RANGERS LIMP INTO A.S.B.

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers limped into this week’s All-Star Break, losing their last two games to the lowly Baltimore Orioles and completing a 1-5 week and a 3-7 road trip.  Texas finishes the first half of the season with a 41-56 record.  They are in last place in the American League West trailing first place Houston by a season high 22 games and trailing the fourth place Los Angeles Angels by eight games.

Cole Hamels was the starting pitcher Friday night against Baltimore, which came into the series with the worst record in baseball.  Consider these stats for Hamels:  Home games 1-6, 5.83.  Road games 4-2, 2.93.  Day games 0-6, 8.28.  Night games 5-2, 2.93.

Obviously for Ranger fans, the best scenario is to have Hamels pitching a night game on the road.  Friday night, he was magnificent for six innings, giving up a run on three hits.  Joey Gallo homered in the fifth inning, such that the game was tied after six at 1-1.

Ryan Rua pinch hit for Carlos Tocci in the seventh inning with two runners on base.  He homered, his first pinch hit of the season after going 0-18.  Later in the inning, Elvis Andrus walked with two outs and scored on Nomar Mazara’s double.  That pushed the Ranger lead to 5-1.

Hamels retired the first batter in the seventh inning, but two singles and a walk loaded the bases and ended his night on the mound.  Jose Leclerc relieved and struck out the first batter he faced.  Leclerc had allowed just four inherited runners to score this season, but that number almost doubled when Caleb Joseph cleared the bases with a double.

It was a game again at 5-4.  Hamels pitching line didn’t look spiffy – 6-1/3rd innings pitched, four runs allowed on five hits, but it was still good enough to qualify him for the win when the bullpen took care of the last two innings.  Jesse Chavez and Jake Diekman shut out the Orioles in the eighth inning, and Keone Kela finished them off in the ninth, earning his 22nd save in as many opportunities.  Hamels is 5-8 with the win.

Martin Perez returned after more than two months on the disabled list to start Saturday’s game.  He had been extremely good in three minor league rehab starts, and he was very good again Saturday.  He completed seven innings allowing a run on five hits.

A walk, a single and an advancement on a throwing error put Baltimore runners at first and third in the seventh inning.  Jonathan Schoop followed with a sacrifice fly for the Baltimore run.

That was the only run of the game, as Yefry Ramirez and four relievers shut out Texas on four hits.  Perez is 2-4 with the loss.

On Sunday, the Rangers got off to a great start.  Ronald Guzman hit a grand slam home run in the first inning to hand Ranger starter Mike Minor a 4-0 lead before he took the mound.  It was Guzman’s first career grand slam and his ninth home run of the season.  He has driven in 37.  Not bad at all for a rookie that started the season in AAA.

Manny Machado got one run back for Baltimore in the bottom of the first with a home run.  Minor threw a three up, three down second inning; but he unraveled in the third.  A walk and a double scored a run.  Later in the inning, a bases loaded double put the O’s ahead 5-4.  Minor didn’t finish the inning and a fielding error allowed another run to score extending Baltimore’s lead to 6-4.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers within a run at 6-5.  The Rangers could do no more damage though, so that was the final score.  Minor is 6-6 with the loss.

All teams are off for four days this week.  The All-Star break began with the Futures Game Sunday afternoon, with the USA team beating the World team 10-6.  Texas had two representatives at the game – outfielder Leody Taveras (World team) and reliever C. D. Pelham (USA team).  Taveras entered the game in center field in the bottom of the sixth, and went 0-2 with a pop up and a ground out.  Pelham faced two batters retiring neither.  The first walked, and the second reached on an error.

The Home Run Derby is Monday night, and the game itself is on Tuesday.  Choo is the only Ranger All-Star, becoming just the third Korean born player to make a Major League All-Star team.  Chan Ho Park with the Dodgers and Byung-Hung Kim with Arizona are the other two.  Choo is hitting.293 with 18 home runs with 43 RBIs.

The Rangers resume play in the second half this weekend in Arlington.  The Cleveland Indians are in town, and the pitchers announced to start against them are Martin Perez on Friday night, Bartolo Colon on Saturday night and Cole Hamels on Sunday afternoon.

