Tonight matches the best home run hitting offense in the American League with its 4th least effective pitcher at keeping the ball in the park. In 9 games, A.J. Burnett has been tagged for 10 long balls, including three in his last start against the Phillies. The Rangers have hit 76 dingers in 45 games, three more that the Yankees in one fewer outing. What are chances A.J. can keep the flood gates closed?
Burnett has always worn the tag of "inconsistent" but with each passing start, he's inching closer and closer to "bad". He hasn't sported an ERA under 5.00 since his third start of the season and hasn't been on the winning end of a decision since his second. He's allowed at least two runs in every start this year, but has given the Yankees something they've sorely needed: over 6 1/3 innings per start.
The Rangers counter with 22 year old lefty Derek Holland. This is only Holland's second start of the year, after making seven appearances in relief. He needed only 76 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings in his last start, and based on his GM's attitude towards starting pitchers, he should be looking to take this one a little deeper.
Lately, much has been made of Nolan Ryan's philosophy concernign managing the Ranger's pitching staff. Ryan has been amping up their pitcher's training regiment with the intent having them throw more innings and cope with the sometimes oppressively hot nights that accompany Summers in Arlington:It sort of sounds like your typical crowing from old timey baseball folks who say that pitch counts are for pussies, but this has seemingly worked so far, even in one of the better hitter's parks in all of baseball. The Rangers lead the league in innings from their starting staff and were the last team in the AL to ask for 100 innings from their bullpen. Maybe that tough talk from Ryan, a Refugio, Texas native is really starting to pay off.
Pitchers, Ryan said, would be expected to last deeper in games. To handle the Texas heat, they would train harder, emphasizing sprinting over distance running and throwing live batting practice all through camp. Pitchers would do more long-tossing and coaches would pay more attention to the stress of each outing, not simply the number of pitches.
When fellow Texan (Dallas born, to be exact) Stevie Ray Vaughan wrote the lyrics to the song below, he was probably talking about a night like last night. May is the rainiest month in Dallas, but if there's any "floodin' down in Texas" tonight, the radar indicates it will be contained to the San Antonio area.
Well there's floodin' down in Texas... all of the telephone lines are down.
And I've been tryin' to call my baby... Lord and I can't get a single sound.