Yankees Series Game 2 Preview: Featuring the Best of Girardi Jokes

You guys are never going to believe this, but guess what is in the forecast in New York for tonight?

Rain!

Hooray, get your rain delay theater entertainment ready to go, or I guess just be prepared for them to play through it, or even for Banister and Girardi to wrestle in the mud behind home plate.  There is so much potential for this one.  

If this one is played, then we will be treated to another edition of Ace Off Face Off, as Cole Hamels faces CC Sabathia 2.0 in the battle potential All Star lefties.  By the way, that's not a misprint; CC Sabathia is once again the ace of this New York Yankees pitching staff, bringing a 2.71 ERA and 3.48 FIP into this game in the Bronx.  

You may be asking "how is CC Sabathia good again?  Is this 2008?" and I would say that is a fair question. But much like other questions such as why the Rangers cannot hit Jared Weaver, why did Ken Giles decide to give the Rangers billboard material, why do people insist on doing the wave, and how am I still allowed to write on this website; some things will remain eternal mysteries. 

I have watched two of CC's starts this year and I have no idea.  His velocity is down and he changes speeds well, but nothing looked good enough to be lights out, yet the results are there. His K/9 is the third lowest of his career, and he is walking a ton of people, but inducing lots of groundballs while keeping the fly balls in the park.  

To counter Sabathia's left handedness, the Rangers are doing with a heavily right handed lineup, giving Mazara and Moreland the night off.  Here is the way Texas will line them up this evening: 

1- Choo RF

2- Desmond CF

3- Beltre 3B

4- Fielder DH

5- Rua LF

6- Odor 2B

7- Andrus SS

8- Profar 1B

9- Wilson C

Well......would you look at that?  Profar scratches the starting lineup for only the 4th time in the last 12 games.  I like the look of this lineup for the most part, and I am perfectly ok with Nomar getting a day of rest, even though he looked much better at the plate last night.  It's nice to see Profar back in there, but it would be nice to see him get a few more starts and even give Beltre a few more days off here and there, because even though we realize he is not human, he is getting to be an old version of whatever he is and those hamstrings will be very important come October.  

In case there is a delay this evening, the Rangers fanbase should be considered armed and dangerous following last night's full on barrage of Joe Girardi facts as posted onto the Twitter machine.  Here are some of my favorites from last night: 

"Joe Girardi once asked his son's teacher to cancel an exam after he answered the first two questions completely wrong." - @Sunspots1

"Joe Girardi was on OJs jury" - @BYUArlingtonTN

"Joe Girardi still has an AOL email account"- @BottomOfDeOrder

"(girardi opens facebook) Click here to follow Nickelback (looks around nervously)(he's alone) "hell yeah", he whispers (clicks follow)" - @taddmike

"Joe Girardi stood outside movie theaters in 1999 telling people "Bruce Willis is a ghost! He's dead the whole movie"- @The_Kingsley

"I hope Joe Girardi charges his phone through the night wakes up and finds out it didn't charge"- @qbjerryjones

"I hope Joe GIrardi forgets to take his phone out of his pocket before he jumps in the pool"- @Shippyfunsports

And on that note, on to tonight's game, where we may see more delays, more Girardi jokes, more runs scored, and hopefully another Rangers win, but no Kirby Yates, because he was just optioned to AAA following last night's three HBP performance.  

Godspeed Kirby; we will always have last night. 


 

 

The Rangers are 50-27

Much like the conclusion of last night's game, this recap has been delayed for several hours (mainly because no one should have to read the weird things I would have been saying at 3am). 

How and where do I even start this thing?

Last night provided one of the strangest, most entertaining, exhausting, and rewarding baseball games I have ever watched. For those of you who stayed up and are miserable at work today, congrats to you, it was worth every second. For those of you who went to bed, congrats on having meaningful adult things to do with your life, unlike me during the summer.  

I feel like this game was an entire series or a three act play, not just a Monday night series opening game.  Because of that, I will break this recap into three parts. 

Part One: The Calm Before the Storm

For some reason, the game started with a 25 minute delay.  No rain, no thunder, no wind, no tarp. Just a 25 minute delay due to weather concerns, which, when the movie is made about the 2016 Rangers and this game is included, will serve as foreshadowing.

