SORIA TO THE TIGERS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Wednesday night, the news broke that the Rangers had completed the recently rumored trade of closer Joakim Soria to Detroit for a pair of minor league prospects. Both prospects are highly regarded, two of the top five in the Tigers’ minor league system. Both are pitchers, and both are native Texans. Jake Thompson, 20, is a starting pitcher drafted out of Rockwall Heath High School in 2012 in the second round. Corey Knebel is a power reliever drafted in 2013 out of the University of Texas. He graduated from Georgetown High School.

The Padres set the benchmark for closers last week when they received four of the Angels’ top 10 prospects in return for their All-Star closer Huston Street. Soria, who is under team control next season too, perhaps fetched the Rangers an even better return, even though the Rangers received fewer bodies. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus tweeted last night, “Love this trade for Texas. When it comes to upside, Rangers could be quite happy w/ this return.”

Thompson began the season at class A Lakeland, where he was 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 16 starts. The good start earned a promotion to class AA Erie. He has made two starts since the promotion, going 1-0 with a 2.96 ERA. He was assigned to AA Frisco by the Rangers.

Knebel was the 39th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The 6′-3″ right hander started this season at Erie, but was promoted to AAA Toledo. His overall ERA was 1.62 and he averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He actually made his Major League debut for the Tigers this year, appearing in eight games. He was assigned to AAA Round Rock by Texas, but there is a strong likelihood that he will be a September call-up when the rosters expand.

With Soria’s departure, Neftali Feliz becomes the Rangers’ closer. Feliz is only bullpen hand with closing experience as he was the Rangers’ closer in the World Series years of 2010 and 2011. Texas shifted him to the starting rotation in 2012 which led to Tommy John surgery that summer. He has been slow to recover since returning last season.

Just last month, I had lunch with a local sportscaster who contended that the Rangers would not trade Soria as they would need him next season as their closer. The thought was that the Rangers would bounce back into contention next season after surely having far fewer injuries. He was probably right at the time, but the Rangers’ performance on the field since has shown that this Ranger team is playing poorly not only because of injuries, but because it isn’t a well designed unit. The problems of letting so much talent depart from the World Series years without suitable replacements has caught up with them. The trade of Soria is a clear admission by the Rangers that they likely won’t be contending next year.

Jason Frasor has already been traded to a contender. The top two remaining candidates to get moved prior to next week’s non-waiver trade deadline are Neal Cotts and Alex Rios.

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TORONTO TAKES A PAIR

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Sunday afternoon in Toronto, the Rangers dropped the rubber game of their three game series with the Blue Jays by the score of 9-6. It was the 10th time the Rangers have gone to the final game of a three game series tied 1-1, and they have lost the rubber match seven times. This was the final meeting of the year between these two teams, and Toronto won the season series four games to two. The Rangers have gone 2-11-1 in their last 14 series.

Nick Tepexch was the Rangers starter, and he was hit hard. After completing a scoreless first inning, he gave up three runs in the second and another in the third. He retired the side in order in the fourth inning, but Toronto tagged him for another run in the fifth. He lasted 4-1/3 innings allowing five earned runs. 11 of the 24 batters he faced reached base on nine hits and two walks.

Texas trailed 5-2 after five but came back with three runs in the sixth to tie the game. With two outs and the bases loaded, a balk and single plated the thee runs. That took Tepesch off the hook for the loss. However, Melky Cabrera homered off Neftali Feliz in the seventh to break the tie. Matt West sealed the deal for the Jays when he gave up three more runs in the eighth. Texas rallied in the ninth, but managed just one run and left two men on base.

Feliz (0-1) took the loss. Todd Redmond (1-4) was the Jays’ winning pitcher in relief, and Aaron Loup earned his fourth save by retiring the final batter.

The Rangers ended their eight game losing streak on Friday night in game one of the second half. Yu Darvish (9-5) pitched 6-2/3rds innings of one run ball, and the Rangers supported him with five runs, four of which scored on home runs. Former Ranger and Cy Young Award winner, R. A. Dickey, started for Toronto and was tough. The Rangers finally cracked the scoreboard when Adrian Beltre opened the fifth inning with a home run. After J. P. Arencibia was hit by a pitch, Rougned Odor tripled him home for a 2-0 lead. Arencibia extended the lead to 5-0 with a three runs home run in the seventh inning, his second of the year. Cody Rasmus led off Toronto’s seventh inning with a home run to break up Darvish’s shutout bid. Still Darvish recorded 12 strikeouts on the ninth, his 26th career game with a double digit strikeout total.

Toronto came back to win 4-1 on Saturday behind a strong pitching performance from Marcus Stroman. Stroman (5-2) threw seven shutout innings at the Rangers getting touched for just four hits, all singles. He struck out five and walked no one.

Colby Lewis (6-7) struggled on the field but turned in good results. The on the mound struggles ran up his pitch count to limit his outing to five innings, but he allowed just a pair of runs in the fourth inning. 11 of the 25 batters Lewis faced (eight hits and three walks) reached base, so he was fortunate to hold Toronto to just two runs. Ryan Feierabend was charged with the other two runs, both of which scored in the seventh. Texas nicked reliever Brett Cecil for their only tally of the game in the eighth inning.

The losses in Toronto maintained the Rangers’ claim to the worst record in baseball. They have just two wins in July and are now 20 games under .500 at 39-59. That’s a pace for 64 wins on the season. When Oakland beat Baltimore later in the afternoon, Texas fell to 22 games out of first place. Both Oakland and Los Angeles will likely have more wins by the end of July than the Rangers will have at season’s end.

The seven game road trip concludes with four games in New York against the Yankees. Texas will face the Yankees in seven of the next 10 games. The announced pitchers for the series are Miles Mikolas (0-2) on Monday, Nick Martinez (1-6) on Tuesday Yu Darvish (9-5) Wednesday and Colby Lewis (6-7) in Thursday’s finale.

ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: Geovany Soto was activated for the series and became the 51st player to appear in a game this season for the Rangers. He took Jason Frasor’s roster spot, as Frasor was traded to Kansas City for reliever Spencer Patton, who was assigned to AAA Round Rock. J. P. Arencibia was recalled from Round Rock. Arencibia is known as a catcher, but has been working at first base, where he played 20 games before being recalled to Arlington. Carlos Pena was designated for assignment to make room for Arencibia on the active roster. Pena cleared waivers and accepted assignment to Round Rock.

Texas announced that Nick Martinez would be activated from the disabled list to start Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. Joseph Ortiz, who has been on the disabled list for the entire season, began a minor league rehab assignment with the Rookie League Arizona Rangers. Jim Adduci is on a minor league rehab assignment, and he could be activated for this week’s New York series. Sin-Shoo Choo is still nursing an ankle injury. He did not start Sunday, though he later pinch hit, and he was the designated hitter in the first two games of the series.

TRADE RUMORS: The trade of Jason Frasor to Kansas City this week is likely the start of a number of Ranger trades. Literally every team in a pennant race is seeking bullpen help, so Neal Cotts is also likely to be wearing a different uniform by August. Frasor and Cotts will be free agents after the season and could be re-signed by the Rangers for next year. There are also strong suggestions that Detroit and Texas are seriously talking about a deal that would move Joakim Soria to the Tigers. Tiger closer Joe Nathan struggled again Saturday as the Tigers dropped a double header, undoubtedly heightening Detroit’s interest in Soria.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre played his 2,283rd game at third base on Friday night to move into third place on the all time list of games played at third base. He broke the tie with Gary Gaetti. Graig Nettles (2,412) is second on that list, and Brooks Robinson (2,870) is first.

* First base coach Benji Molina was not in Toronto for the series for personal reasons. He is scheduled to re-join the team in New York for the balance of the road trip.

* The Rangers accomplished the rare feat of striking out four times in an inning Saturday. Adrian Beltre is the batter that reached first on a passed ball after his strikeout. It was the fourth time to occur in Ranger history, all in the 21st century; and the first time four batters struck out in an inning in a Major League game in more than a year.

* Roman Mendez retired all four batters he faced on Saturday and is now unscored upon in his first four Major League appearances.

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ALL-STAR BREAK NOTES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers announced a trade on Wednesday. They sent relief pitcher Jason Frasor to Kansas City for Spencer Patton. Patton has played this season at Omaha, the Royals AAA affiliate, and made the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. He had a 4-3 record with 14 saves. Patton will be assigned to AAA Round Rock.

The Rangers also announced that Geovany Soto would be activated prior to Friday’s game in Toronto to fill Frasor’s roster spot on the 25 man roster. It is anticipated that Soto and Robinson Chirinos will be handling most of the catching assignments.

Undoubtedly, this will not be the last trade as GM Jon Daniels works to re-make the team for next year.

Derek Holland appeared on the Ben & Skin show Wednesday afternoon on The Fan (105.3 FM). He said that he does not expect to be activated before September when the rosters expand.

The Rangers have now set their rotation for this weekend’s series in Toronto. Yu Darvish (8-5) will pitch Friday. He’ll be followed by Colby Lewis (6-6) on Saturday and Nick Tepesch (3-5) on Sunday.

In Tuesday’s All-Star game, Yu Darvish pitched a perfect third inning, retiring the National League on 14 pitches. He struck out Yasiel Puig, and coaxed line drive outs from Troy Tulowitzki and Paul Goldschmidt. Darvish was an All-Star in his first two seasons in the league, but this was his first time to actually appear in the game.

Adrian Beltre played third base late in the game, but made just one plate appearance drawing a walk.

Three former Rangers that were integral parts of the 2011 World Series team also appeared in the game. Nelson Cruz was the starting designated hitter. He went 0-2 with a strikeout. Ian Kinsler was the third second baseman to appear for the American League after starter Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve. Kinsler struck out in his only at bat. Koji Uehara faced one batter, striking out Devin Mesoraco to end the sixth inning.

It was an entertaining game. The American League won 5-3, and consequently, the American League Champion will have home field advantage in this year’s World Series. It is noteworthy that the team with home field advantage has won the World Series in each of the last five years.

The Angels’ Mike Trout, the youngest All-Star in this year’s game, went 2-3, with a triple, two RBI’s and a run scored. He was named the MVP of the game and received a new Corvette for the honor.

Much was made, perhaps too much, of Derek Jeter playing in his final All-Star game. He has been an outstanding player, certainly one of the top 10 Yankees of all time. He has always handled himself with dignity and class on and off the field. He is a credit to the game and certainly deserving of being honored Tuesday night.

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ANGELS SWEEP

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers were swept in a four game series this weekend by the Angels for the first time in Ranger history. Los Angeles outscored Texas 33-15 to maintain their lead as the highest scoring team in baseball. The Angels’ sweep also completed an 0-7 home stand for Texas, the first time the team has ever lost every game of a home stand of more than six games. For the 20 game stretch over the last three weeks leading up to the All-Star game, the Rangers finished 3-17. They go to the break with the worst record in baseball at 38-57.

Houston outscored the Rangers 28-14 earlier in the week, and in game one of this series, the Angels started in on Ranger pitching where the Astros left off. Colby Lewis was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and he set two dubious records while recording just seven outs. He allowed the most runs (13) and earned runs (11) in an appearance by a Ranger pitcher. The Angels scored four in the first inning, and after the Rangers answered with two in the bottom half, Los Angeles came back with a vengeance to score six more in the second, and three more in the third, all being charged to Lewis. He didn’t walk a batter, but allowed 13 hits to the 20 batters he faced. Four of the 13 hits went for extra bases, including Mike Trout’s 21st home run.

