TORTUROUS WEEK ENDS WITH WIN

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The torturous week came to an end for the Rangers Sunday afternoon with a win that secured a winning week at 4-2 and brought their season record to .500 at 68-68. The American League West championship is long gone as the Rangers are 15 games behind suddenly resurgent Houston and the elimination number is down to 12. Any combination of Houston wins and Texas losses totalling 12 eliminates the Rangers mathematically from winning the pennant.

The Rangers are still alive for a playoff berth as one of the two Wild Card teams. Currently the Yankees have the best record among teams not among the three division leaders. They are 1.5 games ahead of Minnesota, which leads Baltimore and Los Angeles by 1.5 games, Seattle by 2.5 games, Texas by three games, Kansas City by 3.5 games and Tampa Bay by four games. Toronto, Detroit, Oakland and Chicago are all but mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs.

The week started with the totally unnecessary controversy over where to play the games scheduled to be played in Houston on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Hurricane Harvey had literally closed the town, making a move of the series mandatory. The logical place to play the series was in Arlington. Both teams had flown from the West Coast last Sunday to Dallas. The players on both teams clearly wanted to play in Arlington, as it would have allowed the scheduled off day on Monday to still be an off day, and limit the travel involved.

The Rangers were willing to mobilize the cadre of more than 1,000 workers on essentially 24 hours notice to facillitate playing the games in Arlington. However Astros management was insistent that the Rangers bear the burden of losing three play dates on their schedule. They only wanted to play if the teams could swap dates. Ultimately, the Astros chose to play the series in St. Petersburg forcing the teams to travel on the scheduled off day last Monday.

Houston had won four of six games in Arlington in the previous two series this season, but the road weary Astros lost two of three games in Tropicana Field. By Thursday, both Houston airports had opened, and the Astros were able to go home to deal with the real life problems caused by the hurricane.

Winning two of three didn’t feel all that good to Texas. In game three, Adrian Beltre, the heart and soul of the Rangers’ offense, suffered a severe hamstring strain on the artificial surface in St. Petersburg. He’s lost for an estimated four weeks, essentially the rest of the season.

The Rangers did play three more games in Arlington over the weekend again, before striking out for Atlanta to complete interleague play. The Rangers won two, but again they didn’t feel good. On Friday night, the Rangers took a 6-2 lead over the first three innings, and with ace Cole Hamels pitching on an extra day of rest, it looked like a win early. Hamels wasn’t sharp though. He needed 101 pitches to struggle through five innings, giving up four runs.

The Angels rallied to tie the game at nine in the eighth inning, but the Rangers scored in their half of the inning. Alex Claudio faced six batters before securing the third out in the ninth inning with the bases loaded. Rangers won 10-9.

On Saturday, the Rangers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning. The Angels however tied the game with two runs in the ninth and tallied three more in the 10th to win 7-4.

Sunday looked much like Friday and Saturday. The Rangers took a 5-2 lead after four innings, and a 7-3 lead after six. The Angels however scored two runs in the ninth to draw to within one run at 7-6. That was the final, as Luis Valbuena grounded into a force out with the bases loaded to end the game.

Martin Perez was Sunday’s winning pitcher, his sixth win in his last six starts. His ERA is 3.15 in that span, and the six game winning streak ties his career high.

After the brief trip to Atlanta to start the week, the Rangers return to Arlington next weekend to face the Yankees in their only regular season appearance against Texas.

As for making the playoffs, the bottom line for Texas is that it will most likely take at least 84 wins to be the second Wild Card team. The Rangers need to go 16-10 to reach 84 wins. The time is short. It is no longer a long season. Texas simply cannot let winnable games slip away.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers called up corner infielder Will Middlebrooks, right handed pitcher Paolo Espino, and catcher A. J. Jimenez when the rosters expanded on September 1. They have indicated that more callups will be coming once the minor league seasons are over at Round Rock and Frisco.

* It is unlikely that Willie Calhoun will be brought to Arlington as a September call up. Calhoun was the centerpiece of the Rangers’ haul of minor league prospects in the Yu Darvish trade. He has certainly played well enough to deserve the promotion, but he is not on the 40-man roster, and does not need to be put on the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter. The Rangers need the spot on the 40-man roster this winter, and with Texas still in the race for a playoff berth, Calhoun would see little playing time anyway. He did further his case to be called up by hitting a walk-off grand slam home run this weekend, driving in eight runs in the game.

* Game time on Friday was 4:33, the longest nine inning game in Ranger history and the third longest nine inning game in Major League history. The combined game time of the three game series with the Angels was 12:31.

* Sign of the Rangers’ bullpen struggles. In 11-1/3rd innings in the Angels’ series, the pen walked 12 batters.

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DISAPPOINTMENT IN OAKLAND

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers hopes of making the playoffs took a severe hit this weekend as they were swept in three games by the last place Oakland Athletics. The Rangers’ offense was almost a total no-show as they scored just seven runs in the series. The offense is overly reliant on home runs; but this weekend, the Rangers hit just one big fly and went 3-24 with runners in scoring position.

The week that started so well when Texas took three of four from the Angels finished as a losing week at 3-4 and dropped them two games under .500 at 64-66. They are still in fourth place in the West trailing first place Houston by 15 games. The elimination number, sometimes called the magic number, is 18. Any combination of Astros’ wins and Rangers’ losses totalling 18 eliminates the Rangers from winning the West.

In the Wild Card race, New York holds the first Wild Card spot with a 3.5 game lead over Minnesota. Texas is three games behind the Twins. They are one of seven teams within three games of the second Wild Card spot. The likelihood is that the Rangers will need to go 20-12 at a minimum to take the second Wild Card playoff berth.

