Losing for the fourth time in five games, the Angels were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Monday night, as the Rangers beat them 4-3.
The Angels did try to come back from 3-0 down. The Rangers, getting ready for Friday’s ALDS Game 1, pulled starter C.J. Wilson after two innings and turned to Mark Hamburger. Hamburger kept the Halos scoreless until the sixth, when Mike Trout singled in a run and Bobby Abreu walked with the bases loaded.
That made it 3-2 Rangers. The Rangers added an insurance run when Michael Young singled in Elvis Andrus in the eighth, and it proved crucial, as the Angels could come back with only one run off Neftali Feliz in the ninth.
Dan Haren, who left his last start with a left wrist contusion suffered when he was hit by a liner, went eight innings for the Angels. He struck out eight, and one of the four runs he gave up was unearned, the result of a Jeff Mathis error.
With the victory, the Rangers stayed one game up on the Tigers for home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason. It obviously wasn’t too important to Texas — note Wilson’s early exit — but it’d seem terribly advantageous to miss the Yankees in the ALDS. The winner of the wild card, whether it’s the Red Sox or Rays, is likely to be poorly set up for the postseason opener, especially if the two teams have to take part in a one-game playoff Thursday.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.