Things started off for the Rangers with something that we are all growing quite fond of: an Ian Desmond homer.  He crushed the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers, staking the Rangers to 1-0 lead.  The bottom of the first included a confident Chi Chi, hitting his spots and getting groundball outs. Smooth sailing through one. 

The next few innings featured a barrage of Yankee singles, as Chi Chi kept leaving pitches up in the zone and lost all of the confidence that he had in the first inning, eventually surrendering 5 runs on 10 hits over 5 innings (for all of you stat people, a 9.00 ER and a 2.12 WHIP is what we refer to as "ungood").  On the offensive side of things, Choo provided a boost with a clutch bases loaded, 2 out, 2 strike lined single to the left side of the infield, just out of the reach of Didi Gregorious, who was positioned close to second in an abbreviated defensive shift. 

Chi Chi left the game with the Rangers trailing 5-4, concluding part one of the epic novel. 

Part Two: The Lost Game of Atlantis

"One inning it started raining, and it didn't quit for four innings. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night..."- Forrest Gump(ish)

And then the rains began.  It started as a drizzle, and continued to into a downpour.  Luke Jackson came on to pitch and looked good in the 6th inning, protecting a one run lead.  Jackson returned for the 7th inning and promptly allowed a solo homer to Mark Teixeira which would have gone out in approximately 0 of the 29 other ballparks (it was measured at 346 feet in right center, that's a double everywhere else, maybe even a single as low and hard as he hit it). 

Suddenly, the Rangers are looking at a two run deficit with the daunting bullpen threesome of Betances, Miller, and Chapman looming, and the rain streaming down the faces of those on the field matched my tears of dashed hopes that Luke Jackson would have a scoreless performance in what felt like a big outing for him. 

And it rained harder.  What started as a drizzle gradually developed into a full on down pour and the conclusion of the 7th inning seemed like a logical moment for the umpires to stop the game; yet, they did not, and Andrew Miller took the mound for NYY, representing the second head of the bullpen three headed monster, a group that had not blown a lead yet this season, for a team that had not lost a game while leading after 8 innings in their last 115 attempts. 

The Rangers' chances looked bleaker than the weather. 

Apparently, Rougned Odor did not get that memo.  Rougie came to the plate with one out in the top of the 8th and promptly sent an Andrew Miller fastball through the rain and into the right field second deck, 402 feet down the line.  Miller quickly retired the next two hitters, but there were signs of life. After all, this is the team that proudly never, ever quits. 

As the Rangers took the field for the bottom of the 8th, somehow, it began to rain harder. At this point, the evening had made the transition from #weirdbaseball to "holy crap, I hope no one gets hurt or actually drowns on the warning track" baseball. 

Tony Barnette, looking Andy Dufresne emerging from the sewage tunnel to his freedom (if abstract Shawshank Redemption references worked for Bill Simmons, maybe I should use them more often), handled the weather like a champ, slushing his way through a saturated 1.2 innings of scoreless relief with three strikeouts.  

On to the top of the 9th, where the rain did not let up, but Joe Girardi did. 

Aroldis Chapman took the mound, which at this point looked like the mountains of Ararat emerging from a biblical flood, and immediately had issues with control, walking Robinson Chirinos to begin the inning and going to a 3-1 count on Choo before Joe Girardi intervened. To the credit of Chapman, when the umpires asked him if he was ok, he said he was and just asked for a fresh rosin bag as he prepared to face the elements and pitch through to downpour.  

However, Joe Girardi could feel the game slipping away faster than a 100 mph fastball leaving Chapman's drenched hands and walked onto the field to question the umpires, the rain delay rules, the weather radar, and the existential meaning of life, which resulted in the umpires calling for the tarp, with the tying run on first, no outs, and the Rangers' second hottest hitter at the plate with a 3-1 count. 

End act two. 