The sereis began with the A’s winning 3-1 on Friday. On paper this game was the most favorable pitching matchup for Oakland. Kendall Graveman was their starter, and he gives the Rangers trouble. Texas took the early lead when Adrian Beltre singled home a run in the first inning. That turned out to be all the Ranger offense of the game, as Graveman scattered nine hits over seven innings. However, he walked no one, and struck out six. Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen held the Rangers hitless in shutting them out over the final two innings.

Nick Martinez was the Ranger starter, and he turned in a fine effort. He has pitched well at AAA since his last demotion; and in his first action since returning, he allowed just four hits over seven innings. Unfortunately, Ranger nemesis Khris Davis was again a problem. He tied the game with a home run in the fourth inning, and put the A’s ahead 2-1 with another solo shot in the seventh inning. Oakland added an insurance run later in the seventh inning to make the final score 3-1.

Saturday’s loss was the one that really hurt. Cole Hamels was the Ranger starter, and Texas simply needs to win every time he pitches. He didn’t have command of the strike zone on Saturday. Adrian Beltre again put the Rangers in front with a two run single in the first inning, but the A’s came back with single runs in the first, third and fourth innings to take the lead for good.

Hamels was then knocked out in the fifth inning as Oakland added three more runs to make the score 6-2. Hamels gave up the six runs, all earned, on nine hits and three walks. 12 of the 23 batters he faced reached base, as he lasted just 4-1/3rd innings. Tony Barnette relieved and gave up two more runs in the sixth inning.

Beltre scored a run in the seventh inning to bring the Rangers a little closer, but 8-3 was the final score.

Sunday’s game was close most of the way. Texas again scored first with a run in the third inning, but Oakland came back with three in their half. Ranger starter A. J. Griffin was knocked out in the fourth inning as he gave up the three runs. Texas got within a run at 3-2 with a fifth inning score. Oakland scored a singleton in the sixth, and the Rangers answered with a run of their own in the eighth inning to again trail by one at 4-3. However, sloppy fielding opened the door for Oakland to score four runs in their half of the eighth to make the final score 8-3.

The Rangers are now 6-6 for the season against Oakland. The teams face each other in two of the final three series of the season with the four game series being in Arlington as the final four regular season games for both teams.

The Rangers’ next game is up in the air. They are scheduled to play the Astros Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Houston. With the flooding in the Bayou City, the games may not be played as scheduled and alternatives are being considered. One possibility is that the games will be moved to Arlington this week and the series scheduled in Arlington on September 25, 26 and 27 will be moved to Houston.

Both Houston, which played a three game serie in Anaheim this weekend, and Texas were scheduled to fly back to Dallas after Sunday’s games while the situation gets sorted out. A decision on this week’s series should be forthcoming Monday afternoon.

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RANGERS TAKE ANGELS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas took three out of four In Anaheim from the Angels to push their record one game over .500 at 64-63. It’s the first time the Rangers’ record has been over .500 since June 27. The Rangers distant hope of catching Houston is still alive as the Astros lost two of three to Washington, such that the Rangers cut their lead by 1.5 games to a deficit of 13 games. The Rangers however picked up valuable ground in the Wild Card race and now trail by just one game for the second Wild Card berth.

Thursday’s series finale was critical. Texas took two of the first three games giving them a chance to win the series. A loss Thursday would have split the series such that the Rangers would have picked up no ground on the Angels and would have four fewer games to catch them. L. A. came into the series as the second Wild Card team and one of the hotter teams in the league, so the Rangers’ series win is all the more impressive.

Brett Nicholas doubled in the third inning for the Rangers’ first hit in game four. Drew Robinson followed with a home run. Mike Napoli hit his 27th home run, a solo shot an inning later, to wrap up the Rangers’ scoring on the night.

A suddenly revived Martin Perez made three runs look big as he shut out the Angels for seven innings. He scattered seven hits, but walked none. He’s 9-10 for the season. It was Perez’s fourth straight win in four starts since getting knocked around by Minnesota on August 4. His ERA is 3.00 in those starts.

The Rangers’ bullpen was a mess Thursday after tossing 10-1/3rd innings in the first three games. Ranger manager Jeff Banister turned to veteran Jason Grilli and rookie Ricardo Rodriguez (in that order) to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. They came through in style allowing no runs on no hits. Rodriguez earned his first Major League save.

Cole Hamels opened the series with a well pitched game. Adrain Beltre drove home a run with a ground out in the first inning, and came back with a three run home run in the third inning to stake Hamels to a 5-1 lead. Hamels surrendered just three hits over seven innings while holding the Angels to two runs.

The scary bullpen was again scary. Jose LeClerc retired two batters, one by a strikeout, but walked three in the eighth inning. Alex Claudio was summoned to get the final out without the Angels scoring. Claudio came back out in the ninth and gave up a lead-off single. He retired the next two batters before Mike Trout cut the Ranger lead to 5-3 with a run scoring single. Albert Pujols followed as the tying run, but Albert Pujols is no longer the feared Albert Pujols that played for the Cardinals. He grounded out to first base to end the game. It was Claudio’s seventh save.

Tuesday was Tyson Ross’s last start for a while. He again had control issues walking four batters and allowing seven hits as exactly half of the 22 batters he faced reached base. He could not complete the fourth inning and amazingly was charged with just three runs. The Rangers later announced that Ross was moving to the bullpen and that Nick Martinez would start in Ross’s slot on Sunday.

