I sat at the computer at 6:40 Monday morning. The kids were getting ready for camp, and I checked in on Weather.com to see if they were going to be able to get anything in.
* 6 am: 0 percent chance of rain
* 7 am: 0 percent chance of rain
* 8 am: 0 percent chance of rain
At about 6:55 it started pouring. Diagonally. And didn’t let up for a couple hours.
A team with the best record in baseball can turn into the worst-playing team in baseball over a three-week stretch, fill-in thirty-something third base umpires from AAA are sometimes unable to see a glove with a ball inside of it make contact twice with the right arm of a player while his body is not in contact with a base, and weathermen are sometimes 100 percent wrong.
Winds change. You never know. The hard-to-believe realities of this set of numbers, on both sides of the page, could be replaced, three weeks from now, by something altogether different, and better. As hard as that might be to imagine right now, it’s no more implausible than what’s been happening over this run of brutal-in-all-phases baseball.
I don’t know. More than ever: I don’t know. You reach the season’s one 20-games-in-20-days stretch with the silver lining of a season-long 11-game homestand in the middle of it. And then you start that Arlington stretch by dropping the last two of three to Cleveland, which had lost eight games in a row, and then getting swept in four by a Toronto team that came into the series eight games under .500.
In those two home series your offense hits .232/.303/.329 collectively, inferior to the awful .217/.273/.395 production that Josh Hamilton has given the Angels over the first twelfth of his eighth-of-a-billion-dollar contract.
In the final six of those seven games, all losses, Texas failed to score more than two runs, matching the most futile such stretch in the franchise’s 42 seasons. The offense managed to scratch out four hits with runners in scoring position over those six games – the same number they picked up last night alone.
Think about this: Texas has given 30 of its 70 starts to pitchers who weren’t supposed to get any starts this year unless something went wrong. Things happen, and at least one or two of Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm and Josh Lindblom and Ross Wolf were going to have to take the ball a handful of times.
But nearly half of the club’s starts?
And in spite of that, it’s been the offense, so rarely a problem here, that’s made this team so tough to watch lately, staking out leads almost as rarely as victories.
Old players looking old, streaky players in ruts, Elvis Andrus basically lost, young players displaying the sort of inconsistency that, in most cases, is inevitable.
All at once.
There’s been a noticeable lack of energy offensively, which has made games tough to watch, and baseball tough to write about.
When Texas took a look at Mark Teixeira in the outfield in 2003, it seemed like an experimental way to get the young phenom extra big league at-bats on a lousy Rangers club. Adrian Gonzalez’s 2005 cameo in right field was shorter-lived than Mike Olt’s pair of games at the same position in 2012, or Mike Lamb’s 2002 escapades behind the plate. Joaquin Arias wasn’t going to unseat Michael Young or Ian Kinsler up the middle in 2007, and so the long-rumored center field experiment got underway in camp that spring – until it wrecked his shoulder.
The idea of Jurickson Profar as an outfielder feels like none of those situations. Don’t get me wrong – I’d be shocked if Profar were to put the infielder’s glove away the way Eric Davis and Adam Jones and B.J. Upton did. But this also differs from Teixeira and Gonzalez and Olt and Lamb and Arias (and Dean Palmer), because it’s not just an effort to give a young player at-bats by hiding him somewhere defensively. Texas plans to win something this year, needs energy on offense, and is getting very little production in left field.
Gary Pettis is going to spend about a week crash-coursing with Profar to try and get him ready to play a representative left. It’s not where he’ll be long-term, but for now the club thinks he might be able to help the Rangers win games by playing more often than he doesn’t, and if he’s able to get a game or two in each week in the outfield, that’s an easier proposition.
It feels a little desperate – Profar admits he’s never played any outfield, even as a Little Leaguer – but the offense has been in fairly desperate straits.
