TORONTO SLOWS RANGERS CHARGE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas beat the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday afternoon to avoid a sweep at the hands of one of the hottest teams in baseball. Losing two out of three cost the Rangers a game in the standings to both division leading Houston and third place Los Angeles in the West, as both of those teams started the week by winning two of three.

The series began Tuesday night with a battle of left-handers – Mark Buehrle for Toronto and Derek Holland for Texas. Holland was making his second start since being activated from the disabled list.

The Ranger hitters banged Buehrle around nicely, scoring single runs in the first, second and third innings and two more in the fifth. Delino DeShields, Jr. and Rougned Odor hit home runs. Buehrle completed six innings, giving up the five runs on seven hits.

Toronto answered with three home runs of their own. Chris Colabello, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion went yard in the second, third and sixth innings to cut the Ranger lead to 5-4. From there, the bullpens took over. Texas threatened in the seventh and eighth innings, but disappointingly did not score, leaving five runners on base.

The Rangers took the 5-4 lead into the ninth inning, sending closer Shawn Tolleson to the mound to secure the win. It was obvious from the beginning that he was not sharp. He walked the leadoff batter, never a good sign. He walked another. Troy Tulowitsky finally hit a soft line drive to left field to plate the tying run.

With two outs, Tolleson appeared to end the inning when he coaxed a ground ball to third base, but Adrian Beltre threw wide drawing Mitch Moreland off first base to snatch the throw. That plated another run as Toronto took 6-5 lead.

Roberto Osuna took care of the Rangers in short order in the ninth inning, striking out two to earn his 15th save. Toronto won 6-5. Tolleson (5-3) took the loss, while LaTroy Hawkins (3-1) was the winner for the Jays.

Holland didn’t pitch great as he allowed four runs on seven hits, including three home runs, over six innings. However, it was good enough to be two outs away from earning the win.

It was certainly one of the most disappointing losses of the year coming at a bad time.

Game two was a tight one for five innings. Beltre hit a two run home run in the first inning to give the Rangers the early lead. Toronto came back with single runs in the second and third innings to tie the game. They then took the lead with two more in the fifth inning, with both runs coming from a home run from former Ranger Justin Smoak.

The Rangers then melted down in the sixth. Three Ranger pitchers were needed to finish the inning as the Jays scored six runs to take command of the game. The deciding blow came from the Encarnacion’s bat – a grand slam home run that capped the scoring in the inning.

Both teams scored two runs in the seventh inning to make the final score 12-4. Colby Lewis (14-6) was the losing pitcher, while David Price (13-4) was the winner for Toronto.

Jays reliever Bo Schultz pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing a hit and walking a batter among the eight Ranger batters that he faced. Schultz is a graduate of Highland Park High School in Dallas.

Thursday’s matinee game was a tight one all the way. Mitch Moreland singled home a run in the first to give the Rangers an early lead. It was still 1-0 when the Rangers came to bat in the seventh inning. Will Venable singled to open the frame, but was quickly erased from the base paths when he got picked off. However, Bobby Wilson and Hanser Alberto followed with singles to set the stage for Delino DeShields.

The Rangers’ speedster singled home a run, and when Bautista in right field missed the ball, all three scored. Encarnacion doubled home a run for the Jays in the eighth, but that was all the scoring allowed by Ranger pitching. 4-1 was the final score.

Yovani Gallardo pitched 5-1/3rd scoreless innings to earn the win. He’s 11-8 with the win, his fourth this month in five starts. Tolleson faced four batters in the ninth inning, giving up a hit and retiring the other three, to earn his 26th save. Jays’ starter Marco Estrada (11-8) gave up a run on four hits over six innings to take the loss.

Texas is now five games out of first place, but are just four games behind the Astros in the loss column. The Rangers lead the Angels by one-half game in the standings and one in the loss column.

This home stand for the birds continues this weekend, as the Blue Jays leave town, and the Orioles arrive. Baltimore limps in having won just two of their last 10 games. The Rangers won three of four from the O’s earlier this season when the teams met in Baltimore. The announced starting pitchers are Cole Hamels (1-1 and 7-8) against Kevin Gausman (2-5) on Friday night, Martin Perez (1-3) against Ubaldo Jimenez (9-8) on Saturday night, and Derek Holland (1-1) verses Miguel Gonzalez (9-10) on Sunday afternoon.

NOTABLE:

* The largest crowd ovation on Tuesday night was for Ivan Rodriguez, who sat in the owners’ box near the Rangers’ dugout. The standing ovation came when Chuck Morgan announced his election to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.

* Attendance for this series was just 61,183, with Wednesday night’s crowd dropping under 20,000 for the fourth time this season. The Jays have never been a good draw in Arlington, and almost every area school is back in session, further limiting the crowds. Total home attendance is 1,861,446, an average of 30,516 per game. At that pace, they will draw 2,471,750 for the year. Texas drew 2,718,733 last year.

* Sin-Shoo Choo reached base in all three games of the series to extend his on-base streak to 31 games started since the All-Star break. During the streak, he has reached base by either a hit, a walk or hit by pitch in 61 of 139 plate appearances, an on-base percentage of .439.

* Thursday afternoon’s win over the Blue Jays evened the Rangers’ day game record at 18-18 this year.

* Yovani Gallardo’s win on Thursday brought his career win total to 100. He is the fifth native of Mexico to reach the 100 win plateau. Fernando Valenzuela is the leader with 179.

* Nick Martinez re-joined the Rangers Thursday and Spencer Patton was sent to AAA Round Rock. Martinez is slated to pitch out of the bullpen.

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RANGERS MOVE INTO SECOND

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas passed Los Angeles to move into second place in the West, and passed the Angels and Baltimore to take over the second Wild Card spot by winning three of four in Detroit this weekend. Ranger pitchers allowed just nine runs in the four game set, which was good enough to win the final three games of the series after being shutout in the opener. Houston matched the Rangers’ performance over the weekend to maintain a four game lead over Texas in the West.

