RANGERS YANK N. Y.’s CHAIN

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Sunday evening, the Rangers won their fifth straight game and second straight series by beating the Yankees 5-2 on ESPN’s nationally televised game. The win completed a three game sweep of the Yankees after taking two of three from Boston earlier in the week for just the second and third series wins of the season. Texas scored just eight runs total in the Boston series, but broke out the whooping sticks against New York as they scored 30 runs in the series helped greatly by ten home runs. It all added up to the best week of the season for Texas (5-1). It was the Yankees’ 10th loss in their last 11 games, as they have fallen out of first place in the East Division.

Friday night started a pattern of scoring early and often. Texas seemingly took charge of the game with a big seven run third inning that featured home runs from Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. However, New York came back with four runs in the fourth to make it a game again. Both teams put a singleton on the board in the seventh inning, with the Rangers’ score coming on Fielder’s second home run of the game. That made the score 8-5. Tommy Field drove home two more in the eighth inning to seemingly put the icing on the cake at 10-5.

Instead of icing, those two runs proved to be the margin of victory as New York scored three in the bottom of the eighth and another in the ninth inning before Ross Ohlendorf recorded the 27th out of the game for a 10-9 win.

Colby Lewis was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst. He pitched into the seventh inning, allowing five runs on eight hits. Sam Freeman, Tanner Scheppers and Ohlendorf finished the game, and the Yankees scored at least one run off all three relievers. Lewis (4-2) earned the win, Ohlendorf got the save, his first ever in the Major Leagues, and Michael Pineda (5-2), the Yankees’ best starting pitcher this season, took the loss.

On Saturday afternoon, the Rangers again struck in the third inning again, this time for 10 runs. Sin-Shoo Choo starting the scoring with a single that drove home Jake Smolinski and ended it with a three run home run. In between, Fielder and Elvis Andrus drove home two runs each, while Carlos Corporan and Jake Smolinski knocked in one apiece. 10 runs is the most the Rangers have scored in an inning since August 19, 2013 and ties the New York Mets for the most runs scored in an inning this season.

As written here many times previously, when Nick Martinez pitches, the Rangers score runs and win. Martinez of course was Saturday’s starting pitcher. He completed seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits to run his record to 4-0, as he makes a push for the All-Star team. The outing lowered his ERA to 1.96.

CC Sabathia was once the Yankees ace, but he’s an ace no more. Texas knocked him out of the game in the big third inning. He gave up six of the runs on seven hits and a walk. The loss dropped his record to 2-6. Esmil Rogers gave up seven runs in relief of Sabathia.

The Rangers added five more runs for the 15-4 final score, as Yankees’ outfielder Garrett Jones even saw action on the mound. Fielder hit his eighth home run and ran his RBI total to 30 with the three he drove in Saturday.

Sunday’s game was more closely played. Texas scored one in the first, while New York came back with two runs in their half of the first for the only lead they held in the series. Adam Rosales took the lead back for the Rangers with a two run home run in the second to make the score 3-2. The Rangers added two more in the seventh to extend the lead to 5-2.

Yovani Gallardo started and completed six innings. He allowed two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out six. It was his fifth quality start, and his record improved to 4-6. Three Ranger relievers zipped the Yankees over the final three innings, with Shawn Tolleson pitching the ninth inning for the save, his third of the week and of his career.

Chris Capuano was New York’s losing pitcher. He’s 0-2 on the year.

Texas finished the week with a 21-23 record, good enough for third place in the West. They are 7.5 games behind the first place Astros and one game behind the second place Angels. They are six games ahead of last place Oakland (seven in the loss column) and one-half game ahead of fourth place Seattle.

The Rangers’ road trip concludes with three games in Cleveland beginning Monday afternoon. The announced starting pitchers are Phil Klein (1-0) Monday, Wandy Rodriguez (2-2) Tuesday, and Colby Lewis (4-2) on Wednesday. Cleveland counters with Shaun Marcum (1-0), Danny Salazar (5-1) and Carlos Carrasco (5-4). The Monday and Wednesday games are day games, and the Rangers are 5-6 in day games this season. Josh Hamilton will join the Rangers on Monday after hitting .364 (16-44) with a home run and six RBIs in 12 minor league rehab games with AAA Round Rock and AA Frisco.

NOTABLE:

* Texas now leads the Major Leagues with 15 road wins.

* After Saturday’s outing, Nick Martinez has made 15 consecutive starts in which he has allowed three earned runs or less. That ties the club record held by Rich Hand, who accomplished it in 1972.

* The Rangers have hit at least one home run in nine straight games.

* The Yankees retired Bernie Williams’s number 51 in ceremonies prior to Sunday’s game. There is now a Bernie Williams monument in Monument Park.

* Texas is 18-22 all time on Memorial Day.

* Jeff Banister said before Sunday’s game that Delino DeShields, Jr. is an option to play second base only in an emergency situation.

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RANGERS WIN SECOND

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers won their second series of the year Thursday night by taking the rubber game of a three game set with Boston. Both series wins have been on the road, and the Rangers have 12 road wins this season, second most in the American League to the Yankees 13. Texas scored just eight runs in the series and two of three starters failed to complete six innings; but the much maligned bullpen twice held on to slim leads for the wins. Boston is one of the most disappointing teams in baseball because they simply don’t score. They managed just six runs in the three games off the Rangers who are ranked 10th in the American League in ERA.

Yovani Gallardo was the Ranger starter in game one of the series. He didn’t have his good stuff, and got knocked around for four runs on 10 hits in five innings. After getting down 4-0, the Rangers cut the lead in half with RBI hits from Tommy Field and Robinson Chirinos in the sixth inning. Leonys Martin led off the ninth inning with a home run to cut the deficit to one run at 4-3, but the Rangers’ rally ended there.

4-3 was the final score. Wade Miley (3-4) was Boston’s starting and winning pitcher. Gallardo dropped to 3-6 with the loss. Former Ranger Koji Uehara nailed down the save, his 10th of the season.

