Take it easy, Texas Rangers fans. Don’t go planning any crazy Silver Boot Series victory parties just yet.
Although the Houston Astros looked like a last-place team during a three-game sweep at Globe Life Park, the Rangers looked like a last-place team at the same time last year.
How did that work out for them? Pretty good.
The Astros are hardly dead, though they weren’t a very good team this week in the first of six 2016 series against the Rangers. The Astros didn’t pitch well enough, though Doug Fister was good Wednesday, and they didn’t hit well enough, play defense well enough or run the bases well at all.
That will add up to a sweep against just about anyone.
Here’s some more Rangers Reaction from a 7-4 sweep-clinching victory.
1. Mitch Moreland had the night off, but he’s a veteran who is a good quote for big-picture stuff and was asked about what the return of Yu Darvish will mean for the Rangers.
Darvish threw live batting practice for a third time Thursday and is likely to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday. So, the question to Moreland wasn’t just pulled out of thin air
“What these guys have been able to do this season has been pretty good,” Moreland said, referring to the work of the current five in the rotation.
That was before A.J. Griffin, the No. 5 starter and presumed odd man out once Darvish returns, allowed two runs in six innings against the Astros.
Assuming the health of the other four starters — Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis — holds, Griffin will bow out. Maybe he bows to the bullpen. Maybe he bows to the waiver wire, though that seems like an unlikely scenario if he continues to pitch effectively.
He has been effective in all three of his starts — two wins, two runs in five innings of a no-decision, and a 3.18 ERA. The numbers are better than those of Perez and Lewis.
The Rangers did well in finding Griffin. They did all they could early in the season to find someone better, which led to a stressful week for the right-hander. Sometimes, it seems, the Rangers make things harder than they need to be.
Griffin, at least so far, has been as good as anyone they could have realistically landed in a trade.
2. Ian Desmond broke out with his first homer of the season, and it was a big one. The three-run homer with two outs in the first inning erased a 1-0 deficit and was the beginning of a long night for Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.
Desmond was given the chance to talk about how good the home runs feels after a 7-for-53 start to the season, but instead he turned the question into a conversation about the series win, the series sweep and how well the lineup is clicking and the hitters are feeding off each other.
All of us Rangers media-types had heard that this is who Desmond is. A great teammate. A great quote. A stand-up guy when he’s struggling. A humble star when he has done well or is doing well.
Like Moreland, Desmond was asked about Darvish’s return and having the 1-2 punch with Cole Hamels. After saying that potential two-headed rotation monster was a reason he signed with the Rangers, he also quickly played up how good Martin Perez, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are, then paid homage to the rotation guys he left behind in Washington.
When I stopped at only Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, he added four others.
His Nationals teammates loved him and were stunned that he was still a free agent in February, strictly because of how good of a teammate he is. He’s not a bad quote either.
3. The bullpen took its first serious injury hit of the season Thursday, when it was announced that hard-throwing right-hander Keone Kela would have surgery Friday to clean up a bone spur in his elbow.
It’s the same injury that slowed him in September and the MRI showed the same thing. That includes that the ulnar collateral ligament is fine and in no way needs to be replaced through Tommy John surgery.
General manager Jon Daniels was asked why the Rangers didn’t do the clean-up in the off-season. Daniels said that the way Kela finished the season was a positive, and he didn’t have any issues during the winter to suggest it would be a problem again.
But it is now and will be for the three months it takes Kela to return. Tony Barnette took his place and pitched well for 1 2/3 innings before coughing up a homer to the lefty-hitting Colby Rasmus. Left-hander Jake Diekman was in the Rangers’ bullpen ready to go, but didn’t enter until after the Rasmus homer.
Draw whatever conclusions there that you’d like. Keep in mind the score was 7-2 at the time, and that probably played a factor in manager Jeff Banister’s decision to stick with Barnette.
The homer aside, Barnette was good and has been good since his big-league debut April 5. He had some nerves that night. No matter how many big moments he had as a star closer in Japan, pitching in the big leagues for the first time was a big deal.
That’s out of the way now, and so is Kela. Barnette will have a more prominent role for part of his rookie season. It could last until Kela returns, or maybe someone unseats him.
Tom Wilhelmsen is a former big-league closer, and though not right now, the belief is he will get right. And then there’s Matt Bush, the pitcher many want to see in the majors right away.
He could be an option but isn’t right now. He needs to pitch. He hadn’t pitched in more than three years because he was in jail. While he’s been good at Double A, he’s hit some bumps, too.
Bush isn’t ready to be in the majors yet.