Alfredo Simon opened the series by pitching a gem for Detroit. He pitched the first complete game in his career and did it in style – a 4-0 whitewashing of the Rangers on one hit. It was the seventh time this season that the Rangers have been shutout. The Tigers scored single runs in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings. Rougned Odor had the lone Ranger hit in the fifth inning.

Martin Perez needed 97 pitches to complete five innings, giving up three of the four runs. He took the loss to fall to 1-3. It was Perez’s seventh start since being activated as he is returning from Tommy John surgery. The Rangers now plan to skip his next start. The win moved Simon’s record to 11-7.

Game two on Friday night was much the same as game one, only in reverse. Detroit’s suddenly resurgent Justin Verlander pitched extremely well limiting the Rangers to four hits over seven innings. Texas touched him for just two runs, one of which was unearned.

Colby Lewis was better. He allowed the Tigers six hits and a walk over seven innings, but no runs. The closest the Tigers got to the scoreboard was in the fourth inning when Miguel Cabrera seemingly scored from second base on a single to left field. However, the call at the plate was overturned on replay review.

Texas scored the first run on a Will Venable double in the second inning. It was the first hit and first RBI for the newly acquired outfielder, who also made the throw home to nab Cabrera in the fourth inning. Prince Fielder drove home the other run with a sac fly in the third inning.

Lewis left after seven innings with his pitch count at 97, replaced by Keone Kela, who was perfect in the eighth inning. Shawn Tolleson gave up a leadoff double to Cabrera in the ninth, but proceeded to strike out the next three batters – the heart of the Tigers’ batting order – to secure the win.

Verlander (1-6) took the loss. Tolleson earned his 24th save. Lewis (14-5) tied Felix Hernandez and Dallas Keuchel for the league lead in wins. There is a perception that Lewis hasn’t pitched very well, despite the win total. His ERA is still 4.29, due largely to two bad outings when he stayed on the mound to save the bullpen in lost causes. However, he is 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA over his last seven starts. He is simply getting better as the season progresses.

The Rangers clinched a split in the series and moved into second place on Saturday when they received another well pitched game from Yovani Gallardo. He pitched six shutout innings and was relieved when Jose Iglesias singled to start the seventh inning. It was the eighth hit of the night for the Tigers, but was of no consequence as Jake Diekman followed with a strikeout, fly out and ground out to end the inning.

Texas was one out away from a second consecutive shutout, when Iglesias singled on a swinging bunt and Rajai Davis singled on a soft ground ball to second base. Both of those measly hits came off Sam Dyson, who was relieved by Shawn Tolleson, who unfortunately immediately surrendered a home run to Ian Kinsler.

Tolleson did strike out the next batter to end the threat. 5-3 was the final score. Texas initially got on the scoreboard in the third inning with four runs. Eight batters came to the plate, five of whom singled. Rougned Odor homered in the top of the ninth inning, his 10th, to complete the Rangers’ scoring.

Gallardo (10-9) was the winning pitcher. Newly acquired Randy Wolf (0-1), took the loss in his Detroit debut. It was Wolf’s first start since June of 2014. He essentially replaced Sunday’s announced starting pitcher – Anibal Sanchez – who went on the disabled list Thursday.

Cole Hamels was the story Sunday afternoon. He closed out the series with his first win as a Ranger. He pitched six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. Dyson and Tolleson were perfect in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the 4-2 win. Hamels is now 1-1 for Texas and 7-8 overall. Matt Boyd (1-4) took the loss for Detroit. Tolleson earned his 25th save.

The Tigers took the early lead when Miguel Cabrera singled home a run in the first inning. Cabrera is finally being recognized as the fine hitter he is. He has been on fire since returning from the disabled list. He had a multi-hit game in each game of this series and went 9-14 with two RBIs.

Chris Gimenez tied the game with his third home run in the third inning, but Detroit came back to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, with the run being driven in by Iglesias. Mitch Moreland had a big two run double in the sixth inning to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead they never surrendered. Mike Napoli homered in the ninth to add an insurance run. 4-2 was the final score.

This road trip was just one series, as the Rangers now come home for six very important games. After an off day on Monday, Toronto comes to town for three games, followed by Baltimore over the weekend. Toronto is fresh off a three game sweep of the Angels that moved them past the Yankees into first place in the East. Baltimore is in the thick of the Wild Card race, just two games behind the Rangers.

The Rangers’ announced starting pitchers are Derek Holland (1-1) on Tuesday, Colby Lewis (14-5) on Wednesday, and Yovani Gallardo (10-9) on Thursday afternoon. Toronto will send out Mark Buehrle (13-6), David Price (12-4) and Marco Estrada (10-7).

NOTABLE:

* Ivan Rodriguez was elected to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday. The Puerto Rican native was a 14 time All-Star and won the Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence at his position 13 times. He played 13 seasons for Texas and won the American League MVP Award as a Ranger in 1999.

* Adrian Beltre’s career total of games played reached 2,528 this weekend. That’s now the most games played by a native of the Dominican Republic, surpassing Julio Franco’s total of 2,527.

* This weekend’s games were the first for Prince Fielder in Detroit since the Tigers traded him to the Rangers. Fielder was on the disabled list last year when the Rangers made their only trip to Comerica Park.

* Josh Hamilton was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday to make room on the active roster for newly acquired Will Venable. Venable went 1-5 in the series, starting in left field in two of the four games. Venable was the 54th player used by the Rangers this season, most in the American League. Texas set the team record of 64 players used in a season last year.

* Sin-Shoo Choo extended his streak of reaching base in games started to 28 consecutive games since the All-Star break. However, he was just 1-11 in the series, but was hit by a pitch and walked four times to keep the streak alive.

