A SPLIT THAT HURTS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas -  The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers split a four game series to start the post-All-Star game portion of the schedule.  The Rangers won the first two games to raise hopes that they could win the series, but Houston came back to win the final two for the split.

It’s not likely that the Rangers will catch Houston for the division title, but to do so, they need to do well in the head-to-head games.  The split thus kept the status quo with Houston in the division race.  The Rangers are still nine games out of first place in the A. L. West.

However, Oakland swept a three game series with the White Sox this weekend to take over the second Wild Card position and push the Rangers farther out of the Wild Card race.  Texas has the fifth best record among the non-division leaders trailing number two Oakland by three games.  Tampa Bay rests in the first Wild Card slot, 1.5 games ahead of the Athletics.  Cleveland and Boston are ahead of Texas trailing Oakland by one-half game and two games respectively.

The Rangers took charge of Thursday’s series opening game early.  After Lance Lynn retired the Astros in the first inning, Texas hitters struck for four runs chasing Astros’ starting pitcher Framber Valdez after he retired just two batters.  A walk, single and ground out scored the first run.  A single and a double followed to push the second run across.  Rougned Odor doubled home the last two.

Lynn was brilliant.  He blanked the Astros for seven innings, striking out 11.  Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin finished the shutout by tossing scoreless eighth and ninth innings.  The Rangers added another run in the third inning to win 5-0.

It was Lynn’s 12th win, giving him the Major League lead.  Valdez took the loss to go to 3-5.

Surprisingly neither of these good offensive teams homered Thursday night, but they made up for it Friday.  They combined to hit nine!  Astro rookie Yordan Alvarez continued his ravaging of Major League pitching.  Hit hit two round trippers to bring his total to nine in just 21 Major League games.  He’s a keeper.

Texas trailed 8-4 going to their half of the seventh inning.  Tim Federowicz homered in the seventh inning, and Ronald Guzman homered in the eighth inning to send the game to the ninth tied at eight.

Amazingly after hitting nine round trippers, the game was decided by a good old fashioned rally.  Shawn Kelley blanked Houston in the top of the inning.  A one out Elvis Andrus single put the potential winning run on base.  Andrus stole second base, which precipitated a semi-intentional walk to Joey Gallo.  Odor struck out, but Danny Santana singled home the winning run, the first walk-off hit in his Major League career that made the final score 9-8.

Kelley went to 5-2 with the win, while Astro closer Rafael Osuna took the loss to fall to 3-2.

Saturday night, Mike Minor made his first start in 12 days, and the rust showed.  He had difficulty hitting his spots, and his velocity was down.  He lasted five innings, throwing 92 pitches and giving up four runs on seven hits.

Shin-Soo Choo and Santana homered leading off the Rangers’ half of the first inning.  A sacrifice fly and a throwing error plated two more Ranger runs in the third inning to give Texas a 4-3 lead.  It was short lived as Houston pushed across single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take a 5-4 lead.  Delino DeShields then tied the game in the seventh inning with his third home run.

The game stayed tied until the 11th inning, when Jose Altuve doubled home a run and later scored on Myles Straw’s single.  DeShields singled home a run for Texas in the bottom on the 11th, but that was all the Rangers could muster.  The final score was 7-6.

Josh James (4-0) was the winning pitcher.  Chris Martin (1-1) was the loser, and Roberto Osuna pitched the 11th to earn his 20th save.

Justin Verlander started the Sunday game for Houston.  No team has much of a chance to win when Verlander starts.  He completed six innings allowing two runs on four hits.  The Astros held a 5-2 lead when Verlander finished the sixth, but they broke it open with seven runs in seventh inning.  With a 12-2 lead, there was no need for Verlander to pitch any longer.  Four relievers finished off the Rangers.  Texas was only able to score twice more to make the final score 12-4.

Verlander is 11-4 withe the win, and Ariel Jurado is 5-5 after getting rocked for five runs in the first two innings.

Houston is off to Anaheim for a four game series against the Angels.  Texas has Monday off before hosting Arizona in their last home interleague series.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (12-4) on Tuesday, and Jesse Chavez (3-4) on Wednesday.  Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 PM CDT.

NOTABLE:

* Hunter Pence is expected to be activated from the injured list Tuesday for the Arizona series.

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TWIN KILLINGS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Minnesota Twins took two wins in this weekend’s three game series with the Texas Rangers.  Sunday afternoon, the Rangers scrambled to avoid getting swept with a 4-1, 11 inning win.  Rougned Odor hit a three run home run to give Texas its only lead in the series.  Texas finishes the week 2-4 and finishes the first half of the season at 48-42.

Sunday’s game was essentially a bullpen game for both teams.  Jose Leclerc was named the Ranger “opener”.  That was somewhat surprising as he was pitching for the second day in a row after throwing 30 pitches in Saturday’s game.  Leclerc gave up the only run the Rangers would allow on the day on a Byron Buxton triple that scored Miguel Sano from first base.  He threw 27 pitches to get five outs.

Starter Ariel Jurado followed Leclerc.  He got out of the second inning and shut down the Twins in the third and fourth innings.  Rookie Joe Palumbo followed, making his third Major League appearance and the first relief appearance of his career.  It was clearly his best outing with the Rangers.  He retired nine of ten batters that he faced sending the game to the seventh tied at one.

Danny Santana had singled home Joey Gallo in the fourth inning for the Rangers’ run.  Gallo figured prominently in getting the game to extra innings when he made a brilliant play in the fourth inning.  With one out and runners on second and third base, he caught a fly in center field and threw out Buxton trying to advance from second to third base.  The out at third was recorded before Jonathan Schoop running from third base crossed the plate; so Schoop’s run didn’t count.

Chris Martin and Shawn Kelley held the Twins scoreless in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings.  In the 11th, Gallo and Asdrubal Cabrera walked with one out, and Odor homered, an opposite field fly over the left center field fence to give the Rangers the 4-1 lead.

Kelley came out for the 11th inning.  He gave up a one out single, but struck out the final two batters to earn the win.  He’s 4-2.  Adalberto Mejia, the Twins’ sixth pitcher of the game surrendered Odor’s home run to take the loss and go to 0-2.

The series opened with a Twins rout.  Adrian Sampson started for Texas and got knocked around for six second inning runs.  He lasted into the fourth inning allowing seven runs on 11 hits.

Jesse Biddle, Brett Martin and Lock St. John finished the game, with each of them getting scored upon as the Twins scored 15 runs on the night.

Former Ranger Martin Perez was the Twins starting pitcher, and he got the win to go to 8-3.  He shutout the Rangers over the first six innings, but fell apart in the seventh.  He retired no one, giving up a walk, two singles and a double to the four batters he faced.  They all scored and the Rangers went on to score two more.  It was way too little, as the final score was 15-6.  Sampson is 6-6 with the loss.