Part Three: The Soggy Bottom Boys

"Some people feel the rain, others just get wet"- Bob Marley

As the tarp was brought onto the field, and Girardi's wish was granted, you could see Jeff Banister's blood begin to boil as he approached the umpires to try and understand why, at this point, more than an hour after the rain had begun, after his pitcher had just completed the bottom half of the inning pitching from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and only after the tying run had reached base, that the umpires then decided to pull the tarp.  

His gripe was legit, but so was Girardi's.  In all honesty, the umpires let the game get out of hand well before reaching the 9th inning, but it was beyond a bad look for them to wait until one of the managers came onto the field to stop the game, giving the appearance that they were only doing it upon his request.  Banister was heated, and so was the Rangers dugout, with words being exchanged at a rapid pace with the umpiring crew to the point where Banister had to escort them away from the dugout to avoid ejections (by the way, I would love to know who was the chief noise maker over there, because whatever was being said was causing Cole Hamels to be in absolute stitches laughing at the banter). 

The tarp made it onto the field and the teams returned to their clubhouse, with one team determined to play out every last out, showing the constant attitude of never giving up, and the other angrily hoping that the game would be called, in which case it would not be suspended, instead reverting back to the conclusion of the 8th inning, rewarding the Yankees with a 6-5 win. 

And the teams waited.

And waited. 

And more waiting. 

And Rangers' twitter got weird, with an amazing run of Joe Girardi jokes and rain related pictures. 

And the teams waited. 

Finally, after 3 hours and 35 minutes, the teams were told to return to the field and the game would resume. 

But, as noted by the one and only Marlins Man, the Rangers were the only team to return to the field and get loose.  They were excited, smiling, and ready to continue, and the Yankees were no where to be found. The umpires walked out with both managers, with Joe Girardi pointing out issues with the field and stating how the game could not go on, while Banister stood off to the side with his arms crossed, sharing a glare of combined anger and disappointed dad with the entire crew while Girardi talked to his GM and a representative of MLB. 

Joe's complaints were to no avail, and despite his best efforts, the game resumed at 2:15 am with Shin Soo Choo returning to the plate to face Kirby Yates, also known as Not Aroldis Chapman.  Choo looks at a fastball for strike two.  Choo looks at a fast ball for three. Backwards K.  Wait.....that's not how this script is supposed to play out.  

Ian Desmond to the plate, he gets a quick two strikes on him, then, as part of divine intervention on behalf of the baseball gods and all forms of karma, Yates hits Desmond in the back, and the tying run is on second.  Mazara comes to the plate and the results are basically the same, two quick strikes, then boom, HBP.  Bases loaded with the Hall of Famer striding to the plate. 

Adrian Beltre does Adrian Beltre things; that's just how Adrian Beltre goes.  Of course he gets a hit here, driving the ball to left, scoring two, and the Rangers suddenly have the lead to the delight of the sons of Fielder and Beltre, Marlins Man, and around 30 other people that remained in the stadium through the delays.  Hearing the dugout erupt in a silent stadium was surreal, with the excitement among the Rangers players being a testament to how much fun this team is having and how much they enjoy playing baseball with each other.  As the camera cut to the dugout, no one was having more fun over there than Chi Chi Gonzalez, who, instead of going into a shell and being frustrated with his performance, was on the top stair cheering like an excited kid. This group is special. 

Before it was all said and done, the Rangers added two more on a clutch 2 out Elvis Andrus single, expanding the lead to 9-6 and continuing the summer of half price pizza.  

On to the bottom of the 9th, enter Sam Dyson, add a few Yankees baserunners and a little more excitement, plus a replay at 2:47am and the Rangers have another come from behind victory, their 26th of the year, and are the first team to reach 50 wins this season following a Giants loss earlier in the day (or the day before at this point, whatever, you get what I am saying). 

Fifty wins in Seventy Seven games.  That sure is a lot of sequencing and cluster luck. 

Rest well today, Rangers fans.  Just a few hours until game two of this series.  Who knows what today will bring. 

Red Sox vs Rangers Game 2 Preview

Do you feel frustrated about baseball after last night's game?

Well good, because Steven Wright and his knuckle ball plan on keeping it that way for another night.  

Seriously, the guy can pitch and his knuckler is a different creature which has confounded all varieties of hitters all season.  Wright leads the American League with a 2.01 ERA and that stat can't even begin to explain how dominant he has been recently or how frustrating he is for opposing hitters.  

