By Will Martin
Friday nights in Arlington Texas have been nothing if not memorable thus far in 2013. Two months of the season are now complete.
17 wins in March/April and May is a team first. The 34-20 start is two games off their best start ever since 1996.
A grueling stretch of road games awaiting the Rangers (Boston, Toronto, St. Louis, and New York) let’s start with some positives in addition to prayers to the good people of Oklahoma!
The Kansas City Royals suffered the same fate as the Rangers earlier in the week with two games in under 24 hours.
More like under 17 due to crazy weather so excuse them if they appeared a little weary.
It seems the four times I have made the trek to Arlington on Friday nights these eyes witnessed a herculean effort by Adrian Beltre to have a four hit night.
When May began the Hot Corner handler was barely meeting the Mendoza Line criteria for batting average (Google the name Mario Mendoza if under 30 for further details). Closer to .200 than .300 all of a sudden the balls began to drop in the field or the stands for Adrian Beltre.
This trend would continue Friday night with another four hit performance, one of them a blast in which an off-speed pitch had Beltre swing off his left knee, being fooled on the pitch. 419 feet later the roar of the crowd told the story. Derek Holland was able to cruise after a Nelson Cruz third inning three run homer after two misplayed infield plays by Royals defenders.
Cruz’s blast was a welcome respite after a month of struggle.
“That’s why I have him in there, with one swing of the bat he can make a big difference,” manager Ron Washington said. “He went through a tough spell … but tonight he gave us a big blow with that home run. That’s the thing with Nelson and as long as he’s healthy, you just have to ride him.”
Any issues with confidence Nelson?
“I feel like I can get a hit every at-bat,” Cruz said. “It’s been tough, I feel like when I strike out, I get two strikes right away, bang bang. I feel pretty good at the plate. Hopefully, I can continue to hit and put up good at-bats.”
Over the years the Kansas City Royals have been somewhat of a spoiler when playing the Rangers. Two teams very familiar with one another as they share closet space in Surprise, Arizona each spring it seems the Rangers always catch K.C. right before or right after a big series with a bigger opponent. Strange things happen, funny bounces, a late inning rally and suddenly Rangers fans ponder,’What happened?’
The Royals lead the all time season series with Texas (243-239) while K.C. took five of nine in 2012. It’s always a battle when these two teams meet and you can expect more of the same as the weekend plays on with the appearances of James Shields and Yu Darvish.
Texas prides itself on All-Stars. The same applies for the the team from Missouri. Alex Gordon a back-to-back Golden Glove outfielder and 2012 Silver Slugger Champ Billy Butler. K.C. also brings the return of ex-Rangers Guillermo Moscoso, Endy Chavez, and Luis Mendoza. Earlier this week it was announced that George Brett will be the new interim batting coach for Team Ned Yost.
Before 37,765 in Arlington Friday night the Rangers rolled 7-2. Derek Holland continued his month of dominance with a seven innings of 8-hit ball with eight whiffs and one walk, 73 strikes on 104 pitches to finish 4-0 for the month of May and an ERA at 2.81.
So has Derek Holland made any adjustments to his delivery, pace, style, or cadence?
“I’m just attacking the zone and going after hitters,” Holland said. “My big pet peeve is not walking hitters and keeping my defense on their toes so they can make plays. I felt like I did a good job of attacking the zone all night.”
The great month the Dutch Oven had led one reporter to ask Ron Washington if Holland could be an ace on the team without Yu.
It took a while but Wash would admit to the obvious. Congratulations to the Rangers for finishing May 17-10. Exact same record as March/April. 34-20 with the weekend to go against a usually tough scrappy Royals squad. Win or lose it’s never boring.
Back to Adrian Beltre-He becomes the 1st Ranger player in history to have FOUR 4-hit games in one month. Beltre also tied Ruben Sierra (1991) for most hits in the month of May (44). With injuries delaying the return for players like Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Alexei Ogando, and Matt Harrison one could suggest that Beltre and Holland have helped to carry the weight to wins in the month about to pass.
Another case to be made is what to do with Jurickson Profar? A young kid with Bryce Harper like desire and intensity he should be playing somewhere every day. That won’t happen when Kinsler returns from the DL.
It is this writer’s humble opinion that Profar will be a great trade piece for much needed pitching for the stretch run come August 1st. Before 2013 is over Jurickson Profar will be playing full time somewhere…maybe Philadelphia for a Cliff Lee? That’s one train of thought. Cedric Bailey and myself have differing opinions on this.
Absolutely no sense of panic whatsoever within the Texas brass after the last week that was. Even with the Oakland A’s gaining 5 games in the standings in one week the thinking here is that the marathon will better suit the galloping home run ways of the boys from Arlington.
Goodbye May. Now it’s on to June. If Texas can squeeze out 15 wins I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Don’t hold your breath. It could get a little dicey.