Aaron Poreda gave up two more runs in the eighth inning to make the Angels’ final tally 15. The Rangers added single runs in the fourth and sixth and two more in the ninth to make the final score 15-6. The Angels’ Hector Santiago (1-7) was the beneficiary of the Angels’ offensive explosion as he started and won for the first time this season.

It was another sloppily played game as the Rangers were charged with two errors. Elvis Andrus also missed a foul pop that should have been caught, but he was not charged with an error on the play. After using three relievers, including Mark West making his Major League debut, Washington wanted to save his beleaguered bullpen. Consequently, Chris Gimenez pitched the ninth inning, and he did well. He retired the Angels in order, including a strikeout, on 12 pitches. It was the second time this year, but just the eighth time in Ranger history, that a position player took the mound.

After the game, Washington was furious and held a 30 minute team meeting. Few details of his talk at the meeting have surfaced, though jobs were threatened. Washington says he knows the players are trying, but he questions their commitment. The Rangers however responded with three more losses.

Games two and three of the series broke the pattern of high scoring affairs. Only three runs were plated in game two on Friday night. Unfortunately, for Texas all three of them were Angels’ runs, as Garrett Richards pitched a marvelous seven innings, and the always scary Angels’ bullpen got the final six outs to complete the shutout. The win ran Richards’ record to 11-2, and the seven shutout innings dropped his ERA to 2.55. He is perhaps the biggest snub of players left off the All-Star team.

Nick Tepesch pitched well for Texas. His record fell to 3-5 with the loss. In this season that has become about “development” instead of winning, a strong performance from Tepesch over the balance of the season is one of the best things that could happen for the Rangers. With little likelihood of contributions from Matt Harrison and Martin Perez next year, establishing a reliable pitcher for the starting rotation, even if he’s just a back of the rotation starter, would be a big plus for 2015.

Eric Nadel was honored prior to Saturday’s game as he prepares to be inducted into the media wing of baseball’s Hall of Fame. The giveaway item for the evening were 15,000 Eric Nadel bobble head dolls. The game that followed was similar to the game two. The score was 5-2 instead of a romp.

Miles Mikolas (0-2) was the Ranger starting and losing pitcher. He did well early as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning. The Rangers failed to support him defensively, and he seemingly ran out of gas, giving up four runs in the sixth, which he couldn’t finish. Jered Weaver (10-6) allowed both Ranger runs over seven innings. A pair of Angels’ relievers held Texas off the scoreboard over the final two innings to secure the win.

In Sunday’s finale, Scott Baker was the starting pitcher. He gave up five runs on nine hits in four innings and was tagged with his third loss. Four relievers followed with each giving up at least one run. 10-7 was the final score. The score was tied at four after three innings, but the Angels never trailed again after taking the lead in the fourth. Los Angeles consistently pounded Ranger pitching as they failed to score in just the first and seventh innings. Surprisingly on a very hot day, there were no home runs hit in the game.

Angels’ lefty Tyler Skaggs (5-5) was the winning pitcher, and Angels’ closer Joe Smith earned his 15th save with a perfect ninth inning. Smith has been terrific since taking over as the Angels’ closer. He has converted 15 of 16 save opportunities and has not allowed a hit in his last 10 appearances.

One continuing problem for the Rangers is their defense. They made at least one error in each of the four games with the Angels, and have committed an error in each of the last six games, a season high. They have the second lowest fielding percentage among the 30 Major League teams and have committed 69 errors, a pace of 118 for the season.

The Angels finish the first half having won five games in a row and 26 of their last 35 to put the heat on division leading Oakland. The A’s have the best record in baseball as they are 23 games over .500 at 59-36. That’s five more wins than any other division leader, yet they lead Los Angeles by just 1.5 games (one in the loss column), as the Angels have the second best record in baseball.

The Rangers, except Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre take four days off for the All-Star break. Play resumes next Friday in Toronto. Darvish (8-5) will start the opening game of the series. The starters for the games next Saturday and Sunday have not been announced. The road trip continues to New York for four games with the Yankees next week before the Rangers return to Arlington.

INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: Texas sent Phil Irwin, the announced starting pitcher for the finale of the Angels series to Round Rock on Thursday and called up reliever Mark West, as the bullpen was decimated from the short starts in the Houston series. On Saturday, the Rangers optioned Aaron Poreda to Round Rock and called up left-hander Ryan Feierabend. Feierabend became the 50th player to appear for the Rangers this season, the most ever used by a Major League team before the All-Star break. Derek Holland was sent back to Arizona for more rehabilitation, though he is tentatively scheduled to make his first minor league rehab appearance on July 28 for Frisco. Outfielder Engel Beltre was recalled from his minor league rehab assignment and placed back on the disabled list. Jim Adduci is expected to start a minor league rehab assignment soon.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre’s hitting streak came to an end at 15 games when he went 0-3 in Saturday’s game. He still goes into the All-Star break with the league leading batting average at .337.

* Rookie outfielder Jake Smolenski has 10 hits in his first six games with the Rangers and is hitting .476. He also made two brilliant diving catches in Saturday’s game.

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SILVER BOOT RACE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Houston took the lead in this year’s race for the Silver Boot by sweeping Texas in a three game series to start this week. It was just the second sweep for the Astros since the series began; the first since 2003. The Silver Boot is the rotating trophy that stays with the winner of the Lone Star series. Houston has now won five consecutive games between the two teams for the first time ever and leads for the Silver Boot 6-3 with 10 games remaining.