Saturday afternoon’s game didn’t go much better for Texas.  Jesse Chavez started and gave up three runs in the the second inning and two more runs in the fourth.  He finished five innings giving up the five runs, one of which was unearned, on five hits.

The Rangers started chipping away at the lead with Elvis Andrus’s eighth home run leading off the sixth inning.  Two singles and Willie Calhoun’s fifth home run in the seventh inning brought the Rangers closer at 5-4.

That was as close as the Rangers would get.  The Twins added two more runs in the eighth inning to make the final score 7-4.

Chavez is 3-4 with the loss.  Michael Pineda is 6-4 with the win, and Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 12th save.

It’s certainly good to finish the first half with an exciting win over a good team.  However, the 2-4 week has shuffled the Rangers farther back in the standings.  They have sunk into third place in the A. L. West trailing second place Oakland by 1.5 games (one in the loss column) and first place Houston by nine games.

In the Wild Card race, Tampa Bay is still in the lead for the top spot.  Cleveland has taken over the second Wild Card spot, trailing the Rays by just one-half game.  Surprisingly, Cleveland is actually one game ahead of Tampa in the loss column.  Oakland and Boston are 1.5 games and two games respectively behind Cleveland, and the Rangers are three games out.

Texas is off until Thursday for the All-Star break.  It’s strange scheduling as 28 teams aren’t scheduled to play again until Friday, but the Rangers will host the Astros in a four game series beginning Thursday night.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (11-4) Thursday, Jesse Chavez (3-4) on Friday, Mike Minor (8-4) on Saturday, and probably Ariel Jurado (5-4) on Sunday.  (Officially, TBD is listed as Sunday’s starting pitcher.)  Game times are 7:05 PM (Central) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2:05 PM on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     Mike Minor was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s game, which would have made him ineligible to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star game.  Consequently, he was replaced on the All-Star roster by the Indians’ Shane Bieber.  Subsequently, the Rangers decided to give Minor an elongated break by not pitching him Sunday.  By scheduling him to pitch the third game after the All-Star break, he will have 12 days between starts.

*     The Rangers were 41-56 at the All-Star break last season – 15 games under .500.  This year’s record of 48-42 – six games over .500 – is a material improvement.

*     The run the Twins scored Sunday is the first this year allowed by a Ranger “opener”.

*     Ranger catching prospect Sam Huff (High-A Down East) was the Rangers’ only representative in Sunday night’s Futures Game.  He homered with a runner on base to tie the game.  It ended in a 2-2 eight inning tie.  Huff was awarded the Larry Doby Most Valuable Player award for his performance.

*     With off days this week for the All-Star break and next week around a two game series with Arizona, the Rangers will start the second half with a four-man pitching rotation with Adrian Sampson moving to the bullpen.

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ANGELS TAKE TWO

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – This week’s four game series with the Los Angeles Angels took a decided turn before it ever started.  Angels’ starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found unresponsive in his hotel room on Monday afternoon, and was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.  The cause of death has not been made public, but the Southlake Police Department has indicated that foul play is not suspected nor do they believe that is was suicide.

Monday’s game was immediately cancelled.  It will be made up in August when the Angels make their third and final trip to Arlington this season.  There was thought given to cancelling Tuesday’s game, and the decision was given to the Angels to make.  It was almost noon on Tuesday before it was announced that the game would be played as scheduled.

Tuesday was a strange day at the ballpark.  The Angels held a press conference with manager Brad Ausmus, General Manager Billy Eppler, club President John Carpino, and principal owner Arte Moreno meeting with media.  There wasn’t much information passed along, but a lot of sorrow was expressed.

Prior to the game, the Rangers held a moment of silence in Skaggs’s memory.  Finally the game began, but the Rangers definitely toned down the game presentation.  The usual opening song wasn’t played when Mike Minor took the mound for his warm-ups before the first pitch.  Walk-up music wasn’t played for Ranger hitters as they came to the plate.

Delino DeShields led off the third inning with his second home run of the season.  For the first time in the history of Globe Life Ballpark dating back to 1994 when the stadium opened under the name The Ballpark in Arlington, the theme from The Natural was not played for a Ranger home run.  Also, there were no fireworks exploded for the home run, a Ranger tradition since 2000.

The nightly Dot Race was not run.  The seventh inning stretch was toned down.  Ranger Captain did not jump upon the Ranger dugout to toss T-shirts to fans in sections 32 and 33.  A more subdued version of “Take Me out to the Ballgame” was played, and the “Cotton Eyed Joe”, a Ranger seventh inning stretch tradition dating back to Arlington Stadium, was not.

On the field, the Angels strangely looked far less affected by Monday’s events than the Rangers.  Angel players were at the top step of the dugout, definitely fully absorbed in the game.  They looked like their mission was to honor their departed teammate with a win, and they did.

The Rangers on the other hand turned in their poorest performance of the year, losing 9-4 in a game that wasn’t as close as that score indicates.  Minor, one of the Rangers’ three All-Stars, was not sharp.  A 10 pitch at-bat to David Fletcher leading off the game set the tone.  Minor lasted 4-1/3rd innings, and threw 110 pitches to get there.  He had allowed just one run when he was replaced by Brett Martin, but he left two men on base, both of which subsequently scored to increase Minor’s ERA to 2.54, which no longer leads the league.

The Rangers and Angels each pushed across a run in the first inning, and the Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the third with DeShields’s home run and with Elvis Andrus’s steal of home.

However from the fifth inning on when Minor got knocked out, it was downhill for Texas.  When the smoke had cleared, the six Ranger pitchers that saw action on the night combined to (1) walk 11 batters, (2) hit two more to give the Angels 13 free base runners, and (3) throw 249 pitches in the game, a new Ranger team record.  The Rangers’ defense chipped in with four errors.  The Angels were able to score the nine runs with just six hits.  The nine inning game took 4:12 to play.

Awful!

Wednesday’s game wasn’t much better for the Rangers.  Texas managed just two runs on four hits.  Tim Federowicz scored both runs, the first on Andrus’s sacrifice fly in the third inning, and the second two innings later on Fed-Ex’s third home run of the season.

Ariel Jurado (5-4) was the Ranger starting and losing pitcher.  He looked very sharp early as he retired the first six batters he faced including the first three by strikeouts.  The game turned on one play in the top of the third.  A double and a single put runners on first and third base with one out.  The key moment then came in Kole Calhoun’s at bat.  Calhoun hit a sharp line drive to second baseman Rougned Odor.  The exit velocity off his bat was 104 miles per hour.  The drive zipped through Odor’s glove for a single, plating the first run of the game.  Had Odor caught the drive, Dustin Garneau would have easily been doubled off first base to end the inning.  Instead, the run scored, and Mike Trout followed with a three run home run to put the Halos ahead 4-0.