On Wednesday, the Rangers summoned Phil Klein from Round Rock to start in place of Ross Detwiler, who was put on the disabled list last Sunday. Klein was with the Rangers for the first 10 days of the season as a reliever. Texas decided to stretch him out as a starter after sending him to Round Rock, where he made two starts before the call-up. Klein pitched far better than would have been expected. He completed 5-1/3 innings in just the fifth start of his professional career. He surrendered five hits, one of which was Xander Bogaarts’ second home run, which was the only run the Sox scored Wednesday.

Four Ranger relievers blanked the Carmines over the final 3-2/3 innings. Shawn Tolleson gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth inning, but no runs to earn his first Major League save.

Texas scored single runs in the second and third innings on an Elvis Andrus sacrifice fly and Robinson Chirinos’ fourth home run. 2-1 was the final score. Klein (1-0) got the win. Joe Kelly (1-3) was Boston’s hard luck starting and losing pitcher.

Thursday’s rubber game was much like Wednesday’s. Texas scored two in the first and a singleton in the fourth. Mitch Moreland drove in two of the three runs, the second coming on his third home run of the season. Wandy Rodriguez started and pitched into the seventh inning to earn the win that evened his record at 2-2 for the year. He allowed one run to lower his ERA to 3.38. Keone Kela finished the seventh and zipped Boston in the eighth, allowing one hit and striking out three of the five batters he faced. Tolleson again earned the save with a spotless ninth inning.

Clay Buchholz (2-5) gave up all three Ranger runs over 7-1/3 innings to take the loss.

The road trip continues in New York this weekend. The Rangers play night games on Friday and Sunday, as they will be featured on the ESPN Sunday Night game. This is not good news, as the team plays an afternoon game in Cleveland on Memorial Day. The Rangers’ announced pitchers for the Yankees series are Colby Lewis (3-2) on Friday night, Nick Martinez (3-0) on Saturday afternoon, and Yovani Gallardo (3-6) on Sunday. The Yankees counter with Michael Pineda (5-1), CC Sabathia (2-5) and Chris Capuano (0-1).

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers are currently 11-9 for May. The starting rotation has a 3.46 ERA for the month.

* Prince Fielder was 0-4 Thursday to end a nine game hitting streak. He leads the team with a .340 batting average.

* Josh Hamilton rejoined the Round Rock Express Thursday to continue his minor league rehab assignment after playing four games with AA Frisco. He is expected to join the Rangers next week in Cleveland.

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TRIBE TRIPS RANGERS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers won Sunday’s series finale 5-1 to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of Cleveland. Nick Martinez won his third game, and Mitch Moreland hit a home run and a double to lead the Rangers to the win, which ended a three game losing streak. Texas finished the week and the home stand at 3-4, and Sunday’s win improved the Rangers’ record to 16-22 overall and 6-13 at home. Texas has still not won a series in six tries at home this season (0-5-1) and have a 1-7-4 record in series for the season. Texas is in fourth place in the American League West, 3.5 games ahead of last place Oakland and nine games behind first place Houston.

Nick Martinez, the Rangers best pitcher so far this season, turned in perhaps his worst performance of the year. He had control issues from beginning to end of his outing. Cleveland had at least one base runner in every inning as Martinez gave up five hits and walked five batters in five innings. He needed 103 pitches to get the 15 outs. Only 57 (55%) were strikes.

In the end though, Martinez allowed just one run.

The Rangers offense staked Martinez to a two run lead by scoring one in the second and another run in the third inning. Moreland doubled in the second and Adrian Beltre scored on the play after a throwing error by Cleveland right fielder Nick Swisher. Prince Fielder singled home the second run in the third inning.

Cleveland cracked the scoreboard with a run in the fifth inning, so Martinez turned the game over to the bullpen, always a scary proposition, with a 2-1 lead. The disaster that has been the Rangers’ bullpen got reinforcements on Sunday. Ross Ohlendorf and Tanner Scheppers woke up Sunday morning in Colorado Springs, where AAA Round Rock was playing, but got to Arlington in time to pitch. Ohlendorf zipped the Indians three up and three down in the sixth inning. Scheppers zipped them six up and six down in the seventh and eighth innings, throwing just 19 pitches. Shawn Tolleson faced four batters to get three outs in the ninth inning to close out the game.

Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland lengthened the lead with a two run home run and Beltre drove in another run with an eighth inning sacrifice fly to make the final score 5-1. Martinez is 3-0, 1.88 with the win. The Rangers are 7-1 in his starts. Cleveland’s Hector Carrasco (4-4) took the loss.

Sunday’s win followed another horrible bullpen collapse on Saturday. Both teams scored at will as the sixth inning was the only one in which at least one run wasn’t scored. Colby Lewis gave up six runs (five earned) over five innings, yet still left the game with a chance to win, as the Rangers had come back to score seven against Cleveland starter Danny Salazar.

However, Keone Kela coughed up the lead when he allowed a seventh inning run that tied the game at seven. It was Kela’s second blown save of the year. Texas looked good to win though when Robinson Chirinos homered in the eighth inning. It was the Rangers’ third home run of the game and gave Texas an 8-7 lead with three outs to go.

The bullpen struck again. This time it was Neftali Feliz. He walked a batter and gave up two hits, the last of which was a Jason Kipnis home run that sent Cleveland to a 10-8 win. It was Feliz’s third blown save and his record is 1-2 with the loss. Scott Atchison (1-1) was the winning pitcher, and Cody Allen was credited with his sixth save for Cleveland.

In Friday’s series opener, Prince Fielder homered, his fifth, in the first inning, as did Adrian Beltre as the Rangers took a 3-2 lead. It was Beltre’s fifth of the season, and also the 400th of his career. The Rangers never scored again.

Wandy Rodriguez’s magic wasn’t there Friday night. The Ranger starter was knocked out in the fifth inning giving up five earned runs on eight hits and a walk. Kyuji Fujikawa gave up three more runs in the sixth inning to complete Cleveland’s scoring. Fujukawa was designated for assignment to make room for Ross Ohlendorf on Sunday.

8-3 was the final score. Rodriguez is now 1-2, 3.86. Ryan Webb (1-0) was Cleveland’s winning pitcher in relief of Bruce Chen, the Tribe’s starting pitcher.

