The postgame scene Thursday in the Texas Rangers’ clubhouse wasn’t what I expected it would be heading into it.
From the outside, loud music could be heard booming. It sounded like a party was going on, and with good reason. One of the most respected players on the team had given quite a go at history, and though he fell short, the Rangers won 5-1 and his complete-game two-hitter was something to enjoy.
Once inside, though, and once done talking to the manager, the Rangers were darn near solemn. Even Colby Lewis was a little down after missing what could be his final chance at no-hitter.
They don’t happen very often, though he seems to be making a habit of it against the Oakland A’s. But in falling just short, he was disappointed and it felt like his teammates were even more disappointed than he was.
The Rangers were dressing for their flight to St. Louis, with the required sports coat, collared shirt and dress shoes. Some wore suits, as they would to a wake.
Yeah, they won the game and an eighth consecutive series and are 6 1/2 games up in the American League West, but you would have never known it.
More than anything, that’s a tribute to Lewis.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a nearly historic win Thursday.
1. Lewis has done enough to merit a spot on the American League All-Star team, and he had done it before he flirted with history.
He hasn’t just been the best pitcher on the league’s best team. He’s been one of the best starting pitchers in the league, all with a fastball that rarely touches 90 mph.
Lewis, of course, said that doesn’t give a minute’s thought to earning a spot in the Midsummer Classic. He should. He’s got a real shot at it for the first time, and with a rule governing pitcher usage, it’s not as difficult as it once was for a pitcher.
The players have their say, and those who have faced him so far will consider him. They must, because no team has beaten him. Manager Ned Yost will have to look at the 6-0 Lewis, too.
The Rangers aren’t going to have a player voted onto the team. Adrian Beltre is a strong candidate to get voted in by the players as a reserve. If he isn’t and Yost has to find a room for one Rangers player, he could go with pitching and pick Lewis.
Even if Beltre stands as the lone All-Star initially, Lewis could be added to replace any in the annual litany of pitchers who bow out because of injury or because they started the Sunday before the Tuesday game.
Lewis has to hold up his end before rosters are picked early next month. He is likely to make three starts before the clubs are revealed, against Cincinnati, either Boston or New York, and Minnesota.
There’s no predicting baseball, as Ron Washington used to say, but there appears to be a good chance at two wins without allowing much damage.
If he’s 8-0 or 7-1 or 7-2 with an ERA around 3.00, he’ll be hard to ignore.
And then he’ll have to give it a moment’s thought. He’ll be headed to San Diego for the All-Star Game.
2. Nomar Mazara is officially in a slump, the first of his career.
He went hitless again Thursday and didn’t collect a hit at Oakland Coliseum. It’s pitcher's park, but not to that degree.
Through it all, though, manager Jeff Banister hasn’t seen any panic or anything different from Mazara than when he was red-hot a few weeks ago. Same guy. Same mentality. Same focus.
He’s just not getting any hits. He will, though, and soon, even if teams have finally made an adjustment to him. He’s so good and smart at the plate that it won’t be long until he figures it out.
Mazara was in the spotlight Thursday for his attempt at Max Muncy’s deep drive that broke up Lewis’ no-hit bid to start the ninth inning. Mazara tracked it into the right-field corner, reached, and thought the ball landed in his glove but popped out as soon as he hit the wall.
No one was bad-mouthing him afterward. Could he have made the catch? Yes. Would it have been a great catch? Yes. That’s why it was easy to score a double, because it would have taken extraordinary effort to make the play.
His explanation can be found in the video just below. Note how cool he remained. Same as always.
Just as he’s been during the first official slump of his career.
3. Beltre managed to make it through his first game back without doing any further damage to his strained left hamstring. His track record dictated that he would and will continue to do so, but there are going to be doubters until he is healthy again.
He made an impact, too, collecting a two-run double in the eighth. He made it around the bases rather gingerly, or maybe cautiously is the right word. He ran as hard as he needed when he needed to run somewhat hard.
He also played in more than normal at third base to take away the heightened chance of a bunt.
The Rangers’ lineup felt whole again with Beltre in it. He was the cleanup hitter, not Rougned Odor or Ryan Rua. Despite how well those two did, they can’t do it as well as Beltre.
The lineup for the opener at St. Louis on Friday should have Shin-Soo Choo back after a day off. Choo, Ian Desmond, Mazara and Beltre figure to be the first four. If Prince Fielder plays a second straight game at first base, he could bat fifth and be followed by Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos and the pitcher, Cole Hamels.
That’s pretty good.