The Houston series is emblematic of the Rangers’ season. A year ago, Texas easily thumped the Astros for the Silver boot with a 17-2 record. A year ago, the Rangers won 91 games and just missed the playoffs when they lost to Tampa Bay in a playoff for the final Wild Card spot. Now, the Rangers are 15 games under .500 and trail first place Oakland in the A. L. West by 19 games. Instead of fighting for a playoff berth, the Rangers are fighting the Astros for fourth place; and with this week’s sweep, Houston is percentage points ahead of Texas. The Rangers woke up Thursday morning with the worst record in baseball.

The first two games of the series were similar in that Houston grabbed an early lead and never gave it up. Miles Mikolas started game one for Texas. He set the Astros down in order in the first inning with two pop outs and a strikeout, and that was the highlight of his day. The first five Astros in the second inning singled followed by a triple from Marwin Gonzalez, who later scored on a ground out. That gave the Astros a 6-0 lead. The Rangers pecked away at the lead with single runs in the second and third innings, but Jon Singleton essentially put the game away for Houston with a three-run home run in the fourth.

12-7 was the final. Mikolas (0-1) took the loss after giving up nine runs on 12 hits in 3-1/3rd innings. Scott Baker gave up the other three runs. Houston’s Jason Cosart (9-6) was the winning pitcher though he got hit hard too. He barely got through the five innings required of a starting pitcher for a win, giving up six runs on nine hits.

The Astros finished with 17 hits, while Texas had 11. Adrian Beltre hit the only Ranger home run.

On Tuesday, the Astros didn’t wait until the second inning to take the lead. They tagged Phil Irwin, making his Ranger debut, for two runs in the first. The Astros maintained that two run lead at 5-3 after seven innings, but put the game away in the eighth with three runs, one of which came on Chris Carter’s 17th home run. They again reached double digits in hits with 12. 8-3 was the final score. Brad Peacock (3-5) was the winning pitcher, and Irwin (0-1) took the loss.

Wednesday night, Yu Darvish was the Rangers’ hope to avoid the sweep. He was staked to four early runs, but it wasn’t good enough. He gave up six runs on 10 hits and took the loss to drop his record to 8-5. He had command issues on his rare off night. One Astro run scored on a wild pitch. Among the 10 hits he allowed was a home run to Robbie Grossman that tied the game at four in the fifth inning.

Carlos Corporan doubled home two runs in the sixth to give Houston a 6-4 lead. They added two more in the seventh inning with a George Springer home run. That made the final score 8-4. Dallas Keuchel (9-5) was the starting and winning pitcher for Houston.

The Astros arrived on a seven game losing streak, but they played with more energy and enthusiasm. After three years in the basement, they have a real chance of climbing over Texas for fourth place in the West. They played sharper, crisper ball than the Rangers. George Springer was especially impressive. He was 4-14 in the series with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs. He made a catch Wednesday night that finished number one on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day.

Texas made three errors in the series and misplayed other balls from a lackadaisical effort. The Rangers look lethargic; like they are ready for the All-Star break. Certainly a lot of the difference between the two teams is mental. Scrambling to stay out of the basement is a comedown for Texas. Having a chance to get out of last place after three straight years with the worst record in baseball is an exciting prospect for the Astros.

The Rangers have now lost four straight games and 10 of their last 11. The so called “first half”, the portion of the season prior to the All-Star game, concludes with four games this weekend at home against the Angels. Barring a rainout, Texas will have played 95 games in the “first half”, which is actually 59% of the season.

Texas has twice played the Angels this year in three game series in Anaheim, but this weekend’s series will be the first in Arlington. The Angels won four of the first six games. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Colby Lewis (6-5) on Thursday, Nick Tepesch (3-4) on Friday, Miles Mikolas (0-1) on Saturday and Phil Irwin (0-1) on Sunday.

INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: On Monday, the Rangers added reliever Roman Mendez and outfielder Jake Smolenski, calling both up from Round Rock. To make room on the active roster, outfielder Michael Choice was optioned to Round Rock, and infielder Donnie Murphy was designated for assignment. Nick Martinez was scratched from his Tuesday start with a back problem caused by taking batting practice in anticipation of pitching last weekend against the Mets in New York. He was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, and Phil Irwin was called up from Round Rock to start Tuesday’s game. Also, General Manager Jon Daniels said on ESPN radio (103.3 FM) on Monday that Derek Holland was probably a month away from joining the team. He admitted that if the team was in contention, they would likely accelerate the pace of his rehabilitation, but they are being more cautious because the team is out of contention.

NOTABLE:

* After Mendez, Smolenski and Irwin appeared in the Astros series, the Rangers have used 48 players this year, including 27 pitchers. (Mitch Moreland is included in the pitcher count.) Irwin became the 12th pitcher to start a game for the Rangers this year. 14 of the players used have been rookies. Last year for the entire season, the Rangers used 46 players including 24 pitchers and 13 rookies. The Rangers’ record is 55 players used in a season in 2008.

* Phil Irwin became the 1,000th player in the history of the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise to appear in a game.

* Adrian Beltre had at least one hit in all three games with Houston to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He is hitting .388 during the hitting streak, his longest of the season, which has lifted his average for the year to .336. He will be making his fourth All-Star appearance next week in Minnesota.

* Jake Smolinskki doubled home a run in the seventh inning on Tuesday night for his first Major League hit and RBI. He became the fifth Ranger batter this season to get his first Major League hit, joining Rougned Odor, Daniel Robertson, Luis Sardinas and Nick Tepesch for the distinction.

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METS TAKE TWO

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers dropped two in New York this weekend to finish the week with a 1-6 record and drop 17 games behind Oakland in the West. The last time the Rangers were as many as 17 games out of first place was the end of the 2007 season, when they finished 21 games behind. They are 12 games under .500, the most at any point in a season since the end of 2007, when they finished 75-87.