The Rangers are off Monday and start a stretch of 17 consecutive games without an off day with a nine game, three city road trip in Boston on Tuesday. The Ranger announced starting pitchers are Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday, TBD on Wednesday, after the originally announced starter Ross Detwiler was placed on the disabled list on Sunday, and Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday. They will face Wade Miley (2-4), Joe Kelly (1-2) and Clay Buchholz (2-4)

NOTABLE:

* Sin-Shoo Choo went 0-5 Friday evening to end his 14 game hitting streak. He hit .373 during the streak, and his average has risen from 0.96 to .242 after Sunday’s game.

* The Rangers are 9-8 in May, which represents two more wins than the team had in April.

* Josh Hamilton had five hits for Frisco over the weekend and is now 9-28 (.321) in his minor league rehab appearances. He likely will be activated to the Major League roster during the current road trip.

* Elvis Andrus had at least one hit in all three games of the series and now has at least one hit in 46 of 47 career games played against Cleveland.

* After Saturday’s bullpen meltdown, the Rangers’ relief corps was told that all bullpen roles are open, and that for now, the team will be looking at matchups for late game situations. The Rangers are now 2-9 in games in which the starting pitcher went at least five, but less than six innings.

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KANSAS CITY SPLITS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Kansas City beat Texas in Thursday afternoon’s series finale to gain a split of the four game series. It was the second straight series split of a four game series for the Rangers and coupled with their three game sweep of the Astros last week, the team is 7-4 over the last 11 games, all against opponents with winning records. The Rangers have moved out the American League West cellar, 2-1/2 games ahead of Oakland.

There was delightful weather for Monday’s series opener. The start time temperature was 71, and that number dipped into the upper 60′s as the game progressed. The Rangers complied by playing a super game to watch. It was undoubtedly the best played home game by the Rangers so far this season. Colby Lewis pitched well again, and the Rangers’ offense supported him by scoring early and often to take an 8-2 win.

Lewis retired the Royals in order for the first three innings. Alcides Escobar singled to open the fourth inning. He later scored on Kendrys Morales’s single to center field, but that hit ended the inning when Leonys Martin made a perfect throw home to nail Mike Moustakas at the plate trying to score from second base. Lewis allowed just one more hit over the seven innings he completed to get the win. He allowed two walks and struck out five as his record and ERA improved to 3-2 and 2.40.

The Rangers supported Lewis with four second inning runs. K. C. starting and losing pitcher Danny Duffy was wild walking the bases loaded to start the inning. Delino DeShields, Jr. followed with the key hit of the game, a solid double lined into left field. Two runs scored on the play. A wild pitch scored a third. Sin-Shoo Choo singled home DeShields for the fourth run of the inning.

The offense finished the night with three home runs. Adrian Beltre hit a two run bomb in the fourth inning, Tommy Field, who arrived after the Rangers had completed batting practice, hit the first of his career in the seventh inning, and Prince Fielder hit his third of the year in the eighth inning.

Duffy dropped to 2-2, 5.67 after getting knocked out in the fourth inning having surrendered six earned runs on five hits and six walks.

Nick Martinez was Tuesday’s starting pitcher, and that usually means two things. Martinez will pitch a good game and the Rangers’ offense shows up. Both of those things happened, but the Rangers still didn’t win in a game that was perhaps the most entertaining home game to watch this year.

Martinez pitched into the seventh inning, allowing three earned runs (four total); a quality start for the sixth time in seven outings. Six quality starts tied him for the league lead. He gave up six hits, including the first home run he’s allowed this year, and walked one, while striking out four. His ERA rose a tic to 1.88, which ranks fourth in the American League and seventh overall.

The Rangers’ offense chipped in with 14 hits that produced six runs, as they scored one run in six different innings. Sin-Shoo Choo hit the first pitch thrown by K. C. starter Edinson Volquez for a home run. Choo and Kyle Blanks finished with three hits each. Elvis Andrus, Fielder and Field had two hits each. It was a consistent offensive performance.

The Rangers were felled by an error that led to an unearned run and by poor base running as they gave up four outs on the bases late in the game. Mostly though, they were felled by the faulty bullpen. Alex Claudio surrendered a big fly in the seventh inning to the only batter he faced. Neftali Feliz gave up a run in the ninth inning, and Stolmy Pimentel gave up a home run in the 10th inning that proved to be the game winner for the Royals. Final score: Royals 7 – Rangers 6.

Kansas City’s winning pitcher was closer Greg Holland (1-0), who was one of three K. C. pitchers that were credited with a blown save in the game. Pimentel (0-1) took the loss.

The Rangers secured a series split with a solid 5-2 win on Wednesday. Choo again led off the Rangers’ first inning with a home run. It was the fourth time in Ranger history that the leadoff batter homered to start the game on consecutive days. Mike Hargrove, Oddibe McDowell and Ian Kinsler are the other three. The Rangers scored two in the first and two more in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead early. Fielder homered in the fourth inning to complete the Rangers’ scoring. It was his fourth, which ties him for the team lead.

Yovany Gallardo pitched his best game as a Ranger, though he said afterward that he didn’t have his best stuff. The early lead helped as he threw strikes early in the count. Kansas City put the ball in play to keep his pitch count down. He gave up six hits in seven innings. Three of those came in the seventh inning when the Royals pierced the scoreboard with a pair of runs. That was all the damage they would do though, as Shawn Tolleson and Neftali Feliz retired all six batters they faced in the eighth and ninth innings.

Gallardo was the winning pitcher. He’s 3-5, and his ERA dropped to 3.94. Feliz earned his sixth save. K. C.’s firegalling right-hander, Yordano Ventura, took the loss, falling to 2-3 on the year. The game time was 2:15, the shortest Ranger game of the season.

Ross Detwiler started Thursday with the usual result. He gave up three runs on nine hits over five innings to take the loss and stay winless at 0-5. His ERA is up to 6.95. Jeremy Guthrie (3-2) was Kansas City’s starting and winning pitcher. Greg Holland struggled through a scoreless ninth inning as he walked two batters before claiming out number three for the save, his seventh of the year.

