Wednesday, April 02, 2008

O'Keeffe: U.S. Postage Stamp

I write as the Rangers have a 0-1 record, and are losing 4-3 in the 8th inning of the season's second game in Seattle:

by golly, the Rangers are a legitimate threat to make the playoffs.

Key #1: Kevin Millwood is in shape, and looked outstanding last night.

Key #2: Vincent Padilla is in shape, and looked outstanding tonight. Padilla showed, tonight, that he was obviously injured last season. He worked at 95 mph, touched 97, and dominated Seattle with his fastball. Last season his starts were dominated by his curve; tonight he barely threw the curve. He alternated 4 seam and 2 seam fastballs. His 2 seam had sink in the heavy air, and Seattle never knew which fastball was coming at them. If Padilla played home games in Seattle, he might win 18 games.

Key #3: The Rangers hitting approach is completely different: they are grinding pitchers. They are unrecognizable as a Rangers batting line-up. Milton Bradley obviously dominates his own strike zone. Josh Hamilton has outstanding recognition of what is and is not a strike. Young and Blalock and Kinsler are working pitchers. Tonight, Blalock doubled down the left-field line. All good signs for the Rangers offense. The results have not yet shown in the win column, yet these are very good signs. And who do the Rangers send to the mound tomorrow(?): Jason Jennings - a solid and smart major league pitcher. Such has not always been the case with Texas Rangers #3 starters.

Next to Next to last - it's nothing which wasn't already known, but Josh Hamilton is about as fun to watch as a baseball player can be. He's the effing re-incarnation of Mickey Mantle. There's nothing he cannot do on a baseball field. He ought be nicknamed Superman: he's faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. He throws big; he throws accurately. He has outstanding idea of the strike zone. He's beaten out infield hits both of the last two nights. Ron Washington says he can bunt for hits. He's run long distances - in both directions - to track down balls on the run. He Willie Mays-ed a basket catch going backwards, and soft crashed into the wall.

Next to Last - there's a lot of speculation that David Murphy caught a hot streak at the end of last season, and really is not as good as he looked during those weeks. That may be true, yet you can neither tell it by Murphy this spring, nor by Murphy in these two opening games. Murphy continues hitting line drives off both LH and RH pitchers. Murphy may actually be no better than a fourth OF, yet - both last season and right now - he looks every bit like Rusty Greer with better speed. For Murphy to be a fourth OF, his play has to go backwards.

Last - the bad(horrid): Rangers defense cost them both last night and tonight. Michael Young and Ian Kinsler have 5 errors between them in the two games. Gerald Laird has been a passed ball machine on both nights. I do not expect the horrible defense to continue.

Josh "Superman" Hamilton, the effing reincarnation of Mickey Mantle, the most fun baseball player to watch since Ozzie Smith retired, hit a 2 run homer in the 9th. C.J. Wilson got the save(Key #4: check!), getting Ichiro to ground out with the tying run on second base. Rangers win 5-4. The Rangers are the dark horse American League team of 2008. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

Update II:
Superman Hamilton in the post game interview:

Interviewer: Josh, take us through the at bat.
Hamilton: The first pitch, I have no idea what it was: I swung and hit it.

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