NOTABLE:

*     Shin-Soo Choo had four hits and four walks in the series, including at least one hit in each game.  That extended his on-base streak to 51 games.

*     The Rangers were shut out twice on the ten game road trip, the fourth and fifth shutouts of the year.

*     Alex Claudio was placed on the disabled list Saturday becoming the Rangers’ 27th D. L. placement of the year.  That’s the most of any Major League team and one short of last year’s total of 28.

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BOSTON SWEEPS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

For the second time in as many weeks, the Texas Rangers started the week by getting swept by a first place team.  This week, it was the Boston Red Sox that victimized the Lawmen. The Red Sox showed why they have the best record in baseball as they held the Rangers to just six runs in the three games.  Texas has now lost seven of its last nine games after winning five straight series against teams with losing records.  The Rangers are now 40-54 and trail the first place Houston Astros by 21.5 games in the American League West, a new season high.

In the first game of the series, Mike Minor gave up two hits in the first inning.  The second hit was a home run, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.  Minor lasted into the sixth inning, and he allowed no more runs on four more hits.

Cory Gearrin, the newest Ranger, relieved Minor with one out in the sixth inning and retired the five batters he faced.  Jesse Chavez pitched the eighth inning, and he gave up three hits with the third one being a home run that extended Boston’s lead to 5-0.

Texas never scored as Eduardo Rodriguez and four relievers shut out the Rangers.  5-0 was the final score with Minor taking the loss and falling to 6-5 for the season.

On Tuesday, Yovani Gallardo was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and when he pitches, the Rangers score runs.  Texas had scored 40 runs in his four previous starts.  This time the Rangers managed to score just four runs, which was however, the most they have scored in the last six games.

Four was not enough on Tuesday.  The Red Sox put together the rare rally with a bunch of hits in the third inning.  There were three consecutive doubles, followed by two singles and a triple to score five runs, four of which came with two outs.  That gave the Sox a 5-1 lead.

Gallardo finished five innings, allowing six runs on seven hits.  Ricky Rodriguez relieved and gave up two more runs to make the final score 8-4.  Gallardo is 3-1 with the loss.

Chris Sale, perhaps the best pitcher in the American League so far this season, was Boston’s starter in the series finale.  He pitched a strong game, shutting out the Rangers over the first seven innings, while striking out 12 batters.

The Rangers got to reliever Heath Hembree for two runs in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t enough.  Bartolo Colon threw a quality start going six innings and allowing three earned runs plus a fourth unearned run on nine hits.  Jake Diekman and Jesse Chavez kept Boston off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings to make the final score 4-2.

Sale is 10-4 with the win.  Colon is 5-7 with the loss.  A total of 18 Rangers struck out on the night including four by Boston closer Craig Kimbrel to finish the game.

The Rangers are off on Thursday and face the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend to complete the “first half” of the Major League season.  These will be the first three meetings out of seven this season with Baltimore.  The announced starting pitchers are Cole Hamels on Friday, TBA on Saturday, and TBA on Sunday.  There is a good likelihood that Martin Perez will be activated from the disabled list to start Saturday’s game and that Mike Minor will start on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     Shin-Soo Choo did not play Monday or Wednesday when Boston started left-handers.  On Tuesday, he went 0-3, but walked twice to keep his streak of reaching base alive at 48 games; his career high, the Ranger record high, and the MLB high for the 2018 season.

*     Rougned Odor was charged with an error in Wednesday’s game to end a 40 game errorless streak, the longest of his career.

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RANGERS SPLIT IN DETROIT

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers won Sunday to gain a split in this weekend’s four game series in Detroit.  Texas won the series opener on Thursday, but dropped the next two.  The Rangers finished the week 2-4, and fell a season high 20.5 games out of first place.

Sunday’s game was filled with drama.  Austin Bibens-Dirkx was the starting pitcher, and he likely was pitching to keep his spot in the rotation.  The bullpen was short after tossing 7-1/3rd innings on Saturday putting even more pressure on Bibens-Dirkx to perform.  Shin-Soo Choo also came into the game with an active on-base streak of 46 games, tying the Ranger franchise record.