The Angels pillaged the Ranger bullpen after Ross left to win 10-1.

Texas came back Wednesday night to win in extra innings. The Rangers scored a run in each of the first four innings. Andrew Cashner gave up three runs in the third inning and one more in the fifth to tie the game at four. He completed six innings and did not get a decision. Ricardo Rodriguez shut down the Angels in the seventh, while Claudio took care of them in the eighth and ninth innings.

However, the Angel pitchers were just as stingy about giving up runs. The game was still tied at four after nine innings. The Rangers broke the ice in the 10th. Elvis Andrus led off with a single that was coupled with a throwing error to put him on second base. A groundout moved him to third base. Two walks, one intentional, followed to load the bases. A double play would have gotten the Angels out of the inning unharmed, but Rougned Odor countered with a sacrifice fly. Two singles followed to drive in two more runs, enlarging the Rangers’ lead to 7-4.

The game wasn’t over though. Jose LeClerc took over for Claudio on the mound in the bottom of the 10th inning and promptly walked the first two batters. Tony Barnette was summoned to face the tying run. He immediately coaxed a double play ground ball from Pujols. A single followed to plate a run, but Barnette got Andrelton Simmons to fly out to end the game. 7-5 was the final score.

The road trip continues with three games in Oakland this weekend. The Rangers are 6-3 so far this season against the A’s. It’s “Players Weekend” thoughout Major League baseball. Teams will be wearing special jerseys with names on the back chosen by players. The Texas jerseys are powder blue and red.

INJURIES: Neither Matt Bush nor Joey Gallo made the trip west with the team after they collided in last Sunday’s game. Bush was diagnosed with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of action for two weeks. He was placed on the disabled list on Monday. Gallo was placed on the seven-day concussion list on Tuesday. He did fly to Anaheim Wednesday to rejoin the team and is expected to be activated next Tuesday in Houston. Jake Diekman will be ready to join the Rangers soon. He has not been scored upon in three minor league rehab outings, allowing no hits. Four of the nine outs have been strikeouts.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre had four hits in the series, bringing his career total to 3,027. He passed Lou Brock for 26th place on the all time list. The next player to catch is Rod Carew at 3,053. On Wednesday, Beltre hit two home runs, his 32nd career multi-home run game.

* Texas hit six home runs in the series to bring their total for the season to 200, which leads the Major Leagues. The Rangers have nine players that have hit at least 15 home runs.

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ANOTHER WINNING WEEK

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers ended their 10-game home stand on a downer, losing 3-2 to the White Sox Sunday afternoon. The win earned a split in the four game series for Chicago. The Rangers finished the week at 5-2 and finished the home stand at 7-3. Texas lost a chance to pick up a game in the standings on West Division leader Houston, which lost to Oakland Sunday. In the Wild Card race, the Rangers lost a game falling 2.5 games behind the second wild card slot.

The series opening game on Thursday looked a lot like the last two of the Detroit series that started the week. Chicago took the early lead with a run in the first and three more in the third inning. The offense came back to save the day, with four runs in the third and four more in the fifth inning to seemingly take charge of the game at 8-5.

But the bullpen has been and continues to be scary. Matt Bush looked strong to start the seventh inning with a strikeout and pop out. His performance turned south from there as the next three batters singled, tripled and doubled to cut the lead to 8-7.

The Rangers answered by getting a run back in their half of the seventh inning on three walks and a single, all with two outs. The insurance run proved to be vital.

Alex Claudio came on for the six out save. Claudio has struggled of late. He was fine in the eighth inning, setting the Pale Hose down in order. In the ninth though, Jose Abreu led off with a home run that brought the Sox to within one at 9-8. Tyler Saladino followed with a single to put the tying run on base, but Claudio stiffened to retire the next three batters and earn his sixth save.

It was another disappointing start for Tony Ross and brings into question as to whether Ross will remain in the rotation. He failed to complete five innings, allowing five runs on five hits. Pitch command was a big problem – he walked six batters. Austin Bibens-Dirkx relieved and retired the five batters he faced to earn the win.

Offensively, it was a big day for Nomar Mazara. One of his two hits was a home run, and he drove in five runs. Reserve catcher Brett Nicholas also homered with a man aboard.

The four game winning streak came to an end on Friday. Andrew Cashner pitched well, certainly better than the four previous starters, but the offense simply couldn’t make it happen. Cashner gave up three runs in 5-2/3rds innings, though one was unearned. The offense created opportunitites to score, but couldn’t get the big hit. They were 0-7 with runners in scoring position. Mike Napoli hit a two run home run and scored from third on a ground out to account for the Rangers’ three runs.

The deciding play came in the eighth inning with the score tied at three. Nicky Delmonico hit a fly to right field that looked catchable to Nomar Mazara. Mazara however crashed into the fence attempting to secure the out. He missed, and he dropped to the ground in pain. Delmonico circled the bases as the ball caromed off the fence and bounded back toward the infield.

Mazara stayed in the game, but was examined afterward. He has no structural damage, and played the next two games. 4-3 was Friday’s final score.

Saturday’s game followed the pattern of the games earlier in the week. Martin Perez was tagged for five first inning runs. Not to worry. The offense came back to bat around and score six runs in both the third and fourth innings. That gave Texas a commanding 13-5 lead. 17-7 was the final score, as Texas blasted four home runs – two from Rougned Odor, and one each from Mike Napoli and Shin-Soo Choo. Perez completed six innings, despite needing 40 pitches to get through that wretched first inning. He’s 8-10 with the win.

