WHITE SOX DOUBLE HOME WINS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Chicago White Sox took three out of four in this weekend series with the Texas Rangers doubling their home wins on the season.  Chicago was 3-17 at home before the Rangers arrived and finished the weekend 6-18.  Even after taking the series, Chicago has the fewest wins in the American League.

Teams in general hate three city road trips and don’t play well in the third city.  That was true for Texas as they won one game in each city on this nine-game, three city trip, going 3-6.

The series started with bad news.  Cole Hamels woke up with neck stiffness and was scratched from Thursday’s start. Then there was good news.  Doug Fister took the start and turned in his best performance of the year – seven shut out innings on six hits.  He struck out four and walked no one.  The outing lowered his ERA to 3.43.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead to the eighth inning.  The news turned bad again, as the White Sox scored four unearned runs with two outs.  Jose LeClerc made the throwing error that opened the flood gates.  4-2 was the final score.  LeClerc was charged with his second blown save, and his record is 1-1 with the loss.

The Rangers and White Sox came into this series ranked 29th and 30th respectively in runs per game.  It was thus improbable that the teams would break out 17 runs of offense, but they did on Friday night.  The Rangers staked starter Matt Moore to a 3-0 lead before he took the mound.  Jurickson Profar singled with the bases loaded to plate the first two runs, and Joey Gallo followed with a single to drive in the third.

The Sox answered with a single, double and single in their half of the first inning to draw within a run at 3-2.  Both teams added a run in the second inning.  In the third though, the Rangers pulled away for good. They scored five runs to lead 9-3.  The big hit that blew the game open was a grand slam home run from Shin-Soo Choo.  It was the fourth slam of his career and first since 2010.

Moore kept the Sox off the scoreboard in the third inning, but the fourth didn’t go well.  He retired only two batters before departing the game, giving up two more runs.  He left with a 7.99 ERA and landed on the disabled list the next day.

Jesse Chavez relieved and tossed 2-2/3rds scoreless innings.  Alex Claudio and Tony Barnette finished the game with scoreless performances.  The Rangers added three more runs to make the final score 12-5.  Chavez (2-0) was awarded the win since the Ranger starter did not finish five innings.

Profar and Gallo accounted for most of the scoreboard damage besides Choo’s slam.  They collectively had five hits and each of them drove in three runs.

On Saturday, Ariel Jurado was called up from AA Frisco to be the starting pitcher.  He was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts for the Roughriders, and he gave a good account of himself.

“A lot of positives.  A lot to hang his hat on,” manager Jeff Banister said about Jurado Sunday on his pre-game radio interview.

Jurado gave up a hit in the first inning, but retired the Sox on 10 pitches.  He got the South Siders out 1-2-3 in the second inning including his first Major League strikeout.

Meanwhile the Rangers were staking him to a 3-0 lead, scoring two in the second inning and another in the third.  Three doubles from Nomar Mazara, Profar and Rougned Odor plated the first two runs, and Profar drove in the third with a sacrifice fly.

The roof caved in on Jurado in the third inning.  He retired two of the first three batters, but the final out of the inning proved illusive.  A walk, two singles and a triple followed giving the White Sox a 4-3 lead.

Jurado did come out to throw another three up, three down inning in the fourth.  He got into trouble in the fifth, but got two outs before being lifted.  Brandon Mann got the final out to keep the Sox off the scoreboard.

Jurado’s final stat line then was 4-2/3rds innings pitched, six hits, four earned runs, two strike outs and two walks.

Jose Abreu homered in the seventh inning off Kevin Jepson to make the final score 5-3.

Jurado was optioned back to Frisco on Sunday, and Chris Martin was activated from the disabled list.

On Sunday, Mike Minor pitched well, but Chicago’s Reynaldo Lopez was better.  Lopez shut out the Rangers on two hits over eight innings to improve to 1-3.  Jace Fry put the Rangers down 1-2-3 in the ninth on 14 pitches for his first save.

Minor gave up a solo home run to Sox catcher Wellington Castillo in the second inning.  Three singles with a stolen base in the middle plated two more runs for Chicago in the third inning.  3-0 was the final score.

Minor came out after five innings, having thrown 90 pitches.  The count was a little high, but he struck out nine of the 15 batters he retired.  He simply got no offensive support.  He’s 3-3 with the loss.

The hole the Rangers have dug in the first seven weeks of the season got deeper this weekend.  Texas now trails first place Houston by 12 games.  All of the other four teams in the division have records over .500, such that the Rangers are eight games in loss column away from crawling out of last place.

The Rangers are back in Arlington for seven games starting with the Yankees on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wednesday’s game has the unusual start time of 6:15 PM.  The announced starting pitchers for the Rangers are Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, and Doug Fister.  This will be the Yankees’ only regular season trip to Arlington this year.

NOTABLE:

*     Texas has allowed 13 unearned runs in May and 28 unearned runs on the season, both Major League highs.

*     Texas has started seven players age 25 or less six times this season, including the first three games of this Chicago series.  Saturday’s lineup with Ariel Jurado pitching actually had eight starters 25 or younger.  No other team in baseball has started more than six in a game.

*     Jurickson Profar hit five doubles on the road trip and leads the Rangers with 12 doubles on the season.

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SEATTLE SPLIT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners Wednesday afternoon to start the week with a split in their two game series. The win halted the Rangers’ three game losing streak and brought their record to 2-3 on the current road trip.

