Jeff Banister discusses his bullpen strategy in Saturday's 4-3 win
All hail Alex Claudio. It’s his world and we’re all just flailing bats on 83 mph changeups.
Claudio saved the day again for the Rangers, this time with a four-out save Saturday night in a 4-3 win against the Rays.
Keone Kela, making his first appearance since June 27, had two outs in the eighth but had two runners on when Claudio entered the game. The left-hitting Brad Miller was due up, but as manager Jeff Banister suspected, the Rays used right-hitting pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe. Claudio got Plouffe to ground out softly to first to end the inning. In the ninth, a one-out blooper for pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos turned into a double thanks to the bouncy field turf at Tropicana Field, but Claudio paid no mind. He quickly induced two groundouts to end the game. Claudio earned his fourth save and the first four-out save of his career.
“We have to give him the credit,” Elvis Andrus said. “He’s been our workhorse and every time he does his job.”
Indeed, if not for Claudio, especially on this 10-day road trip, the Rangers’ season may have already been toast. He has a win and three saves in five scoreless outings (6 1/3 innings) on the trip. Before this trip, Claudio had one save in 112 appearances. It’s the third four-out save this season for the Rangers. Matt Bush did it June 13 in Houston and Jose Leclerc did it April 12 in Anaheim.
Here’s the Rangers reaction after another 4-3 win against the Rays:
1. Them’s the breaks — Sports writers, especially beat writers, are not often going to get into the weeds of a team being unlucky or lucky. Although professional athletes and managers and coaches often use similar phrases and descriptions, they’ll also just as quickly throw that back in your face with a blunt rejoinder akin to “There is no luck. You make you’re own luck.” Etc. etc.
If everything went right for the Rangers in 2016, as many speculated with the slew of one-run wins and odd run differential, much of 2017 has been the opposite. Simply put: They haven’t been gifted many gimmes.
That seems to have changed at Tropicana Field. In the sixth inning, Adrian Beltre’s hard-hit fly ball to center field should have been caught by Mallex Smith. Instead, it wasn’t and two runs scored to tie the game.
“One of those that kind of goes our way this time,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of those. We were able to take advantage of it. Baseball has a funny way of giving back sometimes what you lose.”
A flustered Chris Archer proceeded to throw two wild pitches, allowing the go-ahead run in Beltre score. The bullpen held on and that was it. The Rangers were held to five hits but it was enough, thanks to a two-out, two-run error.
They’ll take it.
“It’s about time we get some luck,” Andrus said.
2. Elvis keeps rocking — Andrus had three of the Rangers’ five hits Saturday night. Friday night he had three of the club’s seven hits. It’s safe to say it appears he’s out of his mini post-All-Star break slump when he started 3 for 29 in seven games combined at Kansas City and Baltimore.
“I feel different than Baltimore, for sure,” Andrus joked. “At Baltimore and even in Kansas City I was getting myself out. I was swinging at too many pitches, I was swinging at everything they threw me.”
Against the Rays, he said, he’s been more selective.
He’s 6 for 9 with two homers, three RBIs and three runs scored. It’s the second time in his career he’s homered in consecutive games. He also did it April 11-12 against the Angels.
“He’s been our most consistent hitter all year long,” Banister said. “He got some pitches and he didn’t miss them.”
3. Sun ball an error — The fly ball that hit off his glove and allowed the Royals to walk off with a win last Sunday was changed from a hit to an error by the MLB on Thursday. Shin-Soo Choo did not know and didn’t care either way.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about whether it was a hit or error,” Choo said. “I don’t care that it happened to me, we lost the game and that’s what I care about.”
No doubt that’s how Choo really feels. It was a tough play and the sun definitely was a factor for the outfielders. Royals’ center fielder Lorenzo Cain fought fly balls valiantly four times. At the time, I figured the official scorer’s ruling of a hit would be changed. Didn’t think it would take four days, but whatever.
MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, by the way, is the one who reviews plays and decides whether official scoring is changed. I’m glad he saw it my way.
In that situation, when a fly ball that normally would be caught — and even hit off the fielder’s glove — is not caught, the tough-luck burden should be on the fielder, not the pitcher. In this case, it was Jason Grilli, who made a good pitch to get Cain to fly out only to see the ball dropped. In Choo’s defense, the ball was slicing away from him towards the right-field line, making tracking the flight that much harder in a tough bright sky. He saw it off the bat, then lost it on the run.
Grilli was ultra professional moments after the game despite being tagged with the loss on a fly ball that should have gotten him out of the inning. He appreciated the scoring change but was supportive of Choo.
“A fly ball straight up you’ve got a better chance,” Choo said. “You see it and then you’re moving and it’s hard to stay on it.”
As stated, Choo is a professional and doesn’t care about whether it was called an error. The only stat on the official scorer’s sheet he cares about is the final score.