A few days after the Rangers sputtered into last off-season, running on fumes and whatever was left of Josh Hamilton's CRUNK!!! stash, manager Ron Washington said what many fans and pundits had already said: "Maybe I played them into the ground."
Seven of his starters played 147 games or more last season; five played at least 155. In the end, Wash said, it caused the offense to flatline down the stretch: "We just never had enough guys in the lineup hitting on the cylinders at the same time."
Not this year, though. This year, Wash is getting his guys rest. Like yesterday, when, in a day game after a night game, he opted to sit Lance Berkman. Berkman is hitting .484 with seven RBIs, but he's also 37. Most 37-year-olds get winded taking out the recycling. (Don't they?) This was a decision caked in logic.
Then came the eighth inning.
The Rangers, up 2-0 in the series, were down 2-0 in the game. But the comeback was afoot. Adrian Beltre singled and David Murphy doubled, putting runners at second and third with one out.
The pitcher, Joel Peralta, was a righty, so the scheduled Rangers hitter, right-handed Jeff Baker, was dispatched to the dugout, to be replaced by a lefty. But which one?
Wash must have looked so longingly at Berkman, that fellow student of the old school. In his last full season, 2011, Berkman killed right-handed pitching, hitting .307 with an OPS nearing 1.000. He hit 27 of his 31 homeruns against right-handers that season.
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But Wash's gaze eventually landed on young Leonys Martin, who in his short career has hit right-handed pitching almost as bad as he's hit left-handed pitching.
Martin flied out to right field, and when Beltre was thrown out at home, the rally, and the sweep, died. Wash defended the decision in an interview with an ESPN reporter who happens to be conversant in Washspeak.
"He was available if I wanted to," Washington said of Berkman. "But my manager's choice. I gave him the full day off."
Look, whatever: It's only April. Everyone knows these games count less.