The series began Tuesday night with a very offensive and very interesting game. Mike Minor was the Ranger starting pitcher, and he turned in his worst start of the season. He was knocked out of the box in the fourth inning, charged with six runs on eight hits. Eleven of the 21 batters he faced reached base.

When Minor departed, the Rangers trailed 6-3, and as sluggish as the Ranger offense has been, it felt like a win in the books for Seattle. But this game was far from over. The Ranger bats came alive with three runs in the sixth to tie the game. Joey Gallo started the rally with his 13th home run. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Rougned Odor followed with doubles to plate the second run, and Robinson Chirinos singled Odor home for the third run of the inning.

A walk, a single and a Ronald Guzman single gave the Rangers a 7-6 lead going to the bottom of the eighth. It looked to be set up perfectly for the win with the Rangers’ two best bullpen hands on tap to close out the game – Jose LeClerc for the eighth and Keone Kela for the ninth.

But again, this game did not go to form. A lead-off double followed by a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt tied the game and put a Mariner on second base with no outs. A successful sacrifice bunt and a single followed to put Seatte in the lead 8-7.

Seattle brought on closer Edwin Diaz to finish off the Rangers in the ninth inning, but still again, the game did not go to form. Jurickson Profar led off with a single and eventually scored on a Gallo groundout. That tied the game sending it to extra innings.

Neither team scored in the 10th, but in the 11th, Alex Claudio was hit with three consecutive one out singles to give the Mariners a 9-8 walkoff win. Claudio is 1-2 with the loss.

The Rangers came back with Bartolo Colon on Wednesday afternoon. He pitched his best game as a Ranger giving up four hits and no runs over 7-2/3rds innings. He notched the win to move his record to 2-1. His ERA dropped to 2.82 which now ranks ninth in the American League.

Seattle’s Christian Bergman was matching zeroes on the scoreboard with Colon.  He blanked the Rangers over seven innings on just two hits.

Once he left, the Rangers struck scoreboard gold against the M’s bullpen.

Delino DeShields doubled home Kiner-Falefa with two outs to give the Rangers the lead. Texas then added four insurance runs in the ninth inning, which included two runs scoring on a strikeout/wild pitch.  Seattle’s Kyle Seager homered in the bottom of the ninth to make the final score 5-1.

Texas is now 10.5 games out of first place (10 in the loss column), and they are solidly in last place trailing fourth place Oakland by 4.5 games (five in the loss column).

The Rangers departed Seattle immediately after the game to fly to Chicago. They meet the White Sox in a four game series this weekend. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor.

NOTABLE:

* Bartolo Colon is 14-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 16 starts at Seattle’s Safeco Park.

* As expected, Adrian Beltre was placed on the disabled list after leaving Sunday’s game in Houston with a hamstring issue. He is expected to miss two to three weeks. Utility infielder Hanser Alberto was added to the roster to take Beltre’s place.

* Tuesday night’s extra inning loss was the first of the season for the Rangers. They had won the four previous extra inning games this year.

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HOUSTON TAKES SERIES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

It was another series and another series loss in the Bayou City as the Houston Astros took two of three games from the Texas Rangers this weekend. The struggling Ranger offense managed to score just three runs in the series – one in each game making the Rangers extremely fortunate to avoid a sweep.

The series started with a plain old pitchers’ duel. It looked like baseball in the ’60′s. Houston starter Justin Verlander looked like the Justin Verlander that won a Cy Young Award in Detroit. Cole Hamels was the Ranger starter, and he pitched like the Cole Hamels that was a World Series MVP.

Through six innings, Verlander had surrendered just two hits and walked no one. Over the same span, Hamels had walked three and hit two batters, but he did not give up a hit until the fifth inning, an Evan Gattis ground single through the hole between shortstop and third base. It was the only hit the Astros would get on the night.

Nomar Mazara greeted Verlander with a lead-off double to start the seventh inning. Verlander then walked the next two and was replaced by Chris Devinski, who promptly surrendered a sacrifice fly from Jurickson Profar’s bat. That was the only run that was scored on this night.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister said the original plan was for Hamels to pitch the seventh inning. However, the top half of the inning took so long that Banister decided to go to his bullpen. Jake Diekman put down Houston in the seventh and walked the first batter of the eighth inning. Jose LeClerc followed Diekman and got the three batters he faced in the eighth, striking out one.

Keone Kela came on to pitch the ninth for Texas. He walked one and went to a three ball count on another, but he put down the Astros without any scoreboard damage to earn his eighth save of the year. 1-0 was the final score. Hamels is 2-4 with the win. Hard luck Verlander is 4-2 with the loss, but he still leads the league in ERA at 1.21. He’s made three starts this season against the Rangers, pitching a total of 20 innings and allowing a mere two runs. Somehow, the Rangers have won two of those games.

The Rangers’ Doug Fister matched up against Charlie Morton in Saturday night’s tilt. Fister turned in a quality start going 6-1/3rd innings while allowing three earned runs on four hits and three walks.

It wasn’t good enough to stay with Morton though, who was the winning pitcher and moved his record to 5-0, 2.03. He completed seven innings, also giving up four hits. However, he walked no one and struck out 14 of the 21 batters he retired. Ronald Guzman touched him for a home run for the only Ranger score.

Tony Barnette relieved Fister and gave up three more runs to make the final score 6-1. Fister’s record fell to 1-4 with the loss.