The lone win came on Saturday night when Colby Lewis was the starting pitcher. Lewis should receive serious consideration as the Rangers’ offensive player of the year. When he takes the mound, the offense scores runs, as the Rangers are averaging slightly more than five runs per game in his starts. On Saturday, the Rangers’ offense provided five runs again, as Texas pushed across four runs in the first inning with the big blow being a three run home run from Robinson Chirinos. Adrian Beltre hit his 11th of the season in the third inning to complete the Rangers’ scoring for the night at five.

Five proved to be enough as Lewis completed six innings for the third consecutive start. It was also his second consecutive quality start, after having no quality starts in his first 13 outings. He allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits. He struck out seven as his record improved to 6-5, despite his unsightly 5.51 ERA. Neal Cotts, Shawn Tolleson and Joakim Soria each pitched an inning in relief to finalize the win at 5-3. Soria was credited with his 16th save of the year.

In the other two games, the Mets took charge early with crooked numbers in the first inning. On Friday, that crooked number was a three to give the Amazins a 3-1 lead. Texas actually came back to tie the game at four in the seventh inning, but Mets’ catcher Travis d’Amaud doubled home two eighth inning runs to break the tie. The Rangers’ ninth inning rally fell a run short. 6-5 was the final score.

Yu Darvish was the starting pitcher, and he admitted afterward that the windy conditions bothered him. After giving up a run scoring double followed by a home run in the first inning, he stiffened, allowing just one more run in the fourth. He came out in the sixth inning for a pinch hitter, which limited his pitch count for the night to 94. All four runs were earned. The Mets tagged him for five hits, and he struck out seven in five innings.

Neftali Feliz followed Darvish to the mound, making his 2014 Ranger debut. He kept the Rangers in the game with two scoreless innings, walking two and striking out two. Aaron Poreda and Jason Frasor each gave up an eighth inning run. Poreda (2-1) took the 6-4 loss.

On Sunday, the Mets really took charge early with five first inning runs. Starting pitcher Nick Tepesch surrendered all five runs after retiring two of the first three batters. From there, he allowed three hits and a walk, the big blow being an Anthony Recker home run with two runners aboard to make the score 5-0. Tepesch finished six innings allowing one more Mets’ run.

However, the Rangers’ offense wasn’t having any luck with Mets’ starter Zach Wheeler. Wheeler pitched into the seventh inning allowing six hits, but just one tally on a Chirinos home run, his ninth. Five Mets relievers finished the game, allowing three runs along the way. 8-4 was the final score. Wheeler (4-8) was the winning pitcher, while Tepesch’s record fell to 3-4.

The Rangers are back in town for seven home games leading up to the All-Star break. Houston is on tap for the first three. The announced starting pitchers are Miles Mikolas (0-0) on Monday, Nick Martinez (1-6) on Tuesday, and Yu Darvish (8-4) on Wednesday. Actually, there is some doubt about Martinez on Tuesday. He could be replaced by Round Rock’s Phil Irwin.

ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: Neftali Feliz was activated on Friday, and Ben Rowen was optioned to Round Rock to make room for Feliz.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish were named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday night. Darvish is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday this week, so likely will see action in the All-Star game.

* The Rangers are now 4-8 all time against the Mets and are 6-9 verses National League teams this season.

* Colby Lewis was 1-3 at the plate Saturday to extend his hitting streak to four games, which ties him for the longest hitting streak ever by a Texas pitcher. Mike Paul in 1972 also had a four game hitting streak in the days before the designated hitter. Lewis is a career .280 hitter (7-25).

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ORIOLES BLAST RANGERS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Baltimore cashed in eight home runs for a four game sweep of Texas to start the week. The Rangers dropped to 11 games under .500 for the season and now trail Oakland by 15 games, the largest deficit of any team in baseball except for the last place Astros, who are just two games behind the Rangers.

The Rangers were never really in the first two games. Joe Saunders, making his 10th Ranger start, was terrible in game one. He gave up four home runs for the second time in his career that led to seven runs scored for Baltimore. 7-1 was the final score. Saunders’ record fell to 0-5. The loss finished June with a 9-17 record and just two series wins for Texas

ESPN radio’s Mike Peasley commented that Washington was as down as he has seen him in a long time after Monday’s game.

The month of July didn’t start any better. Baltimore blasted three more home runs, including one by Nelson Cruz in an 8-3 loss. Nick Martinez probably pitched better than his pitching line, but he didn’t pitch well. He was charged with all eight runs, two of which were unearned, allowing seven hits and walking a batter. His record dropped to 1-6.

The Birds took charge of both games early by scoring four runs in the first and second innings in both games.

Texas actually took a lead in game three, pushing across a run in the first and adding three more in the third inning. Meanwhile, Miles Mikolas was blanking the Orioles the first time through the batting order. The Birds chipped into the four run lead with a singleton in the fourth inning, but Mikolas took that 4-1 lead into the sixth. He retired just one batter, as did relievers Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts. Mikolas ended the evening charged with three runs, and his chance to be the winning pitcher went out the door when Baltimore finished the sixth with three runs scored to tie the game.

They proceeded to add two more runs an inning later off Cotts, who took the loss to drop his record to 2-5. 6-4 was the final score, though the game didn’t end quickly. There was a rain delay of 1:38 after Baltimore took the lead, such that this one ended at almost midnight local time. It was the first weather delay for Texas this year.

The second weather delay came a day later, as Thursday’s series finale was delayed 56 minutes at the start. The result was the same as Baltimore won 5-2. Baltimore scored first in the third inning, but Texas came back with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. It was short-lived as Baltimore answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim the lead for good.

Hurricane Arthur perhaps decided Thursday’s game. Yu Darvish was the originally scheduled Ranger starting pitcher. He was scratched for fear of a wasted start thwarted by inclement weather. He was moved to Friday against the Mets in New York, though now Tropical Storm Arthur still threatens rain delay problems.

