Let’s be real: there was very little reason to bother tuning in for tonight’s game. Two mathematically eliminated teams in the final weekend of the season? The Rangers running out a Cactus League-esque lineup? Can’t blame you at all for sitting this one out. Baseball ennui has set in something fierce, and I’ve been firmly at “individual success” levels of rooting for the past couple weeks now.
There were exactly two reasons to pay attention tonight: Marco Gonzales making his final start of the season, and Daniel Vogelbach getting a rare consecutive start at first base. Marco held up his end of the bargain quite well, capping off an overall impressive first full year in the bigs by breezing through five shutout innings. A deep flyout by Rougned Odor on the first pitch of the game was the hardest contact Texas could muster, and the only time they had Gonzales remotely on the ropes was in the third. After Willie Calhoun went down on strikes, Hanser Alberto blooped a 1-2 cutter right between the mound and first base. Vogey charged, slid, and...
Yikes. Odor followed by beating the shift, and the inning had luck dragons written all over it. Undeterred, Marco struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa on three pitches with a masterful fastball-curve-change sequence, and got Nomar Mazara on an easy flyout. The Rangers wouldn’t reach base for the rest of his outing, although he was helped by Kristopher Negrón:
In a year fraught with disappointment, Marco Gonzales was a consistent bright spot. The development of the cutter was a joy to watch, and although he had stretches where he struggled, it is impossible to consider his overall body of work nothing less than a resounding success. 2019 is beyond murky at the moment, but seeing how Marco will build on this year is a storyline that I am very intrigued by.
Misplay aside, Vogelbach was also entertaining, smoking a grounder the other way for the first of the M’s three (3) total hits on the night. His second at-bat again ended in hard contact, though the ball found Willie Calhoun’s glove instead of outfield grass. With the season dead and buried, there is very little to no reason that Vogelbach shouldn’t start and complete each of the last games, and the fact that he started at first for two whole days in a row suggests that his hamstring issue has passed.
Unfortunately, other plans were afoot.
The bullpen imploded in the seventh, with Zach Duke once again the main culprit. After Ryan Rua ripped a one-out double, Ronald Guzmán - noted left-handed hitter - followed up with a base hit. None of the Mariner deadline acquisitions have worked out, but Duke feels like far and away the worst. A lefty specialist that can’t get lefties out? We had a perfectly good Marc Rzepczynski for that! Shawn Armstrong didn’t help, either, loading the bases and then plunking Kiner-Falefa to force in a second run. Not fun.
After Vogelbach was lifted, my interest in the game waned considerably. Mitch Haniger breaking an 0-for-11 with a base hit in the ninth was nice, sure, but it merely delayed the inevitable. Ninety wins is officially out of reach. Remember when we thought that would be good enough to sneak into the playoffs? Simpler, better times. Wade LeBlanc takes the mound tomorrow, his last chance to set a career-high in wins. Potential individual success! Neat, I suppose! If that isn’t enough to spend time on the M’s, though, it’s okay. Really.