Grand slam boosts Rangers to win

RangersInsider.com
Posted Mar 24, 2007


Sammy Sosa's first inning grand slam off Milwaukee starter Zach Jackson set the tone for the Rangers as they hold on to defeat the Brewers in Surprise, 8-6.

First things first: Since tonight marked the first time either one of us have attended a game in Surprise, you can consider this game recap an extended dance mix version.

The Good

Obviously Sosa was a big one. His fourth homerun of the spring came via a big blast with the bases loaded off Brewers pitcher Zach Jackson. Later in the game, he also added an RBI single to cap off his 2 for 3, 5 run batted in evening against Milwaukee pitching.

Ian Kinsler, who is already leading all American League teams with 15 runs batted in, drove in another with a run-scoring double in the 2nd inning.

While warming up in the bullpen before the game, Eric Gagne looked loose and showed no signs of any lingering ailments. This, however, was not the case during the at-bats of the first two players Gagne faced to begin the top of the first for Milwaukee. But give credit to Gagne because he was able to right the ship and after his battery mate Gerald Laird picked a runner off, Gagne regained his composure and fought back to retire the final two batters of the inning on stikeouts. He was originally scheduled to pitch later in the game, but due to the constant threat of rain in the forecast throughout the nighttime hours, the Rangers wanted to make sure Gagne could get his work.

Brad Wilkerson had very ordinary looking first at-bat. but he made solid contact in his next time lining out to deep centerfield. However, his final two at-bats of the night both produced runs batted in.

Gerald Laird was a defensive juggernaut behind the plate tonight for the Rangers. Not only did he thwart a stolen base attempt by Brady Clark, but he caught a fleet-footed Rickie Weeks napping at first for the first out of the game.

The Bad

Although Frank Francisco rebounded to blow away Milwaukee outfielder Bill Hall for the final out of the sixth inning, he also served up a wall-rattling, game-tying double to Damian Miller.

Once again, it wasn't a particularly pretty outing for Wes Littleton. His velocity appears to be down and while his slider looked good, he consistently got into trouble by missing with his sinker. He made some quality pitches, and certainly fared much better this time out then he has in some of his previous outings, but he's still got some righting of the ship to do.

The Ugly

It's as if nobody wants to be the fifth starter in this rotation anymore. With the recent struggle by Jamey Wright followed by the injury bug visiting Kameron Loe, Chen had an opportunity to come out tonight and put some real distance between him and the other competitors for the final spot in the rotation. Instead, Chen showed very little. His most impressive moment for me during his 3.2 innings of work came when he got Corey Hart to chase a filthy looking curve for strike three. But that was overshadowed by the three homeruns he allowed, including one by Rickie Weeks that practically cleared the stadium. After his performance tonight, it wouldn't be out of the question to think that Chen may have eliminated himself from the race.

Notable

After a back and neck spasm flare up on Wednesday, Kameron Loe reported significant improvement and was even able to do some light throwing off a mound this afternoon in Surprise. The Rangers plan on starting him Sunday afternoon against the White Sox in Tucson.

Akinori Otsuka has originally been slated to pitch in tonight's game against the Brewers but was scratched due to some stiffness in his neck. He'll pitch Saturday against Oakland instead.

Friday's roster moves: Infielders Drew Meyer and Desi Relaford and outfielders Freddy Guzman and Victor Diaz were optoined back to the Minor Leagues.

Also on Friday, Ron Washington confirmed that Robinson Tejeda will take the hill for the Rangers 2007 home opener on April 6 against the Boston Red Sox.

Brandon McCarthy gets the ball first later today as the Rangers host the A's in Surprise.


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