Texas Rangers: 7 Things to Take Away from the New York Yankees Series
The Rangers are 15-4 to start the year tying their best start in franchise history to this point in the season. They have done it with hitting, power hitting, starting pitching and good relief pitching.
Against the New York Yankees there were dominant performances on the mound, in the field and at the plate for Texas proving why they are more than just a head above the rest in the American League.
Here are seven things to take away from the series against the Bronx Bombers.
Yu Darvish Finally Showed Why Texas Paid so Much to Get Him
His first start was not good.
His second start was OK.
His third start was good.
His fourth start was a work of art.
Yu Darvish painted the strike zone beautifully, baffling the Yankees hitters who were left walking back to the dugout trying to count the different pitches they had seen in their at-bat.
The rookie Japanese pitcher went 8.1 innings allowing zero runs while striking out 10 and giving up just two walks.
His command was immensely better than what it was in his first three outings. He did a brilliant job running his cutter away from left-handed batters and in on the fists to right-handed batters. His curveball was devastating and froze Curtis Granderson to get the first out in the third inning with the bases loaded. By my count he used seven different pitches and they were all going for strikes.
It remains to be seen if this was just a flash of things to come, or if this game was Darvish’s coming out party. One this is for sure though, Texas has something special in Darvish.
Joe Nathan Is Back...for Now
Joe Nathan only had one save in the series, but boy was it good.
Nathan needed just one pitch to get Raul Ibanez to ground into the game-ending double play.
He also pitched a scoreless inning on Wednesday in a non-save situation. He struck out Mark Teixeira then got Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez to pop out to preserve the 7-3 win for Texas.
One of the biggest things is he looked more comfortable on the mound. Hard to tell if he was rusty at the beginning of the season, or if he was really struggling with a new environment. Either way he looked very good, except for that double that he gave up to Swisher.
I am not saying that Nathan won’t ever blow another save, but he just looks better on the mound. He is hitting his spots consistently, which is something he wasn’t doing in his first few appearances.
A Sigh of Relief That Adrian Beltre Is Ok
The baseball powers at be must be behind the Rangers this season because as soon as Beltre grabbed his hamstring in Detroit it looked like a re-occurrence of the same injury that forced him to miss significant time last season; Beltre played in just 124 regular season games.
Luckily for Texas it was just soreness around the hamstring and not the actual hamstring. Beltre returned to the lineup in the second game of the New York series.
Beltre proved he is just fine hitting a monster 459-foot home run to straight away center on Wednesday. That was just the beginning of his three RBI night against the Yankees to lead all Rangers in the rubber match of the series.
It will definitely be something to monitor going forward, but for now Beltre looks like he is going to be just fine.
Ron Washington Is Playing It Safe with Feliz
Ron Washington has definitely learned from the second half struggles of Alexi Ogando a season ago.
Wash decided to skip Feliz’s start this weekend, opting instead to let him pitch out of the bullpen on Wednesday. It wasn't a great outing, but with a five run lead at the time the home run he gave up didn't mean anything.
The bigger take away is that Washington is trying to avoid a repeat of last years’ reliever converted starter experiment when Ogando was dazzling in the first half earning an All-Star bid. But he faded after the mid-summer classic and was eventually moved back to the pen.
Not every team would have the luxury of doing this, piecing a bullpen together for a start. The Rangers depth makes this is a unique option for the club and their manager is taking full advantage of it.
If Washington does this every four or five starts for Feliz there is a good chance the first-year starter could make it through the entire first season.
Derek Holland Still Has to Prove He Can Be Consistent
It was just one start, but the Derek Holland outing in the series opener against New York looked eerily similar to many outings the Rangers have seen over the last few years.
He was missing his spots and missing them towards the middle of the plate. Major League hitters, especially the New York Yankees, will eat a pitcher alive that cannot command the strike zone.
His outing was the first time the Rangers had given up more than five runs, and maybe against a lesser lineup he could have gotten away with more.
It is very early in the year, and Holland is still very young, but this last outing may be a sign that he still has a lot of work to do in order to be mentioned among the best pitchers in the AL.
The Bullpen Pecking Order Is Settled
With Joe Nathan’s impressive last few appearances and the emergence of Robbie Ross, manager Ron Washington has figured out his bullpen pecking order.
It was actually pretty much settled before the series, but there were still some questions as to what exactly Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara would do for this team throughout the season.
They both pitched in the Rangers' only loss—a game in which Texas was already trailing by five runs.
You can expect Lowe and Uehara to appear primarily in games where the Rangers are up big or down big.
Part of that is because of the deep bullpen there just are not enough innings to go around. A larger part, however, is that it is hard to tell what you are going to get from outing to outing with these guys.
Robbie Ross Is the League Leader in Wins
Remember when no one knew who this guy was in spring training?
Robbie Ross has managed to be the league leader in wins while pitching just eight major league innings.
His command of the strike zone is something you just don't see from rookies that often. He is fearless on the mound and held down one of the best lineups in baseball for 2.2 scoreless innings.
The more impressive thing about him is he is getting put in high pressure situations. His first win was against Minnesota in a one-run game at the time.
If Ross keeps this up, not only will he be an AL Rookie of the Year candidate, but he would be my pick to move to the rotation next year should Colby Lewis not return to Texas.