A tough catch?  Yes.  A catchable ball?  Yes.

Trout completed the Angels’ scoring with a two run home run in the sixth inning to make the final score 6-2.  Angel starting pitcher Jaime Barria gave up both Ranger runs and all four Ranger hits in five inning to improve to 3-2.  Ranger hitters struck out 16 times against Barria and four Angel relievers.

Lance Lynn brought the four game losing streak to a halt on Thursday.  He went seven innings allowing two runs on nine hits to win his 11th game, which ties him for the American League lead.  Chris Martin and Lock St. John finished the game with St. John giving up another run to make the final score 9-3.

Odor homered twice in four at bats to push his batting average over .190.  The pair of home runs drove in five runs, and Mazara drove home two more with a 4-4 night.

Angels’ starting pitcher Griffin Canning was knocked out in the fourth inning having allowed six runs on seven hits.  He took the loss to go to 3-4 for the season.

The four game losing streak that ended Thursday night has dropped the Rangers to third place in the A. L. West.  Houston leads second place Oakland by 7.5 games and third place Texas by eight games.  Texas also trails Cleveland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column) for the second Wild Card berth.

The Rangers now finish the first half of the season with a three game series in Minnesota.  The announced starting pitchers for the Rangers are:  Adrian Sampson (6-5) on Friday, Jesse Chavez (3-3) on Saturday, and Mike Minor (8-4) on Sunday.  Game times (all CDT) are 7:10 PM Friday and 1:10 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     Hunter Pence had a set back in his first minor league rehab game last Sunday and was pulled back from the rehab assignment. He was replaced by Xander Bogaarts on the American League All-Star roster, but Pence will be attending and will participate in All-Star activities.

*     Mike Minor will also attend the All-Star festivities, but will not play in the game.  The postponement of Monday’s game pushed his second start of the week to Sunday, which disqualifies him to participate in the All-Star game.

*     The Rangers’ third All-Star, Joey Gallo, will not participate in Monday night’s Home Run Derby.  Gallo and the Rangers feared the appearance might re-aggravate the oblique injury that put him on the Injured list for three weeks in June.

*     Matt Bush had been looking very good at AA Frisco and looked poised to join the Rangers perhaps this week.  However, on Wednesday it was announced that he now needs Tommy John surgery and will be out until mid-season 2020 at the earliest.

*     Mike Trout has hit 25 home runs on the season, and nine of them have been against the Rangers.

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SURPRISE! Rangers Lose a Series

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Tampa Bay Rays beat Texas in St. Petersburg, Florida Saturday and Sunday to send the Rangers to their first series loss since May 26, losing two games to one.  Texas still holds on to the second Wild Card position in the American League standings one-half game ahead of Oakland and Cleveland and two games ahead of Boston.  They return to Arlington with their second straight winning road trip, four games to two.  The Rangers finished the month of June with an 18-11 record.

The series began with a dominating performance by Lance Lynn.  He threw eight shutout innings in Friday night’s series opening game.  He gave up just three hits, walked only one, and struck out 10 Rays.  The final score was 5-0, and it was the second straight and fifth time in the last six series that the Rangers won the first game.

This was an important win because:  (i) It assured that the Rangers would not get swept by the Rays.  (ii) It brought the Rangers’ record to 10 games over .500 at 46-36, a season high.  (iii) It tied the Rangers with Tampa for the first playoff berth in the standings.

Two walks followed by two doubles brought home three Ranger runs in the second inning.  Joey Gallo singled home a run in third inning, and Shin-Soo Choo singled home the fifth run in the ninth inning.

Lynn is 10-4 with the win, the first Ranger pitcher to record 10 wins before July since 2011.  Rays starter Yonny Chirinos is 7-4 with the loss.

The Rays added Brendan McKay to their roster to start Saturday’s game.  McKay is the top ranked pitcher in the Rays’ farm system as well as the number 23 prospect in baseball.  He was fantastic in his Major League debut, throwing five perfect innings before the Rangers put a runner on base.  McKay finished with six shutout innings allowing one hit and one walk to win his debut.

Asdrubal Cabrera doubled leading off the Ranger eighth inning, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch.  Joey Gallo doubled in the ninth inning, moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Logan Forsythe’s ground out.  Those two runs were all the Ranger offense on the day.

The first three Rays’ batters in the second inning doubled, doubled and homered to take an early 3-0 lead.  Willie Adames and Travis D’Arnaud hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning to complete the Rays scoring and making the final score 5-2.

Adrian Sampson was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher.  His record falls to 6-5.

The Rangers’ offense again struggled on Sunday as they lost 6-2.  Jesse Chavez was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher.  He completed six innings allowing four runs, one of which was unearned to make it a quality start.  He gave up five hits, walked no one, and struck out eight.  He’s 3-3 with the loss.

Blake Snell was last year’s Cy Young Award winner, and he looked like the 2018 version of Blake Snell Sunday.  He struck out 12 Rangers in six innings, allowing the Ranger runs on Gallo’s fourth inning home run.  Snell is 5-7 for the year with the win.

Four relievers blanked the Rangers over the final three innings.  Texas notably struck out 17 times in the game.

The Rangers lost two games in the standings to the Astros in the American League West, as Houston swept the Mariners in their three game series.  The Rangers now trail Houston by 6.5 games (six in the loss column).  Oakland is in third place one-half game behind Texas.

The Rangers are now home for four games with the Angels – Monday through Thursday.  They are the last four home games before the All-Star break.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor (8-4) on Monday, Ariel Jurado (5-3) on Tuesday, Lance Lynn (10-4) on Wednesday, and Adrian Sampson (6-4) on Thursday.  Game time for all four games is 7:05 PM (Central).

ALL-STAR NOTES: Sunday afternoon, the All-Star reserves and pitchers were named.  Hunter Pence had already been named to the team by the fan vote.  He was joined by Joey Gallo and Mike Minor, both making the All-Star team for the first time in their Major League careers.  It was the first time since 2013 that the Rangers have had as many as three players make the All-Star team, and Houston with six was the only American League team to place more players on the A. L. All-Star team.  Gallo is the first player drafted and developed by the Rangers to make the All-Star team since Ian Kinsler in 2012.

NOTABLE:

*     The Ranger starting pitchers recorded a quality start in all six games of the road trip and have gone 10 consecutive games of completing at least six innings.

*     Elvis Andrus had at least one hit in each game on the road trip to run his hitting streak to eight games.  Nine games is the longest hitting streak for a Ranger this season.

*     Hunter Pence has joined the Frisco Rough Riders for a minor league rehab stint.  He is expected to be activated onto the Rangers’ roster either Tuesday or Wednesday.