On Sunday, the offense again struggled. That’s been the frustration of the offense all season – inconsistency. After scoring a season high 17 runs on Saturday, they managed just two Sunday both coming on a Rougned Odor home run with two outs in the ninth inning. They created the opportunities, but failed to cash in. Twice they loaded the bases with one out and didn’t score. They were 2-12 with runners in scoring position.

A. J. Griffin turned in an acceptable start – three earned runs on six hits over five innings. Tony Barnette continued his amazing second half with two scoreless innings following Griffin.

Matt Bush took the mound to start the eighth inning. With one out and the infield in a severe shift for a left handed batter, a short pop was put in play to land near third base. Third baseman Joey Gallo was shifted into the shortstop position and had a long run to catch the pop. Bush, a former shortstop, had the best shot at catching it, and he did. However, Bush and Gallo collided after the catch. Both had to leave the game, and neither made the trip to Anaheim after the game with the team. Both will be examined on Monday and hopefully will be cleared to play.

3-2 was the final score as the Rangers’ record fell to 11-21 in one run games.

The Rangers are back on the road and back into divisional play. They embark on their sixth three city road trip starting Monday with a four game set against the Angels. Oakland and Houston for three games each follow. Every game is big now, but the Angels are ahead of Texas in the Wild Card race, so wins in Anaheim are also losses against a team the Rangers are chasing.

NOTABLE:

* On Saturday, the Rangers set a season high for runs scored (17), hits (20), extra base hits (eight) and total bases (36).

* Rougned Odor had his fifth multi-home run game on Saturday. That’s the most in the American League and trails Giancarlo Stanton (eight) and Cody Bellinger (six) for the Major League lead. Also on Saturday, Odor and Mike Napoli Napoli became the third pair of teammates to each drive in five or more runs in a game this year.

* Delino DeShields has started eight straight games batting leadoff and is hitting .375 in that span.

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TWO IN A ROW!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers won their second series in a row, sweeping the Detroit Tigers in three games to start the week. Martin Perez turned in another strong outing on Monday, the Ranger offense pounded Justin Verlander on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Cole Hamels pitched good enough to win on a night when he didn’t have his good stuff.

Manager Jeff Banister intimated last weekend that he had not given up on catching the Astros for the division title. It is definitely a long shot, and for the Rangers to take the West crown for the third year in a row, they will need a lot of help from the Astros. Certainly Houston provided that help two years ago, and they are reeling in the month of August. They are 3-6 since the start of last week. That has enabled the Rangers pick up 3.5 games (four in the loss column) to cut the deficit to 14.5 games (14 in the loss column).

That’s still a huge mountain to climb, but the Rangers are on a good roll now. They have six games of head-to-head competition to make up some of that ground. The Rangers’ offense is getting consistent at last. Texas has had a plus run differential that exceeds last year’s pennant winning team’s for most of the season. The problem is consistency. They rough up a pitcher for a double digit score one night, then lose 2-1 the next.

Tuesday’s game is a good example of the turnaround. They raced out to a 5-1 lead riding three home runs from Joey Gallo,Mike Napoli and Robinson Chirinos. However, starter A. J. Griffin had high pitch counts in the first two innigs that forced him out of the game after five with 93 pitches. Four innings from this year’s bullpen is scary, and the noose felt a little tighter when the Tigers touched up Tony Barnette for two runs in the seventh inning to cut the deficit to 5-3.

However, it was the offense that picked up the slack. Ranger hitters came back with a run in the seventh and four more in the eighth to put the game away. 10-4 was the final score.

The lone run in the seventh inning may have been the most interesting run of the season. The Rangers plated the run without benefit of a hit, and without benefit of a batter advancing a runner. Rougned Odor walked, which is a rare occurance in itself. He then stole second base and advanced to third when the catcher’s throw on the steal attempt went into center field.

From there he executed the most daring and perhaps the most exciting play in baseball. He stole home! Unfortunately, it didn’t get scored as a steal of home, as the pitcher failed to come to a complete stop in his throwing motion when he saw Odor moving, and a balk was called. However, we saw the steal. Odor slid across the plate and the catcher was unable to maintain possession of the ball as he attempted a tag. Exciting to witness no matter how the official scorer put it down in the books.

In the series finale Wednesday, Cole Hamels wasn’t good. He walked five batters and missed his spots badly on balls that were hit. Detroit knocked him around for eight hits, two of which were home runs. The Tigers took leads of 1-0 (on Ian Kinsler’s lead-off home run), 2-0, and 4-2 in the first three innings.

The offense again came to the rescue, scoring 10 unanswered runs to take a 12-4 lead to the ninth inning. It was another big night for the long ball. Nomar Mazara, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo homered. Jhan Marinez struggled in his Ranger debut giving up two ninth inning runs before the game ended with a 12-6 final score.

In game one on Monday, Martin Perez gave up two runs in the top of the first inning on a Justin Upton home run, but the Rangers came back to tie the game in the bottom half and proceeded to score in five of their eight at bats. Perez shut out the Bengels the rest of the way, completing six innings of six hit ball for a quality start.

Three relievers shut down Detroit over the final third of the game. Ricardo Rodriguez made his Major League debut to pitch the seventh inning. He was spectacular setting the Tigers down in order on 12 pitches, while striking out two of the three batters he faced.

Rodriguez started the season with the high A Down East Wood Ducks based in Kinston, North Carolina. He had moved up recently to AA Frisco before joining the Rangers. This is the first year that the Rangers’ high A team is in Kinston, so Rodriguez gets the honor of being the first Wood Duck to appear in the Majors.

