had this interleague game been at Globe Life Park, under American League rules, or if the game had been in any month but September, he likely would have been given the chance.
Gonzalez will start again Monday, in all likelihood, to open a critical four-game series against Seattle. Every series is critical, but this one is critical critical with Seattle one of the teams in the wild-card mix with the Rangers.
He will get the chance to pitch more than three innings, assuming he’s not gawd awful in those first three innings.
Judge him then, not based on what he did Wednesday afternoon.
Besides, the Rangers did win the game when ...
3. Will Middlebrooks batted for Gonzalez and hit the ball in a perfect spot — toward Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. He dived/belly-flopped for the sinking liner, predictably missed it, and opened the door for a Middlebrooks triple that drove in two and gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead.
Middlebrooks then raced home on wild pitch for a 6-4 cushion, and the Rangers never looked back. Not even when Tyson Ross allowed two runs in the ninth and forced Alex Claudio to get the game’s final out.
Manager Jeff Banister decided that the situation, both in the game and with where the Rangers are in the standings, necessitated the move. Two were in scoring position with one out, and Gonzalez is a pitcher who, no surprise, can’t hit a lick.
Fighting for their playoff lives, the Rangers couldn’t let a prime scoring chance pass them by. With all 13 relievers available, including starters Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin, there were plenty of arms to get the Rangers through the rest of the game and Game 2.
So, Banister pulled the trigger, and his shot hit the bull’s-eye.
“In a major-league game, you don’t get to many multiple opportunities for run-scoring opportunities,” Banister said. “I felt like it was the best spot for us to try to maximize the run-scoring opportunity.”
Middlebrooks, by the way, pinch-hit in the sixth inning of Game 2 and ... tripled. He scored on a Cole Hamels groundout to make it 5-4. (Banister didn’t hit for Hamels there. The run scored, but the bases were cleared.)
No player in MLB history, dating to 1913, had tripled in both games of a doubleheader.
So, Middlebrooks has that going for him, which is nice.