A thanks to all of those who came to Fox & Hound (that includes Skin and Friedo from ESPN 103.3 FM) today for the live in-game chat. Here are some thoughts on today's game from those of us at lunch today:
* The numbers from this series were not up to the Rangers' standards this season. ESPN Stats & Information looked up some stats from the past three days and compared them to the rest of the year. Here you go:
First 116 games: .276 batting average, 5.0 runs per game, .278 average with runners in scoring position, 3.81 team ERA and .241 opponent batting average with runners in scoring position.
Last three games in Tampa: .227 average, 3.7 runs per game, .261 average with runners in scoring position, 8.63 ERA, .361 opponent batting average with runners in scoring position. Rangers starters had a 9.00 ERA in the series.
Bottom line: This club just didn't have it in this series at all and the result was a sweep.
* Clearly, getting swept is not good for the psyche of any team. But this is a strong mental team. They'll bounce back. (I think the first game sent things spiraling in this series. Texas had a two-run lead late and couldn't hold it in Cliff Lee's start, and the series just got off on the wrong foot. The Rangers haven't been swept since the Baltimore series before the All-Star break). This team does fight. They showed that again Wednesday in at least scoring some late runs, forcing the Rays to bring in their closer in with one out in the ninth.
* It's easy to overreact to this series. Don't do that. I'm not a believer in this playoff preview stuff when you don't have full lineups. For example, the Yankees didn't have Mark Teixeira in the lineup in Texas. That makes a huge difference. Boston has injury issues too. The Rays aren't playing with a full deck, but they had more regulars out there than the Rangers did Wednesday. The Texas lineup that was out there is far from what we'd see in the playoffs on the road at Tampa Bay. So while a sweep is never good, it's not like it shows without question that Tampa would beat the Rangers in the playoff.
Along those same lines: Assuming the guys get healthy, only four players in Wednesday's lineup would be likely starting in the field (there was no Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Bengie Molina and Elvis Andrus, and Josh Hamilton would play the field instead of DH). That's not a playoff preview to me.
* This team does need to cut down on mistakes that shouldn't be happening in August. Julio Borbon decided to throw to third in an attempt to get the lead runner in the fourth rather than throw to the cutoff man to keep runners on the corners. Derek Holland got out of that inning, but that shouldn't happen. We all know the issues Joaquin Arias had in the first game of this series. There are other examples, too. Overall, they need to iron that stuff out and get a little more crisp. I think they will.
* Hamilton struggled in this series, going 1-for-10 with four strikeouts, a walk and one RBI (it should be pointed out that for someone so hot, he was bound to cool off). As Jamey Newberg pointed out on Twitter today, the changeups with lots of movement are getting to him right now. As some of you in the chat also noted, Hamilton isn't quite the same hitter as a DH, though in limited at-bats. He's hitting 7-for-33 (.212) with one double, one HR and four RBIs as a DH. He's hitting .333 as a center fielder and .375 as a left fielder.
* Holland looked better than his line showed. He gave up five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings with four walks and eight strikeouts. His command was good early, but he left some pitches up (especially to the red-hot Evan Longoria). He won't be happy about the walks, but overall, it wasn't bad.
* LHP Darren Oliver hasn't put up the same numbers in the second half as he did in the first half. Coming into Wednesday's game, Oliver gave up seven earned runs in nine innings since the All-Star break. That's a 7.00 ERA in 10 games. Oliver had a 1.36 ERA before the break. He allowed a run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 2/3 innings of work on Wednesday.
* Maybe Vladimir Guerrero is starting to swing the bat better. He's got a six-game hitting streak and is making much better contact. He is 7-for-25 (.280) during this streak. That's much better than the .210 he hit in July. I also wonder if playing the field some gets him into the flow of the game better.
* Taylor Teagarden had a nice game and really has played better in his latest trip to the majors.