On Sunday, the teams wore a lot of pink in support of breast cancer awareness. The different uniforms didn’t help the Rangers though. They lost again 6-1.

Matt Moore was the Ranger starter, and he was bad again. He gave up three runs in the third inning, and that ended his stay on the mound. He labored with 72 pitches for the three innings, walking three and giving up six hits. He faced 18 batters, so the Astros’ on base percentage was .500 against him. Banister was non-commital after the game as to whether Moore will remain in the rotation.

The Astros tagged Kevin Jepsen for three more runs in the seventh to extend their lead to 6-0. Newly acquired Carlos Perez hit his first Ranger home run in the eighth inning for the Rangers’ run of the day.

Moore is 1-5, 7.82 with the loss, while Houston’s Dallas Keuchel gave up just three hits in seven inning to win his third game of the year. He struck out a season high eight batters.

The news on the injury front wasn’t good Sunday. Adrian Beltre left the game with an apparent hamstring injury. He likely will be placed on the disabled list.

Texas is now a full 10 games out of first place in the American League West. They trail fourth place Oakland by four games in the standings, but by five games in the loss column.

The Rangers are off on Monday and then open a brief two game series in Seattle on Tuesday evening. Texas lost two of three games earlier in Arlington in their only matchup with Seattle so far this season. Mike Minor and Bartolo Colon are the announced starting pitchers for the Rangers.

NOTABLE:

* Rougned Odor was activated from the disabled list for the series. Renato Nunez was designated for assignment to make room on the active roster, and he was claimed on waivers by Baltimore. Odor started the first two games of the series and subbed for Beltre in Sunday’s game. He went 1-7 with five strikeouts.

* The Rangers are 27-21 on Mothers’ Day all time, which includes two doubleheaders.

* With the Rangers scoring in all three games in Houston, the Rangers and Yankees are still the only Major League teams that have not been shutout this season. The Rangers have scored just one run in a game to avoid a shutout eight times.

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RANGERS WIN HOME SERIES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers finally won their first home series of the year Wednesday, taking the rubber match in a three game series with the Detroit Tigers. They won Wednesday’s matinee in dramatic style with a 10th inning walk-off home run. Despite the series win, the Rangers completed another losing home stand winning three and losing four to Boston and Detroit.

For the second straight series, the Rangers won game one. The Ranger offense has been heavily reliant on homers to score runs, but in the series opener, two daring and aggressive running plays scored runs late to lead the Rangers to a 7-6 victory.

Matt Moore was the starting pitcher. He has been the hole in the Rangers’ rotation, and on Monday night, he did nothing to dissuade the idea. He was knocked around for nine hits and five earned runs in 5-2/3rds innings. His ERA stands at 7.71.

He departed with the Rangers trailing 5-1, but the Ranger batters promptly took him off the hook for a loss by scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game. Joey Gallo and Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit back to back doubles to drive in three runs with two outs. Kiner-Falefa then scored from second on Ronald Guzman’s infield single.

The Tigers re-took the lead in the seventh inning scoring an unearned run off Jose LeClerc. The Rangers came right back with two unearned runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh to go in front 6-5. Jurickson Profar tripled after Delino DeShields reached on an error and Shin-Soo Choo singled with two outs.

Jake Diekman and Keone Kela shutout the Tigers over the final two innings. LeClerc is 1-0 with the win and the save was Kela’s seventh of the season.

The Rangers again played from behind early in the game on Tuesday night. Mike Minor gave up six hits to the first nine batters he faced. Three of those hits were home runs, and five of those base runners scored. Minor said after the game that he was throwing the pitches where he wanted according to the game plan. At that point, he scrapped the game plan and had success.

He finished seven innings for the first time this year. He allowed just three more base runners on a hit, a hit batsman and an error.

The deficit proved too large for the Rangers to overcome. Jurickson Profar hit a solo home run, his second of the season in the fifth inning to put the Rangers on the scoreboard. Texas added another run in the sixth inning, though it was disappointing they pushed just one across. They twice had runners at first and third with one out, and scored just the once.

Alex Claudio and Kevin Jepson finished the game, and each gave up a run. Texas scored two more in the eighth inning, but Tigers’ manager Ron Gardenhire summoned his closer Shane Greene to snuff out the rally. Greene struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his seventh save. The final score was 7-4.

Minor and Tigers’ starting pitcher Mike Fiers are both 3-2 after taking the loss and earning the win respectively.

The best news on the night for Texas was the return of Adrian Beltre. He was activated from the 10-day disabled list just before game time and came up with three hits.

Wednesday afternoon’s finale was a see-saw affair. Beltre singled home a run in the first inning, but the Tigers took the lead with two runs in the third. That lead didn’t last long, as the Rangers scored two runs in their half of the third. Kiner-Falefa tripled home the first run and scored on Beltre’s sacrifice fly.

The Tigers came back with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to lead 5-4. Mazara then tied the game in the eighth inning with a home run. A scoreless ninth moved the game into extra innings. Not to worry. Mazara came to bat again and hit another home run for the walk-off win.

The Astros swept Oakland in a three game set to start the week, so Texas dropped another game in the standings to Houston. They now trail the Astros by nine games. However, they picked up two games on fourth place Oakland and are four games out of fourth place (five in the loss column).

Texas is off Thursday, and then open a three game series this weekend in Houston. The Rangers are 3-4 against the Astros in their first two series of the year. Rougned Odor is expected to be added to the active roster for the series. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Cole Hamels, Doug Fister and Matt Moore.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers and the Yankees are the only two Major League teams that have not been shut out this season.