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HOME SUCCESS CONTINUES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers new found home success continued this week against Seattle as they took two of three games from the Mariners. That closed out the home stand with a 5-1 record. Combined with the last home stand, the Rangers have now won 12 of the last 16 home games.

Game one of the Seattle series on Monday was one of the most watchable games of the year. Texas won 4-3, with the winning run scoring on a bases loaded walk in the ninth inning. It was literally a walk-off win!

Cole Hamels was the starting pitcher, making his third start for Texas and his second at home. He pitched well, especially early. He was far from dominant, but he struck out eight and coaxed two double play ground balls. He ended up allowing three runs on seven hits and took a no decision as the game was tied at three when he left.

He was supported by outstanding defense. The highlight play on a night of many SportsCenter quality plays, was Sin-Shoo Choo’s throw home to nail Logan Morrison trying to score from third base on a fly ball to end the seventh inning.

However, the Rangers quelled another Seattle rally in the fifth inning by getting a force out at third base on the “wheel play” thwarting a sacrifice bunt that would have put runners at second and third with one out. Beltre also made an amazing pick up on an intermediate hop to start one of the double plays.

Speed throttled the Rangers’ offense as three of their 13 hits came on bunts. Three bunt hits are the most in a Major League game this year, and Chris Gimenez also laid down a sacrifice bunt that led to a sixth inning run.

Shawn Tolleson pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Texas to earn the win. He’s 5-2. Fernando Rodney (5-5) was Seattle’s losing pitcher after retiring just one batter in the ninth inning before walking in the winning run.

Game two went to Seattle by a 3-2 score. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez started for the Rangers and gave up the three Mariner runs in the first inning, including a two run home run to Seth Smith. Gonzalez, who completed six innings for a quality start, and three Ranger relievers shutout the Mariners over the last eight innings.

Unfortunately, Hisashi Iwakuma was dealing even more effectively for Seattle. He completed seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits. The first run scored on Rougned Odor’s ninth home run. Bobby Wilson’s seventh inning sacrifice fly plated the other Ranger run. Two Seattle relievers blanked Texas in the eighth and ninth innings with Carson Smith earning the save, his 13th.

Iwakuma (5-2) got the win, while Gonzalez (2-5) took the loss.

Thursday’s series finale marked the return of Derek Holland. Holland completed one inning in the home opener last April before experiencing shoulder discomfort that has shelved him since. He gave the starting rotation a shot in the arm by pitching into the seventh inning, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out six and walked none.

Holland’s position player teammates handed him a three run lead in the first inning. Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus hit run scoring singles. Seattle crept back into the game with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Mark Trumbo homered for Seattle’s first run, and Holland escaped big trouble in the sixth by coaxing a ground ball double play with the bases loaded and no outs to limit Seattle’s rally to one run.

Texas broke the game open in the seventh inning with back-to-back-to-back home runs. Moreland’s came first with a runner aboard, followed by solo shots from Mike Napoli and Andrus. Moreland leads the Rangers with 18 home runs.

Keone Kela, Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson shutout Seattle on one hit after Holland departed. Holland (1-1) was the winning pitcher, and Mike Montgomery (4-6) was the loser.

Houston also won two of three to start the week such that the Rangers still trail the spacemen by four games for the division lead. The second place Angels won all three of their games to start the week to pick up a game on the Rangers. They now trail Houston by 2.5 games and lead the Rangers by 1.5 games. They also moved back in front of the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot.

The Rangers departed after Wednesday’s game for Detroit, where they begin a four game road trip on Thursday. Detroit is the only American League team the Rangers have not faced this season. The announced starting pitchers are Martin Perez (1-2) on Thursday, Colby Lewis (13-5) on Friday, Yovani Gallardo (9-9) on Saturday, and Cole Hamels (0-1 and 6-8) on Sunday. Detroit’s announced starters are Alfredo Simon (10-7), Justin Verlander (1-5) fresh off a strong performance against the Astros, Matt Boyd (1-3), and Anibal Sanchez (10-10) in Sunday’s finale.

NOTABLE:

* Yu Darvish was cleared to begin a throwing program on Tuesday and made 25 throws from 45 feet. He reported no discomfort throwing or afterward.

* Sin-Shoo Choo has reached base in all 24 games he has started since the All-Star break.

* Interesting Paradox: The attendance at Monday’s game was 19,880, the third home crowd this season of less than 20,000 after the team went five years with every home crowd exceeding 20,000. However, the Fox Sports Southwest’s viewing audience was the largest of any game since 2013.

* Monday’s game was the 200th in Adrian Beltre’s career in which he garnered three or more hits.

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RANGERS SWEEP PAST RAYS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – This weekend, Texas moved past Tampa Bay in the Wild Card standings with a three game sweep of the Rays. Texas also picked up a game on first place Houston in the West Division, as the Astros won two of three from Detroit. The Rangers are now two games over .500 at 57-55 for the first time since July 2, and trail the first place Astros by four games and the second place Angels by one-half game. They are one game behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card playoff spot.

Texas won Sunday’s series finale 5-3 with Yovani Gallardo starting and earning the win for Texas, which evened his record at 9-9. Gallardo was far from sharp as he gave up 11 hits, but he held the scoreboard damage to three runs in 5-1/3rd innings.

The Ranger bullpen kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard, with Shawn Tolleson finishing the game with a four up three down ninth inning to record his 23rd save in 24 chances. Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, gave up all five Rangers runs in four innings. His record dipped to 0-2 with the loss.

Adrian Beltre and Ryan Strausborger homered for Texas. It was Strausborger’s first in the Major Leagues, and was one of three hits on the day for the speedster.

The series began Friday night with a delightful game. Martin Perez started for Texas against Nathan Karns. Perez pitched well. He earned a quality start, his third straight. He gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings, but took a no decision, as Karns pitched even better.