Scott Baker took the start on short notice and did an admirable job. He allowed three runs on seven hits over 4-2/2″3rds innings, but took the loss to fall to 0-2.

Since the Rangers’ critical nine game road trip began on June 13 against the three teams ahead of them in the West, Texas has gone 5-14 to essentially wipe out the 2014 season. The offense was already offensive, but the starting pitching has absolutely cratered. Darvish has started and won three of the five games the Rangers have won over the past three weeks. Basically, Texas has little chance to win in the games he does not start.

The road trip concludes this weekend with three games in New York against the Mets. It will be the first Ranger appearance in CitiField. The announced starting pitchers are Yu Darvish (8-4) on Friday night, Colby Lewis (5-5) on Saturday, and Nick Martinez (1-6) on Sunday.

ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: On Monday, Tampa Bay claimed reliever Cory Burns on waivers. Burns had been waived to make room on the 40-man roster for the addition of Adam Rosales. On Tuesday, the Rangers designated Joe Saunders for assignment and called up Miles Mikolas from AAA Round Rock. Mikolas was immediately inserted into the rotation to start Wednesday’s game in Baltimore.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre was named as the Rangers’ Player of the Month for June. He hit .392 with a league leading 22 RBIs. It was the seventh time he has won the award, which ties him with Alex Rodriguez for the most by a Ranger since the Award was instituted in 1998.

* Adam Rosales made his 2014 Ranger debut as Tuesday’s designated hitter, and Miles Mikolas made his Ranger debut as Wednesday’s starting pitcher. They became the 43rd and 44th players to appear in a Ranger game this season.

* Ranger executive Jim Sundberg announced Wednesday that he would be retiring at season’s end. Sundberg has been a member of the Rangers’ front office since 2004, and his current title is senior executive vice president, which he has held since October of 2008. He broke into the big leagues with Texas in 1974 and played 16 years in the Majors, also appearing with the Cubs, Royals and Brewers. He has also served the Rangers as a broadcaster and minor league instructor.

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THE MINNESOTA TONIC

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Minnesota Twins proved to be the curative tonic the Rangers needed for their eight game losing streak. Rangers’ starting pitchers gave up just two runs in 21-1/3rd innings this weekend to propel the team to a series win, two games to one. The Twins avoided a sweep with a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon, after losing 5-4 and 5-0 in the first two games. It was the first series win for the Rangers since taking two of three in Seattle over Father’s Day weekend, and just their second series win in the month of June.

Nick Tepesch started the weekend with his best outing of the season and perhaps his best outing ever in the Major Leagues. He took a shutout into the eighth inning, departing with one out and a 5-0 lead. He was touched for three hits and walked two, while striking out five. Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts each retired a batter to get out of the eighth. Texas looked on point to finish off a comfortable win as they sent Joakim Soria out in the ninth still holding that 5-0 lead.

Soria has seen little action in the past couple of weeks with the team struggling to win games. The rust showed. The first four batters reached base on two hits, a walk and a fielding error. After a pop out, Jorge Polanco tripled for his first Major League hit to unload the bases and bring the Twins within one at 5-4. With the tying run only 90 feet away, Soria stiffened, getting a strikeout and groundout to strand Polanco and secure Tepesch’s win, which evened his record at 3-3.

Twins’ starter Kevin Correa was charged with the loss to drop his record to 4-9.

The standout performance of the weekend for Texas though was the gem that Yu Darvish threw at Minnesota on Saturday. Darvish usually experiments with his pitches early in games to see what works. On Saturday, it turned out to be the cut fastball. Once he kicked in, he was truly dominating. Minnesota got three hits in the first two innings, but the second proved to be the only inning that two Twins reached base.

After the second, there were just two more Twins’ base runners in the game. Darvish finished eight shutout innings to drop his ERA to 2.42. His record improved to 8-4, after he had lost in his two previous starts. He struck out 10 in the game, the 25th start of his career in which he has a double digit strikeout total. That’s good enough for second place in Ranger history behind Nolan Ryan’s 34.

Neal Cotts finished off the shutout with a spotless ninth inning. It was the Rangers’ league leading 14th shutout, and Darvish has been the starting pitcher in six of them.

Offensively, the Rangers staked Darvish to a lead with single runs in the second and third innings. 2-0 was still the score when the Rangers came to bat in the eighth as Twins’ starter Phil Hughes was dealing almost as well as Darvish. However, the Rangers loaded the bases with one out, and brought Luis Sardinas off the bench to pinch hit. Pinch bunt may be a better term for his at bat, as he executed a suicide squeeze play perfectly with Elvis Andrus scoring from third. The extra insurance run looked good, but Leonys Martin put the icing on the cake when he followed Sardinas with a two run double.

Hughes (8-4) took the loss for Minnesota.

Colby Lewis was Sunday’s starter, and he completed six innings for the second consecutive start, the only two starts of six innings this season for the big man from Bakersfield. Texas staked him to a one run lead when Adrian Belte singled home a run in the first inning. The Twins pushed across two in the third off Lewis to take the lead, but a Robinson Chirinos home run in the fifth inning tied the game at two.

The game stayed tied until the ninth inning, when the Twins touched Joakim Soria for a run. That made Twins starter Kyle Gibson (7-6) the winning pitcher after he completed eight innings. Glen Perkins struck out the three batters he faced in the ninth inning for his 20th save. Soria, who allowed five of the seven runs the Twins scored in the series, took the loss to fall to 1-3 on the season.

Sunday’s game was the Rangers’ 81st of the year, the mathematical halfway point in the season. Texas has hit 57 home runs, which ranks 14th out of 15 A. L. teams. The Rangers’ record is now seven games under .500, good for fourth place in the West. They trail first place Oakland by a season high fourteen games. They are two games ahead of Houston and trail Seattle for third place by 6.5 games. The Rangers’ front office has all but waived the white flag on the season, as General Manager Jon Daniels indicated this week that this season is now about “development”.

