Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No Perfect Season in 2008

Our first dose of Rangers baseball was oddly reminiscent of recent Mavericks games to me; A promising start (Michael Young takes Erik Bedard deep), followed by the slow methodical bleeding out of our heroes on their way to an all-too-predictable defeat, that ended up looking like a rather sound defeat.

But, I promise to keep the Rangers positivity going as long as possible, so despite feeling like I have seen this episode about a million times, I am eager for Game #2 tonight, with Padilla versus King Felix.

Kevin Millwood deserved better

The Texas Rangers have twice removed opening day starters with no-hitters in progress. They once had an opening day starter go nine shutout innings and get no decision. In their first opener, the starting pitcher didn't yield an earned run – and they still lost.

So it probably shouldn't be considered all that strange that Monday, in their 37th season opener, Rangers starter Kevin Millwood outpitched and outlasted one of the AL Cy Young Award favorites while refusing to yield an earned run.

And lost, too.

With the strange sight of snow falling outside Safeco Field's cover, Seattle beat the snow-blinded Rangers, 5-2, by taking advantage of poor fielding and the Rangers' inability to capitalize on Erick Bedard's shaky command.

As a result, Millwood joined former pitching coach Dick Bosman as the only Rangers opening day starters to not allow an earned run and still lose.

"It's just one of those openers where you kind of shake your head," Millwood said. "And then you come back and say 'Let's get 'em tomorrow.' "

There really wasn't much else Millwood could do. After being limited to five "A" game innings during the spring because of a hamstring strain, he gave the Rangers the kind of opening day performance they'd not seen in his first two seasons in Texas.

Rangers wounds largely self-inflicted

Afterward, the Rangers felt like they mostly had themselves to blame.

Asked later what he thought would happen if he knew the Rangers would force Bedard out of the game after five innings while Texas starter Kevin Millwood wouldn't allow an earned run in six, Kinsler said, "I think our chances would be pretty good."

They might have been, had the Rangers been able to execute a few routine plays.
Instead, an error led to two unearned runs in the sixth inning, one coming when the Rangers couldn't pull off a potential inning-ending double play. Two wild pitches helped lead to three Seattle runs in the seventh.

The Rangers stranded five runners in the first three innings against Bedard, feeling like they let him off the hook with ill-timed two-out swings.

"You'd like to have better at-bats in those situations," said shortstop Michael Young.

Young was briefly a Texas hero, hitting a solo home run in the top of the first off Bedard. But he booted a grounder from Ichiro leading off the sixth that led to two Seattle runs and a 2-1 Mariners lead.

"I should have made that play," Young said. "He hit it hard, but I would like to have that back, that's for sure. If he doesn't get on, that inning might have a different look to it."

Josh and Tom were using some Evan Grant writing for a discussion yesterday, so I dug his story up …get a load of these numbers…

Over the last five years, AL playoff teams have averaged 84 quality starts per season, 986 innings from the starting rotation and a .346 on-base percentage from their hitters. Over the last 11 seasons, 17 AL teams have reached all three benchmarks in the same season; thirteen of them have gone to the playoffs, and the other four averaged 91 wins.

The Rangers in the last five years have averaged 61 quality starts, 872 innings and a .331 on-base percentage. Last year, they had the league's fewest quality starts (55) and fewest rotation innings (838). Those are areas in which the Rangers could show meaningful incremental improvement in 2008.

Meanwhile, if only we could play the Clippers every night

If the Dallas Mavericks had about a half-dozen more games against the Los Angeles Clippers, their playoff spot would be safe.

As it is, they began what amounts to a nine-game season with their second victory over the Clippers in a week. And it may have been a good thing for them that it took a rugged battle to close it out.

The Mavericks scratched and clawed down the stretch to hold on to a 93-86 win over the Clippers. The Clips are the only team they have beaten in a 2-5 stretch but at this point, returning to the win column against anybody was enough to put smiles back on faces in the locker room.

Their win at Staples Center pushed them a half-game ahead of Golden State and a full game up on Denver, which lost at Phoenix, in the race for the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

“Everybody in here has had their back against the wall at some point,’’ said Eddie Jones, who played 17 minutes and was part of a diversified attack. “In this league, if you don’t have perseverance, something’s wrong.’’

The Mavericks had it and needed it against a Clippers team that kept losing players to injury and kept getting step-up efforts from unlikely sources – like former Mavericks Nick Fazekas and Dan Dickau.

Jason Kidd had a huge night with 27 points. Josh Howard (25 points) and Jason Terry (20) provided the late-game buckets that staved off a heartfelt Clippers rally from 18 points down.

Is Dirk returning Wednesday?