*     Mike Minor finished first in the American League in ERA (1.70), innings pitched per game started (7-1/3rd) and opponents’ batting average (.180) for the month of June making him a serious candidate to be the A. L.’s Pitcher of the Month.

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FIRST ROAD SWEEP

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers swept the Detroit Tigers to start the week, their first road sweep of the season.  The Rangers are now a season high nine games over .500 with 45 wins at the exact mid-point of the schedule.  That projects to 90 wins for the year, which looks entirely feasible, as this team continues to improve.

This week, the offense was actually somewhat anemic.  The Rangers have been among the league leaders in scoring at more than five runs per game, but they plated just 12 runs in this series.  They won anyway because of tremendous pitching performances by their starting pitchers.  Jesse Chavez (one unearned run), Mike Minor (one earned run) and Ariel Jurado (seven shutout innings) combined to pitch 22-1/3rd innings allowing just one earned run to make the sweep possible.

The series opened Tuesday with a 5-3 Texas win.  The Rangers scored early as Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Calhoun and Nomar Mazara opened the game with singles to push across the first run.  Logan Forsythe plated a second run with a sacrifice fly.

Joey Gallo doubled home a run in the third inning, and Ronald Guzman drove in the final two runs with a home run and a sacrifice fly.

The real story of this game though was Chavez, making his first true start of the year.  Chavez had taken the mound in the first inning as an opener, but this time he was in for as long as he could go, and he went a long way, pitching into the seventh inning.  He gave up just one unearned run on five hits.

Locke St. John made his Major League debut getting the final two outs in the seventh inning.  Jose Leclerc took care of the eighth inning, though he issued a pair of two out walks to run his pitch count up to 26 for the inning.  Shelby Miller pitched the ninth inning, giving up a two run home run before retiring the side.

Chavez is 3-2 with the win, and Tiger starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman took the loss to go to 0-5.

The Rangers clinched the series win with a 4-1 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday.  Not much to say about this one.  Mike Minor pitched a complete game, his second of the year.  The last time a Ranger pitcher threw two complete games in a season was 2015 (Colby Lewis).  Minor has done it in half a season.  He went to 8-4 with the win and lowered his ERA to 2.40, which leads the league.

Matt Boyd, rumored to be one of the better pitchers available at the July 31 trade deadline, went seven innings and gave up all four Ranger runs to take the loss.  He’s 5-6.

Willie Calhoun aggressively scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to deep center field in the first inning.  Calhoun, Jeff Mathis and Danny Santana homered in the fifth inning to account for the rest of the Rangers’ scoring.

Joey Gallo homered twice in Thursday afternoon’s series finale.  Choo drove home another run with a sacrifice fly.  Ariel Jurado threw seven shutout innings.  The Rangers won 3-1 while getting just five hits in the game.

Jurado is 5-3 with the win.  Kelley notched his 11th save.  Tigers’ starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull went to 3-8 with the loss.

The Rangers reached the exact halfway point of the season at the conclusion of the Detroit series.  They are very much one of the most surprising teams in baseball at 45-36.  That places them in second place in the American League West 4.5 games behind Houston and 2.5 games ahead of Oakland.  It also puts them in the second Wild Card berth only one game behind Tampa Bay for the first Wild Card berth.

The road trip continues this weekend in Tampa Bay.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (9-4) on Friday night, Adrian Sampson (6-4) on Saturday and Jesse Chavez (3-2) on Sunday.  Game times are 7:10 PM Eastern/6:10 PM Central on Friday, 4:10 PM Eastern/3:10 PM Central on Saturday, and 1:10 PM Eastern/12:10 PM Central on Sunday.

INJURY UPDATE: Joey Gallo was activated Tuesday from the injured list and played all three games of the series going 3-9 and he walked four times.  Hunter Pence was eligible to come off the IL on Thursday, but didn’t.  He likely gets activated next week for the Angels series in Arlington that begins on Monday night.

NOTABLE:

*    Hunter Pence was elected to the American League All-Star team as the designated hitter in the fan vote that ended Thursday afternoon.  Joey Gallo was also a finalist, but did not get elected to start.  He could still be named to the team as a reserve.  Reserves and pitchers will be announced this Sunday.  Mike Minor is likely to be selected as one of the pitchers.

*     Asdrubal Cabrera was suspended by the American League and sat out the series.  He was originally assessed a four game suspension for throwing equipment from the dugout toward home plate to protest the umpire’s ball/strike calls in an at bat in last week’s Cleveland series.  He appealed the suspension which allowed him to play last weekend against the White Sox, but the appeal was heard Monday, the suspension was reduced from four to three games, and he was forced to sit out this week’s series with the Tigers.

*     The Rangers are 12-6 in their last 18 road games.

*     Manager Chris Woodward turned 43 on Thursday.  He got a great present from his team – a win over the Tigers to complete the sweep.

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A DAY OFF AT LAST

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The difficult Ranger schedule stretch of 21 games played over 20 days came to an end Sunday afternoon, when the Rangers beat the Chicago White Sox to win their weekend series two games to one.  The last three weeks of play included three four-game series and three three-game series, and the Rangers finished with a respectable 12-9 record.

As for the White Sox, the Rangers lost the series opener Friday night.  They had won the opening game of their last three series, but that streak came to an end with a 5-4 10 inning loss.

Ariel Jurado was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and he actually pitched better than his stat line.  He really made one mistake throwing a juicy pitch to Zack Collins, who was making his second Major League plate appearance, but his first official at bat.  It was an at bat to remember, as Collins belted a three run home run.

The Rangers had scored twice in the bottom of the first in the most memorable moment of the night for Texas.  With Elvis Andrus on base, Nomar Mazara blasted a line drive well into the second deck of the right field porch.  Statcast measured it at 505 feet, the longest estimated length of any home run hit at Globe Life Ballpark, and a number that tied for the longest home run in Major League Baseball during the Statcast era, which began in 2015.

Collins’ second inning round tripper put the Sox ahead 3-2, but Rougned Odor homered in the Rangers’ half of the inning to tie the game at three.  The Sox quickly recaptured the lead with a double, walk and single in the third inning.

The score stayed 4-3 until the seventh when the Rangers tied the game with a lead-off walk, a sacrifice bunt, and Danny Santana’s run scoring single.

Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth innings to send the game into overtime.  In the tenth inning, the White Sox put runners at first and third with two one-out singles.  They then plated what became the winning run with a safety squeeze play, with Yolmer Sanchez laying down an excellent bunt to score the runner from third.

The Rangers got a lead-off walk to start their half of the 10th, but a flyout and double play ground ball followed to end the game.  Sox reliever Kelvin Hererra went to 3-3 with the win and Alex Colome pitched the 10th to earn his 16th save.  Shawn Kelley is 3-2 with the loss.