Cleveland comes to town for this weekend’s series. Cleveland was expected to challenge for the Central Division title, but has been one of the more disappointing teams in the league. The Tribe is looking to turn their ship around as they arrive in last place. The Rangers will start Wandy Rodriguez on Friday, Colby Lewis on Saturday, and Nick Martinez on Sunday. The Indians counter with Bruce Chen (0-1), Danny Salazar (4-1) and Carlos Carrasco (4-3).

NOTABLE:

* Josh Hamilton began his minor league rehab assignment in Nashville with the Round Rock Express earlier this week. He’ll continue this weekend in Frisco, where the Rough Riders play at home against the Corpus Christi Hooks on Saturday and Sunday, and against the Midland Rock Hounds Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Hamilton is scheduled to start all but the Monday game.

* Monday’s Kansas City game was the Rangers’ first three home run game in Arlington this year.

* Sin-Soo Choo had at least two hits in each game against Kansas City extending his hitting streak to 14 games. His batting average has risen to .243 for the season.

* The Rangers hit a home run in a season high six consecutive games, a streak that ended Thursday, when every Ranger hit was a single.

* ROSTER MOVES: On Monday, Rougned Odor was sent to AAA Round Rock and Tommy Field was called up from the same club. Field’s previous Major League experience consisted of 28 at bats. He started every game in the Kansas City series at second base and stole his first Major League base and hit his first Major League home run. On Wednesday, Mitch Moreland was activated from the disabled list, and Jake Smolinski was sent to AAA Round Rock to make room. Left-handed reliever Sam Freeman, a Carrollton native, was brought up from AAA and Stolmy Pimentel was designated for assignment. On Thursday, reliever Kyuji Fujikawa was added to the roster, and Spencer Patton was sent to Round Rock.

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A SPLIT IN ST. PETE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas eked out a 2-1 win over the Rays on Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg to gain a split in their four game series with Tampa Bay. Wandy Rodriguez put in a strong bid for American League Player of the Week with another terrific outing. Adrian Beltre drove in both runs with a home run and a single, his first multi-RBI game of the season.

Rodriguez started and didn’t allow a base runner until Tim Beckham led off the Rays’ sixth inning with a single. That was 15 in a row retired to start the game; and coupled with the 19 in a row he retired to finish his last start, he set a new Ranger club record of retiring 34 consecutive batters. Beltre’s home run in the fourth inning staked Rodriguez to a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, Rodriguez hit a batter and gave up another single in the sixth inning to allow the Rays to tie the game. He finished the sixth, but that was his day on the mound. When the Rangers didn’t score in the top of the seventh, his chance for a win went out the door.

Keone Kela pitched a four up three down seventh inning, allowing a walk. He became the pitcher of record when Beltre singled home Elvis Andrus in the top of the eighth inning. Shawn Tolleson and Neftali Feliz both struggled, but they held the Rays off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth innings to wrap up the win.

Kela 3-0 was the winning pitcher. He’s the first Ranger pitcher to win three games this year. Feliz earned his fifth save. Rays’ reliever Kevin Jepsen (0-2) took the loss.

The Rangers started the series on Thursday by running their season high winning streak to four games when they took the opener 5-4. When Nick Martinez starts, the Rangers usually score runs and usually win the game. They are now 6-0 in the games he started. However, this one took a circuitous rout to the finish line.

Offensively, the key play in the game was a Rougned Odor strikeout. He stepped to the plate with two outs in the second inning and runners on first and second base. As he is wont to do, he swung at a horrible pitch for strike three. The pitch bounced a least a foot in front of the plate. Not only did Odor fail to hit the pitch, but the catcher was unable to contain it either. What should have been the end of the inning became a bases loaded situation, as Odor easily beat the throw to first base.

At that point Chris Archer lost command of his pitches. He walked Delino DeShields, Jr. to force in one run. It was a good piece of hitting by DeShields, who was down 1-2 early in the count. Sin-Shoo Choo then drove home a second run with another walk. Andrus followed with a single that scored two more runs sending the Rangers’ lead to 4-0.

On the mound, Martinez pitched four beautiful innings, leaving him three outs shy of qualifying for the win and six outs shy of his sixth quality start of the season. The Rangers had added a run in the fourth inning to up the lead to 5-0 as Martinez took the mound in the fifth inning. It unraveled from there. Martinez retired just two batters, while giving up four hits and a walk. He was charged with three runs, which upped his ERA to 1.47.

Alex Claudio was summoned from the bullpen to close out the inning and became the winning pitcher, his first in the Majors, as the Rangers held on for the 5-4 win. Shawn Tolleson gave up the other Tampa run in the eighth inning, but Neftali Feliz was outstanding in the ninth to lock down his fourth save of the year.

Before the series began, Friday’s matchup figured to be the Rangers’ best chance to win a game in the series. They trotted out their opening day starter (Yovani Gallardo) against Tampa rookie Nathan Karns.

Karns had a 1-1 record coming into the game and is essentially an unknown in baseball. However, he is quite well known in certain areas of the Metroplex, as he played at Arlington Martin High School. On Friday night, he pitched as well as he did at Arlington Martin allowing two Ranger runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out eight batters and walked just two.

Gallardo gave up four runs, only three of which were earned. He departed with one out in the sixth. Claudio pitched to one batter (Guyer), who homered for the fifth Rays’ run. Stolmy Pimentel gave up three more runs in the eighth as Tampa Bay romped to an 8-2 win that evened the series at a game apiece. Karns (2-1) was the winning pitcher, while Gallardo fell to 2-5.

The Rangers chances of winning a second series this season flew out the door with Saturday’s home run derby game. Tampa Bay won 7-2 with all nine runs driven in with four home runs. Evan Longoria got the Rays off to a good start with a three run dinger in the first inning. Carlos Peguera brought the Rangers back to within a run with a two run home run in the fourth inning. However, Steven Souza blasted another three run shot for the Rays in the fifth inning, and Asdrubal Cabrera finished off the scoring with a solo home run in the seventh.

Ross Detwiler was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He surrendered five earned runs in four innings, as he failed to retire either batter he faced in the fifth inning. His ERA increased to 7.22, and his record fell to 0-4 with the loss. It was a disappointing start for the Detwiler, the weak link in the rotation so far this year.