Bibens-Dirkx did well.  He pitched five strong innings shutting out the Tigers and facing just the minimum 15 batters thanks to a double play and a caught stealing.

He ran into trouble in the sixth inning, giving up a single and a walk with one out.  Acting manager Don Wakamatsu, “acting” because Jeff Banister was ejected in the second inning, wasted no time bringing in Jose Leclerc to relieve Bibens-Dirkx.  Leclerc kept the shutout intact by striking out the next two batters and by striking out the side in the seventh inning.

The Rangers scored in the first inning on a Jurickson Profar home run.  They opened the second inning with a walk and two singles to score a second run, but scrambled to get just one more run in the inning.

Three Ranger runs was all the scoring in the game, as Jake Diekman and Keone Kela shut down the Tigers in the eighth and ninth innings on one hit.  Bibens-Dirkx is 2-2 with the win, and Kela earned his 22nd save in 22 opportunities.

As for Choo, he was 0-4 and due to bat fourth in the ninth inning.  Ronald Guzman singled with one out in the ninth to give Choo the chance to keep the streak alive.  He tapped a low outside pitch softly toward third base.  With the infield shifted for a left-handed batter, the third baseman had a long way to run for the ball and didn’t even bother to make a throw when he caught it.  It may not be a solid hit, but it was a hit that re-set the Ranger franchise consecutive game record of reaching base to 47 consecutive games, which also is the longest on-base streak in the Majors this season.

The start of Thursday night’s series opener was delayed because of rain.  When the game finally got underway, the Ranger bats came alive.  Joey Gallo hit a two run home run in the second inning.  The Rangers rallied for two more runs in the third inning, one scoring on a ground out and the other on a fielding error on a ground ball that should have been the third out.

In the fourth inning, Profar singled, stole second and scored on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s single.  Profar came across the plate in pouring rain, and play was stopped with a 5-0 score.

The second rain delay lasted about 30 minutes.  Tiger starter Matt Boyd came out to finish the fourth inning, and immediately gave up another home run, this time to Guzman.

For whatever reason, the Rangers score runs when Yovani Gallardo pitches.  Gallardo was the Ranger starter Thursday night.  He zipped through the first three innings allowing just three hits while the offense was putting together the 7-0 lead.

Gallardo however, was not as sharp when he came back after the rain delay.  He gave up three runs on three hits in the fourth inning, with the Rangers’ defense helping Detroit’s cause with an error.

Boyd was out after four innings, and four Detroit relievers shut out the Rangers for the rest of the game.  Gallardo left the game in the sixth inning, shortly after giving up a home run to Nate Goodwin leading off the inning.

It was still 7-4 when the Tigers came to bat in the ninth inning to face Ranger closer Keone Kela.  Two singles and a misplayed ground ball scored a run with no outs.  Kela closed the door at that point coaxing two ground outs and a strikeout to earn his 21st save.

The final score was 7-5.  It was a sloppily played game with the Rangers committing three errors and the Tigers two.  Gallardo is 3-0 with the win, but his ERA stands at a disgusting 8.17 after giving up three earned runs in 5-1/3rd innings.

Friday night’s game was a great one to watch.  Game time was 2:05, clearly the shortest Ranger game of the season.  Both starters, Bartolo Colon for the Rangers and Jordan Zimmerman for the Tigers, were very good.  They both completed eight innings, and no batter in the game walked.

Choo, who didn’t play Thursday night, hit the second pitch of the game into the stands for a 1-0 Ranger lead.  James McCann hit a round tripper for Detroit in the second inning with a runner aboard.  JaCoby Jones hit a solo shot in the eighth inning to pad the Tiger lead to 3-1.

That was all the scoring in the game.  Joe Jimenez pitched a four up three down ninth inning to close it out.  Colon is 5-6 with the loss.