The Rangers need to keep the roll going this weekend. The White Sox, with the worst record in the American League are in town for four games. The A. L. West championship may be a real long shot, but the current streak of six wins in the last seven games has moved the Rangers to within two games of the second Wild Card slot. There are still a host of teams, literally nine, that are within 3.5 games to capture one of the two Wild Card playoff spots. Over the past two weeks, no less than five have sat in the that second Wild Card seat based on the then current standings.

NOTABLE:

* Joey Gallo hit a home run in each of the three games against Detroit to bring his August home run total to 10. That leads the American League for the month.

* Robinson Chirinos set a new career high with his 14th home run in the second game of the series.

* Wednesday’s victory was the 1,000th since Jon Daniels took over as general manager prior to the 2006 season. Brian Cashman at New York with 1,868 and Billy Beane at Oakland with 1,674 are the only two current general managers that have presided over more wins than Daniels.

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YEA! A WINNING WEEK!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers split and won their two series this week to put together their first winning week of more than one series since before the All-Star break. They split a pair in New York against the Mets, and then came home to win two of three from the Astros. When the week ended, the Rangers had cut the deficit in the West to 15.5 games, and were 3.5 games behind for the second Wild Card playoff berth.

The Rangers were most fortunate to catch Houston this week. The Astros still have the best record in the American League, but they are reeling. They have seen their lead in the A. L. West dwindle from 18 to 12 games just since July 28. They limped into Arlington having been swept in a three game set by the White Sox, the same White Sox that have the worst record in the American League. The Astros have had a high powered offense this season, and that has slowed only slightly during the downturn.

Their big problems are on the mound. Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner and Collin McHugh were shelled for 15 earned runs in their two starts in Chicago earlier in the week. There is also dissatisfaction in the Astros’ clubhouse that management did virtually nothing to shore up the team for the playoffs, and Keuchel, in particular, has been very vocal in his criticism.

The Rangers scored 14 runs in the first two games of the series to extend the Astros’ losing streak to five games, before Keuchel came up with a very good start Sunday to put a stop to it. He allowed only a solo home run to Adrian Beltre to beat Texas 2-1 in the series finale.

For Texas, Martin Perez has struggled of late, but he was extremely impressive in New York. He pitched eight innings of three hit ball, giving up just one run. The Rangers backed him with five runs from the offense, such that he earned his sixth win against 10 losses.

On Friday, Cole Hamels was impressive, turning in seven shutout innings to improve to 7-1 for the season. Texas held a 6-0 lead after seven innings, but the game became a nail biter when the Astros racked up four runs in the eighth. Alex Claudio got the third out in the eighth to snuff out the threat, and he kept Houston off the scoreboard in the ninth on a night when he didn’t have his good stuff. The Astros sent strong MVP candidate Jose Altuve to the plate as the go ahead run with two outs in the ninth. Claudio ended the game with a strikeout on a 3-2 count. Friday’s game was one of the few this season in which the Rangers won without hitting a home run.

Saturday was a special day in Ranger history. The team honored Ivan Rodriguez for his enshrinement into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Speakers included the President of the Hall of Fame and the Mayor of Arlington, as well as Ranger broadcasters Eric Nadel and Tom Grieve. Most of the other former Ranger players to wear uniform number 7 were in attendance and recognized. Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Roberto Alomar unveiled the bust that will be placed in the Hall in Cooperstown. Noted local artist Vee Wells unveiled a new painting of Rodriguez to recognize the occasion.

Number 7 is now the fourth Ranger retired number. MLB retired number 42 for every team in the late 90′s to honor Jackie Robinson. Late Ranger manager Johnny Oates, who led the Rangers into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, wore number 26. It’s retired, as is number 34 in honor of Nolan Ryan.

Saturday’s game was basically an after thought to the moving ceremony. The game didn’t start until around 7:30 because of the length of the ceremony and was stopped for a brief rain delay in the bottom of the first inning. The rain held off after play resumed, and the Rangers racked up an 8-3 win. Tyson Ross came off the disabled list to make the start Saturday, and he was encouraging. He gave up three runs on four hits over 5-2/3rds innings.

If Texas is to make a move for a playoff berth, the time is now. Detroit is in town for three games to start the week. The White Sox follow for four next weekend. Former Ranger Derek Holland is scheduled to pitch next Saturday for the White Sox. It’s as soft of a schedule as there will be for Texas this year.

NOTABLE:

* The Astros now lead eight games to five in the chase for the Silver Boot Trophy as the champion of Texas. The Rangers are in Houston on August 29, 30 and 31 and the Astros return to Arlington on September 25, 26 and 27.

* Ranger manager Jeff Banister was ejected from Sunday’s game, his fifth ejection of the year. The White Sox’ Rick Renteria leads the Majors with six ejections.

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ANOTHER LOSING WEEK

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

On Sunday afternoon, the Rangers put up a five spot in the first inning on the strength of a three run home run from Adrian Beltre’s bat followed by a two run blast from Joey Gallo. That was all the offense on the day though, and Minnesota rallied back for six runs and a win to split the four game series.

For Texas, it added up to another losing week at 3-4 as they have not won any of the last four series. Texas lost on Tuesday at home to Seattle and Sunday in Minnesota, two starts that would have been taken by Yu Darvish had he not been traded last Monday. It especially hurts after seeing Darvish fire a master piece at the Mets in his first start for the Dodgers – seven shutout innings, three hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts.

The Rangers thus woke up Monday morning in fourth place in the American League West trailing Houston by 18 games. They are now 4.5 games (five in the loss column) in back of Kansas City for the second Wild Card playoff spot.

