BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers took two of three this weekend from the defending World Series Champions San Francisco Giants to win just their fifth home series of the season. The Texas bullpen coughed up a three run lead on Saturday night to lose in extra innings to keep the team from a sweep in the series and moving their record back to .500.
They finished the weekend with a 51-53 record that places them in third place in the American League West eight games behind Houston and four games behind Los Angeles. Texas holds a four game lead over fourth place Seattle and a five game lead over Oakland. The Rangers are now three games behind Minnesota for the second Wild Card playoff berth.
The highlight of the weekend was Cole Hamels’ start on Saturday night. Hamels was acquired in blockbuster eight player and cash trade that was agreed on Wednesday night and finalized on Friday. The sterling left-hander drew a crowd of 41,114, the fifth largest crowd of the season on strong walk-up ticket sales. Hamels had pitched a no-hitter over the Cubs in his previous start, which proved to be his last start for Philadelphia. He looked to possibly duplicate the feat by pitching two pristine innings to start Saturday’s game.
In the third though, Brandon Belk led off with a home run, the first Hamels has surrendered to a left-handed batter all season. Two doubles and a single followed to plate two more runs as San Francisco took a 3-2 lead, after Mitch Moreland had driven in a pair in the Rangers’ first.
Texas came back to tie the game at three in the fourth inning, then took the lead in the sixth inning. Bobby Wilson, a catcher claimed on waivers earlier in the week drove in both runs. Delino DeShields drove in another run to extend the Rangers’ lead to 5-3 before the sixth was over.
Hamels however surrendered another home run in the seventh inning to Buster Posey. That cut the Rangers’ lead to 5-4. Texas padded the lead with two more runs in the seventh inning.
Hamels came out for the eighth inning holding the 7-4 lead and promptly coaxed a ground out and struck out Angel Pagan for the first two outs. However, Joe Panik doubled to end Hamels night on the mound.
He left the field with a three run lead and a rousing standing ovation. Indeed, the atmosphere was electric in the stands with the anticipation of what a top of the rotation starter like Hamels can do for the team in this season’s pennant race.
Tanner Scheppers replaced Hamels, and he later left the field to a chorus of boos, as the Giants knocked him around to tie the game at seven. Hamels’ win was out the window, and so was the Rangers after Sam Dyson allowed a pair of solo home runs in the 11th inning.
San Francisco won 9-7. Hunter Strickland (2-1), the sixth of seven Giants’ relievers was credited with the win. Santiago Casilla pitched a scoreless bottom of the eleventh to earn his 27th save of the season. Dyson (3-4) took the loss.
The Rangers won Friday night’s series opening game handily 6-3. Nick Martinez threw his best game since June. He allowed single runs in the first and second innings, but closed the door on the Giants from there. He pitched into the seventh inning allowing those two runs on seven hits.
Meanwhile the Rangers’ offense clicked for two runs in the first inning and four more in the second off World Series MVP Madison Baumgarner. Adrian Beltre homered in the first inning with a runner on. Elvis Andrus hit another two run home run to cap off the four run second inning. That was it for Ranger scoring on the night, but six runs proved to be enough.
Jake Diekman, the reliever acquired along with Hamels from Philadelphia, finished the seventh and pitched the eighth inning retiring all five batters he faced. Surprisingly, Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation. It was his fourth straight game to pitch. He allowed a solo home run to Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford, but retired the other three batters he faced to end the game.
The win evened Martinez’s record at 6-6. Baumgarner took the loss to fall to 11-6.
On Sunday, Martin Perez pitched a marvelous game. He threw eight shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Josh Hamilton hit a two run home run to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead going into the ninth inning.
With one out in the ninth, Perez gave up a double to Pagan, and Ranger manager Jeff Banister had seen enough. He removed Perez from the game, even though his pitch count stood at just 80. A walk and two singles later, the Giants had cut the lead to 2-1 with the bases loaded. However, Hunter Pence grounded into a double play to end the game.
The final score was 2-1. Perez won his first game of the season to move to 1-2. Mike Leake (9-6), who pitched a terrific game himself, took the loss in his first start since getting traded to San Francisco. Sam Dyson earned his first Major League save.
There is no question that Ranger manager Jeff Banister has made questionable pitching changes in the past, but this weekend’s moves have escalated the conversation. Perez had been so masterful that taking him out and turning over the game to the Rangers’ bullpen was highly questionable. He used closer Shawn Tolleson on Saturday in a tie game for the fourth day in a row, rendering Tolleson unavailable on Sunday.
This could easily have been a three game sweep, and indeed should have been. It for sure was a lost opportunity for the Rangers to cut the lead in the division and for a Wild Card playoff berth. In any event though, the team has won four of its last five games.
The next opponent for Texas is the Astros. They will play in Arlington Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Rangers hold a 5-4 edge in the first nine games between the two Lone Star state teams fighting for the Silver Boot trophy which is awarded annually to the winner of the season series. The announced starting pitchers for the series are Colby Lewis (11-4) verses Lance McCullers (5-3) on Monday, Yovani Gallardo (7-9) verses Mike Fiers (5-9) on Tuesday, and Nick Martinez (6-6) verses Scott Kazmir (6-5) on Wednesday.
* Cole Hamels pitched a no-hit game in his last start for the Phillies, while his mound opponent on Saturday night, Chris Heston, pitched one on June 9 against the Mets. It was the first time that pitchers that had previously thrown no-hitters in the season had squared off against each other since 2010, when it happened twice.
* Rougned Odor was named Ranger Player of the Month for July. He hit .319 with five home runs, 16 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
* Texas has allowed five home runs in extra innings this year, tied for the most in baseball.
* The Giants’ series ended inter-league play in Arlington this season. There is one three game inter-league series remaining on the schedule, a three game set in San Diego that begins on Monday, August 31. Texas is 9-8 so far in inter-league play.