Our Thursday Closing Time package is cut into two pieces today for easy handling; for a look at what happened during the daytime, go to the leadoff post, here.
I'm not a meteorologist and I don't play one on the internet. All I know is that I miss the keg-tapping slugfests from that gem of a park down in Arlington, Texas.
The Rangers just finished a somewhat-disappointing nine-game homestand; despite plenty of good pitching over the last week and a half, Texas had to settle for a 4-5 record. The Rangers scored just 28 runs in these nine games, while their opponents managed 34. Every game played at Arlington over this stretch went under the total, most by several runs. Listen closely and you can almost hear Sam Rothstein laughing.
Let's trot out some possible theories on the scoring drought at Arlington:
It's the wind. Every MLB box score has a wind tag at the bottom of the agate, and here's what Arlington is spitting out over the last seven games: 15 mph, in from right; 18 mph, in from right; 14 mph, in from right; 15 mph, in from right; 18 mph, in from center; 14 mph, in from right; 7 mph, in from right.
It sounds pretty ominous, sure, but Arlington's known for having swirling winds, and the measure of wind is taken at one point in time. A bad hitting wind in the first inning might not be the case in the later innings, and it's not hard to find high-scoring games that occurred despite game-time conditions that didn't seem conducive to scoring. We have to assume the wind has something to do with this stretch, but it's probably not the full reason.
It's just a random streak. Nine games, honestly, isn't that big of a deal over the 162-game grind of the regular season (it's roughly equivalent to one week of the NFL). Remember how Florida started the season? Do you think we'll be discussing Colorado's 11-game winning streak three months from now?
It's good pitching (and/or bad hitting). There's talent on this Texas pitching staff; the Rangers are sixth in the AL in starter's ERA despite the presence of their home park. Kevin Millwood(notes), as much as a lot of us don't trust in him, is making a solid case for the All-Star team. Scott Feldman(notes) has just one poor start out of 10. Frank Francisco(notes) and C.J. Wilson(notes) are a combined 18-for-19 on save chances. Perhaps it's time to take Arlington pitchers off the restricted list.
I'm not going to spend this entire evening talking about ballparks, let's discuss some players and happenings from Thursday night:
• There's no need to get excited about Washington's Craig Stammen(notes), who shut out the Yankees over 6.1 innings, but Mike MacDougal's(notes) second save in as many nights is something we have to deal with. Look, it's just not that hard to hold a 1-3 run lead for one inning in the majors, no matter how much romanticism we want to throw to the role at times. I'm not going to say MacDougal won't blow up, but he's probably got at least a 30-50 percent chance of collecting double-digit saves for this mess of a ballclub, and there's a value for that in most leagues. Do you feel lucky?
• Make it three strong turns in a row for Ricky Nolasco(notes), who stopped the Red Sox in a rain-shortened affair (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K). His teammates have been effusive in their praise of Nolasco since he returned to the fold, and it's important to consider that his last two strong outings came at Toronto and at Boston, very difficult places to work. I held more than a healthy amount of Nolasco skepticism into this start, but now it's time to turn him loose and see what's what, beginning with next week's home date against the Orioles. As poorly as Nolasco pitched before his demotion (you don't get an ERA over 9 by accident), there were some other things at play – chief among them, the most unlucky BABIP in the majors (over .400).
• Brandon Webb's(notes) shoulder still isn't right and the Diamondbacks have canceled his bullpen session scheduled for Friday. Given where Arizona currently sits in the standings – 15 games out in the NL West, seven games out in the Wild Card (and behind several teams) – we can't automatically assume that Webb pitches again this year. The club is staying tight-lipped about this; stay tuned.
• The Dodgers decided to hold Jonathan Broxton(notes) out for a second game Thursday; he's dealing with a sore big toe and had a cortisone shot Wednesday. In the short term I realize this is frustrating to Broxton owners – especially when they have to watch Ramon Troncoso(notes) get the stand-in save Thursday – but over the long haul, this is the right move.
Speed Round: Vin Mazzaro(notes) passed the eye test and the numbers test at Chavez Ravine, working six sharp innings (5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K). He'll shoot for his fifth consecutive quality turn against San Francisco next week. … Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes) struggled for most of Thursday (three strikeouts, five men stranded), but his final swing turned into the game-winning hit, a single in the bottom of the tenth. He's slotted for production, hitting behind much-respected Adrian Gonzalez(notes). … Francisco Rodriguez(notes) couldn't find his release point at Baltimore and it led to his second blown save of the year. Only nine of K-Rod's 20 pitches found the strike zone. …Quick Pitch on MLB Network is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I may never watch Baseball Tonight again. … Maybe it's just me, but that crazy advertising scheme in the Kansas City outfield makes me dizzy. How about something less obtrusive, guys?. … The Mariners limited Brandon Morrow(notes) to 74 pitches in his second start back in the rotation (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K). There's progress here, and I'm curious to see what he does in a rematch with the Padres next week in Seattle. … Arizona's Chris Young just can't get a break. He had four hits and a walk at Kansas City Thursday but wound up leaving the game with a leg injury. … Jose Valverde(notes) looked sharp at Texas en route to his third save, and he hasn't allowed a run in four appearances off the disabled list.
Images via Getty