* The Rangers hit home runs in each game of this series to extend their home run streak to 13 games. That’s the longest home run streak in the Majors this year eclipsing the Yankees’ 12 game streak in April; and for Texas, it’s the longest home run streak since June of last season, when they homered in 14 consecutive games.

* Delino DeShields’ career high 10-game hitting streak came to an end in Monday night’s game. He still remains hot with multiple hits in seven of his last 11 games. He scored nine of the 35 runs the Rangers scored during the homestand.

* Tim Lincecum gave up two runs on two hits in his first minor league rehab appearance for Round Rock on Monday night. He threw 15 pitches and struck out two batters. This was his first appearance in a professional baseball game since September 4, 2016.

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HOME NOT SO SWEET HOME

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers won the opening game of this weekend’s series with Boston, but the Red Sox came back to take the last three and win the series. The Rangers fall to 5-15 at home and still have not won a series in Arlington in six tries. For the season, the Rangers are 2-8-1 with the both series wins and the series split coming on the road.

This series started with a bang for Texas, at least offensively. Leading 4-3 going to the bottom of the fourth inning of Thursday’s series opening game, the Ranger offense exploded for six runs. Nomar Mazara had the big hit of the inning, a three run home run. That made it a five RBI night for Mazara, as he had earlier doubled home two runs.

The six runs in an inning were a season high. It was also the first game this season that the Rangers ran their run total into double digits, eclipsing their previous season high of eight runs in a game set earlier in the week. The Red Sox scored twice more and the Rangers added another run late for a final score of 11-5.

The blowout win was hardly expected. Boston arrived with the best record in baseball, and they sent former Cy Young Award winner David Price to the mound. Price however, has not pitched well in Globe Life Ballpark in the past, and history held true. He was charged with nine runs in 3-1/3rd innings. He wasn’t helped by his defense as two of the runs were unearned.

For the night, Boston committed three errors and gave up three earned runs. That was surprising from both ends. The Red Sox had given up two unearned runs for the season prior to Thursday’s game, and the Rangers had scored just one unearned run in their first 32 games.

Mike Minor, who played at Vanderbilt like Price, was not sharp, giving up three runs in the first four innings. However, after getting the cushion of a seven run lead, he finished with a quality start – six innings pitched and three earned runs. He’s 3-1 with the win and Price is 2-4 with the loss.

On Friday night, the teams played a home run derby game. The Rangers unfortunately hit just one of the five home runs in this game. It came off the bat of Nomar Mazara, his fourth consecutive game to hit a round tripper.

The final score was 5-1. Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon was the starting pitcher and surrendered four home runs out of just five hits allowed. Colon doesn’t strike out many batters. Often those batted balls are turned into outs. On this night though, four of them left the park.

Manager Jeff Banister said after the game, “This is a guy (Colon) that throws strikes. Hitters know that; they come out and are aggressive.”

The Rangers were shut down by Boston starter Rick Porcello, the third former Cy Young Award winner to face the Rangers in as many nights. He gave up three hits in six innings striking out eight and walking one.

Banister also said, “…you gotta take your hat off to Porcello tonight. It looked like he had pretty much everything going for himself.”

Colon is 1-1 with the loss, while Porcello is 5-0 with the win.

Saturday’s game was one that makes a difference in a season. The Rangers got a good start from Cole Hamels. He completed six innings, allowing three runs on five hits. One of the runs was unearned. The offense supplied power, backing Hamels with three home runs. Gallo hit a pair of gargantuan solo shots, and Delino DeShields hit one with two runners aboard to tally five runs.

Texas led 5-3 going to the seventh inning, but the Sox tallied twice to tie; and in the ninth, they scored the go ahead run. The Rangers went quietly in their half of the ninth to conclude a 6-5 Red Sox win.

There was sloppy fielding and the Sox tallied a run off three of the four pitchers that relieved Hamels. Keone Kela took the loss, falling to 2-2.

On Sunday, Chris Sale started for Boston and showed why he is considered one of the top 10 pitchers in the league. He scattered four hits over seven innings, while striking out 12. He never allowed more than one base runner in an inning, and the only scoreboard damage was a solo home run off Ryan Rua’s bat. He’s 3-1 with the win.

Doug Fister was the Ranger starter and pitched well for almost six innings. The Red Sox led 2-0 with two on and two out in the sixth. Little used backup catcher Sandy Leon broke the game open with his first home run of the season. What had been a good looking stat line for Fister turned ugly. He got one out in the seventh inning and allowed another run before being relieved. The final score was 6-1, and Fister is 1-3 with the loss.

The Red Sox series win dropped the Rangers to 10 games under .500 at 13-23 to strengthen their grip on last place in the American League West. They looked like a last place team. They played shoddy defense, and their batters struck out 52 times in the series, an average of 13 per game.

The Rangers have slipped nine games behind first place Los Angeles (10 in the loss column) in the division. The fourth place Athletics however are two games over .500 at 18-16 and lead the Rangers by six games, seven in the loss column.

The home record has a good chance to improve as the home stand concludes with three games against the Detroit Tigers. Texas won five of six against the Motor City men last year. The announced Ranger starting pitchers are Matt Moore on Monday, Mike Minor on Tuesday and Bartolo Colon on Wednesday. Games times are 7:05 PM on Monday and Tuesday and 1:05 PM on Wednesday.

NOTABLE:

* STREAKS: The Rangers hit at least one home run in each game of the series to extend their streak of homering in 10 straight games. That is the second longest home run streak in the Majors this season. (The Yankees had a 12 game streak in April)……Delino DeShields had at least one hit in each game of the series to extend his personal hitting streak to 10 games, a career high and the longest for any Ranger this season……Former Ranger Mitch Moreland is hitting .542 against Texas since joining the Red Sox. He was 4-7 with a home run and three RBIs in this series.

* MINOR LEAGUE REHABS: Rougned Odor began his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday at AA Frisco. He went 0-3 with a walk as the Rough Riders’ designated hitter in the first game. On Sunday, he played second base and went 1-2….Tim Lincecum begins his minor league rehab assignment Monday with AAA Round Rock.

* Joey Gallo’s first home run on Saturday was measured at 466 feet, and the exit velocity off his bat was estimated at 116.8 mph. It was the hardest hit ball by a Ranger since Statcast was introduced in 2015.

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MORE ROAD SUCCESS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

“Home sweet home” does not apply to the Texas Rangers. Wednesday afternoon, they finished another .500 road trip going 3-3 and winning just their second series of the year, both on the road. The Rangers are 8-8 on the road and 4-12 at home. They are 2-7-1 in their first 10 series of the season.

As improbable as the home/road records look, winning on the road is even more improbable with the rag tag lineups manager Jeff Banister has been forced to put on the field. Injuries to Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor have shelved three-fourths of the Ranger starting infield. The roster shuffling has forced first baseman Joey Gallo to play mainly left field. So the Rangers went 3-3 on this road trip without the projected starting infield.

The two main replacements that weren’t expected to be in Arlington until much later in the season – Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman – are more than holding their own. Kiner-Falefa is hitting .278 with a pair of home runs. He has two four-hit games under his belt among the 20 he has played. Bear in mind that he hit just five home runs total in his minor league career, and they all came last year at AA Frisco.

Guzman is hitting a less gaudy .212, but there have been some important hits late in games, and he is a really good defensive first baseman.

There is also Jurickson Profar. The once highly touted shortstop prospect looked anything but when first forced into the lineup. He made too many errors, most of the throwing variety. He didn’t hit much. However, the regular playing time has improved his play on both sides of the ball. He has been getting regular extra work defensively from coaches Tony Beasley and Steve Buechele prior to games, and it is showing.

The trip started with the Rangers taking the first two games against Toronto last weekend. The Friday night 6-4 win over the Jays was the first of the season in game one of a series. Mike Minor copped the win, pitching six innings and allowing four runs on nine hits. The Rangers staked him to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, with two of the four coming on Gallo’s eighth home run. Toronto tied the game with single runs in the first and third innings and pair in the second. Minor stiffened after that, finishing his outing with three shutout innings.

The Rangers meanwhile struck for two more runs in their half of the sixth, both coming on a Guzman single. Four relievers shut out the Jays over the final three innings. Minor is 2-1 with the win, and Keone Kela earned his fifth save. The Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman continues to struggle. He’s 0-3, 8.88 with the loss. Two of the three losses have been at the hands of the Rangers.

Texas had won their last game before the road trip, so when they won again on Saturday by a 7-4 score, they had their longest winning streak of the season – three games. “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon gave up three runs over seven innings for his first win as a Ranger.

Ranger batters backed Colon’s effort with three home runs, including Profar’s first of the year. Texas took charge with three runs in the third inning, and extended the lead to 5-0 with two more in the fourth inning. Toronto answered with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh off Colon. Texas added single runs in the sixth and ninth innings, with the sixth inning run coming on Robinson Chirinos’s second home run of the game. Kevin Jepson gave up Toronto’s final run in the ninth.

The winning streak came to a halt on Sunday. The Jays avoided a sweep by tagging Martin Perez with three home runs in four innings. They won 7-2. Perez is 2-3, 9.67 after the loss and was placed on the disabled list the next day.

On Monday, the Rangers’ bullpen woes showed up again. The Rangers scored two runs in the eighth to take a 4-3 lead. They needed just six outs for the win, but Chris Martin, one of the more reliable bullpen hands, simply didn’t have it. He couldn’t finish the inning and was charged with four earned runs on four hits. He left with a neck injury and was placed on the disabled list.

The Rangers’ ninth inning rally fell short. Nomar Mazara drove in one run, and the tying runs were on base when Gallo was called out on strikes to end the game.

The bullpen woes undid a fine start from Cole Hamels. He pitched the first five innings, allowing two runs, just one of which was earned. He didn’t come out for the sixth after needing 104 pitches to finish the five innings.

Martin (0-1) was charged with the loss and a blown save, his second blown save.

Tuesday’s game was one of the most entertaining of the year dragging Ranger fans to, from and to again emotional highs. The Rangers played a fine game behind Doug Fister’s longest outing of the year.

They scored two runs in the fifth inning on Delino DeShields’ first home run of the year and a pair of doubles from Shin-Soo Choo and Profar. Profar doubled home two more in the seventh inning with two outs to double the lead to 4-0. The game looked all but in the bag when Mazara followed with his fourth home run of the year to run the score to 6-0.

The Tribe tagged Fister for two unearned runs in their half of the seventh, and the score was still 6-2 with two outs in the ninth inning and two strikes on Michael Brantley. Banister chose to bring in Kela to pitch the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation. Brantley however, foiled the plan with a grand slam home run that tied the game. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a single to put the potential winning run on base for Cleveland, but Kela struck out Yonder Alonso to push the game into extra innings.

Alex Claudio started the tenth inning. 2018 has been a struggle for the Rangers’ 2017 “Pitcher of Year”, but he was magnificent Tuesday night. He threw three shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Gallo and Kiner-Falefa hit back-to-back home runs in the Rangers’ 12th inning for the 8-6 win. Eight runs scored set a new season high for Texas.

Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match of the series was decided early as Ranger starter Matt Moore had nothing. Cleveland struck for four runs in the first inning and five more in the second. After three innings, Moore had faced 21 batters. Twelve reached base on 11 hits and a walk. Included were six extra base hits – three home runs and three doubles. Ten scored.

The Rangers answered with home runs from Nomar Mazara and Juan Centeno, but the score was 10-2 after three innings, and the outcome was decided. Texas added two runs late, one on Gallo’s 10th home run. The Tribe also scored two runs late on a pair of home runs, one of which was Encarnacion’s third round tripper of the game.

It was a disappointing finish to the road trip, but playing .500 ball away from home is good. The Rangers have closed to within eight games of first place Houston, but are still four games behind fourth place Oakland (five in the loss column).

The Rangers open a seven game home stand Thursday evening with the first of four games against Boston. Last year, the Rangers went 1-5 against the Red Sox. It’s Boston’s only trip to Arlington this season. The announced Ranger starting pitchers for the series are Mike Minor, Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels and Doug Fister.

NOTABLE:

* Bartolo Colon was named the Rangers’ “Player of the Month” for April. He was 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA in six games, including four starts.

* The Rangers finished the season series with Toronto with each team winning three games.

* The Rangers claimed catcher Carlos Perez on waivers Wednesday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, Elvis Andrus was moved to the 60-day disabled list. A move to add Perez to the active roster will be made Thursday.

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A’s SINK RANGERS

Beltre Lost to Injury

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers closed out their six game home stand with a fine win Wednesday night. It averted a sweep by the Oakland A’s, who had won the first two games, of the series. Texas finished the homestand 2-4, losing their fifth and sixth series of the year. They have won one series and split another. Texas firmed up their grip on the American League West cellar as they are now eight games behind first place Houston and five games in the loss column behind the A’s for fourth place.

Perhaps worse than the results on the field is another significant injury. Adrian Beltre left Tuesday’s game clutching his left hamstring. An MRI on Wednesday revealed it is only a grade 1 strain. He’s expected to be out at least three weeks.

With Beltre out, the starting infield in Wednesday’s series finale was Ronald Guzman at first base, Drew Robinson at second, Jurickson Profar at shortstop and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at third. For sure, if anyone mentioned that starting infield in spring training, the listener would have thought the subject was Round Rock’s infield, not the Rangers.

Despite the makeshift lineup, the Rangers played a solid game Wednesday night. There was good defense. Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo made outstanding catches in right and left field. Delino DeShields threw out a runner at third trying to advance on a fly ball. DeShields has been much maligned defensively largely because of his weak arm, but give him credit. He has developed throwing-wise to be at least average instead of awful.

There was hitting. Joey Gallo reached four times on three hits – all singles, including a bunt against the A’s shift – and a walk. Jurickson Profar hustled a single into a double to ultimately score a much needed insurance run late in the game. Isiah Kiner-Falefa got a key hit to break a 2-2 tie.

On the pitching side, Doug Fister came off the disabled list to make the start. He labored throwing 101 pitches and failing to finish five innings. In the end though, the only scoreboard damage was a two run home to Ranger killer Khris Davis. Jesse Chavez, Alex Claudio, Chris Martin and Keone Kela shut out the A’s over the final 4-1/3rd innings.

The final score was 4-2. Chavez (1-0) earned the win, and Kela was credited with his fourth save.

The series began Monday with an interestingly played eight innings. Both teams scored in the third and fourth innings. Davis doubled home two runs in Oakland’s third inning at bat, while the Rangers answered with one run scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half. A leadoff double and single to start Oakland’s fourth inning plated a third run. Profar walked with two outs in the Rangers’ fourth, and Robinson Chirinos tied the game with a home run.

Matt Moore was the Ranger starter, and he pitched a decent game, allowing the three runs on seven hits over five innings. The game stayed tied at three until the ninth. Four Ranger relievers shut down Oakland over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

In the ninth inning, the Athletics torched the Texas bullpen, a theme that was all too familiar on this home stand. Marcus Semien homered off Kevin Jepson to start the inning. The Rangers were an out away from escaping further damage, but it wasn’t to be. Oakland plated five more runs with a pair of triples doing most of the damage.

The Rangers pushed across a run in the ninth inning to make the final score 9-4. Jepson is 0-3 with the loss.

Cole Hamels pitched well on Tuesday, but the Ranger offense could muster just two runs. Hamels gave up single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. He gave up five hits, walked two batters and struck out five. Jake Diekman, Martin and Matt Bush kept Oakland off the scoreboard after Hamels departed.

Adrian Beltre drove in both Ranger runs with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and a long single that ordinarily would have been a double in the eighth inning. Beltre only got to first clutching his left hamstring. He headed for the dugout immediately after the play ended.

3-2 was the final score, and Hamels is 1-4 with the loss.

Texas heads to Toronto this weekend, and then on to Detroit next week. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor, Bartolo Colon and Martin Perez this weekend in Canada.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers have played 20 of the first 26 games against divisional foes going 7-13. Sadly, that includes just 3-10 in Arlington.

* The Rangers are 6-1 in the seven games started by Juan Centeno at catcher.

* Texas pitchers hit four batters in Tuesday’s game and lead the Majors with 20 hit batsmen for the season.

* Wednesday’s game was just the seventh since the start of 2011 in which at least one of Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre did not start, including post season games.

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SEATTLE TAKES SERIES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers avoided a sweep Sunday afternoon with a 7-4 win in the final game of their three game series with the Seattle Mariners. Seattle had torched the Ranger bullpen for come from behind wins in the first two games. It was just the third home win of the season for the struggling Rangers in 13 tries. Texas is now 1-5-1 in series this year.

Martin Perez had been hit hard in his previous two starts, allowing 16 runs (15 earned) in 8-1/3rd innings. He came in with an obscene 13.14 ERA, but Sunday afternoon he fought through six innings allowing two runs and earning his first quality start this year.

The Rangers supported Perez with seven runs, three of which came on a pair of fourth inning home runs from Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. When Perez departed, Texas held a 5-2 lead. Matt Bush promptly gave up a two run home run in the seventh inning to bring Seattle within a run, but Jake Diekman put the fire out with a pair of strikouts after Seattle loaded the bases with one out.

Kevin Jepson pitched a one-two-three eighth inning, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa provided some breathing room with a two run single in the eighth inning to push the Ranger lead back to three at 7-4. Keone Kela gave up two hits in the ninth, but struck out two and saw the game end on a pop that shortstop Jurickson Profar corralled in short left center field.

Perez is 2-2 with the win, and his ERA fell to a still very ugly 9.82. Kela earned his third save.

Ryan Minor wasn’t real sharp in Friday’s series opener, but he pitched into the sixth and allowed just one run on six hits and a walk. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning, but Chris Martin gave up a solo home run to cough up the lead. He was charged with a blown save. Kela was even worse in the ninth. He was charged with three runs on three hits while retiring just one batter, and Diekman was marginally better giving up another run before getting the Rangers out of the inning.

When the smoke cleared, Seattle led 6-2 which was the final score when the Rangers failed to score in the ninth inning. Kela is 2-1 with the loss.

On Saturday, new fan favorite Bartolo Colon battled to pitch into the sixth inning. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits, but the Rangers still led 5-4 when he left. They added a run to the lead in the bottom of the sixth, but the roof fell in on the bullpen in the seventh. Alex Claudio, looking far from the effective reliever he was a year ago, did not retire a batter and was charged with four runs on four hits. Martin gave up another before retiring Seattle.

The Mariners thus led 9-6 when they took the field in the bottom of the eighth. The Rangers added a run in the ninth, but the game ended on a fine catch by Seattle’s Guillermo Heredia. The bases were loaded, so the two out long fly would have easily unloaded the bases for a walk-off Ranger win Had Heredia not caught the ball. Claudio took the loss, his first decision of the season, and his ERA is up to 8.10.

The Rangers’ roster is starting to get back some health. Delino DeShields was activated Sunday, going 0-4 with a strikeout. He did make a marvelous catch in center field to rob a Seattle home run. Starter Doug Fister threw an impressive bullpen session and could be activated as early as Wednesday this week to start against the A’s. The other two significant injuries are not close to returning though. Roughned Odor is probably three weeks away and Elvis Andrus won’t be back until around June 1.

The Rangers finish the home stand with three games against Oakland. Texas and Oakland split a four game series in Oakland in the first week of the season. The A’s are coming off two solid wins over Boston, including 2018′s first no-hitter, tossed Saturday by Sean Manaea. The fourth place A’s hold a 3.5 game lead over the last place Rangers in the battle for the American League West basement.

The scheduled starting pitchers for Texas are Matt Moore (1-3), Cole Hamels (1-3) and TBA, with a good chance Fister starts Wednesday.

NOTABLE:

* Saturday’s game was the longest of the year for the Rangers – 3:29. The start of the game was delayed 1:26 by rain, such that it was almost midnight when it ended.

* The blown saves in the first two games of this series were the first two blown saves of the year for Texas.

* Texas played an errorless game Saturday to end a streak of eight straight games with at least one error.

* Coincidence? The Rangers are 5-1 when Juan Centeno starts at catcher.

* Texas did not hit a home run in the first two games of the series, but hit two Sunday to maintain their streak of hitting at least one home run in Arlington series. The last time they did not hit a home run in a home series was in April, 2015.

* The seven runs that the Rangers scored in Saturday’s and Sunday’s games match their season high.

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MORE WOES IN ST. PETE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers maintained their grip on last place in the American League West by losing two of three games to the Tampa Bay Rays this week. They completed the road trip at 3-3, but their season record dropped to 7-13. They trail first place Los Angeles by seven games and are three games behind fourth place Oakland in the loss column.

The long time adage in baseball is that a team’s momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. That proved to be true in Monday’s series opening game. The Rangers arrived in St. Petersburg having won two games in a row for the first time this season. Any thoughts of the team having momentum vanished quickly as Monday starter Martin Perez was terrible.

The Rays pushed across a run in the first inning and four more in the second. Perez’s night lasted two more inning and he ended up getting shelled for eight runs on ten hits. He’s 1-2 with a 13.14 ERA after the outing.

The Rangers’ offense continues to struggle. The batsmen mustered just four hits. Two went the distance – Joey Gallo in the fourth inning and Nomar Mazara in the eighth inning. Mazara’s came with two runners on base to make the final score 8-4.

On Tuesday, the Rangers got a good performance from Matt Moore. Moore has struggled the most among starters so far this season, but on Tuesday night he showed what the Rangers were hoping to see. He scattered five hits over seven innings, allowing just one run, which was unearned.

Moore came up to the Majors with the Rays, and perhaps it was the comfort of being on the mound where he had success in the past. In any event, it was a welcome performance. He’s 1-3 with the win, but his ERA still languishes at 6.59.

The Rangers put single runs on the board in the first and second innings on sacrifice flys to stake Moore to an early lead. Tampa Bay touched Moore for the unearned run in the second inning, but the Rangers came back with three more runs in the fifth inning to extend the lead.

Shin-Soo Choo had a interesting stat line. He was 1-2 from the leadoff spot, but he walked twice, scored four runs, hit a mammoth home run and drove in two. It was also another good day for the newest Rangers. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a four hit game, and Ronald Guzman drove in two runs.

In Wednesday afternoon’s finale, Cole Hamels and Jake Faria tangled in an early pitchers’ duel. The Rangers handed a 1-0 lead to Hamels with Choo’s solo home run in the third inning, his second round tripper of the series and fifth of the season. Hamels held the Rays scoreless through five innings, but they touched him for three runs in the sixth. Runs scored on a double, a single and a sacrifice fly. Hamels retired just one batter in the seventh inning as he surrendered another run.

Texas added a run on two walks and a single in the ninth inning to make the final score 4-2. Hamels drops to 1-3 on the year, and his ERA is 4.76.

The injuries continued for Texas. They lost Jurickson Profar in game one. He took a tumble as he tried to turn a double play. He was in concussion protocal and not medically cleared to play in the final two games of the series.

The Rangers are off Thursday, but open a six game home stand this weekend. Seattle is in town Friday, Saturday and Sunday, followed by Oakland next week. Mike Minor, Bartolo Colon and Perez are the scheduled starting pitchers for Texas.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers are expected to announce the signing Thursday of Cuban refugee, outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez.

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IMPROBABLE!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers won their first series of the season this weekend, taking two of three games from the Houston Astros. It was improbable that the first series win would come on the road. It was improbable that the first series win would come against the reigning World Series champions. It was improbable that both Ranger wins came in extra innings. It was improbable that it would happen with two rookies in the lineup making their first Major League starts. All of that and more happened.

The critical point in the series came Saturday afternoon when the Astros took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. After losing Friday night’s series opening game, the Rangers’ goose looked all but cooked. At that point, the Rangers had lost five straight games in which they had not even held a lead at any point.

The two rookies – Isaiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman – made their first Major League starts on Friday night, and both nabbed their first Major League hit. On Saturday, Kiner-Falefa sparked the comeback with his first Major League home run in the fifth inning, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-4. Adrian Beltre and Joey Gallo homered in the sixth and eighth innings. Beltre’s was a solo shot, but Gallo’s came with a runner on base to pull Texas within a run at 5-4.

Guzman then followed Gallo with his first Major League home run to tie the game.

Mike Minor was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He gave up the five runs and completed five innings, allowing five hits and a walk. However, five Ranger relievers followed Minor to the mound and shutout the Astros the rest of the way.

Texas scored in the tenth inning making Keone Kela the winning pitcher. Alex Claudio wrapped up the 10th inning for his first save of the year.

Texas had lost Friday night 3-2. Robinson Chirinos and Gallo homered in the seventh inning to tie the game, but the Astros tagged Kevin Jepson for the winning run in the eighth inning. Jepson is 0-2 with the loss.

Cole Hamels was Friday night’s starting pitcher and he turned in a quality start going six innings and allowing two runs. He struck out seven.

The split in the first two games set up the rubber match in Sunday night’s ESPN national telecast. Bartolo Colon was the starting pitcher taking the turn that would have gone to Doug Fister had he not gone on the disabled list.

Colon was simply magnificent. He was perfect for seven innings. In the eighth, the perfect game went good-bye when he walked the first batter. The no-hit bid went good-bye when Josh Reddick followed with a double. That was it for Colon. A sac fly brought home an Astro run to tie the game at one. Texas had earlier scored on Chirinos’ second home run of the series.

Once again, the game went into extra innings. Once again, Chirinos plated runs, this time two runs with a double. Jake Diekman gave up a hit, but struck out two in the bottom of the 10th to close out Houston. Kela was the winning pitcher again making his record 2-0. Diekman earned his first save of the season.

The Rangers for sure miss Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor after they joined the disabled list last week. However, they looked energized from their replacements – Guzman and Kiner-Falefa. The road trip continues with games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Martin Perez, Matt Moore and Hamels are the scheduled starting pitchers for Texas.

NOTABLE:

* Tim Lincecum’s Ranger debut has been delayed to at least late May. He was moved from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Renato Nunez, a utility infielder claimed on waivers from the Oakland Athletics. On Monday, Renato was added to the acxtive roster, and Ryan Rua was optioned to AAA Round Rock to make room.

* Houston’s Justin Verlander was named the American League Player of the Week. He made two starts, and won the award even though the Astros lost one of those games. He struck out 20 batters and allowed one run in 15 innings for the week.

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