And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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ortiz.jpgRed Sox 8, Athletics 5: Before the game Ortiz said this:

Today I was informed by a reporter that I was on the 2003 list of MLB players to test positive for performance-enhancing substances. This happened right before our game, and the news blindsided me. I said I had no comment because I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

The judges would have preferred the Costanza-esque “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” but they will accept the O.J.-esque “I’m going to search for the real killers” response as well. Either way, he wasn’t so blindsided that it took him off his game, as his three run homer in the seventh put the Sox up for good.

Mets 7, Rockies 0; Rockies 4, Mets 2: Santana was fantastic in the first game (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER 8K). Omir Santos caught the second game despite the fact that his wife gave birth earlier in the day. When my wife gave birth the only place I was allowed to go was to the room across the hallway where they kept the ice. Good for Omir for having his priorities in order. Kids are born every day. Twin-bills are rare.

Cubs 12, Astros 3: That’s 30 runs in three games for the Cubbies. Kevin Hart got the win and then was traded to Pittsburgh as soon as it was over. I’m pretty sure that Pittsburgh has been involved in every trade that has been made for the past week. Query: if they have so much desirable talent, why they hell do they suck so bad?

Orioles 7, Royals 3: Brad Bergesen gave up one run on seven hits in seven innings and got the win, but not before being knocked out of the game when a liner off the bat of Billy Butler smacked him in the shin. “The pain was bad. I wanted to throw up,” Bergesen said. Tonight, as he elevates and ices the leg, he’ll be updating this seemingly dormant web page.

Brewers 7, Nats 3: The Brewers win back-to-back games for the first time in a month. Yovani Gallardo allowed five hits and three runs while striking out 11 and walking nary a Nat.

Padres 7, Reds 4: Remember in spring training when some folks were picking Cincy as their dark horse contender? Nah, me neither. The Reds have dropped six of seven the Padres this season, which is as close to pathetic as you can get. Game story: “Outfielder Wladimir Balentien, acquired Wednesday by the Reds from Seattle for right-hander Robert Manuel, arrived in Cincinnati early Thursday morning and was in uniform.” Early morning? Must have taken the Red eye. Get it? RED eye! Because he’s joining the REDS! Ha! Um, er. Yeah.

Rangers 7, Mariners 1: Newark, Ohio’s own Derek Holland had a
shutout into the ninth, striking out ten Mariners and giving up only
two hits. It may have been better, though, if he had given up a run
earlier, because maybe then Ron Washington wouldn’t have left the 22
year-old in for 118 pitches on a 90 degree night.

Braves 6, Marlins 3: Brian McCann with the three run dinger in
the 10th! (I can use exclamation points there, because he plays for my
favorite team; were it the Cubs or something, I would have used a
period or would have written some dependent clause set off by dashes —
like this — in order to tone it down a bit. But go Braves! Nice to
salvage one!!!

Giants 7, Phillies 2: Rodrigo Lopez gave up eight hits and seven
runs — only three earned — in four innings, mostly due to a Pedro
Feliz error. Feliz used to play for the Giants. According to the game
story, Ryan Garko was asked to provide information on Friday’s starter
— Cliff Lee — to the Giants, because Lee and Garko used to play for
the Indians. Basically, no one can trust anyone in this series, and
death and betrayal lie around every corner.

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 3: Guess what: Todd Wellemeyer doesn’t work
in relief either! To be fair, he didn’t cause the 10th inning jam —
that was Dennys Reyes’ doing — but he did come in and give up the
game-losing single, and I’m not sure why Tony La Russa decided that
runners on second and third in the 10th inning was the best spot in
which to launch Wellemeyer’s bullpen career.

White Sox 3, Yankees 2: If you lived in outer space and just
came to Earth to visit on Thursdays, you might come away with the
impression that DeWayne Wise was actually good, what with the big catch
in Buehrle’s perfecto last week and hit the walkoff RBI single last
night. Hmm, maybe I won’t go back to outer space. Mars ain’t the kind
of place to raise my kids. In fact it’s cold as hell.

