That was quite a front row Monday at Globe Life Park in the owners’ seats.
President Bush and his wife, Laura, caught the opener of a key three-game series between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, and co-chairman Ray Davis was next to Mrs. Bush.
Neil Leibman, No. 3 in the ownership group, was seated between Davis and an empty seat. On the other side of the empty seat was the other co-chairman, Bob Simpson, who was cozied up to Art Briles.
Yes, that Art Briles. He and Simpson are pals from Briles’ Baylor days. Simpson is a Baylor alumnus and Baylor booster who wanted Briles to keep his job after he had been terminated.
So, the adage is right: You never know what you’re going to see at a baseball game.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-3 victory.
1. As a season plays itself out, rosters evolve. Three of the biggest players in the Rangers’ win Monday weren’t on the Opening Day roster.
Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy, acquired Aug. 1 at the non-waiver trade deadline, delivered key hits. Beltran delivered two of them, matching his total over the past 12 days, with a solo homer in the first and an RBI double in the four-run, five-hit third.
Lucroy had the fifth hit, a liner over the shortstop with two outs to give Yu Darvish, who opened the season on the disabled list, a 5-0 lead.
Rougned Odor gave Darvish a sixth run of support, and that’s a key number for any starter but especially Darivsh. When the Rangers have scored him six runs, he is 29-1.
For Beltran, it was only a matter of time until hits started falling. Though he endured an 0-for-32 drought that he snapped Saturday with two hits, he had been hitting the ball hard at times.
But he said that he hadn’t felt as consistent as he has during his splendid 19-year career. He did Monday, though.
Lucroy delivered with the bat and helped guide Darvish though 6 2/3 innings. They went heavy on fastballs and curveballs to keep the Mariners off-balance. Darvish finished with nine strikeouts.
Darvish was better than he was Wednesday against Cincinnati but still not at his best. He said his four-seam fastball was erratic, and he admitted that he is starting to worry about the lack of bite on his slider.
It’s probably still a plus-pitch even when not at its best. The guess here is he gets it figured out, but even if he doesn’t he has plenty of other pitchers to keep hitters guessing.
Just ask the Mariners.
2. Hisashi Iwakuma has been tougher on the Rangers in his career than former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez has. This season, though, the Rangers have found some success against Iwakuma.
They rattled him over three innings Monday, especially in a four-run third in which they made him throw 40 pitches. That was it for Iwakuma, whose ERA this season just pushed past 4 at 4.01. That’s a career-worst.
Iwakuma is 1-3 this season against the Rangers, who have taken ownership of the head-to-head series with the Mariners along the same lines as their ownership of the Astros.
The Rangers improved to 9-4 this season against Seattle but have won eight of the past 10 after losing 2 of 3 to open the season. The Rangers are 11-2 against the Astros, who come to town this weekend for three games.
Teams win division titles by beating the other teams in their division, and the Rangers are now 33-19 against their four West foes. The Rangers are only 13-13 against Oakland and Anaheim, which entered Monday a combined 34 games below .500.
Now 24 games over .500, matching their season-high, the Rangers play 24 straight games against the division before closing with six against Milwaukee and Tampa Bay.
I can’t remember a schedule setting up so well for them.
3. The Carlos Gomez Rangers Experience has been a short ride so far at only five games, so the sample size with this club is small. The sample size including his time with the Houston Astros, though, isn’t small.
Offensively, at 1 for 19, he has looked more like the Houston version than the new-and-improved version Rangers brass were hoping he would be.
Nevertheless, Gomez was talking big before Monday’s game, saying that he’s close, that he’s responding well to the suggestions from his new hitting coaches and that he hopes to be hot over the last few weeks of the season ahead of the Rangers’ probable postseason berth.
Entering Monday, all he had to show at the plate was one hit — a three-run homer in his first Rangers at-bat in a 9-0 victory. He’s shown well with his glove, including two key catches Sunday in a 2-1 win.
Gomez made an impact in two wins in his first four games, and the Rangers are 4-1 since he was promoted from Triple A. Manager Jeff Banister said that the Rangers will take that. But they’d like to see some of those hits Gomez says are coming.