Sunday Words: Yu and the Rangers
The pageantry, the high school football, the oil, Jerry and Mark, more oil, the hair-did's and of course, J.R. Ewing. Texas is, and forever will be, the over-sized Christmas present, sparkling and shooting fire from the package like a Michael Bay movie, dwarfing the other presents by volume, alone. I don't want your black socks, Mr. Every-other-state. The only color 'round here is Mack Brown.
Take it to the grave sports fans, everywhere else. Texas is not just bigger and better. Texas is bigger'er and better'er.
Keeping that thought process and credo to the tune of the two-step in mind, let the adventure begin...
Slow-to-a-crawl paced traffic wasn't the only cranial spank keeping the stresses and tensions of driving to Anaheim on the 5-freeway, yesterday morning. Like a a Chicago Bear dawning a Wisconsin "Cheese Head" I had gone rogue, to the horrid joy of my car-cohorts - Texas Stamped - and agreed to wear a Texas Rangers hat, reluctantly so. Jokes will be jokes, it was on a hope and sun-blinding conditions that no Pittsburgh man, woman or child would drive by and see such mutiny, thus banning me from all that can be banned. And, flipping me "the bird."
Like a cheap version of a MasterCard commercial, I figured all the abuse and poor hat decisions would be the small cost, payable by humility, and watching Yu Darvish up close and from the stretch, would be the priceless. - Yen or American Dollars.
While the Wild card race is vast and full of fantasy and pencil-busting scenarios, the A.L West crown is extremely simplistic. Either the Angels or the Rangers are going to win the division and, most likely be the front runner to represent the American League in the World Series. Yes, the Yankees have a baseball team too, and money is no object for them. All true, and known. But, the youth and depth in the west can not be compared. Enter Yu Darvish.
The Angels had been the hotter of the two teams and Darvish's last outing, mixed with Josh Hamilton's slow post-break start made the Rangers look vulnerable. The Darvish vs. Angels match-up would not only be an important road-test for the Rangers, but also a preview of Yu's mental strength - which can be most important for a pitcher. Especially, in the second half of the season.
I had not even finished wrestling my beer out of the carrying tray - that never works - and the game was out of reach, already! Yu's opposition, and every players favorite pitcher, albeit batting practice, Irvin Santana, started a dinger parade, early and often. He wrapped presents in the form of middle-fastballs to Mike Napoli, twice, and Yorvit Torrealba and Adrian Beltre, once each. Pitching aside, the Rangers line-up is scary from top to bottom. As expected.
Then there was Yu.
The summation of his performance came in the later stages of the game when knee-popper extraordinaire, Kendys Morales, swung 3-days early on a Darvish 66 m.p.h curve-ball, making the crowd ohhh and awe like it was a talking goat exhibit at the Worlds Fair. To follow the baffling breaking pitch, Darvish chucked a 92 m.p.h fastball on the corner, striking Morales out, with ease. Timing is everything for a hitter and, timing is not easily obtained when pitches are coming at variants of 30 m.p.h. You can't teach that, in any language. Impossible is not only a mission Tom makes "hush money" on, it's also the task given to any hitters that have to face Darvish when he is "on".
Strike three! (Kendrys suffered no new injuries in the making of this short film.}
Yu went 7-strong and struck out 11 Angels, including an unimpressive Albert Pujols. His command and mound-presence are daunting like a young Randy Johnson, with the control and finesse of a Greg Maddux. If the critics think the Seattle start was the trending downfall of Darvish, and that Harrison would have to pick up the pieces and carry the staff to the playoffs, they are wrong. Unfortunately for me, I am right.
At games end, I relieved my fake-fanship lid from my head-of-shame and watched as the lifeless rally monkey's departed the stands, burned out from the sun and the Texas Rangers. It was an eye-opening discovery to how difficult this Rangers team could be down the stretch. Hitting is one thing, but pitching of that caliber is another, completely. This was not a mop-up, either. This was an Angels team that have more than a handful of the experts inking them champions of the world.
But, things change. The MLB season has more than a few twists and turns left in the grab bag of surprises and, for every dominant Texas win, there is a dominant Angels win, like the previous night. The deciding factor will be the team that can win when either: Weaver and Darvish are not on the mound, respectively, or when they are head-to-head.
Slow-to-a-crawl traffic can not compare to that tension, either.
Until the next winning streak..I will have a slice of the french toast, instead.