Saturday, the Rangers came back to win one of the best played games of the year.  Both teams made outstanding defensive plays.  The White Sox notably threw three Ranger base runners out on the bases.

Lance Lynn started for Texas and promptly gave up four runs in the first inning.  An auspicious beginning for sure, but two things happened that turned the tide.  First, Nomar Mazara homered in the bottom of the first with a runner on base to cut the Sox’ lead in half.  The first didn’t end there though.  A single, a walk and Logan Forsythe’s double plated a third run.  At 4-3 going to the second inning, it was game on!

Second, Lynn showed what a quality veteran pitcher he is by shrugging off the first inning like it never happened.  He proceeded to complete seven innings, allowing just one more run on six hits for the night.  Not a great looking stat line for sure, but good enough to keep the Rangers in the game and the bullpen off the field until the eighth inning.

In the third inning, Mazara homered again to tie the game at four.  Tim Anderson hit a solo shot in the top of the sixth to put the Sox back in front 5-4.  In the bottom of the sixth though, the Rangers came back to take their first lead of the game with a pair of run scoring singles from Shin-Soo Choo and Delino DeShields.

Neither team scored the rest of the way making 6-5 the final score.  Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin shut out Chicago in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the win.  Lynn is 9-4 with the win.  Martin earned his third save, and Evan Marshall took the loss to go to 3-1.

On Sunday, Adrian Sampson put together a solid outing, a great sign for Texas, as he was not very good in his last two starts coming into this game.  Sampson was supported by three ground ball double plays; and at the end of the day, he completed seven innings allowing just one run on seven hits.

The Rangers put together a four run second inning, highlighted by home runs from Tim Federowicz and Santana.  DeShields, who ended the day with three hits, singled home a run in the third inning to stretch the Rangers’ lead to 5-0.

The outcome got dicey in the eighth inning though.  Peter Fairbanks took over for Sampson to start the inning and was immediately in trouble.  Two singles and two walks to the five batters he faced plated a run and brought Brett Martin from the pen.

A sacrifice fly should have been the second out and made the score 5-3.  DeShields however missed the fly and two runs scored to close the gap to 5-4 with runners at second and third.  Brett Martin then struck out the next batter and turned the mound duties over to Kelley, who had phoned the dugout from the bullpen to let manager Chris Woodward know that he was good to go for a four out save.  Kelley got the final out of the eighth – a strikeout of Tim Anderson, one of the best hitters in the White Sox batting order – and blanked the Pale Hose in the ninth inning to earn his 10th save.

Sampson is 6-4 with the win, and Chicago’s starting pitcher Ivan Nova is 3-6 with the loss.

The Rangers picked up a game on Houston in the American League West with the series win.  They now trail the Astros by 6.5 games (six in the loss column), and lead third place Oakland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column).  In the race for the second Wild Card spot, the Rangers are one-half game behind Cleveland and one-half game ahead of Boston.  However, the Rangers have closed the gap to just three games behind Tampa Bay for the first Wild Card playoff berth.

After Monday’s day off, the Rangers open a three-game series in Detroit.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Jesse Chavez (2-2) on Tuesday, Mike Minor (7-4) on Wednesday, and Ariel Jurado (4-3) on Thursday.  Games times (Central) are 6:10 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 12:10 PM on Thursday.

NOTABLE:

*     Joey Gallo and Hunter Pence are finalists at their positions for the All-Star team.  The fan voting begins Wednesday at 11:00 AM (Central) and closes 28 hours later at 3:00 PM (Central) on Thursday.

*     National writer Ken Rosenthal wrote recently that there are seven teams in Major League baseball with a chance to lose 100 games this season.  The Rangers face those teams 22 times in their remaining 84 games, beginning this week in Detroit.

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RANGERS SPLIT WITH TRIBE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers split four games with Cleveland to start the week, winning the games started by their top two starting pitchers – Lance Lynn and Mike Minor – an losing the other two.  Texas picked up two games in the West on first place Houston as the Astros lost their first four games of the week.  They cut the Astros lead to 7.5 games.  In the Wild Card race, the Rangers now trail Boston by one-half game (none in the loss column) for the second Wild Card spot.  Cleveland is also tied in the loss column with Boston and Texas, but is one-half game behind the Rangers.  Oakland also trails Texas by one-half game, but is three games behind in the loss column.

Lance Lynn won his eighth game in Monday night’s series opening 7-2 win.  He pitched seven strong innings allowing a run on six hits.  He walked none and struck out nine.  His eight wins are the most by a Ranger before the All-Star break since Cole Hamels went 9-2 to start 2016.  He also has now made ten straight starts going at least six innings, the most such consecutive starts since Hamels finished 2015 with 12 of them.

Shin-Soo Choo doubled home a run in the third inning to get the Rangers on the scoreboard.  Danny Santana homered with a runner aboard the next inning to extend the lead to 3-0.  Lynn gave up a solo shot to Francisco Lindor in the fifth, but the Rangers answered in their half of the inning when Choo doubled home two more runs.  Texas added two more runs in the sixth with Danny Santana scoring from second base on a wild pitch and Jeff Mathis’s run scoring single.

Jose Leclerc pitched the eighth inning and allowed a solo home run to Oscar Mercado.

Tuesday’s game was the opposite of Monday’s.  The Indians never trailed and ran off with the 10-3 win.  Adrian Sampson turned in the second straight bad start, getting touched for four runs in four innings.  Drew Smyly relieved, and he put the game out of reach by allowing six runs, the last three coming on three consecutive seventh inning home runs.

Zack Plesac was Cleveland’s starting pitcher.  If that name sounds familiar, you’re right.  He’s the nephew of former Major League hurler and current MLB Network analyst, Dan Plesac.  In a word, Plesac was “magnificent” Tuesday night.  Rougned Odor tagged him for a home run in the fifth inning, the Rangers’ first hit of the game.

Plesac allowed just one more hit, completing seven innings.  Willie Calhoun hit a two run home run in the Ranger ninth inning to complete the scoring.

Sampson is 5-4 with the loss, while Plesac is 2-2 with the win.

Wednesday’s game was almost a replay of Tuesday’s, as the Tribe won 10-4.  Cleveland banged around Joe Palumbo making his second Major League start, for five first inning runs.  A double play kept the Tribe off the scoreboard in the second inning, but when the first four Indians reached base to start the third inning, Palumbo’s night was over, and his ticket to AAA Nashville was punched.  He was charged with seven runs in two innings to take the loss, his first Major League decision.

Jesse Chavez relieved and completed five innings in what turned out to be an audition for a spot in the starting rotation.  He was named to join the rotation after the game.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Santana homered to account for 3/4ths of the Rangers’ run production.  Cleveland reliever Oliver Perez earned the win to improve to 2-1.

