Tag:Texas Rangers
Posted on: October 16, 2010 5:31 pm
 

Hangin' in weight room with Halladay -- or not

Roy Halladay's work ethic is legendary, to the point where even the Phillies couldn't believe their first impression.

Halladay's regular spring training routine was to arrive in the weight room in Clearwater, Fla., by 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. By the time most of the rest of the Phillies arrived at 7:30 or 8, Halladay was finished with that part of his day and on to something else.

When I visited the Phillies' camp, a couple of players talked about how this was a perfect example of his competitiveness. A coach told me it isn't that, it's just that Halladay is so focused on what he's doing that he did not want to share the weight room equipment. As he moves through his circuit, he wants what he wants when he wants it.

Whatever, his near-maniacal zeal was legendary in Toronto, and it's already the stuff of legend in Philadelphia.

"We had some guys try to latch on and stay with him this spring," pitching coach Rich Dubee said Friday before the Phillies worked out in preparation for Game 1. "That lasted a short period.

"If you're going to try and stay with him, you'd better start in the off-season."

No kidding.

One of those who experimented with the early-bird special in the weight room with Halladay this spring was fellow starter Cole Hamels.

"I did that one time, I think," Hamels said, chuckling. "I realized it was insanity.

"I had a newborn. I needed every ounce of sleep I could get. He would get there at 5:30, I was waking up at 5:30. That means he was waking up at 4:30."

Likes: Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum to start the NLCS playoffs. What fun. ... I don't think we've heard enough of this Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira as former Rangers story. I think we'll hear much more of it before this ALCS is finished. ... Tweet of the Day, and I had to pass this one alone, from ESPN baseball writer Jorge Arangure late Friday night when the Rangers blew the 5-0 lead to the Yankees in the eighth inning with a certain former President and Rangers owner in attendance: "I bet George W Bush authorized a sign that read "Mission Accomplished" after the 7th inning." ... The Conan O'Brien ads they're papering the house with during the playoffs are pretty funny. Which is no small thing, given how most ads they consistently blast at us start bad and quickly turn grating. ... Congratulations to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons and Coach Jack Giarmo, who clinched another Huron League high school football title with Friday's 63-21 whipping of Milan. Excellent work to all as the tradition continues. Great job. ... Great run Saturday morning down Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Philadelphia Art Museum and along the Schuylkill River. Beautiful, especially the trees along the river. ... Geography lesson for the day: How do you pronounce "Schuylkill"? I admit, not being from the Philadelphia area, I didn't know. Until I checked with a bellman at the hotel when I returned: "Skoo-cull." ... John Lennon, still relevant on what would have been his 70th birthday the other day.

Dislikes: Bedbugs. I keep hearing about them. I've yet to see them.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"People asking questions lost in confusion
"Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
"Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind
"I tell them there's no hurry
"I'm just sitting here doing time"

-- John Lennon, Watching the Wheels

 

Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
 

Thoughts on Game 5, Rangers-Rays

There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.

Tonight's Rangers-Rays game is so big, Tampa Bay not only removed the Tropicana Field tarp and put 5,000 extra tickets on sale, the Rays sold 'em!

Seriously, some thoughts as we count down to first pitch tonight of what should be a priceless matchup (so to speak) between aces David Price and Cliff Lee.

-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.

-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.

-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps.  Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.

-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.

-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.

-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.

-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."

-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."

-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."

-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.

-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."

Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.

Dislikes: Glee.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If the businessmen drink my blood
"Like the kids in art school said they would
"Then I guess I'll just begin again"

-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start

Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Rays even series with Texas, Yankees win

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.

As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.

Now?

Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.

Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.

The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.

Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.

Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.

The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.

"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."

Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.

"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."

Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.

What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.

"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."

Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.

Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
"Not where you live, the car you drive, or the price tag on your clothes
"There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I`ve come to know
"So if you agree have a drink with me
"Raise your glasses for a toast
"To a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

Posted on: October 9, 2010 10:36 pm
 

Bear Hunting Davis looking for kill in Texas

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- So now AL East champion Tampa Bay hands the ball for its Game 4 start to ... The Bear Hunter?

Yes, meet big right-hander Wade Davis, 6-5 and 220 pounds, who, when he's not pitching for the Rays, lives the kind of life that makes Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon confident when Davis is pitching for the Rays.

Aside from the fact that Davis pitched very well for Tampa Bay toward season's end -- 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA over the last month -- Maddon notes, "He's kind of cold-blooded."

Come again?

"He shot a bear recently in Toronto," Maddon was saying before Game 3. "Came out ... with a bow and arrow and put it down, so I really think he has taken off since that's occurred.

"An off day in Toronto, and the boys went bear hunting. That's a nice off day right there. Wade was the only one who came back with the 300-pound plus black bear.

"If he can stay eye-to-eye with a black bear, I think [Sunday] is not that big of a deal."

That's what the Rays hope, at least.

For the season, Davis was 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA over 29 starts. Whether an Airborne Rangers lineup featuring Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero will cause that hunting feeling, we'll see.

"I hope it is nothing like that. I hope it is really different," Davis says, adding, "That was a heart-pounding moment."

By the way, the Rangers are not throwing a bear hunter in Game 4 -- at least, not that we know of. But right-hander Tommy Hunter, 24, is a pretty darned good pitcher (13-4, 3.73 ERA), especially in The Ballpark in Arlington (7-0, 3.06 in 12 games, 11 starts).

The reason for his success at home?