Karns gave up two hits and his team held a 3-2 lead going into the fifth inning. He struck out the first batter and the second grounded out. However, he walked the third and was immediately lifted from the game one out shy of qualifying for the win.

It was clearly disappointing to the area native. Karns played at Arlington Martin High School and Texas Tech before going pro. He had garnered between 40 and 50 tickets for friends and relatives. He was one out away from qualifying for the win when he was removed from the game with a pitch count of only 81.

Sam Dyson shut out the Rays in the sixth and seventh innings, striking out three, but allowing three hits. Delino DeShields, Jr. tied the game at three in the seventh inning with a solo home run down the left field line. It was his first in the Majors, and the only doubt when it was hit was whether the ball would stay fair. It did.

Josh Hamilton drove in the tie breaking run in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly. Elvis Andrus singled home an insurance run.

Shawn Tolleson did his usual in the ninth. He needed just six pitches to retire the Rays and earn his 22nd save. 5-3 was the final score. Dyson (2-0) was the winning pitcher, and Rays’ reliever Jake McGee (1-2) took the loss.

The Rangers clinched the series win on Saturday night with a 12-4 victory. It was a much closer game than that score indicates as the Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. Texas had pushed across a run in the first inning on a pair of doubles hit by Sin-Shoo Choo and Prince Fielder. Chris Gimenez homered in the second with a runner on base.

However, the complexion of the game changed in the bottom of the sixth as the Rangers broke the game open with seven runs. Adrian Beltre’s three run home run capped off the scoring. The Rangers added two more runs including a solo home run in the seventh inning off the bat of Choo to push the Ranger total to 12.

Colby Lewis scattered five hits over six innings, allowing the Rays a run, to earn his team leading 13th win. He turned it over to the bullpen in the seventh as his pitch count was 111, a pitch count that got run up on 15 pitch at bat by the last batter he faced – Asdrubal Cabrera. Only two of the 15 pitches were balls, as Cabrera hit 10 foul balls after the first two strikes before flying out.

The Rangers bullpen gave up three more runs to make the final score 12-4. Chris Archer (10-9) was the Rays’ starting and losing pitcher.

The series was the first appearance for Mike Napoli in Arlington since his return to the Rangers. He pinch hit Friday and Saturday nights and received a rousing ovation from the fans, which included the “Nap-Oh-Lee” chant.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister was asked after Saturday if he was surprised at the fan reaction for Napoli. “No,” he answered, but he added, “What a special group of fans to give him that reception. They still love him.”

Napoli started Sunday against the left-hander Smyly and went 2-4.

For most of this season, the Rangers have struggled at home and still have a sub-.500 record in Arlington. However, they have now won seven games in a row and 10 of the last 11 in Arlington since the embarrassing 21-5 blowout by the Yankees in late July. The Rangers have 25 remaining home games this year.

Banister said that winning at home “is crucial with the number of home games left.”

The home stand continues Monday night, the first of three games with Seattle. The Mariners arrive in Arlington in fourth place in the West with a 55-63 record. They trail Texas by five games for third place, but hold a 7-2 advantage over Texas in three series so far this year.

Cole Hamels’ bullpen session over the weekend went well, so he will start Monday night. He’s 0-1 for Texas and 6-7 overall. Seattle has announced Taijuan Walker (8-7) as their starter Monday night. Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-4) squares off against Hisashi Iwakuma (4-2) on Tuesday night, Iwakuma’s first start since tossing a complete game no-hitter against the Orioles. Martin Perez (1-2) is announced as Wednesday afternoon’s Ranger starting pitcher, facing Mike Montgomery (4-5) for Seattle.

NOTABLE:

* On Friday night, Derek Holland completed five innings, giving up two runs on four hits for AAA Round Rock. He struck out eight and walked two on 89 pitches. The Rangers are undecided as to whether his next start will be another minor league rehab appearance or for the Rangers. Holland is campaigning for the latter. There is a chance that Holland will start Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against Seattle instead of Martin Perez.

* Delino DeShields, Jr. stole third base Saturday night, his 20th swipe of the year. He became the seventh rookie in Ranger history to reach the 20 steal plateau.

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TWIN KILLINGS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The reeling Minnesota Twins took two of three from Texas this week to push back their record to .500 and push their team back into the Wild Card race. Texas limps home from a disappointing 2-4 road trip to open a six game home stand this weekend.

Texas salvaged the final game of the Twins’ series to avoid a sweep. Mitch Moreland, who had not homered in 22 games, had a career day, as the Rangers came back from an early 4-0 deficit to win 6-5. Moreland had four hits, including his team leading 17th home run, to drive in four runs.

Chi Chi Gonzalez was summoned to start the series finale as previously announced starter Cole Hamels was scratched with a groin issue. The Twins knocked Gonzalez around for four second inning runs, but he righted the ship to complete 5-2/3rds innings. He gave up all five runs that Minnesota scored, but took a no decision.

Keone Kela (6-5), who returned from AA Frisco for the series, was the winning pitcher in relief. Shawn Tolleson earned his 21st save in 22 opportunities.

Gonzalez’s innings were badly needed as the Rangers bullpen was blown out on Wednesday in an 11-1 Twins’ rout. Nick Martinez, who was sent to AAA Round Rock on Thursday to make room for Gonzalez, started for the Rangers and was hit hard. He gave up seven runs in 3-2/3rds innings. He took the loss to even his record at 7-7.

Minnesota’s highly regarded rookie Miguel Sano was 3-3 with a pair of home runs and drove in six runs to spearhead the Twins’ 18 hit attack. Prince Fielder singled home the Rangers’ run in the sixth inning after Minnesota had amassed an 11-0 lead.

