Any ballpark, even Oakland Coliseum, is a better place when it’s sold out. Globe Life Park was sold out (47,115, 611 doggies for Bark in the Park) for a second time this season Saturday night.
It took a combination of a Rougned Odor bobblehead giveaway, Oklahoma State Night and a Cody Johnson postgame concert, but don’t tell me about the labor, just show me the baby.
The crowd did its job, too, continuing to boo Jose Bautista and contributing a big jackpot for the Texas Two-Step 50/50 raffle. The Wave gets a pass, too. These guys were into it, if not fully aware of the perceived ills of The Wave.
Players will swear that a good crowd gives them energy. So does a 36-year-old starting pitcher who keeps eating innings and a 33-year-old journeyman catcher who keeps hitting grand slams and a native Texan who launches walk-off homers.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-5 win Saturday over the Toronto Blue Jays.
1. Shawn Tolleson hasn’t even been the Rangers’ closer for a full year, though the one-year anniversary of his first career save is Friday.
He has 46 saves in that span, and the 11 he had recorded this season entering Saturday were tied for the most in the American League.
But after Saturday, even in the afterglow of a Rangers walk-off victory, some will wonder if Tolleson will reach that one-year mark.
It says here that he will, because the Rangers’ bullpen isn’t as deep as the front office and coaching staff thought it would be in spring training.
The Rangers aren’t six-deep. It’s more like three — Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson and Tolleson. Tony Barnette has been a nice addition, but not nice enough. Tom Wilhelmsen has been better than he was early on, but he needs to get better.
Keone Kela is out until July, and Matt Bush has had one — one — big-league outing. He’s not ready to be the closer either.
Maybe the Rangers go with a closer by committee, though arguably their best reliever got the biggest out of the game when Dyson got Josh Donaldson as the potential tying run to end the eighth. The biggest outs in a game aren’t always in the ninth.
It’s not like Diekman and Dyson have been as dominant as they were last season, either. Tolleson hasn’t, with three blown saves in 14 opportunities after blowing only two in 37 tries in 2015.
The Rangers might just have to ride Tolleson until he figures out his woes, or until they can’t afford to take more blown saves.
As far as predictions go, I’ve been fairly awful this season. Consider that when I say that Tolleson will remain the Rangers’ closer.
By the way, anyone who thinks the Rangers’ bullpen is killing their season needs to take a look at the Blue Jays. Toronto’s bullpen has 12 losses.
2. Bobby Wilson hitting a grand slam and Drew Stubbs hitting a walk-off homer in the 10th is baseball, just as Wilson’s grand slam followed on the next pitch by a Delino DeShields homer May 8 is baseball.
Anything can happen in this game if you give it a chance.
How about this? Justin Smoak has three home runs this season, all against the Rangers, all in the ninth inning or later and two off Shawn Tolleson. Baseball.
Colby Lewis is the only Rangers starting pitcher who has logged at least six innings in each of his outings and is the team leader with seven quality starts in eight starts. He’s doing this as a 36-year-old who had off-season knee surgery and has pitched the past two seasons on what is, in essence, an artificial hip. Baseball.
Lewis said that he is neither exceeding his expectations or falling short of them. He’s just doing what he expects to do each time out — pitch deep in the game and give his team a chance to win.
The Rangers are only 4-4 in his starts, but he leads the AL in starts he has left while leading (three) only to see the bullpen lose the lead.
3. Shin-Soo Choo will begin a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple A Round Rock at hitter-friendly Albuquerque, putting him on a path to return to the Rangers’ lineup Friday.
The move that everyone expected to would be made to clear a roster spot for him, Delino DeShields to Triple A, was made Friday to make room for Matt Bush. Now the path is clear for Choo to become the right fielder, pushing Nomar Mazara to left field, and there’s a good possibility he’s going to be the leadoff hitter.
That’s TBD, but if the Rangers want a high on-base guy with power bat in the leadoff spot, Choo’s their guy. That, by the way, is what the Rangers want.
What happens after he bats is a mystery, but Ian Desmond becomes a candidate to stay in the No. 2 spot. He has the kind of speed that the Rangers like high in their lineup and has pop, but his biggest attribute might be that he hits right-handed.
I’ve tried to come up with what the lineup might look like once Choo returns. Current leadoff man Rougned Odor seems most likely to sink.
He and No. 3 hitter Nomar Mazara are both left-handed hitters, and the Rangers probably don’t want three lefty hitters atop their lineup. Certainly not against a left-handed starter, and not even against a right-handed starter. The Rangers would be easier to pitch to late in games.
But Choo, Desmond, Mazara, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder is a solid first five, followed by Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus, Odor and the catcher, with Andrus preventing a run of three lefty hitters.
The Rangers could move Beltre back to the third spot and Fielder back to the cleanup spot, and go Choo, Mazara, Beltre, Fielder, Desmond, Moreland, Odor, Andrus and the catcher. Fielder, though, needs to hit the accelerator.
The thought with Odor dropping to the second half of the lineup is to get him in a position where he can produce more runs and not bunch all of the best hitters together at the top. Doing that gives a pitcher a break.
With a lineup stretched 1 to 7 or even 1 to 8, a spot where the Rangers have been getting some of the best production in the league, a pitcher can’t come up for breath. Even the Rangers’ No. 9 hitters, catchers Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday, have two grand slams and a three-run homer the past week.
Whatever impact Choo’s return has will be known by this time next week.