It was also a disappointing offensive performance for Texas. Rays’ starter Jake Odorizzi was scratched with flu-like symptoms. Matt Andriese took the mound to start, and the Rangers knocked him out of the game in the fourth inning. Texas had scoring opportunities, but went 0-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Andrew Bellatti threw 3-1/3 strong innings in relief to earn the win, his first this year. The Rangers’ rally in the ninth inning failed to score but created a save opportunity for Brad Boxberger, who retired both batters he faced for his eighth save.

Odorizz was well enough to start on Sunday as he replaced the originally announced Rays’ starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who was placed on the disabled list on Friday with a shoulder problem. Odorizzi was almost as good as Wandy Rodriguez, pitching into the seventh inning and allowing just one run His ERA dropped to 2.09, but neither he, nor the Rays came away with a win Sunday.

Sunday’s win capped the best week and best road trip of the season for Texas at 5-2. The Rangers have climbed out of the A. L. West cellar with a 13-18 record. They lead last place Oakland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column) and trail first place Houston by seven games. They are just a game out of second place though. Their series record is now 1-6-3.

The Rangers flew back to Texas after Sunday’s game and open a seven game home stand with a four game series against the reigning American League champion Kansas City Royals on Monday night. The announced starters are Colby Lewis (2-2) on Monday, Nick Martinez (2-0) on Tuesday, Yovani Gallardo (2-5) on Wednesday, and Ross Detwiler (0-4) on Thursday afternoon. Kansas City counters with Danny Duffy (2-1), Edinson Volquez (2-3), Yordano Ventura (2-2) and Jeremy Guthrie (2-2).

NOTEABLE:

* HITTING STREAKS: Sin-Shoo Choo extended his to 10 games with two hits on Sunday raising his batting average to .183. Prince Fielder saw his nine game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday with an 0-3 performance.

* Prince Fielder has essentially become the Rangers’ full time designated hitter. He has now started 16 consecutive games at DH. His last appearance at first base was on April 22 against Arizona in Phoenix, a game in which the designated hitter was not used.

* Tampa Bay is generally considered to have the worst stadium in baseball along with Oakland. It obviously shows in attendance. The crowd at Thursday’s game was 8,701, the smallest in the history of the Rays.

* Mitch Moreland began his minor league rehab assignment by going 0-3 and a walk for AAA Round Rock against Nashville on Saturday. Josh Hamilton was officially assigned to Round Rock for Sunday’s game in Nashville. He singled off former Cy Young winner Barry Zito in his first plate appearance, and finished 1-3 on the day as he left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning.

* The Rangers are 25-20 all time on Mothers’ Day after Sunday’s win.

* Carlos Peguero leads the Rangers with four home runs, all hit in May, which ties him for the American League lead in the month.

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A SERIES WIN!

RICHARD W. HUMPHREY

Texas finally won a series, sweeping Houston this week in a three game set. The Rangers had not even won two games in a row when the series began, the only Major team not to do so. Houston came into the series with the best American League record and the second best in the Majors, while Texas came in with the worst record in the American League and the second worst in the Majors. Houston was on a 10 game winning streak, while the Rangers had won just two of their previous ten games.

In the series opener, Houston started perhaps the best pitcher in the American League, former Razorback Dallas Keuchel; while the Rangers started Ross Detwiler, definitely their worst starter on the season. On paper, it looked like a mismatch, but that’s why the game is played on the field instead of on paper. Both teams played super. Both starting pitchers pitched great.

The Astros took the early lead 1-0 in the first inning without benefit of a hit. Keuchel shut out the Rangers through seven innings, while Detwiler scrambled to complete seven innings allowing just four hits and no more runs. Jake Smolinski doubled home a run in the eighth inning to tie the game. Robinson Chirinos hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to score the go ahead run. Keone Kela and Neftali Feliz were extremely impressive as they retired all six Astros batters in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the 2-1 win.

Kela (2-0) was credited with the win, while Feliz earned his third save. Chad Qualls (0-2) was the losing pitcher for Houston.

The pitching matchup on Tuesday was between “formers”. Former Ranger Scott Feldman started for Houston, while the Rangers went with former Astro Wandy Rodriguez. On Tuesday night, Rodriguez was the story. He was simply magnificent. On the fourth pitch he threw, Luis Valbuena hit a home run. That was the only scoreboard damage he allowed on the night. In the second inning, he walked Robbie Grossman to load the bases with two outs. Grossman proved to be the last Astros’ base runner on the night, as Rodriguez retired the final 19 batters he faced, and Shawn Tolleson pitched a three up three down ninth inning to make it the final 22 Astros’ batters retired.

The Rangers’ offense showed up prominently. They staked Rodriguez to a 4-0 lead before he took the mound. Prince Fielder drove home the first two runs with a double. Carlos Peguero drove home the other two with his first home run of the season. Kyle Blanks topped off the Rangers’ scoring in the fifth inning with his third home run in six games since joining the club. Blanks’ three home runs leads the team.

Rodriguez (1-0) earned the win, his first in almost two years. He relied on a fastball and sweeping curve. It may be just one night, but he his “stuff” looked every bit as good as it did in the past when he was the ace of Houston’s starting rotation. He could be a real find for Texas.

Texas blasted Houston in the series finale Wednesday night. Peguero led the charge with a pair of home runs. He had three hits and a sacrifice fly, drove home three runs and scored three runs. Sin-Shoo Choo also homered, and Adrian Beltre had three hits, as the Rangers plated 11 runs on 13 hits. They scored early, giving Ranger starter Colby Lewis a 4-0 lead in the second inning. They added two more runs in the third and essentially put the game away in the fifth inning with four more runs to push the lead to 10-0.

Lewis shut out Houston for seven innings, then surrendered a run in the eighth inning. Reliever Spencer Patton gave up a two-run home run in the ninth in his 2015 Ranger debut to make the final score 11-3. Lewis improved to 2-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.81 with the performance. He gave up six hits and struck out six. His record is 5-0 with a 1.21 ERA in five starts at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

The sweep cut three games off the Rangers’ deficit in the West and allowed the Rangers to climb out of the division cellar. Texas is now 11-6, 6.5 games behind Houston and 1/2 game ahead of last place 11-17 Seattle. The Astros are still the only team in the division with a record over .500 and lead second place Los Angeles by five games.

