Okay: Texas was beaten soundly on Monday night. The Angels -- the middle of the lineup, particularly -- slapped All-Star-snub Kevin Millwood around the park. Texas’s offense, conversely, struggled through the middle of the game. And yet, I can’t think that this generally ugly game (from Texas’s standpoint) was all for naught. Here’s why:
- Josh Hamilton had two hits in his return. He had a single and scored a run as a part of the Rangers’ two-run first inning, and a double in the sixth. But more promising than that was the center-fielder's’s base-running; he legged out the double with relative ease, and scored from first on a base hit and a throwing error in the first inning.
- Ian Kinsler snapped his career-worst 0-23 slump with a two-run home run in the seventh. The game already had an out-of-hand feel to it at this point, but an effective Ian Kinsler seems fairly more crucial, ultimately, to Texas’ hopes than one early-July game.
- This is a small victory, considering that it was mop-up duty, but Jason Grilli and Doug Mathis both proved effective in relief, throwing 44 pitches and giving up one hit combined to stop the bleeding. That is, the ugliness could have (and often does) spread, leading to tired bullpen arms as well as the loss.
- Texas still has two games against the Angels and three against Seattle before heading home (or to St. Louis) for the all-star break. After dropping the first game against L.A. last week, Texas bounced back to win the next two and ultimately five straight. This streak ended last night. The Rangers have five games left. Depending on how they respond, they could be sitting very pretty looking at the home stretch.
- This was probably an anomaly, at least with respect to the Rangers’ ace. As T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com is quick to point out, Millwood has allowed fewer than four runs in 12 of his first 17 starts. Bad nights are an inevitable beast in the game of baseball (unless your name is Bob Gibson in 1968). Millwood had a bad night against a good club. Any analysis beyond that is moonshine at this point. Yes, Millwood still has a 3.34 ERA, and yes, he probably should have been an all-star.