Thursday’s series finale was hot!  The official game time temperature was 91, but climbed after the 1:08 PM start time.  The heat index reached triple digits.  The Rangers cashed in two doubles and a triple for two runs in the first inning.  Santana and Andrus scored the runs to give Minor a 2-0 lead.

Minor finished eight innings allowing just one run on three hits.  The score was still 2-1 going to the bottom of the eighth inning, but Santana and Andrus extended the lead with back-to-back solo home runs.

Shawn Kelley pitched the ninth.  He gave up a lead-off home run to Carlos Santana to cut the lead to 4-2.  He then retired three of the next four to end the game and earn his ninth save.  Minor is 7-4 with the win, and appears to be almost a certainty to make the All-Star team.

The White Sox come to Arlington to complete the home stand and the stretch of 21 games in 20 days.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Ariel Jurado (4-3) on Friday night (7:05 PM start), Lance Lynn (8-4) on Saturday (8:05 PM start), and Adrian Sampson (5-4) on Sunday afternoon (2:05 PM start).  (All times are Central Daylight Time.)

NOTABLE:

*     The Rangers announced that they will retire Michael Young’s number 10.  Young will be honored prior to the team’s game against the Seattle Mariners on August 31.

*     Drew Smyly was designated for assignment on Thursday.

*     Matt Bush is pitching for AA Frisco, taking the mound for the first time since he was shut down last season.  He is looking good, and Chris Woodward says he could be joining the Rangers sooner than most people expect.

 

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IT’S TIME

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

It’s time to take the Texas Rangers seriously as a playoff contender in the American League.  They are back home this week coming off their first winning road trip of the season after taking two of three from the Cincinnati Reds this weekend to go 4-3 on the trip.  They remain 9.5 games behind Houston and 2.5 games (three in the loss column) ahead of Oakland in the American League West.  They are tied with Boston for the second Wild Card berth, though technically in front of the Red Sox with a better winning percentage.  

The Cincy series began with a bullpen game for Texas.  That’s dicey, as bullpen games have the potential to wipe out the relief corps for two or three days, if not more.  This time though, it worked out fine.  Jesse Chavez started the game and completed three shutout innings.  He even got a hit, a rarity for relief pitchers even in the National League.

The Rangers put two runs on the board in the first inning.  Nomar Mazara drove in one run, and Elvis Andrus stole home for the other.

Bret Martin followed Chavez to the mound and worked scoreless fourth and fifth innings allowing just one hit and striking out two.  The Ranger batters further eased the pressure with a four run fifth inning.  Rougned Odor connected for a grand slam home run to extend the lead to 6-0.  It was the fourth of the year for Texas and the fourth in Odor’s career.

Jeffrey Springs pitched the sixth inning, and Drew Smyly finished the game, allowing a run on three hits over the final three innings.  Five of the nine outs he recorded were strikeouts.

The Rangers also added a run to make the final score 7-1.  Martin qualified for the win, his first decision in the Majors.  Smyly earned his first save of the year and third in his career.  Reds starter Tyler Mahle is 2-7 with the loss.

Saturday looked to be an easy win early.  The Reds committed an error on a Shin-Soo Choo ground ball leading off the game.  He scored, and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in a second run with a two out single.  Odor led off the fourth inning with a double and scored on Jeff Mathis’s single.  Mathis later scored on Choo’s single to push the lead to 4-0.

From there it wasn’t easy.  Reds starter Tanner Roark and two relievers shut out the Rangers over the final five innings.  Yasiel Puig got the first Reds hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth – a home run with a runner on base to cut the Ranger lead in half at 4-2.

Mike Minor was the Rangers’ starting pitcher.  He gave up four hits on the night over 6-1/3rd innings.  One of the other three hits was a solo home run off the bat of Curt Casali to trim the lead to one run.  Chris Martin relieved Minor in the seventh and bailed him out of trouble by ending the inning with a ground ball double play.

Jose Leclerc and Shawn Kelley took care of the eighth and ninth innings to secure the 4-3 win.  Minor is 6-4 with the win.  Kelley earned his eighth save.  Roark is 4-6 with the loss.

Sunday’s Rangers’ starting lineup almost assured a loss.  Manager Chris Woodward said that Andrus and Cabrera really needed a day off, so the left side of the infield was removed from consideration.  Mazara left Saturday’s game early with an injury and was unavailable.  It left a very short bench.

It started out okay for Texas with Choo hitting a home run in the first inning.  The Reds came back with three second inning runs off Ranger starter Ariel Jurado, who simply wasn’t in for a good day.  Texas came back to tie the game at three with two runs in the third inning.  Choo singled with two outs and Hunter Pence homered.

That was as good as it got for the Rangers.  Jurado gave up a run in the third inning to put the Reds back in the lead at 4-3.  He was knocked out in the fourth inning, in which he retired none of the three batters he faced.  They all scored to make Jurado’s final line three innings pitched allowing seven runs on nine hits and a walk.  He struck out no one.

Pete Fairbacks followed Jurado and gave up a home run.  Springs was next to the mound and retired no one.  He gave up two hits and three walks to the five batters he faced.  Three of them scored.  Shelby Miller and Chris Martin finished the game without further scoreboard damage.

When the smoke cleared, the Reds had an 11-3 win.  Sonny Gray, who pitched at Vanderbilt with Mike Minor, was a Ranger tormentor early in his career with the Oakland Athletics.  He was again Sunday starting and getting the win for the Reds to improve to 3-5.  Jurado is 4-3 with the loss.

INJURY UPDATE: Nomar Mazaro was removed from Saturday’s game with soreness in his right knee.  He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.  Hunter Pence came out of Sunday’s game with tightness in his left groin.  He too is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.  Willie Calhoun is expected to be activated from the IL this week, perhaps taking the place of Mazara or Pence if they are placed on the IL.  Joey Gallo is working out with the Frisco Rough Riders and could be ready to rejoin the Rangers by the weekend.

The tortuous stretch of 21 games in 20 days continues in Arlington this week starting with the Cleveland Indians for four games.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (7-4) on Monday,  Adrian Sampson (5-3) on Tuesday, TBD on Wednesday and Mike MInor (6-4) on Thursday.  At this point, the leading candidate to start Wednesday is Joe Palumbo, who has made one start at AA Frisco since his Ranger debut last weekend.

NOTABLE:

*     PERE ET FILS:  The first base coach in this series for Cincinnati was Delino DeShields (Pere), and the center fielder for the Rangers was Delino DeShields (Fils).  (They have different middle names, so are not senior and junior.)  It was father DeShields’ first time to watch his son play in person in a Major League game on Fathers’ Day.

*     The Rangers lead the AL in unearned runs scored with 45.  Texas has allowed just 22 unearned runs this season.