The offense looked like its usual self in Minnesota. Too many strikeouts – 34 in the four game series. Runs scoring mostly on home runs, as the Rangers hit five in the series driving in 11 of the 17 runs scored (65%).

With Darvish gone and the offense that has become “all or nothing”, you get the feeling that the air has been let out of the balloon. There are 10 teams that are within six games of the Wild Card. Only two get the chance to play into the eight team A. L. Tournament to go to the World Series. The Rangers are in the back of that pack, ahead of just Toronto and Detroit. The problem isn’t so much making up 4.5 games as it is passing so many teams.

And the bottom line is that the Rangers haven’t shown the ablitily to play at a high level for the remaining eight weeks of the season.

This week, the Rangers get two off days – Monday and Thursday. They play two games against the Mets to complete the current road trip on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then return home for three games this weekend against the Astros. The Rangers will honor Ivan Rodriguez on his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame in a ceremony prior to Saturday’s game.

NOTABLE:

* Willie Calhoun, the most highly regarded prospect received by the Rangers in the Yu Darvish trade, hit four home runs in the first four games he played at AAA Round Rock.

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SEATTLE TAKES TWO; YU GONE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers beat Seattle Wednesday night to avoid a series sweep and end a four game losing streak. Texas started the series well scoring two runs in each of the first two innings of game one, but Seattle came back with six runs late to win 6-4 overcoming Cole Hamels’ starting effort.

In game two, the Rangers trailed twice by five runs – 5-0 and 8-3, but their late rally fell short. Seattle won 8-7 despite three Ranger home runs. In both games one and two, there was shoddy Ranger defense that helped Seattle to the wins.

Texas came back with a 5-1 win in game three behind Andrew Cashner’s strong start to stop the bleeding.

The offense has been all or nothing for most of the season. It was no different in this series. The Rangers hit eight home runs driving in 13 of the 16 runs scored. Joey Gallo led the way with three round trippers.

The big story this week though was Monday’s 3:00 PM (CDT) non-waiver trade deadline. The Rangers traded Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for three prospects. The trade was actually consumated just minutes before the deadline, and word that Darvish was a Dodger didn’t hit the Twitter universe until 3:13.

The question of whether Darvish would be traded had hung over the team for more than a week. Both Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus openly pleaded through the media for Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels to believe in this team. They wanted the core to stay together and hopefully get bullpen help at the deadline.

However, the team has bobbed around near the .500 mark virtually all season. The chance to win the American League West division vanished long ago as Houston sprinted out to the best record in the A. L. After Wednesday’s games, they held a 10.5 game lead (11 in the loss column) over Boston for the A. L.’s best record.

However after Houston, no A. L. team is having a great year, such that there are good races for the East and Central division championships, and a host of eight to ten teams still harbor realistic chances of grabbing one of the two Wild Card playoff berths. The Rangers are in the back of that pack.

And that’s exactly the problem the Rangers faced as the deadline approached. They kept looking for a spark on the field to make the playoff opportunity more feasible. Alternatively (and less desireably) a losing streak that materially lessened if not extinguished their chances of making the playoffs would doom their playoff chances. Either way would define the Rangers’ course at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately, neither scenario happened. They opened the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule with a 5-5 road trip. However, after losing two series at home last week, the Rangers set out to trade their asset that would bring the largest return – Yu Darvish.

At least the Rangers thought he was their most valuable trade asset. The Rangers’ found considerably less of a market than they anticipated. The Dodgers were thought to be the favorite to land Darvish; and in the end, they did. But they gave up far less than anticipated. They obtained the most dominant starting pitcher available at the trade deadline without having to part with any of their top three minor league prospects.

Texas settled for Willie Calhoun, a solid hitter, but a player without a position. Calhoun is 5′-8″ with a stocky body. He has a weak arm and isn’t fast. The Dodgers played him at second base where he committed 43 errors over the last two seasons, but the Rangers plan to groom him as an outfielder. He is likely to be with the Rangers for a September audition when the rosters expand.

The other two prospects Texas received were right-handed pitcher A. J. Alexy and infielder Brandon Davis. Both are raw talents in the lower minor leagues. They have the athleticism to make it big if they make it.

Calhoun was assigned to AAA Round Rock while Alexy and Davis joined low A Hickory.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Astros made offers early and late in the process for Darvish that they believe were better than what the Rangers accepted. The Rangers disagreed and took the Dodgers’ package instead. Most national writers think the Dodgers got the best end of this deal; though for sure, the Rangers received a larger return for Darvish than if they had held on to him for the balance of the season and ended up with draft choice compensation in next June’s amateur draft when Darvish signed elsewhere in free agency.

Texas also traded starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Colorado for a player to be named later and sent reliever Jeremy Jeffress back to Milwaukee for reliever Tayler Scott. Scott was assigned to AAA Round Rock.

There was clearly disappointment among Ranger players at the trade deadline. Jeff Banister says they still can make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but the team played some lackluster baseball after the trades. Actions speak louder than words. Trading the team’s best pitcher and starting catcher is more telling about management’s thoughts on the team than anything Banister can say.

Adrian Beltre in particular is questioning the entire direction of the club and the possibility exists that he may request a trade this winter to a contender. With just a year or two left in his career, and no World Series championship on his ledger, he is not interested in being part of a rebuilding team.

Texas is now in fourth place in the A. L. West at 51-56. They are 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card playoff spot, one of nine teams that are within five games. The Ranger problem is not so much 4.5 games; it’s nine teams.

The Rangers left immediately after Wednesday’s game for four games in Minnesota. The road trip concludes next week with Tuesday and Wednesday games against the Mets in New York.


