The series finale for the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs on Sunday happened to fall on the same day as the final round of the British Open.
(I just can’t bring myself to call it the Open Championship.)
The good news is that two televisions in the clubhouse were on the NBC coverage of the third major of the season, and one TV in the press box and one in the dining room were showing Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson’s wonderful duel at Royal Troon.
Was it as good as Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in the Duel in the Sun in 1977 at Turnberry? Not to potentially tick off Dan Jenkins, but it might have been better.
Mickelson shot a bogey-free 6-under 65. He lost by three strokes as Stenson tied low round for a major championship with an 8-under 63. On Sunday.
So was Cole Hamels at Royal Wrigley.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a badly needed 4-1 win.
1. The All-Star Game is just one day, though for those who are selected for the game it’s far more of an ordeal.
Their teams have a game Sunday, after which they depart on a late flight for the All-Star site,. Then, the players are put through the wringer by the media Monday morning before heading to the ballpark for several hours for batting practice, some throwing and the Home Run Derby.
The only activity Tuesday isn’t just a game. The Midsummer Classic is preceded by the Red Carpet Parade and followed in some instances by a red-eye flight and a screwy sleep day Wednesday.
Half of the All-Stars then either get to meet their team in an away city or fly on the charter from home.
There’s no rest for the weary All-Star, and not much time to work on his craft. Yet, Hamels, whose All-Star experience last week included an early-morning fall and hospital visit to sew up a cut on his chin, made the most of his little free time to fix his left index finger.
The left-hander was rocked in his final two starts of the first half because of a blister, which he said was a real factor July 3 at Minnesota and not as bad July 8 at home against the Twins.
But the issue was a factor in him lasting only four innings and 4 1/3 innings, and allowing five runs and walking five in each start.
His outing Sunday was efficient and overpowering. It was Hamels at his best, filling the strike zone early and then missing bats.
Before the media brought up the blister, he said that his intensity was sharper. This is the second half of the season, go time, the time to try to recapture the distance they had between them and the rest of the division two weeks ago.
As good as Hamels’ pitches can be, his mind is always elite. It was that way when he came to the Rangers nearly a year ago, when he talked about the playoffs, even though the Rangers were eight games back after his first start.
If he’s already stepping on the gas for the finish line, he might convince the rest of his teammates to do the same. They could use a boost, and maybe Hamels’ start Sunday gives it to them.
2. All the losing the Rangers have endured may eventually prove to have a silver lining. Closer Sam Dyson finally got some needed rest.
He would have rather kept on pitching, which would have meant that the Rangers wouldn’t have been losing 11 of 14 games. But he wasn’t complaining about the layoff after striking out the side — Cubs All-Stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and rookie catcher Willson Contreras — in earning his 19th save.
Maybe the cut finger that has put Jake Diekman on the disabled list will have the same effect. The losing has also given rookie Matt Bush time down after the Rangers used him often beginning with his May call-up.
With Keone Kela back and the Rangers talking to clubs about relievers, the bullpen could once again turn into a team strength as it was last season after the trade deadline. It’s not going to be easy to pry Andrew Miller away from the New York Yankees — or cheap — but imagine the possibilities.
3. Stefan Stevenson will pick up the Rangers beat for the Star-Telegram the rest of the road trip, and he will get to see the disaster that is the press box at Angel Stadium and take in the oppressive heat that is forecast for Kansas City.
The Rangers will turn to two pitchers who probably need to show something Monday and Tuesday. With the Rangers seeking a trade for starting pitchers, A.J. Griffin and Kyle Lohse could be battling to be the No. 5 starter until Colby Lewis returns.
Griffin will go Monday. He hasn’t been bad since coming off the disabled list June 24, but he hasn’t been good enough. Lohse is working with an oblique issue after his Rangers debut July 9. It wasn’t very good.
The Rangers can do better via a trade, even Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner. He has struggled this season and been on the DL twice, but aside from a lousy final start before the All-Star break, Cashner has been serviceable.
The Rangers like that he has Texas roots as a native of Conroe and as a former star at TCU. He throws hard and has better stuff than Griffin, Lohse, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez
The belief internally is that pitching coach Doug Brocail could help Cashner, who has a 5.05 ERA.
Cashner would be a rental piece as he rides off into free agency after the season, so he might not cost a ton in terms of finances or prospects. The Padres, led by former Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, know the Rangers’ farm system well.
Will the deal get done? Who knows? There’s two weeks to go until Aug. 1 rolls around (July 31 is a Sunday, so teams get an extra day), and the Rangers are talking to other teams as well.
Griffin and Lohse might want to be at their best Monday and Tuesday.