Let's just get this out of the way now - yes, I feel pretty confident in saying that Kenji Johjima was safe, and his being called out by Paul Emmel did a number on our odds of winning. One on with one out is rather obviously not at all like none on and two out, with the win expectancy difference between the two situations coming out around 16%. That was a significant event that dealt us a critical blow.
As you may have heard once or twice before, though, umpires don't have the benefit of instant replay on plays like this, and the fact that it's so difficult to get a good screengrab of Johjima touching down before the ball gets to Davis goes to show you how quickly everything happened. That was as close to a tie as you can get without it actually being a tie, and in the eyes of professional umpires, it's a coin flip. This time it went their way. Next time it might go our way. It's worth noting that we caught a break ourselves just an inning earlier when David Murphy was called out at second on a steal attempt when replays showed that he beat Yuni's lazy tag attempt. Obviously the leverage of the two situations is remarkably different, but that's how the cookie crumbled.
It sucks in the end, but it's not like this was a flagrantly simple call that Emmel screwed up. It happened fast. Forget the bang-bang play; this was a bang-ng play, with a fraction of a second separating Kenji's foot touching down and Davis making the catch. No matter what Emmel would've called, half the people on the field would've screamed at him.
Do I support baseball eventually turning into a game governed by precise, objective robots? Boy do I. But we're not going to get there until the brainiacs in engineering labs figure out how to keep the robots from getting power-hungry and domineering, so in the meantime, this is the best we can do, and we just have to live with it. Paul Emmel made the wrong call. I won't say he made a bad call - I think, in a situation like this, those are two very different things - but he made the wrong call, and it contributed in part to our loss. So did our players. Shit happens. Remember this the next time we get a call in our favor in a close win and you consider whether or not to feel guilty.
Elvis Andrus, by the way - holy crap. That's exactly why he's up here, and that's exactly why he's not going to go away.
- This was a most unusual start for Felix. His 19(!) swinging strikes set a new career high, but when the Rangers made contact, they made good contact, lifting two home runs and slapping another five line drives. Lineups ordinarily don't vacillate between looking so stupid and looking so strong in the same game. I'm inclined to suggest, then, that the Rangers' plan of attack was to go up against Felix guessing pitches and swinging from the heels. And it's hard to be critical of them given the results. Yeah, they struck out nine times and didn't draw a walk, but they guessed right often enough to make this a frustrating night for The King. When you have an order that potent, the runs tend to stack up in a hurry.
Blalock's double came on an outside changeup that Felix left elevated. Young's homer came on a slider that stayed up at the belt. Davis' homer came on an inside curve that he was looking for after Felix used breaking balls against him earlier with great success. On a night when Felix threw a lot of offspeed stuff, hopefully this doesn't deter him from continuing to throw a lot of offspeed stuff.
19 swinging strikes! 12 against lefties. 9 on sliders out of 20 overall. The Rangers swung through 9% of Felix's fastballs and 33% of his offspeed pitches. I suppose it diminishes the significance of all this when you point out that the Rangers as an offense make the least contact out of anyone, but at least the start wasn't a total loss. I wonder if Felix was making a conscious effort to try and miss more bats out of fear of letting that offense put the ball in play.
- In the top of the fourth inning while talking with Dave Sims, Mike Blowers remarked on "this base hit up the middle" before the ball had even gone past Jose Lopez. Two batters later, Marlon Byrd singled past the nominally outstretched glove of Yuniesky Betancourt. They say defense up the middle is important. We're 1 out of 4.
- Since 2002, Endy Chavez has a contact rate of 86.6%. This year it's down at 79.2%. Yeah, it's based on a small sample size, but this is also the sort of statistic that stabilizes really quickly, so who knows? On the off chance that this is for real and something's up, I really wish I had been a fly on the wall of the room in which Endy had the epiphany where he realized he sucks.
- I've noticed that Ichiro's caught some flak for swinging at Francisco's first pitch immediately after Yuni drew a miraculous, culture-altering, five-pitch walk. I know the conventional wisdom is that you have to let the pitcher throw a strike after he issues a walk, but I disagree with it. If you have a good eye - and Ichiro's is pretty good, I'd say - and you get a hittable strike, where's the sense in letting it go by? Ichiro got a first-pitch thigh-high fastball on the inner half, recognized it, and pulled the trigger. Yes, he flew out, but that's a pitch we've seen Ichiro pull on a line into right field time and time again, and there's no justifiable reason to be mad at him for trying. He thought he could do something with that pitch. And he could've. He just didn't.
- After Andrus' incredible diving effort in the ninth, the play that's going to fade into the background is a play that might've made just as much of a difference. Down 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Beltre came up with a man on second and pulled an inside fastball towards the 5-6 hole. It looked like it was going to get through when Michael Young made a magnificent stop and threw in time to get Beltre at first. If that gets through, it's either 6-5 or there are men on the corners. Instead, Millwood got help from his defense and was able to end the inning by getting Jose Lopez to do something stupid. These aren't the Matt Kata Rangers. Not anymore.
- Franklin Gutierrez is up to an .844 OPS after his 3-4 night tonight, and in addition to his performance at the plate, he might've also saved Felix a run by flagging down a Hank Blalock flyball in the first. He's riding a torrid hot streak at the moment, and while I don't think he's as good as his current offensive numbers would indicate, (A) he doesn't have to be in order to be a great value, and (B) in the event that he is, he's an MVP candidate. Two weeks ago he was batting .191. Now he looks like one of the best hitters on the team. If you're one of those people who thought we traded for a fourth outfielder, get on the flipping bandwagon, you damn idiots.
Day game tomorrow as Bedard tries to salvage the series. I'm going to go to bed before I start making more fun of Griffey's colon.