The outcome of Saturday’s game was decided early, and the result turned on one play.  Cole Hamels was the Ranger starting pitcher, and after striking out the Tigers’ lead-off batter in the game, he surrendered a home run to Nicholas Castellanos.  It was the 21st home run Hamels has allowed in 18 starts.

The inning only got worse from there.  Two singles with a stolen base in between scored a second Tiger run.  Hamels struggled with his control, and proceeded to load the bases with a pair of walks, but he gave himself a chance to escape with minimal damage by striking out the next batter.

Jose Iglesias then hit a grounder back at Hamels, who deflected it toward the spot on the field where the shortstop normally plays.  Elvis Andrus had moved toward second base to field the ball, and consequently had no chance to make a play once the ball was deflected.  It was an infield hit and plated the third Tiger run.

The key play of the game came next.  Jones hit a line drive to center field.  Delino DeShields took a poor route back and awkwardly turned to attempt the catch.  The line drive bounced off his glove, and all three base runners scored.  When the next batter doubled Jones home, the Tigers led 7-0, and Ranger manager Jeff Banister had seen enough.  He sent Hamels to the showers.

Banister explained later that he made the move because of the pitch count, which had reached 41.  He feared the consequences of throwing more than 40 pitches in an inning.

Matt Moore relieved and did a great job.  He completed 4-1/3rd shutout innings to get the game to the sixth inning.  Alex Claudio shutout the Tigers over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to keep the other five members of the bullpen off the field.

Rougned Odor homered in the sixth inning.  Profar doubled leading off the ninth inning, moved to second on a fly ball to right field and scored on a ground out.  That was all the Ranger offense on the day.  7-2 was the final score.  Hamels is 4-8 with the loss.

The Rangers continue the road trip with three games in Boston.  Texas lost three of four games to the Red Sox earlier this season in Arlington.  The announced starting pitchers are Mike Minor on Monday, Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday and Bartolo Colon on Wednesday, though there is some thought being given to activating Martin Perez on Wednesday, which would push Colon’s next start to Friday.

NOTABLE:

*     Shin-Soo Choo was named to the American League All-Star team Sunday night.  It is the first time that Choo has made a Major League All-Star team, and he is the sole Ranger representative on this year’s A. L. team.

*     Thursday’s win was the 300th for manager Jeff Banister.  He becomes the manager in Ranger history to record 300 wins in the fewest amount of games managed – 574.  Johnny Oates had previously held the distinction, reaching 300 wins in 579 games.

*     The Rangers won the season series with Detroit four games to three.

*     Shortly before Sunday’s game, the Rangers announced a trade with the San Francisco Giants.  Texas acquired pitchers Cody Gearrin and Jason Bahr along with outfielder Austin Jackson for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  The crux of the trade is that Bahr is a very good prospect, and the Rangers have essentially bought him for the price of the remaining salaries of Gearrin and Jackson, approximately $5 million.

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ASTROS SWEEP

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Houston Astros continued their dominance over the Texas Rangers this year sweeping a two game series which ran their winning streak to eight consecutive games over Texas.  The sweep coupled with Seattle’s split of their two game series with the Angels, added a game to the Astros’ lead in the American League West.

The sweep also ended the Rangers’ streak of winning five consecutive series.

The Astros knocked Austin Bibens-Dirkx around for two runs in the first inning Tuesday night on a single and two doubles.  Houston came back for three more runs in the third inning on a pair of home runs one with a runner on base.  Both came from left handed batters (Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp), who hit two seam fastballs that started inside and moved over the plate.

That moved the lead to 5-0 for Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.  Texas got one run back in their half of the third inning, with Delino DeShields driving home the run with a double.  Keuchel has been the least reliable starter for Houston this year, but with the early five run lead, he was able to cruise through seven innings, allowing another run in the fifth.  His final line was seven innings pitched, two earned runs allowed on five hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.

The Rangers had their best chance to catch Houston in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases with one out.  However, they were only able to convert that into one run, as the Rangers left the bases loaded.

Hector Rendon put out the fire in the eighth inning and polished off Texas in the ninth inning allowing a hit before retiring the side for his sixth save.  Keuchel is 5-8 with the win, while Bibens-Dirkx fell to 1-2 with the loss.