On the injury front, Mitch Moreland had a good batting practice session on Wednesday. He likely will be activated from the disabled list next week when he first becomes eligible. Leonys Martin came out of Monday’s game with an inflamed wrist sustained when he attempted a diving catch. He did not play on Tuesday or Wednesday and reported that he is unable to swing a bat at this point. A disabled list stint is possible, but the Rangers are willing to wait at least a day or two more before making a decision to lacet him on the DL.

The Rangers now complete the road trip with four games in St. Petersburg against the Rays this weekend. Texas will send out Nick Martinez on Thursday, Yovani Gallardo on Friday, Ross Detwiler on Saturday, and Wandy Rodriguez on Sunday. Tampa Bay counters with Chris Archer (3-3, 1.64), Nathan Karns (1-1, 4.05), Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 2.21) and Doug Smyly (0-1, 2.70).

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers are now 4-2 in May and 8-7 in road games.

* Dallas Keuchel has allowed just four runs on the season after Monday’s game. The Rangers have scored three of them.

* Sin-Shoo Choo has a six game hitting streak since ending an 0-21 streak last Friday. He has at least one extra base hit in each game during the streak and has raised his batting average to .154.

* The Rangers have hit at least one double in 26 straight games, the longest such streak in the Majors this season and the second longest in Ranger history. They also doubled in 26 straight games in 1990, and set the club record of 34 games in 1996.

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OAKLAND WINS IMPROBABLE SERIES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Oakland beat the Rangers 7-1 Sunday to take two of three games in this weekend’s series. There were improbable games with contributions from improbable players; but in the end, the results were the usual. Texas lost its sixth series to go with two splits, and the Rangers have still not won two consecutive games this season. The Rangers have fallen 9.5 games out of first place taking a solid clamp on last place in the American League West with an 8-16 record.

The Athletics arrived having lost six of their last seven games, like the Rangers, and like the Rangers they arrived having committed 21 errors, the most in the American League. Their hottest pitcher, lefty Scott Kazmir, opened the series Friday night. He was 2-0 in four April starts – all quality starts of at least six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs allowed. His ERA was 0.99, fourth best in the Major Leagues.

Colby Lewis opposed Kazmir, and on this night, Lewis pitched the better game. Lewis zipped through six innings, shutting out the A’s on the scoreboard and striking out eight, allowing two hits, while walking two. The eight strikeouts are the most in a game by a Texas pitcher this season.

Meanwhile Kazmir gave up a pair of home runs – one each to Lance Blanks and Prince Fielder. Jake Smolinski drove in a third run with a sacrifice fly. The three runs matched the scoring off Kazmir in four April starts combined. Kazmir completed six innings, giving up the three runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked only one. His ERA moved to 1.62.

In the end neither starter figured in the pitching decisions. In the seventh inning, Alex Claudio retired the A’s in the top half, while the Rangers tagged the Athletics bullpen for two more runs in the bottom half to take a 5-0 lead into the eighth inning.

It looked like the Rangers like the calendar, had turned a new page, as they were two good innings away from playing perhaps their best game of the year. It wasn’t to be. From there the roof fell in on the Ranger bullpen. Sean Tolleson, Ramon Mendez and Neftali Feliz could not stem the tide as the A’s sent 10 men to the plate and scored seven runs in the eighth inning.

7-5 was the final score. Mendez (0-1) took the loss, while Dan Otero (2-1) was the winning pitcher for Oakland. Tyler Clippard earned his second save by closing out the Rangers with a perfect ninth inning.

Nick Martinez, the Rangers best pitcher in April started for Texas on Saturday with a 2-0 record and 0.35 ERA, best in the Major leagues. He got into hot water quickly as he gave up two hits on the first three pitches he threw to put Oakland runners on second and third. He limited the scoreboard damage though to one run and got out of the inning on just 14 pitches. He went on to pitch well, taking a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning.

The seventh inning however closely resembled Friday night’s eighth inning. Defensive lapses contributed greatly to the Athletics scoring six runs to take a 7-3 lead. Martinez was charged with five runs on the evening, but only two were earned. He still qualified for a quality start, his fifth in five starts.

Martinez got off the hook for the loss when the Rangers improbably came back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. The big blow of the inning was a three run home run, the first of the season for Texas, which was improbably hit by Sin-Shoo Choo.

The Rangers took the walk-off 8-7 win in the 10th inning when Rougned Odor improbably singled home the game winner with the bases loaded. Odor’s struggles at the plate are almost as mighty as Choo’s. He finished the weekend with a .148 batting average and should probably be headed to AAA, but the Rangers really have no plan B for second base at this point.

Keone Kela (1-0) was the winning Ranger pitcher, his first Major League win.

Sunday’s Oakland win was predictable, as Sonny Gray, who always dominates the Rangers, was the Athletics’ starting pitcher. On this day though, he improbably had control difficulties. He set career highs in walks (seven) and pitches thrown (119) in a game. In the end though, Texas could not take advantage of the opportunities Gray presented. They managed just two hits off Gray, who lasted 6-2/3rds innings, and four in the game, going 1-13 with runners in scoring position.

Ranger starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo took the loss to fall to 2-4, 4.50. Gray, who has now thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings at the Rangers, improved to 4-0, 1.67. Half of those wins are over the Rangers, as he also beat Texas on opening day in Oakland.

The Rangers now go on the road starting with three games in Houston. The Astros improbably are the hottest team in baseball having won their last 10 games. They lead the West by seven games over second place Los Angeles, the largest lead in any division. Texas will send out Ross Detwiler, Wandy Rodriguez and Colby Lewis as their three starters. Houston counters with Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 0.73), former Ranger Scott Feldman (2-2, 4.31), and Samuel Deduno (0-0, 2.70).

NOTABLE:

* Saturday night’s game was the annual “Bark at the Park” night in which fans could bring dogs to the game. The official dog attendance was 461.

