The Daily Six Shooter August 16, 2012

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1. The Texas Rangers have had a rough go of it the last few days in New York. The Rangers facing the Yankees was a highly-billed four game series between the two best records in the majors. Texas was rolling and would miss CC Sabathia, so it was looking like they’d be able to solidify their place at the top. But it hasn’t quite gone that way as Texas lost the first three games of the series.

The hot bats went cold for the most part as the Rangers managed just four runs in the first three games of the series. They matched that in the first six innings of game four. While Ryan Dempster continued to disappoint, the starting pitching was hardly to blame. Dempster, for the 2nd time in three starts, gave up eight earned runs. Matt Harrison and Scott Feldman both turned in quality starts and held the Yankees to three runs in each of the previous two games, but the offense was nowhere to be found for support.

Texas was no-hit in game 2 through seven innings and while Josh Hamilton’s resurgence continued in game 3, two solo homers was all the offense could muster.

Thankfully, Texas bounced back with a 10-6 win in which the top six players in the lineup all had at least two hits each. While it didn’t give Derek Holland the win, it saved him from losing a mediocre start in which he lasted less than six innings and gave up four earned runs (five total). Every run was manufactured and everyone seemed to come up clutch in this game. The way Texas was able to bounce back after losing a 4-0 lead was promising, even though they lost the first three games of the series.

It was a tough lesson to learn and maybe returned them to Earth a little bit after playing so well in August. A weekend series against the struggling Toronto Blue Jays should help pick things up again.

2. As for the Houston Astros, they lost two out of three games to the Chicago Cubs. I guess that’s an improvement in that they didn’t get swept, but Houston is still well on track to lose at least 110 games this season.

Still, there were a few bright spots. Lucas Harrell threw eight innings of one-run ball with just two walks and seven strikeouts. It was Harrell’s 10th win of the season as he’s 10-8 this year with a decent 3.81 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He’s 3-2 in the 2nd half of the season with four quality starts and right now is the best starter on the staff. At 27, he’ll be a pretty reliable guy for the future. You really couldn’t ask for much better performance from a guy in his first full year as a starter.

The team has also shown other improvements. Jose Altuve is hitting better than he has since the month of April. Altuve went 6-12 in the series and his OPS is up to .821 in August. Scott Moore has also provided some much-needed power lately. Moore has five home runs this month, including one in each of the two games he played against the Cubs. His OPS is at .867 in August.

Houston has a day off today before returning to action with a weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow.

3. Just because the Olympics are over doesn’t mean that it’s time to stop being patriotic. And, honestly, yesterday’s historic win by the US men’s soccer team over Mexico at Azteca Stadium matches any Olympic moment we just saw for Team USA in London. For the first time in 75 years, the Americans won at Azteca Stadium 1-0 thanks to some brilliant defense, great saves by Tim Howard, and one great run from Brek Shea that resulted in the decisive goal from Michael Orozco Fiscal.

The first half and much of the 2nd half was tough to watch. Mexico dominated possession and USA defenders often gave up unforced turnovers deep in their own territory, leading to some great chances for Mexico. For much of the game, a 0-0 draw looked like the best case scenario, especially after Landon Donovan had to sit because of tightness in his hamstring.

But late in the game, Brek Shea subbed in and everything changed. He’s a midfielder for FC Dallas, but with the men’s national team, he’s an energy guy that comes off the bench and makes things happen. In a short amount of time, he’s excellent at making something out of nothing and that’s exactly what he did against Mexico, making brilliant moves and even smarter decisions leading to the only goal of the game and the big, historic victory.

It’s hard to believe that Team USA looked so bad last year. Just months into Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as coach, the men’s team lost 1-0 to Costa Rica, Belgium, Ecuador, and France. But in 2012, Team USA is officially a team to be reckoned with following victories over Italy and Mexico this year.

World Cup qualifying continues next month with a home-and-hom against Jamaica.

Photo by Javi Perez/Playmaker Magazine
4. The Houston Texans keep solidifying the left side of their offensive line with smart moves. Today they signed left tackle Duane Brown to a six year extension worth a little more than $22 million guaranteed. It could be worth as much as $53.4 million. I’d expect that he’d make closer to $50 million than $20 million if his past performance and durability are any indication.

The offensive line has looked strong throughout training camp and so far in the preseason. Any worries about the right side have been unfounded and the line certainly deserves a lot of the credit for the successes of the recent past. Last season, they laid the foundation for a successful offense despite numerous injuries (Arian Foster, Matt Schaub) and disappointments (Jacoby Jones) from the skill position players.

According to reports, Connor Barwin is also due an extension and so is Matt Schaub as both are coming up on free agency at the end of this season. Barwin is much more likely to receive one than Schaub. Schaub just turned 31 and, if he suffers a significant injury again this season, Houston will likely significantly decrease their offer to him and force him to look elsewhere unless he’s willing to be paid less to lead the team under center. After this past season, the Texans would likely be confident in handing the reigns to TJ Yates after his performance in 2011. He’s already clearly their quarterback of the future.

Photo courtesy Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
5. A spleen injury is usually no big deal. You don’t even need your spleen. And when you have it removed, all you need is some rest.

Unfortunately for Jason Witten, it’s not July anymore. It’s August and the NFL season is just a few weeks away. Right now, Witten says that there is no timetable for his return which means that he could miss the season opener and won’t likely be 100% even when he does come back.

This hurts in two ways: the Cowboys open against the New York Giants, a division game on the road, and it also hurts fantasy owners who will need to draft a second tight end if they want to roll with Witten all season. I wouldn’t advise drafting two tight ends, but you’ll have to make a special exception if you want Witten this season.

Witten’s value is already taking a hit this season, not because of Tony Romo, the Cowboys receivers, or the running backs, but because the offensive line looks so bad, maybe worse than last season. Witten is likely going to need to help the rest of the O-Line block. While he’ll be valuable as a check-down type guy who receives a lot of short passes, his touchdown numbers will likely be down once again this season.

6. Finally, while the Olympics are over, the athletes that have become celebrities are starting to enjoy their fame now that they’ve come home from London. Last night, the “Fierce Five” aka the US women’s gymnastics team, appeared on the Colbert Report as a new batch of interns that certainly make menial tasks all the more interesting and fun to watch.

As you can see, McKayla Maroney is not impressed. Her self-awareness of her own internet meme is one of the best developments of the Olympics and a seminal moment in internet history, for sure.

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About Javi Perez

Javi Perez is a contributing editor with Playmaker Magazine heading up the sports desk, as well as covering the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, film, and TV. He currently lives in San Antonio.