NOTABLE:

* The Rangers did not make an error in Wednesday’s win over Seattle to end a streak of four straight games with at least one error committed. They committed 11 errors in all. That’s the most in a four game stretch since 1982.

* Joey Gallo had three multi-home run games in the nine game home stand that ended Wednesday. Rougned Odor leads the Rangers with four multi-home run games this year, and the Rangers are one of just seven teams with more than one player having multi-home run games.

* Yu Darvish is scheduled to make his first start for the Dodgers against the Mets this Friday. His familiar number 11 is already assigned, so he will wear number 21 for Los Angeles.

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SUPER RANGER SUNDAY

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – Sunday was one of the best days in Ranger history. On the field in Arlington, third baseman Adrian Beltre became the 31st player in Major League history to reach 3,000 career hits. Meanwhile, 1,600 miles away in Cooperstown, New York, the mythical birthplace of baseball, Ivan Rodriguez was enshrined into MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Rodriguez was one of five new members added to the Hall. Former Commissioner of baseball Bud Selig and noted executive for the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves John Schuerholz joined Rodriguez and two other players – Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell as the new enshrinees.

Rodriguez gave a fine 30 minute acceptance speech, which was the best of the day. He at times spoke in Spanish to recognize his home in Puerto Rico. He cracked some good jokes at the expense of former teammante Nolan Ryan. He recognized many that contributed to his life and career, such as his hitting coach for most of his tenure in Texas, Rudy Jaramillo.

He introduced his kids, wife, brother, mother and father. His devotion to his family was moving. He recognized managers that he played for most notably Johnny Oates, Jack McKeon and Jim Leyland, who he predicted would also get enshrined in Cooperstown some day.

He became so emotional at times that he paused to compose himself. Rodriguez has never been great with the English language, but on this Sunday, he spoke well. He flashed his electric smile. He was in a word – magnificent.

Sometime in the next decade, Adrian Beltre will also spend a Sunday afternoon in late July making a similar speech. He grounded out in the second inning on Sunday, but came back in the fourth to double sharply down the left field line on a 3-0 pitch from Wade Miley.

The game was immediately stopped to honor him. Not only did his teammates and coaches flood out of the dugout, but his family joined him on the field. A sign on the right field wall honoring the accomplishment was unveiled.

He is the first player from the Dominican Republic to reach 3,000 hits, which ties him with Roberto Clemente on the all time list. Al Kaline is next at 3,007. Beltre should move up the list to around 22nd place by season’s end barring injury.

The news on the field wasn’t so good. The Rangers lost Sunday 10-6 to lose the series with Baltimore two games to one and finish the week at 2-4. The Rangers played a fine game Friday night, scoring early and coasting in for an 8-2 victory. On Saturday though, the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman shut down Texas and was one out shy of a complete game shutout as Baltimore won 4-0.

Texas is 7-9 in the two plus weeks since the All-Star break. Sadly, that includes a 2-8 record against teams with losing records.

Clearly, when play resumed after the All-Star break, the Rangers were looking for a push to close the gap in the Wild Card race. Instead, they finished the week four games under .500 at 50-54. They trail Houston by 18 games in the West, and have fallen 5.5 games behind for the second Wild Card berth. They are tied with Baltimore as the last two teams in an eight team pack with a realistic chance of claiming a Wild Card playoff spot.

As the performance on the field fizzled after the All-Star break, the team acknowledged that they were in serious trade discussions with teams about Yu Darvish and fully expected to deal him by Monday’s 3:00 PM (CDT) non-waiver trade deadline. The leading candidates appear to be the Dodgers, perhaps the Yankees, and a third mystery team. However, the offers have been notably disappointing, and no deal looks close with just hours until the deadline.

Perhaps the trade of of Darvish won’t happen after all. There is interest on both sides for Darvish to sign a contract extension to stay in Texas. Perhaps he doesn’t get traded today and an extension gets worked out. Texas however believes they will have a chance to re-sign him even if he is traded.

The Rangers did complete a trade of catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Colorado for a player to be named later. Lucroy is unquestionably a huge disappointment this year. The Rangers paid a premium to obtain him near last year’s trade deadline, and he was a definite plus over the balance of the season, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 31.

This year though, his game has deteriorated in every area. Offensively, he has hit just four home runs and driven in 27 in four months. His pitch calling is suspect, and stats show his pitch framing has fallen off the charts.

Robinson Chirinos takes over as the starting catcher, and Brett Nicholas is now the backup.

There have been inquiries about Andrew Cashner, but the Rangers are showing little interest in moving him. Mike Napoli could also be a candidate to get traded. Carlos Gomez is eligible to be a free agent this winter, but there is virtually no speculation that he’ll be traded.

On the relief pitcher side, the Rangers seem amenable to a deal for Jeremy Jeffress,and there is even speculation that Keone Kela could be available. Kela is a surprise as he has an electric arm and three years of contract control after this season.

The current home stand finishes this week with three games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday against Seattle. The Mariners are one of the teams in front of Texas in the Wild Card race. If the Rangers are going to make a charge for the playoffs, this week would be a good time to start.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION: The Fort Worth Zoo named their new male giraffe “Beltre” to honor Adrian Beltre’s 3,000 career hit accomplishment.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers finished the season series at 1-6 against Baltimore.

* Adrian Beltre has more career hits (3,000), home runs (454) and RBIs (1,607) than any of the three players inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame Sunday.

* The Rangers wore a special game patch in their right sleeve and special socks this weekend to honor Ivan Rodriguez ‘s induction into the Hall of Fame.

