Game 131, Mariners at Rangers
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yu Darvish, 5:05pm
A week after facing Masahiro Tanaka, Hisashi Iwakuma once again takes the hill opposite a superstar countryman. Yu Darvish missed most of the year recuperating from the Tommy John surgery that he had shortly before the 2015 season, and his absence is one reason why the Rangers have some strange pitching stats on the year.
No team in the game has struck out fewer batters than the Rangers. No team except the Reds has a worse K-BB%. The Rangers’ team FIP ranks 28th. They’ve given up more contact than anyone else in the AL except the Twins. Their *bullpen* ERA is 27th in MLB. The Rangers lead the division by 8.5 games. We’ve talked about it before, but the Rangers are getting pretty hard to explain with the tools we typically use. Their run differential on the year is only +5, far worse than the M’s, and by BaseRuns, they’re actually negative. They’ve outperformed their pythagorean record by 11 games, and outperformed their BaseRuns record by 12. The bullpen has not only been terrible in blowout losses, they’ve given away a number of games (the M’s have been the beneficiary of a few), but at other times have come up huge.
The Rangers line-up has seen two of their cornerstone players, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder felled by injuries – in Fielder’s case, they’ve caused his retirement – and growing pains from their rookies, and it simply hasn’t mattered. This isn’t to say they’re a great offense – the M’s have scored far more runs – but like the pitching staff, they’ve scored runs *exactly* when they need them time and again. None of this sounds all that sustainable, but this is now year 2 of the Weird Rangers, the club with some obvious holes and with a so-so run differential that nonetheless keeps winning ball games.
They’re a much more formidable team in the playoffs than all of the preceding makes them sound for a few reasons. First is the return of tonight’s starter, Yu Darvish, who looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. His velocity is all of the way back, and he’s striking batters out at nearly the rate he did back in 2014. Second has been the deadline acquisition of Jonathan Lucroy, who ended up in Texas after nixing a deal that would’ve sent him to Cleveland. Lucroy leads MLB catchers in WAR, and while the Rangers cobbled together some decent production before getting him, they’ve clearly upgraded their true-talent. Add in the low-key pick up of Carlos Beltran, and the Rangers are clearly a better club than the one that posted a great record in the first half. Let’s just hope they aren’t as lucky.
1: Martin, CF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lind, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: O’Malley, LF
9: Marte, SS
The Bakersfield Blaze played their final regular season home game last night, as the team will cease operations after this year. I tuned in to hear Dan Besbris’ call, and the Blaze picked up the win, sending fans home happy. It won’t actually be the final game at Sam Lynn, as the Blaze will be in the Cal League playoffs, so here’s hoping that Bakersfield’s final act as a Cal League team is hosting the league trophy. The Blaze built a true Cal League lead of 11-3 with HRs from Justin Seager, Austin Wilson and Chantz Mack and then watched as the bullpen gave much of it away in the 8th, but their closer Thyago Vieira got the job done in the 9th, and the Blaze had an 11-8 win.
Tacoma’d built a big divisional lead, and saw Reno chip away at it, and Reno had taken the first two games in a critical head-to-head series, but Tacoma beat the Aces 4-3 last night to rebuild a 3.5 game cushion.
Cedar Rapids beat Clinton and Vancouver beat Everett, but at least the AZL M’s shut out the AZL Rangers in what we all hope is a foreshadowing of today’s big league game.
Jackson was rained out, which is pretty much the only way to avoid losing to them. They’ll play 2 today. Interesting prospect match-up of Taylor Jungmann facing off with the Generals’ Andrew Moore in game 1.
Tacoma’s Zach Lee gets the start in a big, big game against Fresno, and the R’s need him to post a solid start. Since joining Tacoma, he’s 0-7 with an ERA of 7.04. Fingers crossed. Reno’s in Sacramento.