Mike Pelfrey (6-7) was the winning pitcher for Minnesota. He allowed the Ranger run and four of the five hits they mustered on the night.

The opening game on Tuesday was one of the more disappointing losses of the season. Elvis Andrus homered in the second inning with a runner on base, and Yovani Gallardo tossed 5-2/3rds shutout innings. Sam Dyson and Kela continued the shutout through the seventh inning as Texas took that 2-0 lead into the eighth. Minnesota tied the game in the eighth with both runs coming off Jake Diekman, the first runs he’s allowed as Ranger. That cost Gallardo the opportunity to win the game.

The Rangers then lost the chance to win the game period in the ninth inning as the Twins got the walk-off win on Eduardo Escobar’s double that drove home the winning run off Spencer Patton. Patton took the loss making his record 0-1, while Minnesota reliever Glen Perkins (1-3) was the winning pitcher.

The 2-4 road trip continued an odd trend for the Rangers. Their record was 25-34 against teams with a losing record when the trip started. Both Seattle and Minnesota had losing records when the series with those teams began. Texas has fallen five games behind the Astros for first place in the division and three games behind the Angels for the second Wild Card playoff spot. Both Houston and Los Angeles have struggled of late, so the losing road trip represents a lost opportunity for the Rangers to pick up ground in the race for playoffs.

Tampa Bay makes its only appearance of the season in Arlington for three games this weekend to kick off the home stand. These two teams split a four game series earlier this season in St. Petersburg. The announced starting pitchers are Martin Perez (0-1) on Friday night, Colby Lewis (12-5) on Saturday, and Yovani Gallardo (7-9) on Sunday afternoon. The Rays will counter with Nathan Karns (7-5), Chris Archer (10-8), and TBA.

NOTABLE:

* Cole Hamels is scheduled to start Monday night against Seattle.

* Adrian Beltre notched his 2,700th career hit on Wednesday night.

* Derek Holland is scheduled to start Friday night for Round Rock against Colorado Springs and will make at least one more minor league rehab start before being activated.

* Wednesday night’s 11-1 loss was the sixth time this season the Rangers have lost by 10 or more runs.

* The Rangers’ bullpen ERA is the highest in the Major Leagues.

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SEATTLE REIGNS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Seattle reigned this weekend as they took two of three games from Texas to slow the Rangers’ push for a playoff berth. The Mariners won the rubber game Sunday behind a strong outing from Felix Hernandez. He won his league leading 14th game of the year by scattering six hits and two runs over seven innings.

Carson Smith earned his 12th save of the year by getting into and out of trouble to hold the Rangers off the scoreboard in the ninth inning. Texas had the tying runs on base when Prince Fielder grounded out to end the game. 4-2 was the final score.

Colby Lewis threw an eight inning complete game for Texas in the loss, the second complete game for the Rangers this year. He gave up the deciding runs on a pair of home runs hit by Jesus Montero with a man on base in the fourth inning and a solo shot by Nelson Cruz in the sixth inning to erase an early 2-1 Ranger lead. The first Seattle run was unearned such that Lewis was credited with a quality start. He gave up just five hits and took the loss to drop his record to 12-5.

Texas opened the series with Cole Hamels on the mound and took a 3-1 lead after four innings, as Bobby Wilson drove in a pair of runs with a second inning double, and Mitch Moreland scored in the fourth inning on a wild pitch.

From that point, the game turned in Seattle’s favor. The Rangers’ offense never scored again, while Hamels gave up three solo home runs. Mark Trumbo (fifth inning), Nelson Cruz (sixth inning) and Robinson Cano (also in the sixth inning) hit them.

4-3 was the final score. Hamels pitched six innings giving up the four runs on eight hits. He took the loss to fall to 0-1 as a Ranger and 6-6 for the season. Hisashi Iwakuma (3-2) pitched seven innings allowing all three Ranger runs on six hits and was the winning pitcher. Smith retired Texas in the ninth for his 11th save.

Martin Perez squared off against Mike Montgomery on Saturday afternoon. The Mariners usually play on Saturday night at home, but moved the game to alleviate traffic problems that would have arisen at night, as there was a Taylor Swift concert in Seattle that evening.

Both pitchers threw shutout innings in the first, second and third. In the fourth, both coughed up three runs. That was all the scoring in the first nine innings. Montgomery was removed after four innings, while Perez lasted six.

The two relievers Texas obtained in non-waiver trade deadline deals kept the Mariners off the scoreboard in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to get the game into overtime. Jeff Banister made the somewhat controversial decision to use his closer Shawn Tolleson in the tenth inning with the game still tied.

Tolleson got into trouble immediately when Seth Smith reached base on an error. Two strikeouts later, Banister made another controversial decision. He intentionally walked Cruz and Robinson Cano to load the bases. With the winning run just a wild pitch away, Tolleson struck out Montero to end the threat. He threw 26 pitches in the inning counting seven intentional balls.

The nip and tuck game took a 180 degree turn at that point as the Rangers erupted for eight runs in their half of the 11th inning. Josh Hamilton, Rougned Odor, Chris Gimenez, Delino DeShields, Jr. and Fielder drove in the runs. Fielder’s two RBIs came on his 17th home run.

Banister again defied logic by bringing Tolleson back to pitch the bottom of the 11th with an 11-3 lead. (Historical note: The largest lead overcome in extra innings in the history of baseball is six runs.) Tolleson gave up a double before retiring the side, but ended up throwing 48 pitches, clearly the most he’s thrown in a game this year.

The Rangers are looking more and more like the 2011 Rangers that should have won the World Series. Not only has Josh Hamilton returned since the season began, but on Friday, the Rangers completed a trade to bring fan favorite Mike Napoli back. Napoli is owed more than $5.0 million over the balance of the season, but Boston will be paying most of that. The Rangers are on the line for just $1.5 million. Napoli will platoon at first base with Moreland.