While RA Dickey changed the thought process of the standard floating knuckle ball by adding velocity, Steven Wright has added an additional cut to his that helps add a late drop to the ball as needed.  Basically, he has made an adjustment to his pitches in order to make an unpredictable pitch predictable, but only to him.  Wright has allowed only 5 runs over his last five outings and has allowed only 71 hits to the 398 batters he has faced this season. 

This is your probably All Star game starter at this point, so don't let your frustrated feelings go too far. 

To counter, the Rangers welcome back AJ Griffin from a six week long DL hiatus to face one of the AL's top offenses.

The lineup for this evening is as follows: 

1-  Choo RF

2- Desmond CF

3- Mazara LF 

4- Beltre 3B

5- Fielder DH

6- Odor 2B

7- Andrus SS

8- Moreland 1B

9- Chirinos C

Mazara and Moreland return to the starting lineup tonight, despite left handed hitters batting only .172 against Wright.  Righties only fair a .219 BA against him, but that may have been enough to consider getting Rua and Profar's bat back into the lineup for the second straight night.  Once again, Prince Fielder fills the 5-hole as the DH, providing him with ample opportunities to ground into bases loaded double plays or be unable to catch up with 87mph fastballs while Profar looks on from the bench.  

Big question this evening will be how the bullpen bounces back after last night's rough outing.  AJ Griffin will be on a lower pitch count that usual being that it is his first start back, so the bullpen may play a vital role in the evening.  I would expect Tony Barnette to be unavailable following yesterday's two inning outing.  

Cross your fingers, Rangers fans.  Tonight provides a variety of challenges, but if we know anything about this team, it's that they would much rather punch that challenge in the jaw than to ever back down or quit.  

Grab a coffee or an energy drink, it's going to be a late one. 

 

Gut Punches

Losses are never easy. 

There are close losses, there are blowout losses, there are expected losses, there are losses on a bad call, there are losses on an error, there are losses on heroic homeruns, there are losses in games that your team had no business even being in. 

Then, there is whatever the hell happened last night.  

The beauty of it though? Every single one of those losses counts exactly the same. 

One. 

Every single loss goes down as one in the L column, no matter how brutal, no matter how gut wrenching, no matter if its a beating or  close, every single one is weighed the same and the team lives to play another day.  Good teams show their true colors after their toughest losses.  Yesterday was a tough loss and this is a damn good team, and no matter how frustrating that was to watch, there is still a chance to win the series and keep plugging along at this unbelievable pace. 

If you think that loss was frustrating for us, imagine being in that clubhouse? I bet no one was as upset about it as Diekman and Bush, and I bet no one in that clubhouse had a single bad thing to say about them.  They have been lights out, and, over a 162 game season, everyone is due an off night. 

Diekman looked tired last night.  He just didn't have his full velocity and had issues locating his sweeping lefty stuff.  He seemed to have a similar issue in his last time out against the Reds, which has resulted in Jake giving up 5 runs total in his last two appearances.  Even with these poor back to back outings, Diekman still sports a 2.86 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP on the season.  

He will be just fine. 

For the first time all season, it looked as if the moment caught up to Matt Bush just a little bit.  It is impossible to expect any rookie pitcher to not have a bit of nerves, but beyond ridiculous to expect someone coming from his background to not have a hiccup from time to time.  He looked nervous, he was sweating, he was not working at this standard comfortable pace, which led to him overthrowing and missing his spots with a relatively straight fastball.  

He will be just fine too.  Putting Bush in moments like that can result in a few rough spots now in exchange for preparing him to be in huge moments come October (and maybe even November, if Texas plays their cards right). 

Banister put together a lineup that scored seven runs last night and the bullpen could not hold the lead.  That's not on Banister.  I have absolutely no issue with resting Dyson and think that he needs less work moving forward.  My only gripe there is the nights where Dyson pitched in the past with a 5 or 6 run lead that have led to the moment where he is unavailable in a true save situation.  