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ANOTHER SPLIT

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Fenway Park has been a black hole for Ranger wins for years, but this week the Rangers turned the tables and earned a split in four games.  Texas stepped out to win first two, but couldn’t take either of the last two very winnable games for the series win.   Going into the weekend, the Rangers still hold on to second place in the American League West and to the second Wild Card berth.  The Rangers are 1.5 games (two games in the loss column) ahead of third place Oakland in the West and one game (two in the loss column) ahead of Boston for the second Wild Card.

The Rangers won Monday in the series opener, a big win.  It was their first in Boston since 2016.  Mike Minor was the Rangers’ starting pitcher.  It couldn’t have started much worse for the Rangers’ ace.  He walked the first batter and then Andrew Benintendi homered to put the Red Sox up 2-0 just seven pitches into the game.  Minor said later that he didn’t feel like he pitched well.  He commented that he couldn’t spot his fastball and wasn’t getting much from his off speed pitches.

He should have such problems more often if the results are going to match Monday night’s.  After Benintendi’s home run, he threw eight shutout innings allowing just three more hits.  When he walked off the field after the eighth inning, the Rangers trailed 2-1.

Boston’s Chris Sale completed seven innings giving up an unearned run, that was driven in by Danny Santana.  Santana singled with one out in the ninth inning.  Elvis Andrus followed with a double, and Nomar Mazara drove them both in with a single.  That gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

Shawn Kelley was manager Chris Woodward’s choice for the ninth inning save opportunity.  Kelley has had some struggles in recent outings, and Monday’s game was no exception.  He was greeted by singles from the first two batters he faced.  A ground ball double play got him one out away from the save, but Brock Holt singled to tie the game.

Neither team scored in the 10th inning.  Santana led off the 11th inning with a double, his fourth hit of the game.  Andrus followed with a ground single to center field to score what proved to be the winning run after Chris Martin set down the Carmines on 12 pitches in the bottom of the inning.

Jesse Chavez had struggled in the 10th, but got the key pitches to keep his scoreless innings streak alive.  He was credited with the win to improve to 2-1.  Martin earned his second save.

On Tuesday, the Rangers clinched a tie in the series with a 9-5 win.  Boston has a hole in their rotation, and they tried to fill it with rookie Darwinzon Hernandez.  He gave up three runs in the first three innings.

Odor doubled home a run in the second inning, and Cabrera singled home two more in the third inning.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox matched the Rangers with a home run in the second and a two run triple in the third inning.

From that point, Ranger starting pitcher Ariel Jurado toughened and shut out Boston for the next three innings.  He ended up with a quality start going six innings and allowing the three runs on five hits.

Hernandez got no one out in the fourth inning, but Colten Brewer relieved and held the damage to one run.  The Rangers extended the lead to 9-3 with two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth.  Guzman drove in the fifth inning runs.  With a run already across the plate in the sixth inning, Pence hit an inside-the-park home run with a runner on base.

Jose Leclerc gave up a run in the seventh inning, and Chris Martin gave up another in the ninth to make the final score 9-5.  Jurado is 4-2 with the win, and Hernandez is 0-1 with the loss.

Angel Hernandez is one of the worst umpires in Major League baseball.  He was behind the plate Tuesday and seemed to think he was the show.  The managers for both teams and Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi were ejected.

On Wednesday, the game was moved from the originally scheduled 7:05 PM (Eastern) start time to 4:05 PM in deference to game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs scheduled in Boston that evening.

With two outs in the first inning, the Rangers strung together three hits to score two runs.  Pence doubled home both runs off Red Sox starter Rick Porcello.  From that point, Porcello was magnificent.  He completed 6-2/3rds innings and gave up just two more hits, while walking no one.

Lance Lynn was the Ranger starting pitcher and he struggled with his control.  His pitch count was high – he needed 100 to complete six innings.  However, the results were good.  He gave up three runs on six hits for his 10th quality start of the season.

The Red Sox still led 3-2 going to the eighth inning when Pence doubled home the game tying run.  Chavez took the mound to start the bottom of the ninth inning with the game still tied.  He had not given up a run in his last 22-2/3rds innings.  It was a streak that wasn’t going to last for ever, and the Sox ended it in the ninth.  A double and a single put runners at second and third.  Two walks later, the Red Sox had the (literal) walk-off win – 4-3.

Chavez is 2-2 with the loss and Matt Barnes is 3-1 with the win.

Thursday’s game was threatened by an all day rain, but the skies cleared, and the game was played.  The Rangers opened with a four run first inning.  Andrus and Pence each drove in a run and Logan Forsythe drove in two.  Boston scored once in the bottom of the inning, but the Rangers came back with two more runs in the second inning driven in by an Andrus single.  Choo was hit by a pitch and scored in both innings.

The 6-1 lead felt good, but Boston came back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 6-4.  Adrian Sampson was the starting pitcher.  He had won his last five outings, but that streak came to an end.  He gave up solo home runs in the fourth and fifth innings that tied the game and ended Sampson’s night with a no decision.

David Price was the Red Sox starting pitcher.  He was knocked out in the second inning giving up all six Ranger runs.  He was followed by seven relief pitchers who shut out the Rangers the rest of the way.  Texas certainly had their chances to score.  They left 14 runners on base after going 4-17 with runners in scoring position.

Xander Bogaerts homered in the seventh inning off Pete Fairbanks to make the final score 7-6.  Fairbanks was the losing pitcher, his first Major League decision.  Brandon Workman is 4-1 with the win, and Josh Smith earned his first Major League save by shutting out the Rangers in the ninth inning.

The Rangers finish the road trip with interleague games in Cincinnati over the weekend.  Friday’s game is the regular start for Drew Smyly, but the Rangers announced that he has been dropped from the rotation.  He goes to the bullpen and the Rangers plan to make Friday’s game a bullpen game with Chavez being the opener.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas for the rest of the series are Mike Minor (5-4) on Saturday night and Ariel Jurado (4-2) on Sunday afternoon.  Game times are 6:10 PM (Central) on Friday and Saturday and 12:10 PM (Central) on Sunday afternoon.

NOTABLE:

*     The Ranger win in the series opening game was just their sixth in series opening games this season.  This was their 22nd series.

*     The Rangers were a season high six games over .500 after Tuesday’s win.

*     Texas hit just one home run in the series, and it was inside-the-park.

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A SPLIT THAT FEELS REALLY GOOD

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers won both ends of a day/night doubleheader Saturday to gain a split in their four game series with the Oakland Athletics that was played within the span of less than 48 hours.  The Rangers made nine roster moves in the course of the series as the team scrambled to deal with injuries.  The split leaves them in second place in the American League West 9.5 games behind first place Houston and two games ahead of third place Oakland (three in the loss column).  It also places them in the second Wild Card playoff spot, one game (two in the loss column) ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

Saturday’s doubleheader sweep was surely one of the greatest days in Ranger history.  Not only did they win both games, but they conducted the moving tribute to Adrian Beltre prior to the night game, which included retiring his uniform number 29.