2018 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers had been, more or less, the class of the AL West for several years, but that came to an end last year. Injuries, a bad bullpen and underachievement doomed them early and before all the leaves were on the trees the Astros had all but locked up the division. There were some bright spots — Adrian Beltre notched his 3,000th hit and Joey Gallo emerged as the 40-homer threat many have long thought he might be — but otherwise it was a bad year for the Rangers.

Will it be another bad year? Hard to say no, though there is a lot more upside with this club than with a lot of other sub-80 win teams from 2017. For that upside to pay off, however, the Rangers are going to have to win a lot of bets.

The outfield is a good place to begin looking for that upside. Nomar Mazara has not yet put it together over the course of a whole season, but he has shown some promise and could be poised for a breakout. Delino DeShields may not be what many thought he might be a few years back, but he’s got wheels and can get on base. Left field is being kept warm for top prospect Willie Calhoun who came over in the Yu Darvish trade and is having his service time manipulated, but he’ll be up soon. He’s expected to rake. Whether he can hold the position or, rather, will have to take at-bats away from Shin-Soo Choo at DH is an open question.

The infield needs a couple of fairly attainable things to happen for the lineup to really be a plus. First, it needs Adrian Beltre to be healthy and to show that he has at least some gas left in the tank. I have learned over the past 20 years to not bet against Adrian Beltre, ever, so Father Time will have to prove me wrong. It also needs Rougned Odor to snap back into shape after a lost-in-the-woods 2017. I hate the phrase “he’s better than that,” but he really is better than that. Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and that’s fine. If Gallo can cut down on the K’s even a little bit and mix in a couple of more base hits to go with all of that power he could be an MVP candidate. In order of likelihood, I put it (1) Beltre being Beltre; (b) Odor bouncing back; and (c) Gallo cutting down on strikeouts, but if just two of those things happen the Rangers lineup will be in good shape.

There are a lot of question marks with the starting pitching and a couple of lottery tickets. Yu Darvish is long gone, but Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation. The problem is that Hamels had his worst full season in several years last year and it may be that all of the miles on his odometer are catching up with him. The biggest offseason pickup for Texas was Mike Minor, who had a monster comeback season with the Royals after multiple years lost due to arm injuries. That monster year came out of the bullpen, though, so it remains to be seen if he can move back to the rotation and remain both impressive and durable. He’s one of the lottery tickets, although one with much better odds than, say, the Powerball. He’s like a scratch-off with some risk but a decent shot at some winnings.

A longer shot is Matt “Mega Millions” Moore. The one time top prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays is still somehow just 28, but he’s coming off a lousy year in San Francisco, in which he led the NL in both losses and earned runs while plying his trade in a pitcher’s park. I guess you can be a silver-lining guy and say he’s durable again or you could do that thing where people look at a one-time phenom and imagine that he has at least one full-promise year in him, but it’s not super likely either. Martin Perez and Doug Fister round things out. You basically know what you’re getting out of those two at this point: competence, but not necessarily any shot at greatness. Bartolo Colon is knocking around and he’ll likely get some starts at some point. He always gets starts.

The bullpen was a mess last year. It’s not clear that it’ll be better this year, but it’ll certainly be more interesting, as Jon Daniels went out and signed Tim Lincecum and gave him a big league deal from which to launch his comeback. He may challenge for the closer role, though Alex Claudio has it for now. Matt Bush will look to recapture 2016 form as a setup guy. Jake Diekman should be back to full strength after a mostly lost 2017 due to colon surgery. Not a great group, truth be told, even if they will be fun to watch at times.

Overall, I think the Rangers are better than bad but the pitching is a big problem and they need too many things to go their way to count on being good. If everyone stays healthy and more than half of the guys who struggled last year return to form or fulfill potential, hey, it’s a pretty interesting group of players. A group which, while not good enough to challenge Houston, could be in the mix with the Angels and the Mariners to be a Wild Card representative.

If most of those bets don’t pay off, though, it’s gonna be a long year. I’m a risk averse gambler, so I’m going to hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I predict that the upside will remain out of reach.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL West