OAKLAND TO THE PLAYOFFS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGOTN, Texas – Oakland arrived for four games beginning Thursday with a magic number of two over Seattle to clinch the second Wild Card playoff spot. Any combination of Seattle losses and Oakland wins equaling two would send the Athletics into the playoffs. Sunday afternoon, they beat the Rangers 4-0 to split the series and earn the playoff berth, as Seattle won all four of their games after last Wednesday. Oakland’s Sonny Gray pitched the complete game shutout Sunday using 103 pitches to scatter six Ranger hits. He improved to 14-8 with the win.

Nick Martinez (5-12) was the Ranger starter and hard luck loser. He gave up just four hits over 5-2/3rds innings, but three of those four hits came to the first four batters of the second inning, and two of them scored. There had been some thought to starting Derek Holland, who was scratched with a migraine headache from Saturday’s starting assignment. Manager Tim Bogar said before the game though that he did not feel that Holland was 100% after reporting to work on Sunday, so he stayed with announced starter Martinez. Holland however relieved in the sixth and gave up two more runs in the ninth inning for the final 4-0 score.

Oakland will play Kansas City Tuesday night with the winner advancing to play the Los Angeles Angels in a best of five series. Texas next plays Oakland on opening day 2015 (April 6) in the O.co Coliseum, and Sonny Gray is likely to be Oakland’s starting pitcher.

On Thursday, Seattle won in the afternoon, so the A’s knew they could not clinch the playoff berth when the game started. The two teams battled in a well played game, decided by an Adrian Beltre walk-off home run in the ninth for a 2-1 Ranger win, the third 2-1 win for Texas in five days. It was the 35 year-old Beltre’s 19th (team leading) home run of the year, but there would be no more in the series. It was the first year since strike shortened 1981 that the Rangers did not have a player hit at least 20 home runs, and the first full season since 1980.

Another 35 year-old Ranger was the pitching star of the game as Colby Lewis started and turned in seven innings of one run ball, giving up six hits. He walked five and struck out seven in his final regular season tryout for next year’s starting rotation. He has indicated he wants to initiate talks with the Rangers as early as next week to settle his status with the Rangers for 2015. There is no question that Lewis improved dramatically over the course of the season. Over the last two months of the year, he was 3-6 with a no decision in Thursday’s game. The three wins included two complete games and his ERA was 3.57 over the final 10 starts.

Relievers Neftali Feliz (2-1) and Luke Gregorson (5-5) took the win and loss respectively.

Friday night, the A’s clinched a tie for the second Wild Card playoff spot with a 6-2 win over the Rangers. Nick Tepesch was knocked out in the fifth inning allowing all six runs, though one was unearned. Tepesch’s tryout for next year’s rotation unfortunately ended poorly as he has pitched well since the All-Star break. Saturday’s loss dropped his record to 5-11, and also ended the Rangers’ five game winning streak.

Texas again put the Athletics’ playoff celebration on hold Saturday night, beating Oakland 5-4. Scott Baker unexpectedly got the starting assignment when Holland couldn’t go. He lasted four innings, and seven relievers followed. Spencer Patton (1-0) got the win and Neftali Feliz earned his 13th save. Jeff Smolinski and Robinson Chirinos homered. Chirinos’ home run came in the seventh inning with a runner on base proved to be the winning RBIs in the game.

Texas was 14-8 under interim manager Tim Bogar, but finishes the season with 67-95 record, the worst in the American League and third worst in baseball. In the West Division, they finish 31 games behind the Angels, who had the best record in baseball at 98-64. Arizona with 64 wins and Colorado with 66 are the two N. L. teams with lesser records. The Rangers will pick fourth in next year’s June draft. Arizona will pick first, Houston will pick second by virtue of not signing their number one pick this season, followed by Colorado and Texas.

NOTABLE:

*. Spencer Patton’s win in the Saturday game was his first in the Major Leagues. He became the 23rd Ranger pitcher to win a game this season.

*. The eight pitchers used in Saturday’s game was a Ranger record for a nine inning game.

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FOUR IN A ROW!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers maintained their late September roll by sweeping the Astros in a three game set this week, their fourth series win in a row, three of which have been sweeps. The Rangers have swept just one other series this season.

The series opened Monday night with Derek Holland on the mound. He threw arguably the worst game of his five September starts, admitting afterward that he did not have his good stuff. He coughed up the early three run lead his offense handed to him; yet in many ways, this start was the most positive sign he has given Ranger fans this year. Holland has always had good stuff, but consistency born of maturity and experience is what he has been lacking. Pitching a solid game without his good stuff is hopefully a sign of maturity.

He managed to complete seven innings, and came away with his second win of the year. His record is 2-0, and Texas is 4-1 in his starts. He allowed just the three runs, one of which was unearned, on seven hits while striking out two and walking one.

The Ranger offense on Monday came from rookies. Rougned Odor tripled with the bases loaded in the third inning to give the Rangers the early 3-0 lead. Guilder Rodriguez, a 31 year-old veteran of almost 1,100 minor league games drove home the game winner in the seventh. Rodriguez was making just his second start since being added to the roster, and got his first two Major League hits and first Major League RBI in front of a Ranger crowd that included his wife and father, who had flown in from Venezuela. Rodriguez definitely enjoyed a gatoraid bath as Emily Jones interviewed him for post game TV.

Monday’s win was the Rangers’ 63rd of the season, meaning the third 100 loss season in Ranger history has been averted.

Tuesday’s starter was Nick Martinez. It has been assumed in the local media that Martinez has little if any chance to be part of next year’s starting rotation. He was targeted for AA this year, and the injuries pressed him into service. Most close followers of the team think he’ll be in AAA next year.

However, Martinez continues to make a strong bid for 2015 consideration, as he tossed 6-2/3rds shutout innings at the Astros Tuesday night. He bucked two trends with Tuesday’s performance – he has not pitched well in Arlington, and he has not pitched well at night.

The Rangers offense was puny again, providing just two runs of support on a Robinson Chirinos home run and Daniel Robertson RBI single, both in the fourth inning. Martinez along with Spencer Patton and Neil Cotts made those two runs stand up for a win that improved Martinez’s record to 5-11. Cotts gave up a run in the ninth and the tying and go ahead runs were perched on second and third base when he coaxed a ground ball to third base to end the game. He was credited with his second save.

Martinez has been especially good late in the season. In his last five starts, he’s 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA. Ironically, he will finish the season second on the team in games started and third in innings pitched. He has built a sizeable store of knowledge about pitching to Major League hitters, and he should be a serious consideration for next year’s rotation.

Lisalverto Bonilla started Wednesday’s finale and like Martinez, he did not allow any runs. He gave up four hits and walked two, while striking out seven over six innings. He got out of some first inning trouble and also got a huge assist from Leonys Martin in the third inning. Martin made a marvelous throw to the plate to nab Robbie Grossman trying to score from second on a single to end the inning. Bonilla became the first Ranger pitcher to win his first three starts.

The game was scoreless until the fifth when Martin bunted for a base hit and scored on Elvis Andrus’s double. Texas put the game away in the seventh inning with a pair of home runs. Rougned Odor sent a long ball into the right field stands with one out to double the Rangers’ lead to 2-0. Four batters later, Ryan Rua hit his second home run of the season with two runners aboard to run the score to 5-0.

Phil Klein, one of two Ranger relievers, surrendered a solo home run in the eighth inning to make the final score 5-1. The losing pitcher was former Ranger Scott Feldman (8-12).

Oakland is in town to complete the season. The A’s had the best record in baseball in mid-August, but are scrambling to hold on to one of the Wild Card slots. They are 8-14 this month and 20-31 since making the July 31 trade for Jon Lester, who is not scheduled to pitch in this series. Oakland holds a three game lead over Seattle, so two wins will clinch a playoff berth. Texas needs to split the series to win the season series with Oakland, as the Rangers hold an 8-7 lead so far this year. The Rangers have announced starting pitchers for the series as follows: Colby Lewis (10-14) on Thursday, Nick Tepesch (5-10) on Friday, Derek Holland (2-0) on Saturday, and Nick Martinez (5-11) in Sunday afternoon’s finale. The other three games are night games.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers started seven rookies counting starting pitcher Lisaverto Bonilla on Wednesday for just the third time in Ranger history. The other two instances were in September of 1982, and the Rangers started eight rookies in one of those games.

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THE ROLLING RANGERS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers continued on a roll Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Angels to take two out of three, their third series win in a row. Texas finished their last road trip of the season by winning five of six games and have now won eight of their last nine. Nick Tepesch turned in one of his best performances of the year Sunday afternoon with seven innings of one run ball allowing four hits to the Angels. He got no decision as the game was tied when he departed. Texas scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on Ryan Rua’s first Major League home run, and Neftali Feliz struck out the three batters he faced in the bottom half of the inning to earn his 11th save of the season. Allen native Shawn Tolleson (3-1) was credited with the win after he recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning.

The series began Friday night with a Ranger rout. Texas scored three runs in the first inning to stake starting pitcher Lisaverto Bonilla to a lead before he ever took the mound. The Rangers’ batsmen added four more runs in the second and ran the lead to 10-0 before the Angels finally cracked the scoreboard in the fifth inning. Bonilla threw 85 pitches over five innings to qualify for the win, his second in as many starts. Four Ranger relievers pitched an inning each to finish the game.

Offensively, Ryan Rua had a four hit game, Jake Smolinski hit his first Major League home run, and seven different Rangers drove in at least one run. The final score was 12-3.

Friday’s win was the Rangers’ season high seventh in a row, but the win streak was halted Saturday by Jerod Weaver. Weaver was outstanding as he allowed three runs over seven innings to win his 18th game of the year to go with eight losses. Albert Pujols, David Freese and Mike Trout hit home runs, all slugged off Ranger starting pitcher Colby Lewis, as Los Angeles built an 8-0 lead after five innings. The Rangers rallied back late with a run in the seventh and four more in the eighth to pull within three. Adrian Beltre had three hits and two RBI’s in his quest to win the American League batting championship, but it was too little. Huston Street shut the Rangers down in the ninth inning for his 39th save. 8-5 was the final score. Lewis (10-14) was the losing pitcher.

The Angels had wrapped up the division championship before the series began, but still had incentive to win in their quest for the best record in the A. L. and home field advantage in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The two losses were damaging as they go into the last week of play with a 2.5 game lead over Baltimore (two in the loss column) for the league’s top record.

The Rangers have completed the road portion of their 2014 schedule and now return to Arlington for the final seven games of the season. Houston is the first opponent, but the Silver Boot trophy is not in the balance as the Astros have already won 11 of the first 16 games between the two Texas teams. The announced Ranger pitchers in the series are Derek Holland (1-0) on Monday night, Nick Martinez (4-11) on Tuesday, and TBA on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Alex Rios’s 2014 season is over. He has been plagued with a sore thumb that has not responded to treatment. He finishes the year with a .280 batting average, four home runs and 54 RBIs. He will likely be a free agent this winter. Texas holds an option for Rios in 2014 at $14 million, but it is unlikely that the Rangers will exercise that option. Jurickson Profar, who was slated to be the Rangers’ second baseman in 2014, has missed the entire season with a torn muscle in his right shoulder. He is experiencing more soreness in his shoulder and will not be able to participate next month in the Arizona Fall League as expected.

NOTABLE:

* With Sunday’s win, the Ranger record in day games is 25-18, a .581 winning percentage. Texas finished the season with a road record of 34-47, a .420 winning percentage. Sunday’s win was also the Rangers’ 62nd of the year, such that they need to win just one game this week at home to avoid a 100 loss season. Arizona at 62-94 now has the worst record in baseball, one-half game worse than the Rangers (one in the loss column), as they have six games remaining and the Rangers have seven.

* Texas will lead the Major Leagues in games with eight or more runs allowed. Saturday’s game against the Angels was the 37th, nine more than any other team in the Majors.

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SIX!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas completed a three game sweep of Oakland Thursday afternoon with a 7-2 victory over the Athletics. It was their second consecutive three game sweep to extend their season high winning streak to six games, which is also the longest current winning streak in the Major Leagues. Last weekend, the Rangers dealt the Braves playoff chances a deadly blow by taking three; and this week, the Ranger wins helped eliminate Oakland from the A. L. West championship. The A’s go into this weekend holding the second Wild Card berth trailing Kansas City by 1/2 game and leading Seattle by 1-1/2 games. They have all but folded the tent with a 5-11 record in September.

Texas scored 19 runs in the series – six in each of the first two games to go along with Thursday’s seven spot. The most dramatic win came Wednesday night when the A’s took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning and sent their closer Sean Doolittle to finish the game. The Ranger bats had been quiet all evening, as they managed just four hits in eight innings off Athletics’ starter Jeff Samardzija. However, they erupted for six runs in the top of the ninth, and three outs later, the American League West champion was Los Angeles. Rougned Odor doubled home the tying run with one out. Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked to set up a potential inning ending double play, but J. P. Arencbia foiled the A’s strategy. He homered to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead. The Rangers continued to rally for two more runs to put the game out of Oakland’s reach.

The surprising rally made Robbie Ross, Jr. the winning pitcher, improving his record to 3-6. Doolittle was charged with his fourth blown save and fourth loss of the year. His record is now 1-4.

Thursday’s blowout win was predictable after Oakland suffered Wednesday’s gut wrenching loss. Starting pitcher Nick Martinez was treated to a four run lead before he took the mound. Martinez retired the first six batters before running into trouble in the third inning. He gave up two runs, cutting the Ranger lead to 4-2. However, the Ranger hitters answered with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. They banged out 15 hits on the day, making a winner out of Martinez, who is now 4-11. 14 of the hits were singles and five different Ranger hitters had multi-hit games, including a four-hit day from Jake Smolenski. Oakland’s Sonny Gray, considered the A’s staff ace earlier this year, started and took the loss to fall to 13-9.

The series opened with the Rangers supporting starting pitcher Nick Tepesch with three runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings. The Rangers never trailed as Tepesch completed six innings allowing three runs on five hits. He’s 5-10 after being credited with the win in the 6-3 game. Three relievers kept the A’s off the scoreboard including Neftali Feliz, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his 10th save.

In another Ranger story, Ron Washington met the press Thursday afternoon in a Los Colinas hotel to explain the reason for his resignation as manager of the Rangers. He said that he was not true to his wife Gerry after 42 years of marriage with the implication that his resignation was to work on restoring the relationship. He hopes to be back in baseball soon. He did not take questions from the media after stating his case.

The six game winning streak all but assures the Rangers will avoid a 100 loss season. Their record is now 60-92, so they need just three wins in the final 10 games. The winning streak has endangered the Rangers’ clamp on the worst record in baseball and the number one pick in next June’s Amateur Draft. They are 1.5 games ahead of Colorado and Arizona in the reverse standings for the dubious honor.

The Rangers conclude the road portion of their schedule this weekend in Anaheim with three games against the Angels. Texas is just 3-13 against Los Angeles this season. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lisalverto Bonilla (1-0) on Friday night, Colby Lewis (10-13) on Saturday, and Nick Tepesch (5-10) on Sunday afternoon.

INJURIES: It was announced this week that Sin-Shoo Choo underwent a second operation to remove a bone spur and cartilage in his ankle. He earlier underwent an operation to remove bone spurs in his left (throwing) elbow.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers record is 24-18 (.571) in day games. They actually lead the season series with Oakland with eight wins and seven losses. The teams face each other four more times in Arlington next weekend to end the season. The consecutive series sweeps are the second and third of the year for the Rangers, as they swept a three game series with the A’s in April in Oakland.

* Derek Holland was the starting pitcher Wednesday night, allowing a run on three hits and three walks over 6.2 innings, which brings his ERA to 0.99 for the year. He is 1-0 in four starts, and the Rangers are 3-1 in those games.

* Neftali Feliz became the second Ranger to post a double digit save total this season joining Joakim Soria, who earned 17 prior to being traded to the Tigers. It is the first time since 2009 that the Rangers have had more than one reliever record a double digit save total.

* The Rangers have hit 10 home runs this season with more than one runner on base. J. P. Arencibia has hit three of them. Michael Choice with two is the only other Ranger with more than one.

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ANGELS NEAR PENNANT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Los Angeles Angels arrived this week with the best record in baseball, and they left town with an even better one as they swept the Rangers in a three game set. They have all but mathematically clinched the West Division championship, as they headed to Anaheim for their final home stand of the season with a 10 game lead over second place Oakland and a magic number of seven over the A’ and six over Seattle. (Houston and Texas have already been eliminated.)

It’s an amazing turnaround, as they trailed the Athletics by four games in the middle of August. Playing the Rangers hasn’t hurt. They have dominated the season series 13-3 with three more games to be played in Anaheim next weekend. The Rangers beat the Halos just once this year in ten Arlington games.

Los Angeles took the series opening game 9-3. Colby Lewis continued to make his bid to be in the Rangers’ 2015 starring rotation by pitching seven innings plus a batter and allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on five hits and no walks. He struck out four. One of those five hits was a home run off the bat of Kole Calhoun in the first inning, his 15th of the season.

Texas trailed 2-1 going into the eighth inning, and Lewis departed after giving up a lead-off single. The bullpen was terrible, as the Angels exploded for seven runs in the inning to put the game away. Mike Trout’s triple was the big hit.

Lewis (9-13) was charged with the loss, while Hector Santiago (5-7) was the winning pitcher. Adrian Beltre had three hits for Texas including his 18th home run.

Lewis is 3-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. Sadly, three wins ties him for the team lead in wins in that span.

The Angels ran up a similar score in game two, beating Texas 8-1. Los Angeles took an early lead with two first inning runs, when Albert Pujols tripled home Trout and later scored on Howie Kendrick’s single. Nick Tepesch (4-10) started and took the loss. He gave up three runs on 10 hits in 4-2/3rds innings.

The Angels finished strong by scoring in each of the final three innings to finish off the Rangers. Matt Shoemaker was the Angels’ starting and winning pitcher. He allowed the Rangers’ run on seven hits over 6-2/3rds innings. He earned his 15th win, a new Angels’ rookie record, against four losses.

The Rangers’ offense was puny again. They had nine hits on the night – all singles.

Game three was a bullpen game for the Angels, as they have been unable to find a consistent starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Thanks to September’s expanded rosters, Los Angeles used eight pitchers, with only two tossing more than an inning. They scored early with two runs in each of the first and second innings off Ranger starter Nick Martinez. They scored three runs late with one in the seventh and two in the eighth, to walk away with a 7-3 win to clinch the sweep.

Martinez (3-11) took the loss. He completed six innings, allowing the four runs, only two of which were earned, on four hits. Four relievers followed Martinez, with three of them allowing a run. Mike Morin (4-3), the fifth of the Angels’ eight pitchers, was credited with the win. Leonys Martin (seven) and J. P. Arencibia (nine) hit solo home runs to account for 2/3rds of the Rangers scoring.

Texas has now lost six of seven games on this home stand, and 11 of their last 12. They are a season high 37 games out of first place and 38 games under .500. At this point, a 100 loss season appears unavoidable as they have 92 losses with 16 games to play. Texas has all but wrapped up the worst record in baseball (and the number one pick in next season’s June Amateur Draft) as they are five wins behind Arizona and Colorado for the honor.

The Braves now come to town to complete inter-league play this weekend. Atlanta is all but eliminated from the National League East race as they trail Washington by 8.5 games. However, they are in the thick of the Wild Card race. They trail Pittsburgh by two games for the second Wild Card playoff berth. This weekend’s games will be the latest dates ever for the Rangers to play inter-league games. Texas is 6-9 all time verses the Braves. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Derek Holland (1-0), Scott Baker (3-4), and Colby Lewis (9-13).

NOTABLE:

* Rangers’ coach Bobby Jones received the Bronze Star for his service in the Viet Nam War in Patriot Day ceremonies prior to Thursday’s game.

* The Rangers have initially assigned pitchers Lisaverto Bonilla, Sam Wolff, Josh McElwee and Cody Kendall along with catcher Pat Cantwell and ourtifielder Nick Williams to the Arizona Fall League, which begins play on October 6. The AFL is a developmental league for elite prospects.

* Guilder Rodriguez made his Major League debut on Tuesday, which brought the total number of players used by the Rangers this season to 64, a new Major League record. He was also the 16th rookie to be used by the Rangers this season. He was 31 years, 47 days old on Tuesday, the oldest position player to make his Major League debut in Ranger history.

* Six of the Rangers’ eight position players in Tuesday’s starting lineup were rookies, the first time since 1983 to have as many as six in the starting lineup.

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF RON

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s been three days since Ron Washington’s sudden and shocking announcement to resign as manager of the Texas Rangers. The announcement was made by the club with a statement from Washington that indicated he has a personal problem to deal with, and the best way to do so was to resign and take care of it. He closed the statement by saying “Please respect my privacy.” In other words, “I’m not telling what the problem is and don’t ask”.

General Manager Jon Daniels along with the two largest percentage owners of the team, Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, held a press conference Friday afternoon. They indicated that they had known about the situation with Washington for “weeks” and had discussed approaches to handling the situation, including a leave of absence. They indicated that Washington chose instead to resign immediately.

A first thought was a drug related situation as Washington tested positive for cocaine years ago, which came to light in spring training of 2010. Washington did authorize the team to say that the personal problem was not drug related.

Third base coach Gary Pettis, probably Washington’s closest friend on the coaching staff, told Channel 8′s George Riba that he hope Ron recovers and can return soon, which led many to believe that the problem is health related. However, team officials have assured local media that there is not a health problem for Washington or his wife Gerry. The couple have no children.

With those doors closed, the conspiracy theorist have thrown out many possibilities including a rift between Washington and Daniels. Over the years, Daniels has for sure become more involved in duties normally left to the manager. Daniels especially has been involved in hiring almost an entire new coaching staff over the past two seasons, with apparently little input from Washington. In fact among the current coaches, Pettis is the only one in which Washington had significant input.

The team said little about their intentions for their search for a replacement. Bench Coach Tim Bogar was named interim manager for the balance of this season. Bogar was a finalist for the Astros managerial job two years ago when Bo Porter was hired. With Porter’s recent firing, Bogar has been speculated as a serious candidate for that job again.

Many in the local media make Bogar the front runner for the job on a permanent basis. He certainly has a leg up on any candidate, save and except pitching coach Mike Maddux, from the standpoint of knowing the current personnel. Bogar managed the final three games of this weekend’s series with Seattle and got his first managerial win with a 1-0 victory on Sunday.

Washington leaves as clearly the most successful manager in Ranger history, indeed franchise history including the first 12 years in Washington. He has the most wins (664) as the Rangers had won at least 90 games in each of the last four seasons, a first in team history. After taking the team to the World Series twice, he has the most post season wins and playoff series wins, as Texas had won just one playoff game before Washington took over as manager.

This was Washington’s eighth season, and perhaps it was time for him to go anyway. He has always been more comfortable with a veteran team. He had few rules for his players, and younger players often need more discipline. It was certainly questionable as to whether Washington was the right man to rebuild this team into a contender with young players.

There also does seem to be some discord between Washington and Daniels, and Daniels may not be all that unhappy about seeing Washington leave without having to fire him. After eight years, the team may just be ready for a new voice at the top, though it’s more than evident that Washington is adored by most of the players, who professed one and all to be as shocked as anyone about the announcement.

In any event, Washington’s career in baseball does not appear to be over. He’s texted various people in the media that “I’ll be back”. It seems obvious though that if Washington returns to professional baseball that it won’t be with the Texas Rangers.

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SEATTLE TAKES THREE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas ended an eight game losing streak Sunday with a 1-0 win over Seattle. Derek Holland threw seven sparkling shutout innings, Adrian Beltre drove home Leonys Martin with a sixth fbinning sacrifice fly, and Shawn Tolleson and Neftali Feliz finished off the final two innings to complete the shutout, the Rangers’ 17th of the year. The win improved the Rangers’ record to 54-89.

Texas needs to win nine of the final 19 games to avoid a 100 loss season. The eight came losing streak halted Sunday effectively seals last place in the West, as they now trail the Astros for fourth place by nine games, as well as the worst record in baseball (and the number one pick in next June’s amateur draft). Colorado and Arizona each have 59 wins as the next closest teams to Texas for the dubious honor.

Seattle needed the three wins for their playoff quest. They left town holding the second Wild Card spot 1/2 game ahead of Detroit (one in the loss column) and trailing Oakland by two games for the top Wild Card spot. Cleveland, New York and Toronto are the next three teams in the Wild Card chase after Detroit.

Seattle blasted the Rangers and starting pitcher Robbie Ross in Thursday’s series opening game. Ross was knocked out in the second inning allowing six earned runs. The Seattle lead grew to 9-0 before the Rangers scored. 10-2 was the final, and Ross’s record fell to 2-6. Rougned Odor hit his eighth home run.

On Friday night, Seattle jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning; extended it to 5-1 in the fifth and won 7-5. Scott Baker (3-4) couldn’t complete five innings and took the loss. Adam Rosales hit his fourth home run.

The start of Saturday’s game was delayed for more than three hours, the first weather delay of the season at home for Texas. Texas scored two unearned runs in the fourth inning off Highland Park grad Chris Young, who went five innings, allowing just those two runs on four hits. Seattle rallied for two runs in the sixth and two more in the eighth inning to take a 4-2 win. Neal Cotts (2-9) was charged with the eighth inning runs to take the loss.

The Rangers are off Monday, then host the first place Angels for three games beginning Tuesday. Los Angeles has taken charge of the division with an 87-55 record (.613 winning percentage), the best record in baseball. They now lead Oakland by seven games. Their magic number to clinch the division is 14. The Angels lead Texas 10-3 this season, with another three game series in Anaheim still to go after this week’s action. The Rangers have announced that Colby Lewis (9-12) and Nick Tepesch (4-9) will start Tuesday and Wednesday’s games. Thursday’s starting pitcher is TBA.

ROSTER MOVE: Infielder Guilder Rodriguez, a 13 year minor league veteran, was added to the Rangers’ roster on Sunday, a day after Frisco was eliminated from the Texas League playoffs. Yu Darvish was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Rodriguez on the roster.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers announced their 2015 schedule. They will open the season in Oakland on Monday, April 6. The home opener is Friday, April 10 against Houston. The home inter league opponents are the Dodgers, Giants, Diamonbacks and Padres.

*. Leonys Martin was 3-4 with a run scored Sunday batting leadoff against Seattle left-hander James Paxton. Martin is now hitting .352 in 17 starts as the lead-off batter.

* Adrian Beltre has reached base in 23 straight games, the second longest active streak in the American League.

* 16 of the Rangers’ final 19 games are against American League West foes.

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K. C. BARBECUES TEXAS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Kansas City, in a tight race for a playoff berth, swept the Rangers in three games to start the week. Texas scored just five runs in the series to lose 4-3, 2-1, and 4-1. The Rangers are now a season high 33 games under .500 at 53-86 and 30.5 games out of first place. Texas has all but kissed fourth place in the division good-bye as they trail Houston by 7.5 games with 23 to play, and Colorado is 2.5 games ahead of the Rangers in the battle to avoid having the worst record in baseball.

The Royals extended their lead over Detroit in the Central Division to 1.5 games (two in the loss column), as they attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985.

Colby Lewis went seven innings in game one, giving up all four runs. Derek Holland followed with a seven inning, one run performance on Tuesday. Nick Tepesch gave up all four runs in Wednesday’s finale, though one was unearned, as he went 6-2/3rds innings. The culprit was the offense as Texas hit no home runs and had just seven extra base hits in the series. Texas was 3-28 batting with runners in scoring position.

Holland and Michael Kirkman appeared in Tuesday’s game to bring the total number of players used this season to 61, and the total number of pitchers used to 38, both new Major League records. Those totals will only grow from here, as two more pitchers have been called up – Lisalverto Bonilla and Spencer Patton. Even more could be called up once Frisco’s playoff run in the Texas League comes to an end.

The season continues at home this weekend with a four game set against Seattle. The announced starting pitchers are Robbie Ross (2-5) on Thursday, Scott Baker (3-3) on Friday, Nick Martinez (3-10) on Saturday and Derek Holland (0-0) on Sunday. Seattle’s starting pitcher for Saturday’s game is Highland Park grad Chris Young who has won 12 games for the Mainers this season.

This is the start of a 10 game home stand, with the Angels and Braves following the Mariners next week. Texas completes the season with a seven game home stand against Houston and Oakland over the final week of the season.

NOTABLE:

* All but three of the Rangers’ remaining games are against divisional opponents. The exception is the Braves, who will finish up inter-league play over the weekend of September 12, 13 and 14 in Arlington.

* Adrian Beltre had at least one hit in all three games of the Royals’ series to extend his hitting streak to 10 games against Kansas City.

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THE BOOT TO HOUSTON

BY: Richard W, Humphrey

The Rangers outscored Houston 17-15 in the weekend series, but lost three of four games to the Astros, who claimed the Silver Boot trophy for the first time since 2006. The trophy is rotated annually to the winner of the season series each year. This year, Houston holds an 11-5 lead with the two teams facing each other in Arlington in the final week of the season. The Rangers blasted the Astros 13-6 on Friday night, but dropped the other three games by scores of 4-2, 2-0 and 3-2.

Friday’s rout was led by four rookies batting consecutively from seventh to first in the batting order – Tomas Telis, Rougned Odor, Michael Choice, and Daniel Robertson. They combined to go 8-18 with six runs scored and eight runs driven in. Included in the hits were Odor’s seventh home run and Choice’s ninth. Scott Baker was the starting and winning pitcher, evening his record at 3-3.

Robbie Ross turned in the most notable start in the series for the Rangers on Saturday. He had pitched for Round Rock on Thursday, but assured pitching coach Mike Maddux and manager Ron Washington that he could go. He completed five no-hit scoreless innings on 70 pitches, before they took him out. It was the third time this season in the Majors and the sixth time in Ranger history that a pitcher exited a game having thrown five or more hitless innings.

Ryan Rua made his Major League debut on Friday, becoming the 59th player to appear for the Rangers this season. He was in Friday’s starting lineup at first base and was 3-12 in the series. 59 players ties the Major League record for players used in a season. Derek Holland is scheduled to make his first appearance of the year as Tuesday’s starting pitcher in Kansas City to break the record. The September call-ups include three more players that have not appeared in a Ranger game this season, so the record of 59 players used in a season will not only be broken, but shattered.

The Rangers’ record fell to 53-83 as they are 30 games under .500 for the first time this season. They have been mathematically eliminated from winning the West Division. The series win went a long way toward Houston clinching fourth place in the division, as they hold a five game lead over Texas (four in the loss column), which has 26 games to play. Texas needs to win 10 of those 26 games to avoid a 100 loss season. The Rangers also held the distinction of having the worst record in baseball, as Colorado is one game better at 54-82.

The Astros have already won more games this year than they did in 2013. They appear to be a young team on the rise, but despite their success, General Manager Jeff Luhnow fired manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley on Monday. Tom Lawless (manager) and Adam Everett (bench coach) will serve in those positions on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. The Astros made it clear that special assistant Nolan Ryan would be involved in the managerial search.

Certainly Ryan brings considerable credibility to the organization. After joining the Rangers, he was instrumental in the hiring of pitching coach Mike Maddux, bench coach Jackie Moore, and hitting coach Clint Hurdle; three key members of the on field management team that got the Rangers to the 2010 World Series. With Ryan’s credibility and with the improved team, the Astros will undoubtedly have better candidates for the position than they had two years ago when Porter was hired.

The Rangers’ Mike Maddux was linked to a number of managerial jobs after the 2011 season, but declined for family considerations. His daughters have now graduated from high school, so Maddux no longer has family considerations to constrain him, and he could be a candidate.

The Rangers lost in Kansas City Monday night 4-3, and play two more to complete the current 10 game road trip. Derek Holland is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game for his 2014 debut, and Nick Tepesch (4-8) is Wednesday’s announced starting pitcher.

ROSTER MOVES: First baseman/outfielder Jim Adduci was placed on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion. Nick Tepesch was optioned to Round Rock. Robbie Ross was recalled from Round Rock. Derek Holland was activated from the 60-day disabled list, and Mike Carp was designated for assignment. Ryan Rua was called up from Round Rock. On Monday when the roster expanded, Tepesch was recalled from Round Rock, along with pitcher Lisavlerto Bonilla and Luis Sardinas. Left-handed pitcher Michael Kirkman’s contract was also purchased from Round Rock. A corresponding move to make room on the 40-man roster will be made Tuesday. The likelihood is that Tanner Scheppers or Sin-Shoo Choo will be transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Relief pitcher Spencer Patton, who was obtained from Kansas City in the Jason Frasor trade, will be called up on Thursday.

NOTABLE:

* Joey Gallo hit his 21st home run as a Rough Rider in the team’s final game of the season. He fell one short of the Texas league lead. The 21 that he hit at high-A Myrtle Beach ended up leading the Carolina league. His 42 for the season is a new Ranger minor league record.

* The Rangers were 10-18 in August, which was better than Chicago (9-19) and Toronto (9-17). Sadly that’s the Rangers’ third most wins in any month this season. April at 15-12, is the Rangers only winning month in 2014.

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RANGER ROUT WINS SERIES

BY: Richard W, Humphrey

Texas routed Seattle Wednesday afternoon to win a series for the first time in their last six series. Colby Lewis should be named offensive player of the year for Texas. When he takes the mound, the Rangers’ feeble offense scores runs, usually early and often. The Rangers have scored in double digits four times in Lewis’s starts and are averaging 5.1 runs per game when he is the starting pitcher.

Wednesday in Seattle, the Rangers scored 10 runs over the first four innings and cruised to a 12-4 win over the Mariners, with Lewis pitching a complete game. The two big blows came from rookie players who weren’t expected to see the light of day in the Major Leagues until 2016. Rougned Odor, the youngest player in the Majors hit a grand slam home run, while catcher Tomas Teles (pronounced Tay-Lees) stroked a three run double to account for seven of the runs. Leonys Martin, getting a chance at batting leadoff with Sin-Shoo Choo out for the season, also had three hits, including his sixth home run, and drove in three runs.

Lewis walked one and gave up seven hits over the nine innings. He struck out seven and moved his record to 9-11 as he bids to be part of the Rangers’ 2015 starting rotation. Two of the seven hits were solo home runs. There was considerable doubt as to whether Lewis would ever pitch again after the hip surgery he underwent last year. He has proved the doubters wrong, as he leads the Rangers with 24 starts and is second to Yu Darvish in innings pitched.

Seattle initially announced Felix Hernandez to start on Wednesday. They later moved him back to Friday to face the Washington Nationals in inter-league play and started Erasmo Ramirez instead. Ramirez was blasted for 10 runs on nine hits and a walk. He dropped to 1-6, and the Mariners in a tight race for a playoff spot lost a game they could ill afford to lose against the hapless Rangers.

The Rangers blanked Seattle in the series opener 2-0, their 16th shutout of the season. J. P. Arencibia singled home a run in the fourth inning, and Odor grounded out to drive home another in the seventh inning to account for the scoring. The story of the game though was the battery – pitcher Miles Mikolas and catcher Tomas Telis.

Mikolas turned in eight shutout innings, by far the best of his 10 starts with the Rangers. His performances this season have strangely been much better on the road than at home. He had sufficient rest to start last Sunday at home, but was pushed back a day to start on the road. Mikolas gave up three singles, walked one and struck out five to win his second game against five losses. That improved his road record 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in six starts. In Arlington, he is 0-4 with a 13.73 ERA.

Telis made his Major League debut. Mikolas gave him a lot of credit for pitch calling. He told MLB.com’s T. R. Sullivan, “I think I only shook him off a handful of times. We were definitely on the same page most of the game.” Telis was 1-4 at the plate, with a bunt single in the seventh inning that contributed to the second Ranger run.

Neftali Feliz gave up a single in the ninth, but retired the other three batters he faced to nail down his seventh save. Roenis Elias (9-11) was the hard luck losing pitcher for Seattle, as he gave up a run on three hits over five innings.

Seattle rookie Jim Paxton returned the shutout favor on Tuesday as he tossed 6-2/3rds scoreless innings scattering four Ranger hits, all singles. He improved to 4-1 on the season with a sparkling 1.83 ERA in seven starts. Danny Farquhar retired all eight batters he faced in relief of Paxton to complete the game, as once again, the Rangers’ offense was feeble. It was the eighth time the Rangers have been shutout this year.

Nick Martinez started and took the loss. He gave up a home run to Robinson Cano in the first inning and another run in the second when the Rangers could not turn a double play on a bases loaded ground ball with one out. Seattle knocked him around for three more runs in the fourth inning. He walked the leadoff batter, then gave up a single and a double to score two more Seattle runs. Former Ranger Endy Chavez hit the double, but was out trying to stretch the hit to a triple. However, the M’s added another run on a two out triple followed by a single.

5-0 was the final score. Martinez fell to 3-10 with the loss.

The two Ranger wins against Seattle brings their win total to 52 for the year. They need to win 11 of the final 30 games to avoid a 100 loss season. Their record is still the worst in baseball behind Colorado. All but seven of the final 30 games, all against the Astros, are against teams with winning records and in contention for a playoff berth.

The road trip continues with four games in Houston this weekend. The announced starting pitchers are Nick Tepesch (4-8) on Thursday night, TBA on Friday, Miles Mikolas (2-5) on Saturday and Nick Martinez (3-10) on Sunday afternoon.

INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: Sin-Shoo Choo underwent season ending surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. Michael Choice was called up from Round Rock to take his place on the roster. Alex Rios came out of Tuesday’s game with a swollen thumb and did not play Wednesday. Derek Holland’s final minor league rehab start is scheduled Thursday night for Round Rock.

NOTABLE:

* When Tomas Telis played Monday night, he was the Rangers’ 58th player and 19th rookie to perform for the team this year. 58 players used in one season is a new team record, while 19 rookies ties the team record set in 2008. The Major League record for players used in a season is 59.

* Neftali Feliz has been astounding in his career against the Mariners. With Monday’s save, he has faced the Mariners 18 times encompassing 17 innings. Austin Jackson singled in the ninth on Monday night, and that is the only hit he has allowed in the 18 appearances. He is 2-0 with 10 saves. The M’s are batting .019 (1-52) against him. Only five other Mariners have reached base against him – four walks and a hit batsman. He has 21 strikeouts.

* 16 Ranger shutouts this year rank third in the Majors behind St. Louis with 18 and Tampa Bay with 17.

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