It began with a battery that was making their Ranger debut.  Lefty Joe Palumbo was summoned from AA Frisco to make the start, and catcher Tim Federowicz was acquired from the Indians late Thursday.  Federowicz played for Cleveland’s AAA affiliate in Columbus, Ohio Thursday night  and learned after the game that he had been traded.  He scrambled to Texas Friday giving him about 24 hours to prepare for the Oakland A’s with a minor league pitcher making his Major League debut.

Palumbo relied on Federowicz’s pitch calling to start the game with three shutout innings.  Meanwhile, the Ranger offense provided run support to ease the pressure.  Nomar Mazara drove in a run in the first inning with a sacrifice fly, and Asdrubal Cabrera singled home two more to put the Rangers ahead 3-0.   Mazara hit a two run home run in the third inning to extend the lead to 5-0.

Unfortunately, Palumbo’s day fell apart in the fourth inning.  He gave up a two run home run.  Next he hit a batter and gave up a single.  Both runners scored on a sharp line drive to left field that skipped past Hunter Pence.  Surprisingly, it was scored a double rather than a single and an error.  That brought Oakland within one run at 5-4.

Palumbo was able to finish the fourth inning, which ended his day on the mound.  Four earned runs in four innings isn’t an impressive stat line, but for sure Palumbo impressed.  He threw some good pitches and showed good poise on the mound.

Texas went on to win 10-5.  Federowicz, whose nickname is “Fed-Ex”, was the player of the game.  Besides guiding two pitchers making their Major League debut through six of the nine innings, he drove in four runs including three with a home run.  Jeffrey Springs relieved Palumbo and pitched three solid innings giving up a run.  He was credited with the win improving his record to 4-1.  Phillips Valdez, the designated 26th man on the Ranger doubleheader roster, made his Major League debut and finished the game with two scoreless innings.

Saturday’s night game actually started at 8:21 PM (Central) due to the length of the Adrian Beltre pre-game tribute.  The delayed start didn’t bother Ranger starting pitcher Adrian Sampson.  He won his fifth straight game with his best game yet.  He threw a complete game allowing just a run on four hits to go to 5-3 on the season.

Jeff Mathis, Delino DeShields, and Danny Santana each drove in a run in the 3-1 win.  Oakland starter Chris Bassitt surrendered all three runs to take the loss.  He’s 3-2.

When the day began, the Rangers had feared how they would get 18 innings from their pitching staff and how it might wreck the bullpen for days.  It proved to be no problem.  With Sampson’s complete game, only two relievers saw action on the day, neither of whom is considered one of the top four.  In fact, Springs’s recent performances have been so good that he might now be considered the fifth reliable reliever.

Drew Smyly was Sunday’s starting pitcher, and there was some hint that this might be the last chance for the struggling left-hander.  He didn’t make much of a case for staying in the rotation, as he gave up five earned runs in three innings.

Shelby Miller relieved and essentially put the game out of reach by giving up three more runs in his inning of work.

After getting down 8-0, the Rangers’ offense began pecking away at the lead.  Rougned Odor singled home two runs in the bottom of the fourth.  Cabrera homered in the sixth and doubled home a run in the eighth to make it 8-4.  Cabrera then scored on Odor’s double, and Odor later scored on the daring straight steal of home to bring Texas within two at 8-6.

Jose Leclerc unfortunately gave up a ninth inning run, such that the Rangers’ two run rally in the bottom of the ninth fell a run shy making the final score 9-8.  Smyly is 1-5 with the loss.  Oakland’s starter Frankie Montas pitched six solid innings to earn the win.  He’s 8-2, and Blake Treinen closed out the ninth for his 14th save.

One other debut was noteworthy.  Pete Fairbanks has advanced from High-A Down East all the way to the Major Leagues since the start of the season.  He’s noted for a big fastball that often registers triple digits on radar guns, and he showed a dandy off speed curve in the two innings he pitched Sunday.  He didn’t look intimidated at all when he struck out the side in the fifth inning, and he came back to coax three ground ball outs in the sixth.  He may be here to stay.

The series began with a disappointing loss.  Lance Lynn started and pitched well.  He struggled at times, but when the dust had cleared, he had gutted out six innings allowing two runs on six hits.

The Rangers’ batsmen put Lynn in line for a win when they struck for three runs in the bottom of the sixth.  Elvis Andrus tripled home the first run and then scored to tie the game at two.  Pence followed with his 13th home run to put the Rangers in front 3-2.

Miller pitched the eighth and pitched better than the fate he received.  An error led to an unearned run that tied the game and charged Miller with a blown save.  Jesse Chavez pitched the eighth inning, and he still hasn’t allowed a run since April.  Leclerc pitched the ninth though, and gave up a two out, two run home run to put the A’s in front 5-3.

Ranger hitters had the opportunities to win this one, but couldn’t capitalize.  They loaded the bases with one out in both the seventh and ninth innings, but didn’t score as they went 1-10 in the game with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners on base.

The 5-3 score stood as the final.  Leclerc took the loss to go to 1-2.  Oakland’s Yusmeiro Petit (1-1) was the winning pitcher, and Treinen pitched the ninth to earn the save.

Realistically, a split in the series was probably all the Rangers could have hoped for though they had good chances to win the other two games.  Oakland has a heavily right handed batting order that beats up left-handed pitchers.  The Rangers started two lefties in the series, including Palumbo making his Major League debut.  The Rangers were nursing injuries too.  Isiah Kiner-Falefa was placed on the disabled list and is expected to be out at least two weeks.  That forced the scramble to trade for Fedorwicz.  Shin-Soo Choo was hit on the hand in the Baltimore series forcing him to miss two games.  AAA outfielder Carlos Tocci was flown in to take Choo’s place if an injured list stint had been necessary.

The Rangers now take to the road for four critical games in Boston, their closest pursuer for the second Wild Card playoff berth.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor (5-4) on Monday night, Ariel Jurado (3-2) on Tuesday, Lance Lynn (7-4) on Wednesday, and Adrian Sampson (5-3) on Thursday.  Start time for Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Thursday’s games is 6:10 PM (Central).  Wednesday’s game was moved to 3:05 PM (Central) in deference to the Boston Bruins’ playoff game that night.

NOTABLE:

*     Former Ranger manager Frank Lucchesi passed away Saturday at the age of 92.  He managed Texas in 1975-77.

*     Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch for the 58th time as a Ranger passing Ian Kinsler on the all-time Ranger list.

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