Hopefully, the Rangers will look more like the 2011 Rangers on the field as well as in name over the final third of the season.

Despite losing this series, the Rangers have won eight of 11 games since the embarrassing 21-5 blowout loss to the Yankees. The run has pulled the Rangers’ record to even .500 at 55-55 which puts them 4.5 games behind the first place Astros, who lead Texas by only three in the loss column. They are four games behind the Angels for the second Wild Card playoff berth.

Texas now has an off day on Monday before completing the road trip with three games in Minnesota. The Twins are reeling and have now fallen one game under .500 at 55-56. They are still one of the teams in the mix for a Wild Card playoff berth, so the games will be doubly important. A Ranger win is not only a win, but also a loss for a team they are in competition with for the playoffs.

The announced starting pitchers are Yovani Gallardo (8-9) on Tuesday against the Twins’ Kyle Gibson (8-9). Nick Martinez (7-6) and Mike Pelfrey (5-7) are Wednesday’s starting pitchers. Cole Hamels (0-1 and 6-6) faces Ervin Santana (2-2) in Thursday afternoon’s series finale.

NOTABLE:

* The two pitchers obtained in non-waiver trade deadline deals – Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson – have combined to make 11 appearances for the Rangers since the trades, giving up just one run in 10-2/3rds innings.

* After losing two of three to Seattle this weekend, the Rangers are 25-34 against teams that are currently under .500. Three of the next four series are against sub-.500 teams.

* The Rangers eight run outburst was the second highest scoring extra inning in Ranger history. Texas scored 12 runs against Oakland in the 15th inning in 1983. They also scored eight runs in the 11th inning in a 1991 game against Seattle.

* Derek Holland threw 63 pitches and completed 3-1/3 innings in a Sunday night start for Frisco. He allowed eight base runners, three of which scored. Holland will make at least one more start before getting activated to the Rangers’ active roster.

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RANGERS SWEEP ASTROS AGAIN

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers swept a three game from the Houston Astros this week to move to within five games of first place in the West and within two games of a Wild Card playoff berth. It was the second time this year that the Rangers have swept Houston in a three game series and the second series win in a row. Texas has won seven of its last eight games, essentially the time frame from when the Cole Hamels’ trade was finalized. Ironically, the only loss in that span is the game Hamels started.

Nick Martinez sent his record to 7-6 in the series finale Wednesday night. He allowed just one hit and one run over five innings to earn the win. He got the quick hook though from manager Jeff Banister, who turned the game over to the often scary Ranger bullpen with a 4-1 lead.

Banister’s pitching move looked questionable as the Astros rallied for a pair of sixth inning runs, as three relievers each recorded an out. Both runs were charged to Phil Klein, who gave up a hit and walked two of the four batters he faced. Spencer Patton recorded the third out, and then pitched a scoreless seventh inning.

With closer Shawn Tolleson unavailable after pitching in six of the previous seven games, the two relievers acquired in trades last week took care of the eighth and ninth innings. Jake Diekman coaxed a double play after walking the lead-off batter, and gave up a single before retiring the fourth batter he faced to end the eighth inning.

Sam Dyson hit a batter and gave up a hit in the ninth to put the tying and go ahead run on base with one out. However, he finished with a strikeout and a flyout, to record his second career Major League save, both of which he has earned since joining the Rangers.

Texas scored three unearned runs in the first inning to grab the early lead, as the Astros committed two errors. Chris Gimenez homered in the second to complete the Rangers’ scoring on the night.

Fortunately, the bullpen made the four runs stand up. Houston’s starter Scott Kazmir (6-6) was the losing pitcher in the 4-3 Ranger win.

The series started with a rock-em, sock-em game on Monday night. Carlos Correa homered in the first inning to give Houston a 2-0 lead. Texas came back to knock Astro’s starting pitcher, Lance McCullers, Jr., out of the box in the bottom half of the inning. The two big blows of the inning were an Adrian Beltre triple and a Sin-Shoo Choo home run. McCullers recorded just one out and gave up six runs on seven hits as Texas seemingly took charge of the game.

The Astros’ Luis Valbuena hit a solo home run in the second inning to cut the Rangers’ lead to 6-3. However, the Rangers put together another big inning in the third, plating five more runs to make the score 11-3. Beltre contributed a single after hitting a double in the second inning.

In the fifth, Beltre came to the plate again needing a home run to complete the cycle. He hit it. It was the second Ranger cycle this year (Choo had the other) and ninth cycle in Ranger history. Beltre became the fourth player in MLB history to hit for a cycle three times. Interestingly, all three of Beltre’s cycles have occurred at Globe Life Ballpark. He hit for the cycle as a Ranger in 2012, and hit for the cycle as a Seattle Mariner against the Rangers in 2008.

The Astros weren’t dead though. They knocked Ranger starter Colby Lewis around for 10 hits that produced seven runs on the night, which included a third home run, a Jason Castro grand slam in the fourth inning. That cut the lead to 11-7 at the time. Lewis finished six innings before handing the game off to the bullpen.

Beltre’s fifth inning home run completed the Ranger scoring on the night at 12. Houston got the lead down to three in the seventh inning with a pair of runs off Patton. That was as close as the Astros got though. Dyson took care of the eighth inning, and Tolleson earned his 19th save with a solid one-two-three ninth inning.

12-9 was the final score. Lewis (12-4) was the winning pitcher. His win total leads the Ranger staff. McCullers (5-4) took the loss.

Yovani Gallardo started game two. There was hope that he would return to the form he showed in June after pitching poorly and failing to win a game in July. He wasn’t good Tuesday night, but he was better. He couldn’t finish six innings, but he left with a lead and the Rangers’ bullpen was fantastic as they held on to a 4-3 win to get their record back to .500 for the first time since July 3.

