Mitch Moreland has been a pleasant surprise in Texas

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Entering tonight’s game against the Tigers, Mitch Moreland has a .921 OPS with ten home runs and has arguably been the Rangers’ most dangerous hitter thus far in the 2013 season. Going into the season, first base was assumed to be a weak spot for the Rangers as Moreland had been more or less average offensively despite seeing right-handed pitching an overwhelming majority of the time.

As Gil Lebreton of the Star-Telegram points out, members of the media weren’t the only ones who slept on Moreland. Even the Rangers themselves were looking elsewhere for first base options, only to settle on Moreland when none of them materialized.

But the truth is that they’re probably just as taken aback as us media heathens by Moreland’s current rampage. They’ve been shopping for a “real” first baseman, truth be told, since the latter half of 2011, when Moreland hit .241 and only five home runs. In the postseason that year, Moreland had only three hits in 29 at-bats.

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Even after signing free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish from Japan, a $111-million investment, the Rangers were reported to be avid suitors of free agent Fielder. His courtship lingered into the third week of January, 2012.

Rangers fans will wince at the memory of this, but part of the hangup was Josh Hamilton, himself a future free agent.

Lebreton also warns, however, that Moreland also had good stats through May 18 in the past two seasons as well, perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.