Given how bad the Rangers had been against AL playoff teams on the road and given that ace David Price was going for the Rays today, Tampa Bay probably felt pretty confident coming into today’s game. Of course, that’s why they play the games.
Jeff Francoeur hitting an RBI double and Bengie Molina going 3 for 4 with a homer and a couple of RBI himself wasn’t exactly something you’d bet the mortgage on. But Cliff Lee showing up strong was, and all three of those things happened. It was interesting in the ninth as Neftali Feliz walked the first two batters, but a good defensive play from Jeff Francoeur — he’s so dreamy; I love him so — and calmer nerves on the part of Feliz closed things out to preserve the game.
So: how screwed are the Rays?
Pretty screwed, I’d say! As our friend Joe Posnanski noted today, teams that win the first game of five-game series are 70-26 over the years. That’s pretty good. And that’s before you realize just how big a falloff the Rays rotation has from Price to James “Shomer Shabbos” Shields and Matt “I ain’t been all that since my no-hitter” Garza. Sure, the Rangers have a big falloff from Cliff Lee to the rest of their rotation as well, but at this moment of the season I have more faith in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter.
But hey, if we didn’t predict Frenchie and Molina’s star turns today, we can’t predict gloom and doom for the Rays either. It’s one game. There are as many as four more remaining. They have a shot.
Just a lot less of a shot than the Rangers do, statistically speaking.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.