"I like throwing here," Hunter said. "The fans are great and just the way they play defense behind me has been pretty impressive all year. So, hopefully things don't change."

Likes: Johnny Oates' grandson -- Johnny Oates II -- throwing out the first pitch before Game 3 of the Rays-Rangers here. The late Rangers manager was a terrific man, and it was nice to see the Rangers remember him through his grandson. ... Texas infielder Michael Young in the postseason. ... Really, I'm professionally neutral on this Tampa Bay-Texas series, but it's nice to see some life in the Rays and a series turn interesting. ... Seeing Nancy Mazmanian, who was callously and unconscionably laid off by the Angels last winter after many years as a first-class media relations pro in Anaheim, helping with PR here in Texas for this series. ... The Murray's Steak Sandwich in Minnesota's Target Field. Best ballpark concession I think I've had. And at only $10.50, it's shockingly reasonable. ... Razzoo's Cajun joint in Fort Worth. Excellent seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffee the other night. ... Congratulations to Don Middlebrook, tropical music troubadour extraordinaire in Michigan, on 20 years of music. Check him out here.

Dislikes:
Get well soon, Tony Gwynn. That's tough news, salivary cancer. Here's to a full recovery.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy
"He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he bit the usherette's leg in the dark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy"

-- Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

Posted on: October 6, 2010 5:39 pm
 

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

The fact that Texas had lost nine consecutive playoff games mattered not to Ron Washington's Rangers in kicking off this autumn's postseason Wednesday afternoon.

And with a Game 1 win now in the bag over Tampa Bay and David Price, those nine losses might as well have occurred in the 1890s rather than the 1990s.

Not only did the Rangers do what they needed to do behind ace Cliff Lee, but now they're set up to steal two games in Tropicana Field.

Rays manager Joe Maddon, always unconventional, assigned struggling James Shields (13-15, 5.18 ERA) the Game 2 start, leaving Matt Garza, the stronger alternative, to Game 3.

If the Rangers batter Shields the way they ambushed and head back to Texas with a 2-0 series lead, this series is as good as over.

The Shields move is defensible mostly by looking at his home/road splits:

In Tropicana Field, Shields is 5-7 with a not-too-stellar 4.53 ERA.

On the road, Shields is 8-8 with a coyote ugly 5.82 ERA.

Exposing Shields to The Ballpark in Arlington, a hitter's paradise that ranks seventh in the majors in home runs per game, was closer to outright suicide on the diamond than Maddon dared go.

But when Tampa Bay's hitters couldn't squeeze anything out of Lee during his uncharacteristic 24-pitch first inning, it only raised the stakes for Shields in Game 2. Granted, the tone of the inning changed dramatically when plate umpire Tim Welke called a high strike on Carlos Pena to make the count 2-2 instead of 3-1, a terrible call that hurt the Rays.

Still. In playoff baseball, you can't get yourself into position where one ball/strike call is a mortal wound. You've either got to take advantage of other opportunities, or create them.

Tampa Bay didn't. And now, the Rays are in must-win mode on Thursday.

Posted on: August 24, 2010 2:34 am
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Posted on: July 30, 2010 3:35 pm
 

Aggressive Rangers acquire Nats' Guzman

The high-flying, first-place Texas Rangers, leaving their fingerprints all over this year's trade deadline, have scooped up infielder Cristian Guzman from Washington as a replacement for injured second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Guzman, 32, has played second base and shortstop for the Nationals this season and, occasionally, right field. A former shortstop who came up in the Twins' organization, Guzman has lost range at second and is considered by scouts to be better suited for second base at this stage of his career. He was hitting .282 with a .327 on-base percentage for the Nationals, who are expected to assume most of the pro-rated portion of his $2.87 million salary for this year.

The Rangers, leading second-place Oakland by 8 1/2 games in the AL West, need a short-term fix at second base Kinsler, who landed on the 15-day disabled list the other day with a strained groin.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 6:09 pm
 

Rangers finally acquire Jorge Cantu from Marlins

After several days of talking, the Rangers finally have acquired slugger Jorge Cantu from the Marlins, CBSSports.com has learned.

Looking for one more powerful bat to add to an already potent lineup, the Rangers will slide Cantu into the first base slot, where Chris Davis has been struggling with the bat. Described by one scout as "the least-known 100 RBI guy in the game"), Cantu was hitting .259 with 10 homers and 54 RBI in 96 games for the Marlins this season.

He's due roughly $2.1 million for the rest of 2010, and he is the third significant piece the first-place Rangers have added to what is increasingly looking like a team that is ready to win not just the AL West but, possibly, the AL pennant and beyond. Cantu's arrival follows that of ace Cliff Lee and catcher Bengie Molina.

Among other holdups in this deal, the Rangers and Marlins had to get approval from the Commissioner's Office because of the money owed Cantu. The Marlins will receive two Double-A pitching prospects, Evan Reed and Omar Poveda, according to sources.

The Rangers' 7 1/2-game lead over Oakland in the AL West heading into Thursday's games was the largest in the majors.

Florida, meanwhile, was fourth in the NL East, 8 1/2 games behind division leader Atlanta. The Marlins recently lost Chris Coghlan to the disabled list when he injured a knee while delivering a pie to the face of teammate Wes Helms while celebrating a last-inning victory.

Florida also recently recalled rookie Logan Morrison to play left field, the chain-reaction of which was going to send Coghlan and Helms to third base to replace Cantu after a deal.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com