The Texas Rangers aren’t just winning series after series through 19 games of the 2012 season, they are dominating them. Say what you want about this team starting the season against the likes of the Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins; winning seven of nine games against the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees should say it all.
The Rangers offense gives opposing pitchers different looks and presents different problems with each batter that steps to the plate. Their starters, aside from Derek Holland‘s tough start against the Yankees this past Monday night, have been nothing short of outstanding especially Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz.
But there’s been one other pitcher who is quickly showing fans and media alike why there was so much hype surrounding him from the very start.
Yu Darvish gets nasty
His first start wasn’t great, his second start was better and his third start showed tremendous progress.
But it was his fourth start that had Ranger fans on the edge of their seats and anxious about what they were about to see between the man their team had invested more than $100 million in and the team with one of the strongest lineups in baseball.
This was supposed to be Yu Darvish‘s biggest test to this point in his young Rangers’ career. What he turned it into was a big league pitcher facing a lineup full of Little Leaguers.
Darvish had the Yankees off balance all night long, throwing everything at them ‘but the kitchen sink.’ He was using his cutter, the curveball, the sinker, a fastball that Yankees’ outfielder Raul Ibanez called, “nasty,” and a change-up that worked to perfection.
But the one thing most noticed after his impressive night was done was the fact Darvish was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes. What had proven difficult over his first three starts seemed almost effortless this time around.
He pitched into the ninth inning, didn’t give up a single run, and struck out 10 New York hitters.
This was Darvish’s coming out party. This was the start that everyone had waited for. This is why the Rangers spent so much time scouting him and put forth the kind of effort to make sure he didn’t sign anywhere else but Texas.
Josh Hamilton has to be Superman
During spring training, I listened to a certain sports radio station here in the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex and time and time again the concern was voiced about Josh Hamilton‘s lack of production during spring training. And no matter how many times listeners would dismiss his thoughts because, well, it was spring training, it just didn’t seem to register.
Fast-forward to the beginning of the 2012 regular season, and Hamilton seems to have gone from the “aw shucks” Clark Kent-type guy to the guy who’s running into a phone booth just to transform into Superman himself.
Through 19 games (77 at bats), Hamilton is hitting .390 and became the fastest player in Ranger history to reach the eight home run mark. But the most amazing stat of all is how many times the center fielder is swinging at the first pitch. Not only that, but the kind of success that has brought.
Hamilton, when he swings at the first pitch, is hitting .471 and has hit two of his eight home runs on the very first pitch of the at bat. Maybe more amazing than that? After a first-pitch strike, whether he swings or not, Hamilton has hit half (four) of his eight home runs.
His performance, thus far, this season has heightened the conversation about his impending free agency after this season concludes. While there are some fans still torn about whether to re-sign him or not, most are not able to deny that this is the kind of player that no one would be able to replace if in fact this is Hamilton’s final season with Texas.
More than a few times this season, fans have watched as short stop Elvis Andrus has laid down a sacrifice bunt to either move a runner from first to second or second to third.
Every time it’s happened, those who look at the game of baseball by the numbers, will always voice their displeasure and hatred for what has been a part of the game for a very long time.
I grew up learning the “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in” mentality not only from my own grandfather but from my Little League coach, as well. It wasn’t something that was used because of a lack of trust in one player being able to swing the bat, it was to put the team in a better situation to score that run.
But as the game has progressed, so have number analysts who look at the game differently than those of us who just see the game for what it is.
Rangers manager Ron Washington is old school, and his old school beliefs lead him to still use that one thing that is becoming more and more hated as part of the game today.