It was a riveting baseball game between archrivals, marked by a play that a Little Leaguer has to make, one that played a much bigger role in the ultimate outcome than an uncharacteristically questionable decision by Adrian Beltre or another one that maybe only Omar Vizquel would have pulled off (though Jurickson, we have high expectations for you).
There was great outfield defense factoring in more than once, and a beleaguered, overworked bullpen beating a better bullpen that had bullets left in the chamber.
There was one offense that went 3 for 6 with runners in scoring position, another that went 1 for 13, with the one hit a missile from Nelson Cruz, whose early-season focus I’m happy to have apparently been very wrong about.
Another quality start in Tampa Bay for its ace, who nonetheless fell to 0-2, 5.52 and whose team is now 0-5 the five times he’s gotten the ball (after going 21-10 in his starts last year), and three games and four teams out of a Wild Card spot, and the #pricecheck gains a little added momentum.
The Rays’ 9-11 record, however, is still half a game better than the Angels’ 8-11 mark, as is Cleveland’s. None of that really matters with a week to go in April, but whatever happens tonight does.
There’s a series to be won in Anaheim, with the Rangers sending their best starter out against a pitcher who, at this time last year, was pitching for the University of South Carolina, a month and a half before going to the Angels in the 9th round and putting together an eight-week run in the short-season Pioneer League that landed him the number 30 off-season ranking in the league’s number 30 farm system, according to Baseball America.
Texas isn’t going to have Jeff Baker available to rest David Murphy or Mitch Moreland against the left-handed Michael Roth tonight, and the Rangers tend to look confused against command lefties they’ve never seen, but it’s Yu Darvish night, and if the need arises, you’d have to assume the manager is willing to use Tanner Scheppers in this one, even if he wasn’t last night.
Would he give Leury Garcia, better against lefties than righties over the last year, the left field nod tonight? Doubtful. You can’t predict ball, but you can usually predict Wash’s lineups.
Today, Vizquel celebrates his first birthday as anything other than a professional baseball player in 30 years. Maybe he’s in Salt Lake with the Bees. Maybe he’s in Burlington with the other Bees. I had no idea until just now that the Angels have two minor league teams called the Bees.
Or maybe the Angels’ new roving minor league infield instructor will be in Anaheim tonight, watching an Angels pitcher he’s never seen pitch tee it up with Darvish, against whom he went 0 for 5 in his final big league season and Darvish’s first, culminating with a game that Vizquel might remember since it was his uncharacteristic error in the seventh inning that resulted in the decisive run in a 3-2 Texas win over Toronto, minutes after which the 45-year-old struck out swinging in an eight-pitch battle with the 26-year-old righthander, whose own birthday was the day before.
Sometimes Adrian Beltre makes mental mistakes that don’t end up hurting, and Omar Vizquel makes physical errors that do. Sometimes a strikeout puts a man on first base when a big league first baseman can’t handle a big league catcher’s imperfect throw, and that man ends up scoring after two outs, along with another teammate, and two hours later those two runs help push a game between enemies to extra innings.
Sometimes a DH who signed for $240 million and a right fielder who signed for $125 million fail to come through with the bases loaded against a 5’7” reliever who signed for $3,000, making a 10-inning game an 11-inning contest.
The result notwithstanding, Los Angeles 5, Texas 4 was good stuff. And there’s only 12 hours until the next chapter in this head-to-head, the sixth of 19 matchups between the teams but the last one until three games that end the month of July, when the Rangers and Angels will both be in competition for playoff life, with both teams’ General Managers working 20-hour days looking for that cookie, who for one might be named Price, but that’s getting way too far ahead of things.
It’s Darvish-Roth tonight.
Win the damn series.