After winning two of three this weekend in Anaheim, the Rangers have now won eight of their last nine, which included noteworthy sweeps of Atlanta and Oakland. I had tickets to the Saturday game against the Angels, but then I realized I have to work on Saturday so I'm not sure why I got the tickets in the first place. Either way, this is the lineup Texas posted on Sunday:
1. Martin - CF
2. Rosales - 1B
3. Odor - 2B
4. Beltre - 3B
5. Smolinski -RF
6. Telis - C
7. Rua - LF
8. Arencibia - DH
9. Sardinas - SS
Unless you were aware that "Martin" was actually Leonys Martin (which you were), or that "Beltre" was, in fact, future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre (which you were), it would be easy to look at that lineup and believe you were actually witnessing a minor league game. Just look at those names. Somehow, the Rangers still won, 2-1.
Nick Tepesch went seven strong innings, and Ryan Rua hit his first major league home run off Angel closer Huston Street, a guy who I've never quite understood stayed in MLB for so long, let alone in the 9th inning for so long. Never mind, I guess he has a lot of career saves and that sort of thing is important to people.
The most positive wrinkle in today's game -- and maybe the last month if I'm being perfectly honest -- is Neftali Feliz threw his finest inning of the 2014 season. He threw 12 pitches in route to striking out the side in the 9th, and even added a couple impressive 86 mph sliders while he was at it. His fastball, as it has been over his last five or so appearances, was sitting 95-97, and if my goal was to be objective I'd still have to say he was blowing it by hitters. He looks like Old Neftali, and that's an amazing thing moving forward.
Understandably, many Rangers fans have been discouraged by Feliz's velocity -- or should I say lack of velocity -- during the 2014 season. All along I've maintained that the 25.0 innings (or thereabouts) he's thrown since returning from Tommy John surgery last summer aren't a valid enough sample size to pass judgement on him looking towards the future... that it would be more wise to wait until his 2015 season gets underway before we completely write him off.
I held this belief for two reasons:
(1) Neftali is/was a hard-thrower who relies/relied on his fastball perhaps more than any pitcher in MLB relies on any one pitch, therefore it might take him more than the typical 12-18 months for him to regain his former arm strength.
(2) The Rangers aren't playing for anything, and haven't been for quite a while, so it behooved them to be patient with an arm that has actual utility in 2015 and beyond.
Texas have holes to fill this offseason, but the bullpen ought to be last on their list of priorities. If Neftali Feliz heads into spring training next year looking as he has been over the last few weeks, the 9th inning will no longer be an open competition; the club has the benefit of simply looking the fill each spot behind him.
With today's win the Rangers have, at least temporarily, ceded the #1 pick in the 2015 draft to the Diamondbacks. This is a big deal if you've been following the One Strike Away blog for any period of time recently, but now that we're here I think I'm more happy that Texas are winning baseball games and that we have actual story lines to pay attention to. That arguably makes me a hypocrite for how big of a deal I've made it out to be over the last couple of months, but I definitely do not care at this exact moment.
Also, can we give a little love for Tim Bogar? I don't want anyone else to manage the Rangers in 2015.