On Wednesday, the Rangers got out to an early 4-0 lead.  Jurickson Profar was hit by a Gerrit Cole pitch, stole second and scored on Robinson Chirinos’s double in the second inning.  Texas added three more in the third inning with the highlight being Shin-Soo Choo’s 16th home run.

Mike Minor has been the best Ranger starting pitcher of late, and he looked solid in the first three innings.  Houston managed just one hit the first time through the batting order.  That changed in the fourth inning.  A two run home run from Josh Reddick cut the Rangers’ lead in half.  Houston rallied for another run in the fourth and tied the game in the fifth on Yuli Gurriel’s home run.

Cole was done after five innings, and Minor was off to the showers after six.  Both bullpens performed well.  The Astros shut out Texas over the final five innings.  The Rangers’ matched them in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings sending the game to overtime.

The Astros went right to work in the 10th inning.  Jose Altuve singled and moved to second when Gurriel was hit by a pitch.  Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Evan Gattis pushed the run across with a sacrifice fly.

Ken Giles zipped the Rangers in the bottom of the 10th, retiring all three batters he faced, two by strikeout.  That performance earned Giles his 12th save of the year.  Astro reliever Collin McHugh (4-0) got the win after throwing a scoreless eighth and ninth inning.  Ranger reliever Chris Martin (1-2) was tagged with the loss.

The Rangers completed their home stand with a 4-4 record and now go on their longest road trip of the year starting with Detroit for four games this weekend.  Texas will finish the pre-All-Star game portion of their schedule next week with three game series in Boston and Baltimore.

Texas took two of three games earlier this season at Globe Life Park against the Tigers.  The announced starting pitchers for the Detroit series are Yovani Gallardo on Thursday, Bartolo Colon on Friday, Cole Hamels on Saturday, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx on Sunday.

The Astros return home this weekend to host Chicago.  The announced starting pitchers to face the White Sox are Justin Verlander on Thursday, Lance McCullers, Jr. on Friday, Charlie Morton on Saturday, and Dallas Keuchel on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     The Rangers have now lost five straight games on the Fourth of July and are 24-25 all time on that date.

*     The Astros have claimed the coveted Silver Boot trophy for the second straight year.  They lead the Rangers 12 games to four.  Houston and Texas wrap up their head-to-head competition in a three game series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park beginning July 29.

*     Shin-Soo Choo had multi-hit games against Houston to extend his on-base streak to 44 games.  That’s the third longest in Ranger history and the longest in the Majors in almost two years.

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RANGERS WIN ANOTHER SERIES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers won their fifth straight series by winning two of this weekend’s three games with the Chicago White Sox.  The Rangers blasted the Sox for 29 runs, as the winning team in each game scored in double digits.  Texas has now won 11 of its last 14 games.

Any suspense about the outcome of Friday night’s game perished quickly.  Rougned Odor led off the second inning with a home run to get the Rangers in front 1-0.  The Rangers essentially put the game into the win column when Robinson Chirinos and Nomar Mazara followed with three run home runs.  Seven runs is the most the Rangers have scored in an inning this season.

Joey Gallo later hit a solo shot and Shin-Soo Choo hit a two run home run as the Rangers went on to win 11-3.

Yovani Gallardo was the pitching beneficiary of the Rangers’ offensive largesse, but he was a story himself on this night.  He pitched into the eighth inning and was touched for just one run while he was in the game.  The two runners on base when he exited scored to make his final line read 7-1/3rd innings pitched, three runs (earned) allowed on four hits.  He struck out seven and walked one.

Gallardo looked like his career was about over when he misfired with two teams (the Brewers and Reds) earlier this season. He caught on with the Rangers to be “starting pitching depth” at AAA, and he says now the experience at Round Rock was invaluable.

AAA baseball has a pitch clock requiring pitchers to work fast.  Gallardo says he benefited from working faster.  “Just grab the ball and go,” Gallardo said about the pace of his pitching.

Manager Jeff Banister added, “…the tempo was great again tonight.”

