Rejoice, Texas Rangers fans. Your team finally beat the Oakland A’s this season.
The A’s had won the first four of the 19 games the two teams will play in 2016, and in the process didn’t look remotely like a team that is 10 games under .500 and in last place in the American League West.
If anything, they had made the first-place team in the West look pretty lousy.
Alas, the Rangers scored enough and pitched enough and played terrific defense to beat the A’s, but it wasn’t easy.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-6 win Tuesday.
1. The Rangers needed a game in which their starter lasted at least seven innings and minimized walks, the defense did its part, the offense tacked on late, and someone in the bullpen made sure the closer wasn’t needed.
Three out of four isn’t bad, though the one shortcoming — the back end of the bullpen having to work — didn’t thrill manager Jeff Banister
But Sam Dyson almost got the night off, in large part due to some solid first-inning defense.
The Rangers scored a run in the top of the first, but the first two A’s batters lined singles off Martin Perez. Danny Valencia also hit a rope, but Jurickson Profar dived to stop it for the first out.
Khris Davis was next, and he lined a double into the right-field corner. Shin-Soo Choo, though, fired a strike to Rougned Odor, who fired a strike to Robinson Chirinos to get Jed Lowrie at the plate.
“To have the huge play to get the runner at the plate, if we don’t get that there who knows where that inning goes,” Banister said.
Billy Butler flied to the warning track in center field to end an inning in which all five batter ripped the ball against Perez but only one run scored.
The Rangers countered with a three-run homer by Chirinos in the second and then scored three times in the third for a 7-1 lead.
The A’s got within 7-4, but the Rangers scored three more runs in the eighth and ninth to lead Banister to go to Alex Claudio to mop up rather than a second inning from Matt Bush.
It didn’t work — and hasn’t worked multiple times this season —and Dyson was forced to pitch.
“We’ve got to be better there, absolutely,” Banister said. “We’ve got to do a better job in those situations.”
The defense gave Perez a lift, but he helped himself by not walking a batter for the first time this season. Throw a few walks in there along with nine A’s hits, and the game might turn out differently.
But Perez did what the Rangers needed, as did the offense and the defense. And Claudio?
Well, three out of four isn’t bad.
2. Banister rewarded Ryan Rua with a start at first base over Mitch Moreland, and Rua rewarded the manager with a sacrifice fly for the game’s first run, a homer to open a three-run third and an RBI single in the ninth as the Rangers put the game away.
The Rua-Moreland decision was mostly platoon-based, though not entirely. The A’s started left-hander Eric Surkamp and Rua’s righty bat was a better matchup, but Rua has moved into Jurickson Profar territory.
Rua has been too good to just completely sit on now that Shin-Soo Choo has returned from the disabled list and Moreland’s bat has started to wake up somewhat. Banister said that Rua won’t just face lefties, either.
But he won’t be playing every day, just as Profar won’t once Adrian Beltre is back. That remains on track for Thursday. The Rangers will then suddenly find themselves with a wealth of hot hitters and quality depth, and the good problem of having to find a way to keep Rua and Profar from collecting rust.
That should be too hard with Rua, even if Moreland has turned his season around. The Rangers were planning to use Rua at first base against left-handers and have done so a few times. Expect that to pick up, as well as less hesitancy with giving rest days to Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo against some lefties.
That happened with Mazara on Monday. Rua might get a start in center field for Ian Desmond.
In Banister’s eyes, that’s how good Rua has been.
3. Which Rangers reliever entered the season with a 2.97 career ERA?
A. Sam Dyson
B. Jake Diekman
C. Shawn Tolleson
D. Tom Wilhelmsen
The answer is D, Wilhelmsen, who was sent to Triple A Round Rock on Tuesday with a 10.55 ERA after allowing six runs on nine hits Monday while recording three outs.
He needs to be in Round Rock just as much — probably more, actually — than the Rangers’ bullpen needed the fresh arm of Nick Martinez. Banister said that there’s nothing wrong with Wilhelmsen mechanically, but his confidence his shot and he keeps spinning his wheels and getting stuck deeper in the muck the more he pushes the gas.
Banister’s explanation makes sense: Stats drive baseball, and sometimes when a player sees his going the wrong way, he gets away from what makes him successful in a push to fix his numbers.
It was evident to Banister on Monday, and the decision to send Wilhelmsen to Round Rock was easy. He needs to be “unplugged,” just as Desmond, Fielder and Moreland were for a few games apiece.
The Rangers couldn’t afford to let Wilhelmsen work it out with a few games down in the bullpen. They are stuck in a stretch of 20 games in 20 days and need a full complement of relievers.
Wilhelmsen, in turn, needs to pitch in a low-pressure environment against hitters he should overmatch, as he did when sent down last month. Banister remains confident in the track record, and the Rangers still have another year of control if they want it.
At $3.1 million this season, Wilhelmsen becomes a candidate to be non-tendered in the off-season unless he comes back from Round Rock and pitches the way the Rangers expected.