Well, that was less than ideal. Some thoughts:
- Cole Hamels just wasn't very good today. His final line of 7 runs (6 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks doesn't quite do it justice. He didn't appear to be comfortable on the mound, and there were moments that I noticed he was taking additional time between pitches to try to gather something inside himself.
- Walks aside, Cole's biggest problem was an inability to put hitters away. He lacked any sort of strikeout pitch, with a high likelihood that it was related to his poor fastball command. There wasn't a sense that Cole had a feel for placing the ball where he wanted it, and the end result was often that he'd get two strike on hitters, only for them to be able to sit on a pitch over the heart of the zone.
- The offense and defense didn't do much to help today, either. Ian Desmond, in particular, had what was a back-breaking play that he should have made in center field on what was ruled a bases-clearing triple by Troy Tulowitzki. The ball was hit deep, but not so deep that the wall should have come into play. Desmond simply... lost it somehow. And instead of being down 2-0 with the inning over and the Rangers still within striking distance, it was 5-0, and the life just left the entire ballpark.
- And really, I have to imagine that the early deficit had an effect on the offensive approach. For his part, prior to having a cushioned lead, Marco Estrada was already having success in throwing first pitch strikes and inducing swings on his changeup. Being down certainly didn't aid Texas in attempting to adjust, and other than two Elvis Andrus hits and an Adrian Beltre infield single -- one in which Estrada himself should have been covering first for the out -- the offense didn't really get much going.
- Jumping back to Cole Hamels for a moment: He didn't seem to be following through on his delivery today -- whether that's because he just wasn't or couldn't remains to be seen -- which had me thinking aloud that he might be hurt. Of course, we're not going to hear much about it now, but recent trends would seem to back that up. Momentum -- or lack thereof -- don't generally have much to do with postseason success or failure. In Hamels's case, I almost wonder if the writing hasn't been on the wall. As you may remember, Colby Lewis required knee surgery after the 2015 season. It wouldn't surprise me too much to find out something similar about Cole Hamels, and it would go a long way toward explaining his erratic and often downward-trending starts as of late. From August 30 to the end of the season, he put up an ERA of 6.75, so today's start wasn't exactly an outlier when looking at recent trends.
- The assumption had long been that starting Cole in Game 1 would allow Texas to use him again on short rest in Game 4 if necessary. Of course, we know now that for Texas to win this series, Game 4 will be necessary. The idea had been that you'd want to avoid pushing Darvish to start on short rest in Game 4, but with a travel day, Darvish could still go on regular rest for Game 5. I'm not so sure at this point that you don't go ahead and pitch Martin Perez and take what you get. Something just isn't right with Cole Hamels. Perhaps it's an issue that comes and goes, but today it came.
- All told, today's events were what worried me heading into this series, and why I was surprised the Rangers didn't end up electing to use the 8-man bullpen. With starts from Colby Lewis, Martin Perez, and after what we saw from Hamels today, it would seem beneficial to have as many arms available as possible. It's too late now, but it was a thought I had when rosters were announced this morning, and it's one that's probably going to bother me to the end of this thing.
- About Ian Desmond. He has to make that catch in center field. Barring that, I'm just not sure he merits a starting spot in a playoff series. He hit one ball somewhat hard today, but since July 22, hasn't hit much more than a pinata. It wouldn't be a popular move, but I still wonder if having Mazara in LF, Gomez in CF, and Choo/Beltran in RF isn't the best combination. Sure, you lose some speed on the bases and a little bit of range on the left side of the outfield, but even as poorly as Nomar Mazara has hit, his bat has been leaps and bounds better than Desmond's over recent stretches. It won't happen, but it's something that should at least be considered.
- All told, the Rangers need Yu Darvish to go out tomorrow and light it up. And for the bats to, hopefully, show better plate discipline, and therefore results. Should Texas lose Game 2, that's an awfully tough hill to climb, and one I'd rather not have to face.