Anyone at Major League Baseball looking for another way to speed up the pace of play should look no further than the Texas Rangers’ game Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
Angels pitchers were so aware of Rangers base runners that they over to first base to keep them close. A lot. Threw over a lot. Way too much. Twenty — 20 — times, according to mlb.com’s Gametracker.
They even threw over three times in a row, which I believe is a turkey. Or were the Angels turkeys?
The throws weren’t the only culprit for the game taking 3 hours, 30 minutes. There were 10 runs, 17 hits, 12 walks, a hit batsman, two wild pitches, one review, three mound visits and three pitching changes.
Not all of the 210 minutes were a drag. Far from it, for Rangers fans at least.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-3 win.
1. A.J. Griffin’s return from Tommy John surgery is complete after he allowed three runs in six innings and was the winning pitcher in his first start since Sept. 24, 2013. It was his first win since Sept. 12, 2013.
It’s a nice story — a triumphant return — for a right-hander who was blossoming into one of the American League’s best right-handers in 2012 and 2013 before his elbow went bad. And then his shoulder went wonky, too.
But now that he’s back, the focus can turn to how much he can help the Rangers as they wait for Yu Darvish to return. They will gladly take what Griffin, their No. 5 starter gave them, and they have every right to believe that Griffin can be better.
As he keeps getting the repetition of pitching in big league games and facing the best hitters, his command should improve and his pitches should become sharper. He should be able to throw more than 88 pitches without being removed, as he was Friday night.
Of course, Griffin could also stumble. Pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium might have saved him from surrendering two drives that at a more hitter-friendly place like, oh, Globe Life Park might have been homers.
His next start is in another pitcher’s park, the pitcher’s park, Safeco Field on Wednesday. The ball goes better during day games in Seattle, but it’s not like it becomes Coors Field.
That he made it through one start, though, is a nice story.
19-0 A.J. Griffin’s career record when he receives at least four runs off support
2. Griffin was handed a 3-0 lead before he even took the mound as the offense shook loose for its best game so far this season. They banged out a season-high in runs and hits (10) and continued to reach base via the base on balls.
The Rangers took seven more Friday and are up to 22. Add in the four instances that the Rangers have been hit by pitches, and the offense really starts to look like an on-base juggernaut.
Take, for instance, the third inning. Ian Desmond walked with one out, and Rougned Odor followed with his first homer of the season.
These hitters aren’t looking to draw walks. They can be aggressive, but their approaches tell them to not chase.
There will always be chases, but continuing to limit them is going to serve the Rangers’ hitters well.
Leadoff man Delino DeShields had taken four of the 22 walks the Rangers have drawn so far this season. He opened Friday with a walk and scored two batters later.
3. Griffin and Tom Wilhelmsen, the first man out of the bullpen Friday, enjoyed another solid defensive night from the guys on the field behind them.
Adrian Beltre made another great play, this time chasing down a popup in near the third-base line in shallow center field. Desmond make a great diving catch for the first out of the seventh.
Beltre started an inning-ending double play by fielding a grounder and throwing to Odor, who stepped on second base and threw while jumping out of the way of an approaching runner trying to break up a double play.
Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland and Shin-Soo Choo also made contributions with good and heady plays.
The Rangers were among the league’s worst defensive teams in 2015. If they can catch and throw this season at a high level, or just higher level, their pitching will improve and they will see their record improve.
Outstanding performance by A.J. What a plus for him after two years to be back on a major league mound. And to pitch like that, it’s just outstanding.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
4. The bullpen was on fumes Friday night, so it was important for Griffin to go as long as he could and not put more stress on a bullpen that was going to be without closer Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson and Keone Kela.
Wilhlemsen got five outs, but his inability to get the final out of the eighth created some bullpen-usage questions.
The last batter Wilhelmsen, a right-hander, was allowed to face was Ji-Man Choi, a left-handed hitter who drew a walk to load the bases. All the while left-hander Andrew Faulkner was warm and ready to go.
Manager Jeff Banister said that many factors contributed to that decision to not go to Faulkner.
One was the score. It was a four-run game, a margin that kept the Rangers comfortable with Wilhelmsen. Another reason? The Rangers didn’t want to bring in Faulkner only to have a pinch-hitter appear from the dugout. Craig Gentry was an option.
The Rangers needed an out from Tony Barnette to escape the jam. He got it despite he fell behind Carlos Perez before getting the last out on a full-count pitch.
Jake Diekman worked a scoreless ninth, and with a day’s rest, the top pieces should be back quickly.
Griffin gets some of the credit for freshening up the bullpen, if nothing else than because it adds another wrinkle to a nice story.