For a second straight year, Baltimore during three summertime days wasn’t nearly the sweat box it can be.
The press box at Camden Yards is open-air, so the media gets to experience all that humidity. Yet, temperatures never approached 90, and that made the humidity tolerable. It got a little sticky Tuesday, but Wednesday and Thursday were relatively perfect.
The Rangers will get to bask in more ideal conditions this weekend, thanks to the roof that will be over their heads.
Maybe not ideal. It’s been pretty cold at Minute Made Park of late, at least for the home team.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-3 win Thursday over the Baltimore Orioles
1. A.J. Griffin was lifted with two outs in the sixth inning, and he didn’t appear to be happy with the decision. That’s natural for any starting pitcher.
But he and others in the rotation might have to get used to it.
Games are going to be managed differently these final two months, and the Rangers have the bullpen to do a lot of different things. Some of that was on display Thursday.
The Rangers used four hard-throwing relievers — Keone Kela for one out and Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Bush and Sam Dyson for an inning apiece. Another, Jake Diekman, was ready to go if something when wrong.
Banister essentially followed the Kansas City Royals’ 2014 and 2015 blueprint. Have a starter get through five or six innings, and turn it over to a lockdown bullpen.
The Rangers’ new-look bullpen has to do what it did against the Orioles more than just once to be considered a lockdown ‘pen. But the one game Thursday certain allowed imaginations to run free.
The key to shortening games is having a fresh allotment of relievers, which the Rangers had thanks to the extended work of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels the previous two games. Losing those games, unfortunately for the Rangers, also helped.
Banister could have done a number of things Thursday, and was able to pick what matchups he liked best. He liked Kela to get Mark Trumbo, who had homered an inning earlier, and liked Jeffress, a closer four days ago, against some left-handed bats in the seventh.
Bush and Dyson were what Rangers fans have seen much of the season in the eighth and ninth.
Diekman, meanwhile, would have pitched the eighth if the Orioles had gotten to Chris Davis for a left-on-left matchup, and would have pitched the ninth had the Rangers been in a non-save situation.
A non-save appearance could fall to Jeffress, or maybe Bush, or maybe Tony Barnette. Bush might work the seventh and Jeffress the eighth in a game this weekend.
Their usage will be dictated by matchups, and Banister has the flexibility to do what he needs to have a lockdown bullpen.
2. Shin-Soo Choo was back in the Rangers’ lineup, activated from the 15-day disabled list without a rehab assignment.
Based on one game, he didn’t need one. Based on one game, the Rangers’ offense is better with him in the lineup.
“Huge difference,” Banister said. “We liked the matchup with him against [Wade] Miley. It proved to give us dividends form the very beginning of the game.”
Choo opened the game with a double but was left at third. His grounder in the third was a productive out. His single in the fourth helped save the Rangers after a bad sac bunt try by Delino DeShields spoiled Elvis Andrus’ leadoff double.
The Orioles helped, too, as Davis somehow missed Ian Desmond’s grounder that went as an RBI single and as Jonathan Schoop couldn’t handle Carlos Beltran’s blooper.
“It was just a good win,” Desmond said.
Based on three games, the Rangers’ offense is better if Desmond and Adrian Beltre are hitting, which they aren’t doing a lot of right now. That might be changing.
Desmond’s single, a roller on which Choo shielded Davis from making a play, gave him his second RBI of the game after grounding out to bring home DeShields in the third.
Desmond did something productive, which he hadn’t done a lot of lately, and that could get him going from a 6-for-47 skid. Desmond opened the season in a 5-for-46 slump, and had a similar RBI single to start his comeback.
“I feel good,” he said. “The feeling’s there. It’s just getting good pitches and putting good swings on them. It’s good to be able to be productive on days when they’re stingy with their pitches. It was a successful day in my book."
3. Stefan Stevenson takes over the beat this weekend, when the Rangers are assured of leaving Houston with at least a 3 1/2-game lead in the American League West if the worst-case scenario unfolds.
The best case is a 9 1/2-game lead that would seem to put the Astros away.
Houston is struggling, having lost 8 of 10 and young star pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. to an elbow injury. The Astros also didn’t do anything of substance at the trade deadline, which has been described as a deflating outcome.
The Rangers, already 9-1 against the Astros this season, have a chance to take more air out of their nearest rival.
The offense feels like it could break out, though the Astros are pitching two of the best they have for the first two games and a promising prospect for the finale. But if Martin Perez can outlast Dallas Keuchel in the opener, it could be a long weekend for the Astros.