If you’d given me four guesses on which of the Rangers’ five starters would lead Texas to a 1-0 win the first time through the rotation, I’d have blown it.
Remember Monday night, when Texas managed to scratch out two runs in the bottom of the first, halving Seattle’s lead over Yu Darvish, only to have Darvish yield doubles to Ichiro Suzuki and Kyle Seager to deep right in the second inning to push the Mariners’ lead to 5-2? Remember that?
Give Mike Napoli lots of credit for his work behind the plate with Darvish and Feliz. You could write a book on the importance of the guy behind the plate, sequencing and shepherding and blocking and framing and throwing, but since I’m not the guy to write that book and am just in a mood just to do a little riffing this morning, suffice it to say that of all the players whose contract situations are more pressing from a timing standpoint than Ian Kinsler’s was, Napoli is the guy I try hardest to lock up now if he’s open to talking during the season.
You can’t erase the first 1.2 innings of Darvish’s start, but if you ignore them for a second, Darvish and the rest of the Rangers staff have an ERA of 1.25 this season (six earned runs over 43.1 innings).
Feliz coaxed seven flyouts and six groundouts last night, but those numbers without more definition are deceiving. Almost all of the flyouts were weak sauce.
As the Feliz start got underway, I tweeted: “Blind faith.” My confidence going into that game that he could get the job done as a starter, not so much against Seattle as in the bigger picture, is girded mostly by my confidence in the Rangers’ evaluators and their track record. But he showed me a lot. He offered as many secondaries as fastballs, going heavier on the change and slider the second and third time through the Seattle lineup and keeping the Mariners off balance in a way I feared he wouldn’t be able to.
Credit the braintrust. Credit Napoli. Credit Nef.
Even if it did come against Seattle, a franchise that is now 4 for 72 (.056, all singles) with six walks and 25 strikeouts in what is now 23 scoreless innings against Feliz (thanks to his final act of the night, a bang-bang assist to get an inexplicably sliding Miguel Olivo at first base), which is just slightly less silly than the fact that the club was 0 for its first 58 before Justin Smoak singled in the fourth inning.
When I wrote up the Mike Adams trade in July, I said this about Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland (the latter of whom will start for San Diego on Saturday, making his big league debut against the Dodgers):
“And setting aside a personal wish that those guys pitch in the big leagues for a long time, from a pure baseball standpoint we want them to succeed. The last thing you want is for your team to start to get a reputation for moving overhyped prospects with inflated statistics who don’t pan out. Better to be known as an organization that knows how to scout — and develop — so that other clubs continue to want your players. That’s a good thing.”
I thought about that last night watching Blake Beavan. He was really, really, really good. That kid is going to be around a long time, a key piece of the rotation when that club is strong again in a couple years. The Rangers did an extraordinary job refining the brash, young fireballer into a pitcher, and he’s going to help Seattle for years.
But flags fly forever.
I very much enjoy the story coming out of Milwaukee that the Brewers and Zack Greinke have cut off contract talks. That’s going to have to be the subject of a full-blown report in the near future, no?
A note not unrelated to the points raised in the last five paragraphs: It’s an exceedingly good thing that Frisco center fielder Engel Beltre (.292/.346/.750) is starting to show signs of a little actualized offense. The toolsy 22-year-old, on his second of three options this year, went deep twice last night, giving him three homers in the six-game season and three times as many bombs as he had in 2011.
I was critical of two poor defensive plays David Murphy made over the weekend, and of course some Twitter followers have extrapolated from that a bizarre conclusion that I don’t like David Murphy and that every time he delivers a big hit it’s naturally in-my-face.
As huge as Napoli was last night, he’s still really out of rhythm at the plate, something we haven’t seen in 10 months.
The landmark Ian Kinsler extension will apparently be announced officially today, which makes it a great day for the franchise even before Colby Lewis-Kevin Millwood gets rolling.
The great Bryan Curtis was in town for Darvish’s debut, and pumped out this write-up for Grantland.
Two final thoughts, and I’ll leave you to get on with your day:
1. We’re toying with the idea of doing fan events in Frisco (perhaps this month) and Round Rock (sometime this summer) in addition to our standard Newberg Report Night at Rangers Ballpark, which is typically around the trade deadline, not to mention a Baseball Prospectus event at the Ballpark tentatively scheduled for June 24.
Stay tuned for all that.
2. Neftali Feliz threw 76 percent of his 25 changeups for strikes last night – and a few of those that missed were still good-looking enough to make advance scouts take note. It was a shockingly beautiful go-to pitch from a guy whose ability to rely on it I doubted. Feliz finished eight Mariners hitters off with the change, and only one of them put it in play safely.
Mix in a show-me slider that went for strikes nearly half the time (43 percent), and friends, we might just have ourselves a legitimate weapon not only able to go deep into games every fifth day, but more importantly capable of maintaining effectiveness multiple times through a lineup and of working his way out of trouble as it inevitably arises.
Which, given the kid’s unique talent, would make him far more than a number five starter, even in a rotation as rock-solid as this one.