The middle of the Blue Jays’ vaunted lineup showed up Sunday night in Arlington. The Rangers’ has yet to arrive for this series.
Adrian Beltre obviously has an excuse. Prince Fielder does not. You know it’s a rough ALDS for Texas’ leading hitter when his “highlight” is a pratfall over the dugout fence attempting to celebrate a Game 2 victory.
Fielder has one hit in the series, primarily because Toronto continues to befuddle him with breaking balls. He did square up a ball in the 9th inning, but his liner was easily tracked down in center field. The Jays so far refuse to give in and throw him fastballs. Game 3 starter Marco Estrada didn’t throw a single pitch over 90 mph Sunday night. And with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound in today’s Game 4, don’t expect that to change.
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(I was in Arlington in 2006 the night Dickey - just a beginner knuckleballer well before his Cy Young days - gave up a record six homers to the Tigers, so anything's possible.)
Fielder hit .305 with 23 homers and 98 RBI in the regular season. With Beltre sidelined by a stiff back, it’s hard to imagine the Rangers putting away Toronto without a key hit from his bat.
“This is a guy who’s been right in the heart of everything we’ve done all year,” manager Jeff Banister said of Fielder after the Rangers’ 5-1 loss in Game 3. “Do we need Prince to find the barrel? Yes. At points, he’s actually carried this club for a significant amount of time. What I know about guys like Prince is that for every oh-fer, they’re one more day closer to getting hot.”
Even though Beltre was baseball’s most productive hitter after the All-Star break, it’s taken his absence to realize how important he is to the offense. Without his big bat, the Rangers must manufacture runs with their speed and unlikely hits from the bottom of the order. His void needs to be filled by Fielder, but so far it hasn’t happened.
To avoid relocating their passports and heading back to Toronto for a Game 5, the Rangers need to be more patient against Dickey’s off-speed offerings. A big hit from Fielder wouldn’t hurt, either.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.