Gallardo improved to 8-9 as he earned his first win since June. Tolleson got the save, his 20th. Dan Straily (0-1), who was called up after Monday’s blowout Texas win, took the loss for Houston as he gave up all four Ranger runs on six hits in 4-2/3rds innings.

Texas finished the home stand winning seven and losing three, all against teams that will likely make the playoffs. That still leaves them six games under .500 at home this season, but it is a good step in the right direction.

The Astros left town for Oakland still holding a two game lead over the Angels. However, they have played poorly on the road for more than two months as they have won just eight road games since Memorial Day.

Texas gets the day off Thursday after playing on 13 consecutive days since their last day off on July 23. They begin the road trip with three games in Seattle. The announced starting pitchers are Cole Hamels (0-0 for Texas and 6-7 overall) on Friday, Martin Perez (1-2) on Saturday, and Colby Lewis (12-4) on Sunday. The Mariners counter with Hishashi Iwakuma (2-2), Mike Montgomery (4-4) and Felix Hernandez (13-6).

NOTABLE:

* Derek Holland threw 55 pitches in his second minor league re-hab appearance for Round Rock on Wednesday. He completed two innings and allowed two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He failed to retire any of the four batters he faced in the third inning, walking three while the fourth reached base on an error. He will make at least two more minor league re-hab appearances prior to joining the Rangers with the next one scheduled for this Sunday in Frisco at 6:00 PM.

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RANGERS SLAY GIANTS

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.

NOTABLE:

* 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.

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RANGERS RALLY FOR SPLIT

HAMELS DEAL GIVES A LIFT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas rallied back from their most embarrassing loss of the year to win the final two games against the Yankees and gain a split in this week’s four game series. The Rangers won two games in a row at home for the first time in almost six weeks, capped off with a walk-off win in Thursday’s series finale. The acquisition of Cole Hamels from the Phillies obviously buoyed the team as they overcame three deficits in Thursday’s game to finally win in the ninth inning.

The Rangers started their two pitchers recovering from significant surgeries in the first two games – Matt Harrison and Martin Perez. Both were making their third start since being activated from the disabled list, and neither went well.

Harrison gave up hits to the bottom three in the batting order to start the third inning. Two of the three were for extra bases – a home run and a triple – and all three scored to erase the Rangers early 2-0 lead. Harrison ended up going six innings and allowing six runs to get tagged with his second loss. He’s 1-2, and his ERA is 6.75.

Alex Rodriguez celebrated his 40th birthday with a sixth inning home run. It was the sixth home run he has hit in his career on his birthday, the most ever for any player. Four of the six have come at Globe Life Ballpark, as he celebrated one of is birthdays as a Ranger with a three home run game at home. Monday’s home run also put him in a select club. He became the fourth player in Major League history to hit a home run as a teenager and in his 40′s. The other three are Ty Cobb, Gary Sheffield and former Ranger Rusty Staub.

Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a home run and drove in a career high four runs to supply the lightning. Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin drove home the Texas runs in the second inning.

The Rangers never scored again as 6-2 was the final score. Yankee starter Ivan Nova (3-3) was the winning pitcher.

Tuesday’s game started well for Perez. He retired the Yanks in the first innings without a score, and then his teammates plastered the scoreboard with a five spot in the bottom of the inning to seemingly take charge of the game. Yankees starter Chris Capuano recorded just two outs before being lifted for Diego Moreno who made his Major League debut. Five different Rangers walked in the inning, and all five runs scored with two outs.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there, and it was a BIG hill. Perez didn’t retire a batter in the second inning, as the Yankees rallied to take a 6-5 lead with no outs. Wandy Rodriguez relieved, and he was equally ineffective. The Yankees almost batted around twice to score 11 runs in the inning.

It didn’t end there. The Yanks added 10 more runs before the night was over, while Texas never got a hit after the first inning.

21-5 was the final score. Perez (1-2) took the loss and Moreno (1-0) was the winning pitcher. He was outstanding as he pitched 5-1/3 innings and did not allow a hit, walking just one and striking out five.

There were a number of interesting statistics for the game. 11 runs is the most that has been scored in an inning in any Major League game this year. 21 runs is the most that has been scored in a game since the 2013 season. And despite the football-like score, Yankees reliever Adam Warren was credited with a save, as he worked the final three innings of the game. Ranger utility man Adam Rosales made his second pitching appearance this season, becoming the second Ranger position player to make two pitching appearances.

The carnage from the game struck for both teams on Wednesday. Capuano and Rodriguez were designated for assignment. The Yankees called up Caleb Cotham, another in the line of Vanderbilt players to reach the Majors. The Rangers added Alex Claudio and Jonathan Edwards to their depleted bullpen.

Colby Lewis continued his fine streak of starts Wednesday night. He completed six innings allowing two runs on seven hits. He left with a 5-2 lead, and that was the final score. The win improved his record to 11-4, easily the most wins of any Ranger pitcher this season.

Keone Kela, Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, collectively walking no one and giving up just one hit. Tolleson earned his 18th save

Wednesday’s win was overshadowed by the trade that the Rangers finalized with Philadelphia. Cole Hamels became a Ranger. Texas also received a fireballing left-handed reliever – Jake Diekman. He strikes out more than 11 batters per nine innings, but has control issues. Texas also gets cash to defray a portion of Hamels’ remaining salary of approximately $80 million. The amount is rumored to be $9.5 million.

The Rangers sent Matt Harrison and five prospects to the Phillies. Three of the prospects are pitchers – Jake Thompson, Jared Eickhoff and Alec Asher. Outfielder Nick Williams, a prospect with All-Star talent, and catcher Jorge Alfaro are the other two. Alfaro is out for the season with an ankle injury. He was playing for AA Frisco, as were Thompson and Williams. Eickhoff and Asher were on AAA Round Rock’s roster at the time of the trade.

