Tuesday was a big day for Travis Blackley, and for Ryan Dempster.
A good one for Blackley, and a bad one for Dempster, which pretty much matches up with how October 2 and October 3 went for the Australian lefthander and the Canadian righty.
Blackley rescued a further decimated Rangers staff with a spot start Tuesday for Alexi Ogando, DL’d for the third time this year, contributing four solid innings of work in his Texas debut as he gave up one scoring play in a game eventually won late, hours before his former Oakland teammates would lose theirs late.
Dempster was suspended Tuesday for five games because he intentionally drilled Alex Rodriguez on Sunday night.
On October 2, Blackley went a strong six, holding the Rangers to one scoring play in a game his A’s would come back to win. That was Game 161.
On October 3, Dempster would have served Texas better if he’d been suspended, as he watched his teammates jump out to a 5-1, third-inning lead, only to spit it up by issuing a four-pitch walk to start the Oakland fourth, followed immediately by a double and a single and another single and his prompt exit from Game 162, which was basically a playoff game and one of the biggest baseball gut punches ever.
Later that inning, as Dempster watched Derek Holland allow two of the runners he inherited to score (moments after which Josh Hamilton Dropped the Fly Ball), the book was slammed shut on Dempster's game ledger and his Rangers career, and basically the 2012 Texas season. Oakland 12, Texas 5, a pile-up on the mound that included Blackley, and preparations for Game 163, which the Rangers would drop spiritlessly to Baltimore two days later.
Dempster became the Rangers’ 18th pitcher in 2012 — 19th if you count Craig Gentry — when he was acquired from the Cubs on July 31. The club would run only one more pitcher, reliever Wilmer Font, onto the mound all year.
Blackley is already the Rangers’ 23rd pitcher in 2013 — 24th if you count David Murphy.
Dempster, who makes $13.25 million this year and will make the same in 2014, will keep getting his paycheck even though he’ll be forced by MLB to miss one Boston start (and pay some undisclosed fine).
Whether Blackley, who at $550,000 makes slightly more than league minimum, will get the ball Monday in Seattle is unknown. Last night’s four innings of work was the most he’s thrown all year, in the big leagues or the minors — and in turn the most he’s thrown since October 2 — and that’s a risk, knowing you’re going to need four innings from the bullpen when he starts, if not more, even though workhorses Matt Garza and Holland are working before and after what would be his day to pitch.
Tonight the Rangers draw Houston lefthander Erik Bedard, who had cleared trade waivers earlier in the month and was at least rumored to be under Texas consideration as a trade pickup to make last night’s start rather than Blackley, or Josh Lindblom, or Ross Wolf, or Jake Brigham, or Evan Meek.
Instead, Bedard will pitch in this series in the road uniform, while Blackley hangs in the home dugout with Garza and Yu Darvish and Martin Perez watching Holland do work, and watching Adrian Beltre — who after last night’s heroics offered to reporters: “This is what I’m supposed to be doing, right?” — do what he’s supposed to be doing.
The Rangers have a game and a half on the A’s at the moment, but it feels foolish to think the AL West is going to come down to anything other than who might manage to win more against the other in the clubs’ six remaining matchups, though oddly the two will be finished with each other (at least in the regular season) on September 15, with 14 games to go.
Get this: Since the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Angels on July 29 (the Geo Soto Game), when the Rangers score four runs — just four runs — they are 15-0. When they score fewer than four in that stretch, they’re 2-4.
Get to four runs and you win the game. Just get to four.
(Even when Kyle Seager is on the other team. It will drive you crazy if you read this sentence more than once: Seager was 0 for 19 leading up to the Mariners’ weekend series in Arlington, during which he hit .364/.462/1.000, and since then he’s gone 0 for 8 the last two nights in Oakland.)
You pitch, you win.
And when Travis Blackley, on his fifth big league team and on his fourth major or minor league club in 2013 alone, does his part, getting the ball to the Frasor-Cotts-Scheppers-Nathan core of the relief corps, with none of those four relievers needing to get more than four outs, you’ve pitched, and you’ve won, even if there isn’t a “W” that gets assigned to the back of your baseball card.
Big day, Travis Blackley. Good on ya.