Gallardo, who graduated from Trimble Tech in Ft. Worth, received a fine ovation when he left the game in the eighth.  “…it was nice.  It was definitely nice; that’s the kind of fans that are here,” Gallardo told the media after the game.

The final score was 11-3.  Gallardo is 2-0 with the win.  Despite 14 runs of offense, the official game time was just 2:47.

The Rangers blasted Chicago again by a 13-4 score on Saturday night, but there wasn’t much similarity to Friday’s game besides the score.  Bartolo Colon started and struggled early giving up two runs in the second inning.  At that point, pitching coach Doug Brocail took Colon into the video room to point out a mechanical flaw in his delivery.  Colon adjusted and finished with five innings to qualify for a win, allowing three runs on seven hits.

Meanwhile, the Rangers’ offense came alive with five runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to take the lead.

It was still just a 6-4 Ranger lead going to the bottom of the eighth inning at which point the Rangers exploded for seven runs for the second straight game.  Jurickson Profar started the scoring parade with a two run double.  A bases loaded walk and a sacrifice fly plated two more.  Elvis Andrus then tripled home two more runs, and scored on Nomar Mazara’s single.

Chris Martin set down the Sox four up and three down in the ninth to wrap up the game.  Colon was the winning pitcher to even his record at 5-5 for the year.  It was a meaningful win for Colon – the 245th of his career to tie Dennis Martinez for the most Major League wins by a pitcher from Latin America.

On Sunday, Cole Hamels was the Ranger starting pitcher.  His performance at home verses on the road is startling.  On this hot Sunday afternoon, he gave up seven runs, all earned, on nine hits in five innings.  After Sunday’s game, Hamels is 1-6 in Arlington this year with a 5.83 ERA.  He’s 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA on the road.

The Rangers offense was slow to respond.  They pushed across two runs in the fourth inning to tie the game at two, but the White Sox answered back with five runs in the fifth to take the lead for good.  Texas put three more runs on the board in the eighth inning, but Ranger relievers also gave up three runs after Hamels departed.  10-5 was the final score.

This series with the White Sox ended a stretch in the schedule where the Rangers faced five teams with losing records.  After a day off on Monday, the first place Houston Astros come to town to celebrate the Fourth of July.  They play Tuesday and Wednesday with fireworks scheduled after both games.  These two games will be the final regular season appearance for the Astros in Arlington this year.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Mike Minor.  They will face Houston’s Dallas Keuchel on Tuesday and Lance McCullers, Jr. on Wednesday.

NOTABLE:

*     The Rangers finished the month of June with a 14-11 record, their first winning month since August of last season.

*     Shin-Soo Choo  was selected as the Rangers’ “Player of the Month” for June.  He sat out Saturday’s game with a sore quad.  He underwent an MRI on Saturday as a precautionary measure, but was back in the lineup Sunday.  He hit a home run Friday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by any Ranger this season.  On Sunday, the hitting streak ended, but he walked in the ninth inning on a close pitch with a 3-2 count, to extend his on-base streak to 42 games, the longest in the Majors this year.

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RANGERS FRY PADRES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers extended their streak of winning series to four as they polished off the San Diego Padres Wednesday night in the rubber game of their three game series.  Mike Minor threw the best pitched game of the year for any Ranger starter to run the Rangers’ winning streak to nine out of their last 11 games.

Minor put down the first 19 Padres that came to bat Wednesday.  Eric Hosmer then broke up the perfect game with a single.  Minor finished his night by coaxing two more flyouts to end the inning.  On the night, Minor retired 21 of the 22 batters he faced, five of which were strikeouts.  His pitch count was low at 84 pitches, but Ranger Manager Jeff Banister replaced him in the eighth inning as he tries to manage Minor’s innings after arm surgery.

A pair of doubles with two outs in the third inning plated the Rangers’ first run.  Jurickson Profar later singled home a second run in the inning.  A squeeze play with Delino DeShields bunting and beating it out for a hit scored Joey Gallo with the Rangers’ third run.

