Want some numbers? Here's some that a standard box score won't reveal:
Jeremy Guthrie started the game off by retiring Ian Kinsler and David Murphy on flyouts to center.
But it took him 21 pitches to do so. That proved to be huge.
Guthrie would blank Texas in that first inning, but Kinsler, Murphy, Michael Young, Andruw Jones, and Hank Blalock made him throw to the plate 37 times. The tradeoff for that zero in the line score in the first was an end to the Baltimore ace's night after 101 pitches over five innings and an opportunity to get to the soft underbelly of the Orioles bullpen. Matt Albers came into the game with a 5.19 ERA and opponents' average of .371, and to suggest that's a pitcher you'd rather face than Guthrie is something my four-year-old can understand.
Flip side: Matt Harrison, not looking particularly sharp in the first two innings (50 pitches and a 4-0 Baltimore lead), found his command and a better rhythm in the third ("I slowed down my delivery, but not the tempo. I wasn't trying to change my stuff, just my demeanor"), and retired Baltimore in order on 13 pitches. It was his first 1-2-3 inning of the season.
In the fourth, he repeated, on just nine pitches.
The fifth, the same again, on 10 pitches.
In the sixth, having watched his club turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead against Albers, Harrison once again went three up, three down - on nine pitches.
While it took Guthrie 37 pitches to get through a scoreless first, Harrison faced the minimum in the third through the sixth, needing just 41 pitches. It was the difference in the game.
Actually, if you dial back to the second inning, after the walk-double-lineout-single-single sequence that the six-through-one hitters slapped on Harrison, in hindsight we might assess that a transformation took hold. Baltimore's most threatening hitters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis (both of whom had singled the previous inning) were coming up with a 4-0 lead, one out, and the fleet Brian Roberts on first. The odds of the three-run inning getting even worse were pretty good.
But Harrison retired both Jones (on a 9-6 fielder's choice) and Markakis to stop the bleeding. Three pitches to each. Five strikes (including strike one to both) and one ball.
Then came the perfect third through sixth. Breaking Harrison's work down even further, he started those 12 hitters off with strikes eight times (including all six Orioles in the third and fourth, making it eight straight hitters to whom he threw strike one). T.R. Sullivan noted over the weekend that the league was hitting .440 against Harrison when he started 1-0 in the count.
Strike one does so much good. The sabermetrics will bear that out. And the camp that buys into momentum, into feel, into clutch, will tell you that getting ahead on the first pitch can turn a mediocre pitcher into an effective one.
Even in the midst of one game, as with Harrison last night. Strike one and a positive change in tempo and demeanor: a baseball chicken and egg.
Sullivan also pointed out that opponents were hitting .381 against Harrison in two-out situations before last night, when they put together a harmless 1 for 8.
Give Harrison a DVD of innings three through six, not as a keepsake, but as a manual.
By the way, Texas pitchers faced 36 hitters last night. One of them walked. More of that, please.
I did a little game-by-game research: Rangers pitchers have an ERA of 4.75 in "shutdown innings." Would the sabermetrics crowd suggest that that's a decent-looking split, considering the overall team ERA is 5.99? And would the other camp see that 4.75 mark as a disappointment, a momentum-killer? I sure would like to see that number come way down.
On April 7, 2007, I wrote: "On the spectrum of basesliders, you and I and everyone else who has ever played the game at any level sits between Dean Palmer and Michael Young."
Taylor Teagarden is a lot closer to Young than Palmer. Money slide at the plate on Murphy's pivotal sixth-inning single last night.
Love watching Teagarden call a game, too. Love every aspect of his defensive game, and on nights when he adds a couple hits, even if it doesn't include a huge game-tying single, you can't ask for more. This is not to overlook the strides that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has made this season, but Teagarden is a rookie who makes his pitching staff better.
Pretty sure today is when we should learn the fate of Josh Rupe: traded, claimed by another club off the waiver wire, or outrighted to the farm after clearing waivers.
Despite a couple mentions by the national media to the contrary, the Rangers are apparently not interested in righthander Pedro Martinez.
Righthander Luis Vizcaino, whom the Cubs designated for assignment on Thursday? Reportedly some interest there, but only if he clears waivers and would accept an Oklahoma City contract.
Hickory righthander Wilfredo Boscan's trip to the seven-day disabled list was prompted by some sensitivity in the ribcage/oblique area of his right side. Much better news than if it were an arm issue. Boscan was the number 12 player on Friday's Baseball America Hot Sheet. Frisco lefthander Kasey Kiker, the Texas League Pitcher of the Week, was number 10.
It's early, of course, but righthander Neftali Feliz has run into the worst command issues of his career. In 14.2 Oklahoma City innings, he's issued 14 walks and averaged 22.4 pitches per inning.
Tap the brakes on any thought that he's going to be up here soon. Derek Holland was ready, Feliz is not. And that's OK. Feliz is the youngest player in the 16-team Pacific Coast League. He's not overmatched (.283 opponents' average, 14 strikeouts, positive G/F, no home runs allowed), but he's got more work to do than just refining his breaking ball, fielding the position, and holding runners better. AAA lineups may not all be more talented than AA lineups, but they're smarter, and that's good for Feliz's development.
The Rangers released first baseman-outfielder Scott Thorman from Oklahoma City. He hit .188/.297/.406 in 32 at-bats.
Philadelphia signed infielder David Newhan as a player-coach for AAA Lehigh Valley.
The White Sox released first baseman Ben Broussard, who hit .130/.222/.130 (3 for 23) in seven games for AAA Charlotte.
Righthander Kendy Batista has a 9.00 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances for High A Inland Empire in the Dodgers system.
Milwaukee signed catcher Patrick Arlis.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League signed lefthander Daniel Haigwood.
Speaking of former Texas and Boston farmhands, more bloggy golden gold today from RedHawks reliever Beau Vaughan. Don't miss anything Vaughan writes. Ever. Instant mood boost.
I'm usually not one to look ahead too far, but Kevin Millwood's start tonight against Brett Anderson has me a little less intrigued than Sunday night's matchup, on national television, between Millwood and John Danks.
And I've gotta say, I'm looking forward to seeing Matt Harrison-Jose Contreras on Saturday night, eager to see if we get the Harrison that ran out of the dugout in the middle of third inning last night with an idea on how to attack hitters differently from how he did in the first two frames, an idea that he executed like a pitcher you sure would like to be able to depend on a bit going forward.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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