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MARLINS SINK RANGERS’ SHIP

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers’ offense put up a touchdown and a field goal Wednesday night, but it wasn’t nearly enough to win. The Marlins scored a club record 22 runs to take two of three games in this series. It was a game with far more than the outcome of the series on the line. The Rangers are teetering between being buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline to shore up the roster for a run at the playoffs, and being sellers at the trade deadline to obtain prospects to open a new window of opportunity for multiple playoff runs in the future.

Miami won this series after shutting out the Rangers 4-0 in game one and dropping game two by a 10-4 score, a game in which the Rangers hit four solo home runs. The series win may well have sunk the Rangers’ playoff hopes.

Yu Darvish was Wednesday’s Ranger starting pitcher in what now looks like his last start as a Ranger. There was not only the pressure to pitch well to keep his team in the race for a playoff berth, but with trade speculation revolving around him, there was the pressure of pitching to see where he will be living over the final two months of the season.

The pressures undoubtedly affected Darvish, as Wednesday’s start was his worst of the year. The Marlins jumped on the first pitch of the game for a home run, and followed it with another solo shot two batters later. The roof really caved in during the fourth inning though. Darvish retired just two batters, while allowing eight more runs, as the Marlins took charge of the game with an 11-1 lead when the Rangers came to bat in their half of the fourth.

Eight runs in an inning and 10 runs allowed in a game are new highs for Darvish.

The Marlins exploded for 11 more runs over the final three innings to stave off the Rangers’ rally and seal the 22-10 win.

All six Ranger pitchers on the night were scored upon, and that included reserve catcher Brett Nicholas, who pitched the ninth inning and gave up four runs on five hits. “I must have been tipping my pitches,” he joked after the game.

The Rangers knew at the All-Star break that the team needed to put together some wins to really be a contender for a Wild Card berth. (The American League West was essentially wrapped up by the Astros in June.) After Wednesday’s loss, the Rangers dropped to 6-7 since the break, which includes a 1-6 record against the two opponents with losing records.

Wednesday’s ugly loss is apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. National writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted Thursday night, “Rangers confident they will get quality trade for Darvish, informing clubs they will move him.”

The Dodgers, Astros and Yankees appear to be the best fits to obtain Darvish, though Washington may also be a candidate. Darvish has a no-trade clause in his contrac for 10 teams, and those four teams are not on the list. The Cubs have expressed interest, and the Indians are thought to be interested, but they are on Darvish’s no-trade list.

The Rangers have a good relationship with Darvish’s agent. They have acknowledged that talks of a contract extension have taken place, and clearly the Rangers have come to the realization that they will not be able to make a deal with him at this time. Trading him now thus becomes a must, as the Rangers will receive more from a trade than the meager draft choice compensation they would get if they keep him now and lose him to another team in free agency.

As for the Rangers’ playoff hopes, the Rangers are three games under .500 after playing 101. They need to win at least 37 of the last 61 games to have a chance at earning a Wild Card playoff berth. It’s more likely that the team that Ranger fans have seen so far is what this team is. They will struggle to have a .500 season. The pieces may look good on paper to Jon Daniels, but this team simply hasn’t gelled on the field.

Still selling is a bitter pill for Ranger management to swallow. The bill is coming soon to season ticket holders to pay for the new stadium. The Rangers have not announced their plan yet for the sale of bonds or seat licenses tied to retaining the premium season ticket locations. It’s a much easier sell if the team is a playoff team instead of rebuilding for an uncertain future.

The Rangers’ home stand continues this weekend with three games against Baltimore in Arlington. A. J. Griffin or Austin Bibbens-Dirkx will likely start Saturday in Tyson Ross’s rotation spot to push Darvish’s next start to Tuesday, the day after the trade deadline. The question is what uniform will Darvish be wearing when that start comes around?

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION: Adrian Beltre had seven hits in the series to bring his career total to 2,996. It is thus extremely likely that he reaches the treasured 3,000 hit mark on this home stand, perhaps even this weekend. He also was ejected from Wednesday’s game in one of the most bizarre ejections ever.

There is a round loose carpet with the Rangers’ logo that marks the on deck circle. Many players actually stand away from this on deck circle to decrease the chance of being hit by a foul ball. As the Rangers’ eighth inning at bat was about to begin, second base umpire Gerry Davis told Beltre to get into the on deck circle. Beltre responded by moving the circle to where he was standing to remain further out of harm’s way. Once he did, Davis tossed Beltre from the game.

Personally, I have seen more than 1,000 games at Globe Life Ballpark and many more on television. I have never seen any batter even cautioned to stay in the circle, and I had no idea there was even such a rule requiring the on deck batter to stand in it.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister reacted with a strong argument that got him tossed too. He noted that with the score out of hand (18-5) at the time, that many fans had stayed simply to watch Beltre’s quest for hit number 3,000; and that Davis had robbed them of the opportunity.

NOTABLE:

* Ivan Rodriguez gets inducted into the Hall of Fame this Sunday. People in attendance that have touched his past include Nolan Ryan, Rudy Jaramillo, and Gloria Oates, the widow of former Ranger manager Johnny Oates.

* Joey Gallo hit two home runs in Tuesday’s game as he continues to lead the Rangers with 25 round trippers.

* Rougned Odor also homered in the series, his 20th. He becomes the third Ranger to reach the 20 home run level, joining Gallo and Mike Napoli (22). The Rangers are the first American League team to have three players reach the 20 home run level. Four National League teams have at three players with at least 20 homers.

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