The Rangers finished off their scoring with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, one of which came on Ryan Rua’s third home run of the season.  Chris Martin gave up three hits and retired just one batter in the Padres’ eighth for San Diego’s two scores on the night.

The final score was 5-2.  Minor is 6-4 with the win, and Keone Kela notched his 20th save in as many tries with a perfect ninth inning, retiring two of the three batters by strikeout.

The series began with two well pitched games by starting pitchers.  Cole Hamels and Joey Lucchesi both threw four shutout innings to start the game.  Lucchesi was especially good giving up just one hit and striking out four.  Hamels gave up just four hits over the same span.

Lucchesi was activated from the disabled list to make the start and had a pitch limit.  He was done after four innings, relieved by Robert Stock.  Hamels had a rougher fifth inning, as the Padres broke the scoreless tie with three runs.  Manuel Margot hit a three run home run to vault the Padres into the lead.

The Rangers got one run back in their half of the fifth with Elvis Andrus singling home the run.  Hamels has been prone to give up the home run this season, and Monday’s game was no exception.  Jose Pirela led off the sixth inning with another round tripper off Hamels extending the Pads’ lead back to three runs at 4-1.

That finished Hamels’ night on the mound. The final tally was five innings pitched, four runs allowed on nine hits.  Tony Barnette relieved and finished the sixth inning without further damage.

The Rangers’ offense finally came alive in their half of the sixth inning.  Texas took the lead with five runs.  Three singles and a sacrifice fly scored the first two runs.  Two more singles and another sacrifice fly scored the final three runs, giving Texas a 6-4 lead.

From there, Jose LeClerc, Martin and Kela closed out San Diego with no further scores.  The Rangers added a run in the seventh inning to make the final score 7-4.  Barnette is 2-0 with the win, and Kela earned the save.

On Tuesday, the Rangers looked to have a win in the bag late.  Austin Bibens-Dirkx threw five shutout innings as he makes a case to stay in the Rangers’ rotation.  Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos hit solo home runs in the second and fourth innings.  With the usually reliable Ranger bullpen, it felt like a win was about to happen.

The game went to the eighth inning with the Rangers still leading 2-0.  Jake Diekman took the mound and turned in perhaps his worst performance of the year.  He walked a batter and surrendered three hits as the Padres took a 3-2 lead.  Two Padres’ relievers closed out the Rangers in the eighth and ninth innings, evening the series at one game apiece.

Diekman’s melt down did afford Shin-Soo Choo to extend his streak of getting on base to 39 games.  After striking out in the seventh inning, Choo was 0-4 and his streak appeared to have come to an end.  The Padres’ rally forced the Rangers to bat in the ninth, giving Choo one more chance to keep the streak alive, and he did with a single.

Texas gets a day off on Thursday, and then hosts the White Sox over the weekend.  The announced pitchers for Texas are Yovani Gallardo on Friday, Bartolo Colon on Saturday and Cole Hamels on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     There were five players in the Majors that played in all 162 games of the 2017 season, and three of them appeared in this series.  Rougned Odor played them all for Texas, and Freddie Galvis did the same for San Diego.  Eric Hosmer, now a Padre, played all 162 for Kansas City last year.

*     Shin-Soo Choo reached base in all three games to extend his streak to 40 games  That ties Odubel Herrera for the best on-base streak of the season in the Majors this year, is Choo’s career best on-base streak and is the fourth longest on-base streak in Ranger history.  (Julio Franco with 46 consecutive games in 1993 holds the Ranger record.)

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ROAD WARRIORS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers went on the road this week and won two series – five games in all.  After sweeping the Royals in Kansas City to start the week, they moved on to Minneapolis to take two of three games against the Minnesota Twins.  The Rangers have now won five road series and are barely under .500 on the road at 19-21.

They opened the series with an 8-1 win over Minnesota.  That score is deceiving as Fernando Romero got off to a good start for the Twins.  He held the Rangers hitless over the first three innings.  In the fourth, the Rangers finally touched Romero for a hit – three to be exact – all singles.  Those hits drove in one run and a ground out plated another to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.  Shin-Soo Choo doubled the lead to 4-0 with a two run home run in the fifth inning.