Although it's too early to consider a fireworks display -- and even too early for the Dallas City Council to announce a parade route -- the Dallas Mavericks seem close to a celebration.

Avery Johnson won't have a good idea until today, and he won't know for sure until shortly before game time on Wednesday, but it seems that Dirk Nowitzki is close to returning to the lineup.

Nowitzki was injured on March 23 when he blocked a shot against the San Antonio Spurs and landed roughly on his left foot. The ankle rolled, the leg gave and Nowitzki was out of the lineup with a high ankle sprain and mild knee sprain.
The Mavericks defeated the Clippers at home without Nowitzki, then lost subsequent games at Denver and Golden State. They played the Clippers in a late game here Monday night.

The Mavericks were scheduled to fly back to Dallas after the game and Johnson said again that he would take a group of reserves for a light workout with Nowitzki today.
If Nowitzki can withstand the pressure on his left leg, he could be back in the starting lineup when the Mavericks meet the Warriors at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in American Airlines Center.

"I'm optimistic that he will be," Jason Terry said. "But if he doesn't, we'll still have to grind it out."

Johnson wasn't quite as positive.

"He's jogging a little bit," Johnson said, "but again, to play this game, you've got to cut, you've got to slide, you've got to jump, you've got to rebound and there's just a lot involved. We'll have a chance to see him and see what happens when we check him out."

The Mavericks have obviously missed Nowitzki's 23.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. But -- and this may be a shock to some -- Dallas has also missed his defense.
The Mavericks allow an average of 95.6 points per game, but gave up an average of 107 in the three games Nowitzki missed before Monday.

Stars prepare for life on the road to open the playoffs

The Dallas Stars' chance of catching the Anaheim Ducks for the No. 4 seed all but ended Sunday night.

Trailing the Ducks by five points with three games left, the Stars will probably start the playoffs on the road for the second consecutive year. And Dallas coach Dave Tippett thinks that's fine with this group.

But the Stars have been a solid road team this season, going 21-14-3-2. Considering that, and the Stars' lackluster outings at home in the postseason, a road trip might be good.

"I don't think that would worry our group at all," Tippett said. "We've got some young players we need to get integrated, and some jumping on the road would be very good for them."

Road trips have been beneficial for the Stars this season. They went 4-2 on an Eastern Conference swing about two weeks after general manager Doug Armstrong's Nov. 13 firing. Marty Turco had some of his best games this season when the Stars went 3-0 in Western Canada after the All-Star break.

The flip side, however, is the energy the home team gets from being in its own venue in the postseason. Steve Ott said he remembers last April in Vancouver, where Game 7 "was a pretty hostile environment."

Oh, there's an outside chance of the Stars winning home ice. If they win their three remaining games and the Ducks lose their final two (at least once in regulation), the Stars could get the No. 4 seed.

The Stars, who went 2-7-1-1 in March, would take any positives -- especially victories -- they can muster heading into the playoffs.

"We have to continue to build on this," Tippett said. "We had some real positives on the trip, and we have to continue to build on them. We have to make sure we try to get as many mistakes and situations that could negatively affect our game out of there."

There's still some uncertainty of the Stars' finishing place.

They have 93 points, No. 6 Colorado has 91 with two games left, No. 7 Calgary has 90 with three left, and No. 8 Vancouver has 88 with three left.

If the Stars win two of three, they would hold on to No. 5.

Email from Justin:

I thought you all would like to know that while pacman made his first trip down to valley ranch to talk a contract out with Jerry Jones, He was later spotted by a group of friends at Baby Dolls. I don’t know if we should care or not. I just thought it was interesting.

How do you like this Star wars tattoo?

Finally, the Champions League is back today and tomorrow…

UEFA Champions League

Quarterfinals - 1st Leg Matches & Scores:

-Tue Apr 1

Roma v Manchester United - live at 1:30pm central on ESPN2
Schalke v Barcelona - delayed at 4pm central on ESPN Classic

-Wed Apr 2

Arsenal v Liverpool - live at 1:30pm central on ESPN2
Fenerbahce v Chelsea - delayed at 4pm central on ESPN Classic

Give me, United and Barca, Chelsea and Liverpool (I hope). I would say “watch out for Roma”, as they would want mucho revenge against United for the spanking of last spring, but with an unfit Totti and Ronaldo on simply another level, I don’t see it…

Christy Ronaldo with his highlighted-tips, is too amazing to hate too much…

Dirk in a happier time

Is this Racist?


Jeff said...

Bob -

Don't give up hope for the perfect season just yet. They have a perfect losing record so far.....

Bitterwhiteguy said...

I don't know what's worse: that guy spent money getting Star Wars tattoos or that he got a 3rd grader to draw the tattoos. Talk about awful tattoo work, jeez.