Texas departs for a seven game road trip. It starts with four games in Baltimore this week, followed by inter-league play against the Mets in New York over the Fourth of July weekend. The announced starting pitchers in Baltimore are Joe Saunders (0-4) on Monday, Nick Martinez (1-5) on Tuesday, Nick Tepesch (3-3) on Wednesday, and Yu Darvish (8-4) on Thursday. The Rangers beat the Orioles once in a three game series in early June in the only action this season between the two teams.

ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: After Sunday’s game, the Rangers announced that they would add infielder Adam Rosales to the roster for the series in Baltimore, and that Luis Sardinas has been optioned to AAA Round Rock to make room on the active roster for him. Brad Snyder ended up rejecting the assignment at AAA Round Rock and chose free agency instead. Derek Holland was with the team this weekend and threw 67 pitches in a simulated game Saturday morning. He will not be joining the Rangers on this week’s road trip and plan to make a decision as to minor league re-hab assignments when the team returns from the next home stand.

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EIGHT IS ENOUGH

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Detroit completed a three game sweep of Texas Thursday evening with a 6-0 whitewashing. The three losses ran the Rangers’ losing streak to eight games, the longest of the season and the longest since an eight game losing streak in 2005. The Rangers have now fallen 13 games out of first place in the American League West and hold just a two game lead over the last place Astros.

The series with the Tigers was the start of 20 consecutive games scheduled over 20 consecutive days, the most allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players’ Association, leading up to the All-Star break. It also marked the return of two former Rangers from last year’s team – Ian Kinsler and Joe Nathan. The controversial Kinsler received a mixed, but generally positive reception from fans as he stepped to the plate in the first inning. His at bat was very familiar to Ranger fans. He deposited a ball into the left field seats, his ninth home run of the year to give Detroit an instant 1-0 lead.

That hit came off Colby Lewis, who went on to complete six innings for the first time this season. His pitch count at that point was a reasonable 84, and the game was tied 1-1, so Lewis started the seventh. Bad choice. Three of the first four Tigers he faced got hits, including a two run home run from J. D. Martinez; and all three ultimately scored. The Tigers kept on scoring after Lewis was lifted, racking up five runs in the inning. Kinsler drove home two more in the eighth inning, while the Rangers added one more run in the ninth inning to make the final score 8-2.

Lewis lost his quality start with his seventh inning performance and lost his fifth game of the year. He’s 5-5, after allowing four runs on nine hits over 6-1/3rd innings. Tigers’ lefty Travis Smyly (4-6) was the winning pitcher.

On Wednesday, the Tigers jumped on Rangers’ starting pitcher Joe Saunders for three first inning runs, and two more in the third inning. Saunders was out when Victor Martinez homered leading off the fifth inning. Saunders gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits over four innings to take the loss. He’s now 0-4. Three relievers completed the game for Texas, with two of them allowing runs.

Texas rallied back to make the game close, getting within two at 7-5, and again with a ninth inning run that made the final score 8-6. It was just the fourth game this year in which the Rangers scored at least six runs and lost. Anibal Sanchez (5-2) was the Tigers’ starting and winning pitcher. Nathan pitched the ninth inning to earn his 16th save of the year.

The Tigers had no problems completing the sweep on Thursday. They scored in the second with a bases loaded walk. They added three more runs in the third on a pair of run scoring singles. A fourth inning sacrifice fly made the score 5-0. They added the final run in the eighth. 6-0 was the final score.

Detroit’s Rick Porcello (10-4) threw the complete game shutout, limiting the Rangers to three hits, all of which were singles. It was his first career shutout. Nick Martinez started for Texas and was knocked out in the third inning. He was charged with the loss to sink his record to 1-5.

The Rangers got bad starting pitching in the series with just one starter going five innings. The puny offense was punier than usual. The Rangers never held a lead at any time in the three games. They hit just one home run – a solo shot from Carlos Pena, who was activated for the series. They were 6-28 with runners in scoring position to manage just eight runs, most of which were scored in game two after the Tigers had amassed a big lead.

The home stand concludes this weekend with three games against Minnesota. This series will complete the Rangers’ play against the Twins this year. Texas took three of four from Minnesota at Target Field in May. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Nick Tepesch (3-4) on Friday, Yu Darvish (7-4) on Saturday, and Colby Lewis (5-5) on Sunday. Ranger fans are counting on Tepesch to end the losing streak. As far as they are concerned, eight is enough.

ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Rangers purchased the contract of Carlos Pena from Round Rock. Brad Snyder was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man and 25-man active roster. When Pena played Tuesday night, he became the 42nd player to appear in a Ranger uniform this season, and the fifth to play first base. Pena was originally drafted by Texas and made his Major League debut with the Rangers in 2001. Snyder cleared waivers, but has not decided as to whether he will accept an assignment at AAA Round Rock or opt to be a free agent. Derek Holland is back in Arlington to workout with the team. He’s anxious to start a minor league rehab assignment, but the Rangers feel he is not yet 100%; so no start date has been scheduled. Outfielder Engel Beltre started his minor league rehab assignment this week. He has been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season with a fractured right tibia.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre singled in his first at bat Tuesday night leading off the second inning to become the 97th player in Major League history to record 2,500 hits. He is the sixth player to reach 2,500 hits that primarily played third base. The other five include Hall of Famers George Brett, Wade Boggs, and Brooks Robinson. Chipper Jpnes, who is not yet eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame, and Buddy Bell are the other two.

* The Tigers won the season series four games to three.