* Nick Martinez was voted the Rangers’ Player of the Month for April. He started four games, winning two. The Rangers won all four, all of which came after a Ranger loss. His 0.35 ERA was the lowest monthly ERA for a Ranger pitcher ever.

* Sin-Shoo Choo snapped an 0-21 streak at the plate with a fourth inning double in Friday’s game. It boosted his batting average over .100, hopefully for the rest of the season. He drove in four runs on Saturday and Sunday with his second home run and a double to raise his average to .141.

* Elvis Andrus had an eight game hitting streak end Sunday by going 0-2 with three walks. That’s the longest hitting streak for any Ranger this season.

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TWO MORE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers have lost two more series after the Seattle Mariners completed a three game sweep Wednesday night. Texas dropped to 7-14 for the season, good enough to give the Rangers a solid grip on last place in the American League West, as they trail the Astros by seven games. The Rangers have still not won a series this season, or even two games in a row. Their record in the first seven series is now 0-5-2.

Texas scrambled last weekend to win Sunday’s finale in Anaheim to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of the Angels. Trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, they rallied to tie the game and send it to overtime at 3-3. Texas scored twice in the 11th and held off Los Angeles in the bottom half for the 5-4 win.

The highlight of the Angels’ series was Nick Martinez (again). He didn’t have his good stuff, but completed six scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 0.39 in four starts. He left with the Rangers ahead 2-0, but his chance for a win lasted just three batters into the seventh inning. A mis-played fly ball to right field fell in for a ground rule double to open the inning, and one batter later a home run tied the game.

Martinez’s record stays at 2-0, but the Rangers are 4-0 in his starts, with all four wins following a loss. Go Nick!

Highlights were harder to find in the Seattle series. The offense simply is dead in the water. Texas scored just four runs in the series, and finished the month with a .210 batting average, clearly the worst in baseball. That’s historically bad, the worst month in Ranger history since the designated hitter became part of the game in 1973. The only two batters with decent averages are Prince Fielder (.333) and Mitch Moreland (.304). Moreland however was placed on the disabled list with an elbow problem and will miss more than two weeks.

Sin-Shoo Choo was the worst of numerous bad performances. He hit .096 for the month getting five hits in 52 at bats.

Texas scored just 12 runs over the past two series. The defense has taken a downturn too. The Rangers committed four errors in Wednesday’s series finale against the Mariners which brings their error total to 21 on the season, most in the American League. The Rangers have now lost three games in a row and six of their last seven.

The buzz around the Seattle series though was the return of Josh Hamilton. The deal was finalized and Hamilton was introduced in a Monday afternoon press conference. He said all the right things as he tries to repair his image with local fans after his rowdy departure two seasons ago. He left immediately for extended spring training in Surprise, Arizona. At some point in the next 10 days to two weeks, he likely starts a minor league rehab assignment. Texas is rumored to be targeting somewhere after mid-May for his return.

The Rangers were off Thursday, then resume the home stand this weekend against Oakland. The pitchers for the series will be Colby Lewis on Friday, Nick Martinez on Saturday and Yovani Gallardo on Sunday. Oakland will counter with Scott Kazmir, Drew Pomeranz and Sonny Gray.

NOTABLE:

* Nick Tepesch was moved from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Hamilton, who is of course on the disabled list after shoulder surgery. Mitch Moreland was also placed on the disabled list on Wednesday with an elbow problem. That brings the total number of Rangers on the DL to 12, including eight on the 60-day list. Lance Blanks was called up to take Moreland’s place on the active roster.

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HE’S BAAAAAAAAAACK (PROBABLY)

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Friday night the twitter universe lit up with the news that the Angels would soon be parting ways with Josh Hamilton and that Hamilton’s next Major League stop would be the same as his last Major League stop – he would be returning to the Texas Rangers. As illogical as it seems, apparently it’s going to happen, probably tomorrow. The Rangers, Angels, Hamilton, MLB Players Association and Major League Baseball are all signing off on various aspects of the transaction to make it happen.

The rumored deal has Hamilton joining the Rangers with an agreement to reduce the approximate $80 million he is owed under the five year contract he signed with the Angels after the 2012 season, by $6 million, and with the Rangers paying somewhere in the $2-$3 million per year range for the remaining term of the contract. The $6 million reduction of the amount owed Hamilton represents the approximate tax savings he will realize by moving to Texas, a state with no income tax. The benefits to the Angels are getting rid of a player the team no longer wants and knocking $12-$15 million off their obligation to Hamilton.

The MLBPA agreed to the salary reduction, something that they would not do earlier this century when Alex Rodriguez wanted to reduce his contract to induce a trade from the Rangers to the Red Sox. However this time around, there is new management at the MLBPA, which apparently realizes Hamilton needs to move to a new team. Hamilton isn’t really losing any money in the deal with the tax savings, and he also is to receive an opt-out clause for the final year of his contract. It’s doubtful that Hamilton will exercise the option, but it’s another theoretical economic benefit in return for the salary reduction.

With the amount of money changing hands, MLB also needs to approve the deal, which is expected.

As for the Rangers, the move smacks of desperation. So far this season, the Rangers’ offense has been abysmal. Texas went into play Sunday with a .211 team batting average, which ranked 30th out of 30 Major League teams. Four players in Sunday’s starting lineup were hitting below .200, and in the cases of Sin-Shoo Choo, Jake Smolinski and Rougned Odor, WELL below .200. This is the 10th year since Jon Daniels became general manager of the team, and it is clearly the worst offensive unit he has put together. Its ineptitude matches the woeful Ranger teams in the early 1970s.

On the surface, the general thought is that the Rangers have little risk in this deal, gambling the $2-$3 million per year for as many as three years. In the world of Major League baseball, that’s relative “chump change”. The upside for Texas lies in the hope that Hamilton can recapture the form he showed in the five years he was with the Rangers in which he made five straight All-Star teams.

Certainly Daniels has to be worried about his own job security. When Bob Simpson and Ray Davis bought the team out of bankruptcy in 2010, it was in first place. They quickly saw two trips to the World Series, but the team has gone downhill since. They sided with Jon Daniels in the power struggle to run the baseball aspects of the team and ran Nolan Ryan out of town to hand the reins to Daniels.