Because of the way this latest stretch of baseball has gone, last night felt fluky at times, lucky at others, on the precipice of a further dose of doom still others, but if you stretch your memory enough you could see something vaguely familiar: a 12-hit, eight-run attack, with nine of the hits (including five for extra bases) coming from the 3-4-5-6 spots, a dominating bullpen effort with the club’s key relievers lined up just right, the type of energy you expect out of a contending team battling another contending team and out of a crowd smelling a shark-chum “W.”
It was only the second nine-inning game in June in which Texas was able to roll Neal Cotts, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, and Joe Nathan out together, and that’s as much an indictment of the offense as anything, as Rangers starting pitchers have had so few leads to pitch with this month, and Ron Washington and Mike Maddux are by-the-book bullpen managers.
And Cotts, Ross, and Scheppers were brilliant, throwing 4.1 perfect innings until Nathan’s shaky ninth.
High-five for you, A.J. Pierzynski, and you, Nelson Cruz, and absolutely the Cotts-Ross-Scheppers incarnation of Cerberus, though on second thought I don’t want to jeffbaker any of you and so instead here’s a coffee nod in your general direction, from a healthy distance.
That, last night, was more like it. A lot more like it.
Joakim Soria is eager to jump on board, too, and he made the manager smile yesterday with a live batting practice session during which the ball came out of his hand just fine.
He’s set to go out in a couple days on a rehab assignment with Frisco, where he’ll arrive just as Mitch Moreland is leaving, several days after Moreland’s own arrival coincided with the end of Ian Kinsler’s own short rehab stint.
All due respect to Leury Garcia and Chris McGuiness, and whoever Soria replaces, but this team is so much stronger with Kinsler and Moreland, two of this team’s three best everyday players in 2013, and with Profar as a 10th man that Washington will use, and with Soria joining a bullpen that really needs another power arm from the right side.
And the way Martin Perez is dealing at Round Rock (4-0, 1.13 in his four starts since returning from the big leagues, with an opponents’ slash of .216/.281/.307), he’s going to be back in this rotation very soon, perhaps the next time he takes the ball. Whether that’s for Tepesch or Grimm or Lindblom, we’ll see Perez again soon enough.
The winds can change direction pretty quickly, as we’ve seen with the Rangers since late May. And with Toronto and Houston and San Diego and Kansas City and Miami, bad teams a third of the way into the season who have been good to really good in June.
Maybe there’s a gale force of momentum that Texas can carry into tonight and tomorrow and Thursday afternoon before Oakland heads off to Seattle in advance of a return to the O.co waste management treatment plant for series against the Reds and Cardinals, the NL’s two best teams.
Can Texas win four more baseball games than Oakland over the next 15 weeks?
At the moment, though, in spite of whatever has gone on the last three weeks, all that matters to me is whether the Rangers can win one more game than the A’s tonight.
It would be a pretty good time tonight for Yu Darvish to earn the first win by a Rangers starter in June.
Still, based on what we’ve learned in June, it’s certainly possible things bounce right back the other way tonight and Darvish and Texas and this offense give back the game they just gained. Can’t always trust the forecast. Winds change.
Though if the jet stream hadn’t taken the weekend off, and if there were a little more English on a couple Jays cannons toward the right field foul pole, who knows?
Foolishly, maybe, I went right back to Weather.com as I was getting ready to leave the office last night. It told me there was a 0 percent chance I was going to be driving through rain on the way home. From 6 pm until 10 pm: 0 percent.
It poured all the way home.
And then I watched the Texas Rangers open a can against the Oakland A's.
I’m going to try and shut down expectations, at least while this team is getting healthier and refinding its edge.
I’m gonna try.
I’m going to resist the urge today to envision tonight’s Yu Darvish-Josh Donaldson battles and to imagine that this is the night that Elvis Andrus hits like Elvis Andrus and to wonder whether Nelson Cruz can build not only off the two-missile effort but also the brilliant at-bat he had in the seventh (strike looking, strike looking, ball, ball, ball, double rocketed to left to push the lead to 8-6) and settle into one of his hop-aboard stretches of thunderstorm offense. I’ve got 10 hours to be productive between now and then, and I’m not going to waste any of that time checking the weather.