Rangers 4, Twins 3: My Top 10 Observations
10. News of Vladimir Guerrero's imminent demise were, in retrospect, premature. His sixth-inning homer to left gave the Rangers their fourth consecutive win - another playoff-esque, 4-3 triumph over the Minnesota Twins - and dwindled their magic number to 29. "We never doubted Vlad," says third baseman Michael Young. "You guys might have, but nobody in here did." He's right. I sorta did.
9. 29,926 is not a bad crowd on a school night. Credit "Dollar Dog Night." And some good, winning baseball. In fact, props to the gathering. In the bottom of the eighth a "wave" fizzled before it got started and a chant of "Let's go Rangers!" materialized in the ninth. There's hope for us as a baseball town yet.
8. Before the game in the clubhouse, it was cards 'n country music. Neftali Feliz and Frankie Francisco played some version of poker. Not surprisingly, the chess board was lonely. After the victory - on a decibel level of 1-10 - Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison" played over the speakers at about a 12.
7. In the sixth inning, a guy caught a foul ball thrown by C.J. Wilson and hit by Denard Span, but in the process he spilled a beer and shattered his cell phone. Totally not worth it. Right?
6. I cornered new owner Chuck Greenberg for a couple minutes. Asked him if he had to pinch himself during a season that has included his manager's drug admission, a prolonged validation process, two dangling dudes that somehow were unharmed at Rangers Ballpark and now a chance to win a division. "If I was a producer and you slid me this script across the table I'd slide it right back," he said. "Too over the top."
5. I know he's just a band-aid until Ian Kinsler heals, but I've enjoyed watching Andres Blanco the last couple weeks. Last night he punctuated a down-the-line double in the fourth inning with one of the worst, most entertaining slides in the history of baseball. Blanco's left hand dug in the dirt, propelling his face, well, right into the earth short of second base. Luckily he has a sense of humor. He gave the dugout the "antlers" sign for a fleet play, but then sheepishly followed it with a wagging tongue and finger down the throat as if to admit, "Vomit." Players often get strawberries on their hip, but Blanco sported a nice, fresh one over his right eye. Giggle.
4. Greenberg isn't exactly Mark Cuban with the publishing of his e-mail on the scoreboard, but he is yanking the Rangers another step closer to being fan-friendly. Katie Crawford is the team's new full-time Fan Ambassador, in charge of being a liaison between fans and the new owner. (send her suggestions, etc. at email@example.com.) "We don't have to be original," Greenberg said, "just good listeners." The Rangers also have this new "Blue Light Special" promotion in the bottom of the sixth. Last night a siren went off, signaling 16-ounce beers for $4 during that inning only. Yes, there was a mass exodus.
3. In a tight, pressure-packed game, good to see Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison retire the Twins with nary a whmper. Don't look now, but Kirkman has snuffed out seven of the first eight batters of his career. In the series, Texas' bullpen has thrown eight scoreless innings.
2. Is it just me or does Young suck at third base all the sudden? Tuesday he made a ridiculous throw en route to two errors and Wednesday he barely moved for a sharp grounder in the hole. These days he's about as mobile as a mailbox. Not yet a liability in the field, but ...
1. Josh Hamilton crushed a homer to center in the first, his 30th of the season. When he came up in the eighth the crowd chanted "MVP! ... MVP!" Reminded of Kobe Bryant at the line late in a Lakers game. "You can't help but hear it," Hamilton said. "And I appreciate the support. But we've still got a month to go. Too early." Hamilton went through an ugly stretch on the last road trip lowlighted by a 1-of-16 funk. The culprit? "Batting practice," said hitting coach Clint Hurdle. "Sometimes he hits a couple homers in BP and gets swing happy. We got back to squaring the ball up and he's back where he should be." Hamilton, who hit 32 dingers in '08, is the sixth Ranger to have multiple 30-homer seasons along with Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and, whoa thunk it, Dean Palmer.