Now they look out and see a team that looks awful on the field. The starting pitching isn’t good, the bullpen is worse, the defense is terrible and they can’t hit. It’s on the road to a second straight year of at least 85-90 losses; and worse, Ryan has moved on to be involved in directing Houston’s rebuilding program that finds the Astros in first place with a good looking up and coming team.

Daniels then is obviously feeling the pressure. Finding a middle of the order bat at any time is difficult, but much more so at this point in the year. He has hamstrung the team’s payroll flexibility when he acquired Choo and Prince Fielder before the 2014 season. They collectively zap up about a third of the entire payroll. I. E., he has few options.

Since taking over the team, Daniels has tried the formula of low financial risk with high potential gain in player acquisitions. Most have failed miserably, such as Rich Harden. The odds aren’t good that Hamilton will return to the form he showed in his first stint in Arlington. He is three years older than when he left and injuries limited him to 89 games a year ago. He’s on the disabled list now, currently rehabbing in Houston from shoulder surgery. The earliest he’ll be seen in Arlington is mid-May, and that would be a rush job.

His personal life is also in turmoil. The event that ultimately led to his departure from the Angels was his admitted use of illegal drugs and alcohol during the winter. It has now become public knowledge that he has filed for divorce from his wife Katie. They were married in 2004 and have four daughters.

He has been booed in his Arlington’s appearances as an Angel, so it will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets as a returning Ranger. The guess here is that he will be welcomed with open arms. This team’s offense is so bad that fans will be willing to overlook the comments he made about Dallas/Ft. Worth not being a baseball town to welcome him back.

The Rangers would like to convince fans that they have a team that can contend. The reality is, they are in a rebuilding process and are not likely to reach the playoffs for at least two or three more years. Their opening day roster was the youngest in the Major Leagues, and top prospects such as Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson and Alex Gonzalez will arrive soon. It’s questionable as to whether the team wants to have Hamilton around as an influence on these young players. There could be more downside to the acquisition than the financial aspects of the deal indicate.

It’s not likely that this ends well. On the other hand, the Rangers had virtually nothing to lose. This team was going nowhere without him. It probably goes nowhere with him.

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SPLITSVILLE IN THE DESERT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers split a pair of games in Phoenix to start the week, winning game one 7-1 on Tuesday night and losing game two 8-5 Wednesday. The team still has not won a series this year (0-3-2) or even two games in a row as they enjoy their second off day of the week and third of the season on Thursday before opening a three game series in Anaheim this weekend. The series split brought the Rangers’ record to 6-9, leaving them two games behind first place Houston and tied with Los Angeles and Seattle for the worst record in the division.

The series opened Tuesday with Nick Martinez on the mound, and he was again magnificent, turning in his third consecutive quality start. A fielding error ran up his pitch count which forced him out of the game after six innings. He allowed a run on three hits, the second run and first earned run that he has allowed this year. That ballooned his ERA all the way up to 0.42!

Unfortunately, the Rangers scored late in the game after Martinez had departed, such that he was not credited with the win. Reliever Shawn Tolleson turned in another fine relief outing to earn the win, the first for the Rangers’ bullpen this season.

Offensively, Prince Fielder had the big blow, a two-run home run in the eighth inning, as Texas scored six runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Fielder had two hits and three RBIs in the game to spearhead the 7-1 victory.

Wednesday’s game was one of missed opportunities early. They faced the Diamondbacks highly regarded rookie pitcher, Archie Bradley. Bradley is no stranger to the Metroplex as he played for the Dallas Mustangs Connie Mack team. He lives in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, and coming out of high school, he signed to play baseball and quarterback for Oklahoma. Ultimately, he chose professional baseball over the Sooners after getting drafted high in the first round of MLB’s Amateur Draft.

Bradley surprisingly cracked the Arizona rotation in spring training and came into the game with a 1-0 record and 1.42 ERA in two starts this season. He quickly got the first two outs of the game, but then problems arose locating his pitches. He barely got out of the first inning as he proceeded to walk two batters, hit the next, and walk another to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. He finally retired the seventh batter of the inning with the Arizona bullpen in action. He was on the ropes for completing even five innings with a pitch count of 37 for the inning.

However, from that point, Bradley clicked in. His pitch command was never pin point, but he got the job done. He walked the leadoff batter in the second inning, but a double play got the D-Backs back into the dugout on just nine pitches. He walked the leadoff batter in the third inning, but didn’t give up a hit until the fifth when Yovani Gallardo singled. Bradley gave up another hit in the sixth to finish his night on the mound. One run on two hits and five walks.

While Bradley was toiling on the mound, the Diamondback hitters were providing run support. A fielding error in the first inning led to two D-Back runs to give Bradley the second inning lead at 2-1. They added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to increase the lead to 5-1 by the time Bradley left the game. Bradley was the winning pitcher improving to 2-0 in three starts.

Ranger starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo did not have a vintage performance for Texas. He gave up five runs in five innings on six hits and a walk. Two fielding errors, a familiar theme of this year’s Ranger team, made two of those runs allowed unearned. His record fell to 2-2 with the loss.

The Rangers came back off the Arizona bullpen to score four ninth inning runs. Adrian Beltre’s second home run of the season leading off the ninth was the highlight hit of the inning.

The Ranger starting pitchers have been announced for this weekend’s series in Anaheim, and there is a surprise. Wandy Rodriguez will be added to the roster to start Friday’s game. Struggling Ross Detwiler will be pushed back to get extra sideline work before starting again next week in Arlington. Colby Lewis will start Saturday and Nick Martinez on Sunday. The Angels will counter with Garrett Richards Friday, C. J. Wilson on Saturday, and Hector Santiago on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers are now 1-1 in inter-league play this season. Texas and Arizona play another two game series in Arlington on July 7 and 8. Rangers pitchers went 1-4 at the plate in the series – Nick Martinez 0-2 and Yovani Gallardo 1-2.

* Tuesday’s game was the first this year in which Ranger pitchers did not allow an extra base hit.

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