The trade was not officially announced on Thursday, but the league has approved the transaction, a requirement with the money involved. Paperwork issues have delayed the finalization of the deal, which is expected to be announced before Friday night’s game.

The final game of the series was a see-saw affair. Yovani Gallardo gave up three first inning runs, but Texas came right back to tie in the bottom half of the inning. The Rangers added another to take a 4-3 lead in the second inning, but Gallardo coughed up the lead almost immediately, as he served up a home run pitch to Brian McCann with a runner on base.

However, the Rangers came back to tie the game at five when Ryan Rua hit an inside-the-park home run in the fourth inning. Both teams scored a single run in the seventh inning, such that the game went to the bottom of the ninth tied at six.

Delino DeShields walked to start the inning. It was his third time to reach base in the game, as he also had two hits. Josh Hamilton came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second base. He took the first two pitches for balls, and then stroked a ground ball single to right field. Leonys Martin easily scored from second base for the game winner.

Each team hit three home runs, which drove in nine of the 13 runs scored in the game.

Neither starter pitched well. The Yankees’ C. C. Sabathia left after five innings, while Gallardo completed six. Both allowed five earned runs, but neither figured in the decisions. Yankees closer Andrew Miller (0-2) took the loss, while Tolleson (3-2), who pitched a four up three down ninth inning, was the winner.

The split in the series left the Rangers eight games out of first place behind the Astros, who swept the Angels in Houston to drop them into second place. Texas is six games behind Los Angeles, four games ahead of fourth place Seattle and five games ahead of cellar-dwelling Oakland.

The Rangers best chance of reaching the playoffs are as a Wild Card team. They are four games behind Minnesota for the second Wild Card playoff spot. More problematic is that there are six teams to pass to get that second play-off spot.

The home stand continues this weekend with perhaps the most attractive series of the year from a fans standpoint. The defending World Series Champions San Francisco Giants are in town for three games. In their last appearance at Globe Life Ballpark, the Giants piled on each other around the pitchers mound to celebrate winning the 2010 World Series after game five.

The Rangers announced starters are Nick Martinez (5-6) on Friday night and Martin Perez (1-2) on Sunday afternoon. Matt Harrison was originally announced as Saturday’s starting pitcher, so there is a good likelihood that Cole Hamels makes his first Ranger start Saturday. The Giants have announced Madison Baumgarner (11-6), Tim Hudson (6-8) and Chris Heston (11-5) as their starters.

NOTABLE:

* Texas is 16-9 (.640) against American League East competition.

* The official paid attendance for Tuesday night’s game was 28,403, the smallest Arlington crowd for a Yankee game since 2009.

* Each of the four games in the series lasted more than three hours.

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RANGERS GET THEIR MAN

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Late in Wednesday night’s game, the word began to leak that the Rangers and Phillies had agreed on a trade that would send Cole Hamels to Texas. Neither club has confirmed that the deal has been agreed, but after the game, players in the Rangers’ clubhouse were excited and talking as if it was a “done deal”.

The trade ended up involving eight players and money. Texas receives not only Hamels, but left-handed reliever Jake Diekman and $9.5 million to defray the salaries owed Hamels for the remaining years of his contract, which total about $80 million.

The Rangers receive further monetary compensation by including Matt Harrison in the transaction, who is owed almost $28 million under his contract. The Phillies also received five minor league prospects, all of which are ranked among the Rangers’ top 30 minor leaguers. The five are RHP Jake Thompson (no. 4), outfielder Nick Williams (no.5), catcher Jorge Alfaro (no.6), RHP Jerad Eickhoff (no. 17), and RHP Alec Asher (no. 29). Thompson, Williams and Alfaro have played at AA Frisco this season. Eickhoff and Asher are currently at AAA Round Rock.

(Note: The prospect rankings noted here are from MLB.com and have been revised since the June amateur draft to include players selected this year.)

This trade may help the Rangers slim chances of contending for a playoff berth this season, but it is a trade that was made for the longer view. Hamels is signed through the 2018 season with a club option for 2019. Diekman is in his fourth year with Philadelphia and is contractually controllable for three more seasons.

Hamels is 6-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 20 starts with Philadelphia this year, which includes a no-hitter against the Cubs last Saturday. He is 31 and in his 10th year with the Phillies after being drafted in the first round in the 2002 Amateur Draft. For his career, he is 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA. He has made the National League All-Star team three times and was the MVP of the 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series.

Diekman is 2-1 with a 5.15 ERA in 41 appearances this year. He has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.

Harrison won 18 games and made the All-Star team in 2012, but back problems have limited him to nine starts in the three seasons since. Three of those starts have been this year. One was outstanding – six shutout innings against the Rockies in Denver – but the other two have not gone well. He’s 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA. His fastball velocity is noticeably less than it was prior to his back problems. The jury is out as to whether he will return to being a contributing back of the rotation starting pitcher, much less the All-Star that he once was.

There were a number of teams rumored to be in on Hamels with Philadelphia, including the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks and Astros. Houston is rumored to have made a very good offer that the Phillies were willing to accept. However, Hamels has a limited no trade clause that included the Astros, and he turned down the deal. He did not have the Rangers on his list of teams to which he could not be traded without his consent, which is one of the reasons the Rangers have been considered one of the favorites to land Hamels.

For next season, Hamels is expected to join Yu Darvish, and Derek Holland as the basis of the starting rotation. Martin Perez, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, likely will be one of the other two starters. Nick Martinez, Alex Gonzalez and Anthony Ranaudo will be candidates to fill out the rotation, and the Rangers could re-sign Colby Lewis, who recorded his team leading 11th win Wednesday night.

An official announcement on the trade is expected later today. Hamels will most certainly make his first Ranger start this weekend, most likely on Saturday when Harrison was originally announced as the starting pitcher.

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