The following isn’t a popular opinion, but oh, well: Tropicana Field isn’t all that bad.
The Trop isn’t great. It has several flaws, but it also has some strengths.
The roof is one of them. Baseball can’t be played in Florida without one. Each game is going to be played without delay and always at a pleasant 72 degrees.
The dugouts are nice. The clubhouses are nice. The infield is as good as it can be indoors, and the outfield has some character.
The Rays try to put on an entertaining show to make the fans want to come back, but the community doesn’t help the club out. I’m not sure a new ballpark would change that. Maybe a new location.
That’s too bad, because downtown St. Petersburg is a great place.
And the Trop has this going for it: It’s better than Oakland Coliseum.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-2 victory.
1. Another second-half start, another big-time performance from Cole Hamels.
He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the last-place Tampa Bay Rays, who are getting banner seasons from Evan Longoria and Brad Miller but no one else. But never one to take an opponent lightly, Hamels struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits.
He has a 1.85 ERA since the All-Star break, and the Rangers are 5-2 in his seven second-half starts.
But Hamels’ most important starts of the season could come in his next three outings. He will face Cleveland, one of the American League teams the Rangers are competing with for home-field advantage in the playoffs, next week and then likely will pitch against Seattle on Aug. 30 and, with a little finagling of the rotation, at Seattle on Sept. 6.
The Mariners are the team closest to the Rangers in the AL West.
Left-handers are a good matchup against the Mariners, who feature the big lefty bats of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Leonys Martin also bats left-handed, but his season has cooled from a decent start. Another lefty hitter, Adam Lind, sits against lefties.
Lefties also neutralize Indians stars Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana.
The Mariners and Rangers play seven times in 10 days, and those are the last two series they play this season. The Rangers’ schedule down the stretch is setting up to be one of the friendliest in baseball.
Hamels, though, gets to carry a tough load his next three starts. Based on how he has pitched since the All-Star break, it’ll be tough to bet against him.
2. Adrian Beltre was batting .273 on Aug. 7. Eleven games later his average is at .291, and that’s in spite of a mini 0-for-8 skid entering Friday.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, the Rangers are 8-3.
Beltre went 4 for 4 against Rays starter Matt Andriese and reliever Ryan Garton, both of whom he took deep, before striking out in the ninth against Danny Farquhar. Beltre has 12 20-homer seasons, tied for third all-time among third baseman, and 434 career homers, tied for 45th all-time.
He did it with his thoughts on his grandfather, who passed Thursday. Beltre asked to not speak to the media as he is still coping with the loss.
Not that Beltre needs any more resume builders, but the guy will be in the Hall of Fame some day. Assuming he’s healthy the next two seasons, he will have 3,000 hits and has a chance to crack the top 25 in RBIs. He probably needs three seasons to get to 500 homers.
But he doesn’t need that to get to Cooperstown.
As for this season, 25 homers and 100 RBIs are very realistic. With the way he’s going and the way he has hit in the second half for his career, a .300 season is realistic. If he keeps hitting down the stretch, the Rangers have to like their chances.
3. The mad dash Elvis Andrus made for home in the fifth inning, scoring from first on an Ian Desmond single and a Mike Mahtook brain freeze, had Rays beat writers recalling his base running in Game 5 of the 2010 AL Division Series, when he scored from second on a grounder to first.
Andrus said that he was keying on Mahtook, the center fielder, as he rounded third. Rather than throw the a bullet to second base, Mahtook lobbed the ball to second baseman Tim Beckham.
Andrus kept on chugging, and he dived in safely ahead of a high throw home by Beckham.
The play wasn’t the first time this season Andrus took a chance on an iffy play by an outfielder. He tagged and scored from third in June against the Mariners as left fielder Stefen Romero hesitated getting the ball back to the infield on a very shallow flyball and then lobbed his throw in.
Andrus is in the midst of his best season, with a chance to hit .300. He’s been getting ample rest for his body and mind, more than he has had since his first few seasons in the major leagues, and perhaps it’s allowed him to do what he did Friday night and will have him at his best with the playoffs at stake.