* Two Ranger farm hands were named to play in this year’s All-Star Futures Game. Third Baseman Joey Gallo was named to the U. S. team, while catcher Jorge Alfaro was named to the World team.

* The Rangers are the only team in both leagues that has not had a rain delay this season.

* The Rangers staff ERA has slumped to 4.62, which is the highest in the American League and second highest in baseball, trailing only Colorado.

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DOUBLE DIGITS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers’ deficit in the American League West ballooned up to double digits this weekend, as they were swept in Anaheim by the Angels. Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Halos’ was the Rangers’ season high fifth in a row and completed the current road trip at 3-6. The Rangers are now closer to the last place Astros, where they lead Houston by three games, than they are to the third place Mariners, where they trail by 4.5 games. Texas is five games under .500 for the first time since 2008.

The outcome of the opening game in the series hinged largely on rain in Cleveland. Angels’ coming star Garrett Richards was Friday’s starting pitcher because their game in Cleveland Wednesday night was rained out. Instead of pitching Thursday’s series finale on Lake Erie, Richards became Friday’s starter, and he was dominant over the first six innings, allowing a run on four hits. He struck out seven and ran his record to 7-2 with the win.

The Rangers touched the Halos’ bullpen for two more runs, one of which came on Michael Choice’s eighth home run. Still, Texas lost 7-3, as Joe Saunders was hit hard. He didn’t get out of the fifth inning, giving up seven runs on 10 hits, to lose for the third time this year with no wins. 13 of the 25 batters he faced reached base.

On Saturday, the Rangers struck for a first inning run off Angels’ ace Jered Weaver. Chin-Soo Choo drove in Leonys Martin from third base with a ground out. That was all the damage they would do to Weaver. He completed eight innings, giving the Rangers just four hits.

Nick Martinez was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He was perfect through five innings. The perfect game ended when Hank Conger doubled to open the sixth inning. Two groundouts later, the game was tied at one. The game was still tied and Martinez was still pitching in the eighth inning, when C. J. Cron homered leading off the inning to put the Angels ahead 2-1. At that point, the Halos were three outs away from Weaver winning his eighth game of the year and Martinez losing his fifth.

In the end, neither starter figured in the pitching decisions. Choo homered in the ninth off Kevin Jepson to tie the game. Neal Cotts held Los Angeles scoreless in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. However, the Halos’ ultimately pulled it out with Howie Kendrick driving in the game winning run with a 10th inning single for a 3-2 final score. Cotts (2-4) took the loss, while Mike Morin (1-1) was the winning pitcher for Los Angeles.

Yu Darvish started for Texas Sunday. It was the Rangers’ best chance for a win in the series. He has historically done well against the Angels with a 7-1 record coming into the game in 11 career starts. That’s the most wins Darvish has against any team, and he had won five straight in Anaheim. History did not hold true Sunday night.

The Angels pushed across a controversial unearned run in the first inning. Kole Calhoun was called out on the play at the plate, but a video review overturned the call on the basis of Ranger catcher Chris Gimenez blocking the plate. Gimenez was charged with an error when the call was overturned, and Ranger manager Ron Washington was ejected for arguing after the overturn was decided.

In the fourth inning, the Angels completed their scoring on the night, hitting Darvish hard. C. J. Cron started the rally with a one out home run to double the Angels’ lead to 2-0. It was Cron’s sixth home run of the year, but half of those came this weekend, as he hit a home run in each game of the series. David Freese doubled home a run and later scored himself when Calhoun followed with his sixth home run of the year.

That ran the score to 5-0, more than enough runs for Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker. He improved to 5-1 as he pitched into the eighth inning, allowing a run on eight hits. Joe Smith gave up a ninth inning home run to Brad Snyder for the other Ranger tally. Darvish is now 7-4, 2.62. He gave up five hits in six innings, but three of them went for extra bases in the fourth. He again had command issues, as he walked four batters, two of which scored.

This road trip was termed “critical” by manager Ron Washington at the outset because it had the potential to bury the Rangers in the West if it didn’t go well. 3-6 didn’t exactly bury the Rangers, but it didn’t improve their standing.

Oakland continues to win and seemingly has a clamp on the division championship. They have the best record in the league, with five more wins than the next best A. L. record. The Angels are playing much better ball than when the season began. Josh Hamilton is back and hitting to shore up the offense. Garrett Richards will perhaps make the All-Star team. He gives the Halos three top starters in their rotation. The bullpen has been better of late, though is still the weakest area of the team. They are five games behind Oakland (four in the loss column) and lead in the Wild Card race. Seattle is now four games over .500. They have a plus 37 run differential, third best in the A. L. They are tied with New York and Baltimore for the second Wild Card berth, trailing the Angels by two games.

In short, the Rangers have three very good teams in front of them in the West.

The biggest culprit on this road trip was the offense. The Rangers scored 35 runs in the nine games, but 14 of those came in Monday’s inexplicable outburst against Oakland. The team averaged 2.5 runs per game in the other eight games. It’s amazing they were able to scratch out two more wins.

The defense proved porous too. They committed seven errors on the trip. and currently rank 29th in fielding percentage. (Cleveland is 30th.)

Texas is off Monday, then opens a six-game home stand Tuesday. They host the Tigers and Twins for a pair of three game series that will complete the first half of the season. The announced starters for the Tigers are Colby Lewis (5-4) on Tuesday, followed by Joe Saunders (0-3) and Nick Martinez (1-4).

ROSTER MOVES: The Rangers claimed lefthanded reliever Justin Marks off waivers from Oakland Friday. He was optioned to AAA Round Rock, and Prince Fielder was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Marks.

NOTABLE:

* Alex Rios and Michael Choice were ejected from Saturday’s game. That was the first Ranger game this year with multiple ejections.

* Adrian Beltre had two hits in Sunday’s game and now needs just one to reach the 2,500 mark for his career.

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