Regardless of the frustration, the team still has the best record in the AL. The team still has a 10 game division lead.  The team still gets to play again today.  Rougie will still be hopping around in front of the dugout, Beltre will still be leading, Andrus will still be on the top step, Profar will still be smiling, and Prince will still.......well, nevermind. 

162 games.  On to the next. 

Pregame Notes: Boston vs Texas

As the Boston Red Sox come to Arlington, the Rangers face a few additional challenges and will have some moving parts in the lineup due to pitching matchups.  

Tonight's matchup will pit Boston's ace, David Price, against occasional Rangers starter Nick Martinez, who gets the call to fill in to the slot expected to be filled by Yu Darvish, who is scheduled to have his first bullpen session tomorrow since hitting the disabled list.  Boston will then throw possible All Star game starter Stephen Wright on Saturday against AJ Griffin.  For Wright, he will bring his knuckle ball to Texas for the first time, carrying a 2.01 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with him.  For Griffin, it will be his first start since hitting the disabled list six weeks ago following a surprisingly strong start.  

Although the pitching matchups for the first two games seem uneven, the Rangers are playing the hottest baseball in the league, going 16-4 over their last 20 games.  In addition to the hot streak, the Rangers have always handled Price very well, with the current Texas roster sporting a .311 BAA and a .802 OPS.  Facing Price today is a far better option for the Rangers than having to face him after a day of attempting to figure out Wright's knuckleball. 

Friday night's lineup is as follows:

1- Choo- RF

2- Desmond- CF

3- Beltre- 3B

4- Rua- LF

5- Fielder- DH

6- Andrus- SS

7- Odor- 2B

8- Profar- 1B

9- Wilson- C

Chirinos was originally slated to catch this evening, but was scratched following BP due to forearm soreness from his HPB in St Louis. After that, a number of questions abound.  

Nomar Mazara and Mitch Moreland are both out of the lineup tonight following an off day, with the explanation being loading the lineup with righties to face left-handed David Price.  Moreland's splits against LHP have been horrible this season and I completely understand the idea of giving Mazara an extra day off following his recent struggles, which seem to be just the typical ebb and flow cold streaks that come with being a rookie.  

However, the oddity comes in avoiding lefty bats against Price, then insisting on plugging in Prince Fielder in the 5-hole even though he is hitting .194 against LHP this season (which is not far off from his .205 average overall).  If this was truly about getting more right handed bats into the lineup, this seems as if if would be an excellent evening to give Holaday the start at DH, who is hitting .241 against lefties, or even stick with Mazara, who despite his recent struggles, is still hitting .247 against lefties and has been the best offensive player not named Ian Desmond this season. 

If Banister was not comfortable having Holaday in the lineup in case he has to catch tonight and Chirinos being unavailable, I would completely understand that as well.   However, that is not the case, because Chirinos was listed in the original lineup that already included Prince Fielder before Robinson was scratched.  

If Prince must be in the lineup, it makes even less sense to bat him in a high leverage position designed to get him more at bats than current hot hitter Jurickson Profar and having a career year at the plate Elvis Andrus, or even constant spark plug Rougie Odor.  

I sincerely hope that Prince goes out and hits three homers tonight and stops each time he touches home plate to look into the camera, flick me off, and tell me to shut up.  I hope the guy proves me wrong and I hope that he catches fire and returns to being even half of the player he once was.  But, as Dave Schoenfield pointed out today, the Rangers have reached a point where they must decide what is more important: loyalty to a player and to money spent or putting the best possible lineup on the field as much as possible.  Take a moment to read Schoenfield's piece, he has some excellent in depth material here: 

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/71653/do-the-rangers-have-the-guts-to-sit-prince-fielder

Yes, the Rangers have the best record in the AL.  Yes, this team feels like it is something special.  Yes, Prince Fielder was once a great player.  I hear your thoughts each time I question something that Banister does.  I get that.  I love Banny.  I think he is the best man for the job and I am beyond happy to have him in a Texas Rangers uniform. 

But I, much like every player in the locker room, want more than just another pretty good season.  This season has potential to be the greatest in franchise history, and to ensure this team reaches the Promised Land, some difficult decisions may have to be made along the way.  

One of those decisions may be reaching its precipice very soon.