Mike Minor was the Ranger starter, and he pitched well again.  He shut out the Twins over the first five innings on one hit.  A pair of doubles in the sixth scored a run for Minnesota, cutting the lead to 4-1.

That was all for Minor – one run on three hits over six innings.  His record went to 5-4 with the win.

Chris Martin and Jesse Chavez pitched scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, and the Rangers were set to bring in closer Keone Kela for the save in the ninth.  The Ranger hitters had other ideas though.  They put together an old fashioned four run rally in the top of the ninth.  It was old fashioned in the sense that there were no home runs.  They strung together hits and three of the runs scored with two outs.

With a seven run cushion, Kela sat down and watched Chavez polish off the Twins in the ninth inning.  He earned his first save of the year.

Yovani Gallardo made his second Ranger start since re-joining the team on Saturday afternoon.  The Twins took an early 2-0 lead when Joe Mauer singled and Eddie Rosario homered as the first two batters in the bottom of the first inning.

Texas answered with six runs in the top of the second to take charge of the game.  It was another old fashioned rally that included five singles, a double, a walk and a hit batsman.  The Rangers weren’t done though.  Robinson Chirinos hit a two run home run in the third inning, and Adrian Beltre hit a solo shot in the fifth inning to extend the lead to 9-2.

Gallardo was much better pitching with the lead.  He shut out Minnesota in the next four innings.  His day ended in the sixth inning when a one out walk was followed by a home run, cutting the Ranger lead to 9-4.

Tony Barnette got the last two outs of the sixth inning, and Matt Moore relieved Barnette. Moore gave up no runs and only one hit, while striking out three batters in the seventh and eighth innings.  Moore started the ninth inning in search of the rare three out save.  It didn’t go well.  He retired the first batter, but three straight singles loaded the bases and ended Moore’s stay on the mound.

The tying run was on deck when Kela relieved Moore, so it was a save situation.  Kela immediately gave up a two run double to cut the Ranger lead to three at 9-6 with the tying run on base.  What once looked like a laugher had suddenly become a nail biter.

However, Kela settled in to strike out, walk and strike out the next three batters to end the game.  It was his 18th save of the year.  Gallardo is 1-0 with the win.

Saturday’s win pushed the Rangers’ winning streak to a season high seven games.  That streak ended Sunday when up and coming right-hander Jose Berrios pitched a marvelous game.  He gave up a lead-off double on the first pitch of the game to Shin-Soo Choo, and just two more hits over the first seven innings of the game.  He struck out 12 batters to earn his eighth win against five losses.

Berrios’s gem negated an outstanding start from Bartolo Colon.  Colon scattered seven hits over seven innings that the Twins were able to cash in for two runs.  The final score was 2-0 when two Twins relievers set down the six Ranger batters they faced in the eighth and ninth innings, including Fernando Rodney striking out the side to earn the save, his 17th this year.  Colon is 4-5 with the loss.

The Rangers are back home this week for a three series home stand of eight games in 10 days.  First up are the San Diego Padres for games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Texas went 3-1 against San Diego last year and is 19-16 all time against this National League opponent.  The Rangers are 2-3 so far this year in interleague play.  The announced starting pitchers are Cole Hamels, Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Mike Minor.

NOTABLE:

*     Shin-Soo Choo extended his streak of reaching base to 37 games, a career high and the second longest on-base streak of 2018 in the Majors.  Former Ranger farm hand Odubel Herrera reached base in 40 consecutive games earlier this year.

*     Jurickson Profar tied the club record which he had set two weeks earlier by getting hit by a pitch three times in Saturday’s game.

*     Adrian Beltre had six hits in the series to push his career total over 3,100 at 3,102.  Beltre is 22nd on the all time hit list, trailing number 21 Dave Winfield by eight hits.

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ELVIS IS IN THE HOUSE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Elvis Andrus was activated for this week’s series against the Kansas City Royals, and he helped lift the Rangers to a series sweep.  There is no question that Andrus is one of the outspoken leaders of this Ranger team, and leaders are usually more effective when they play.  The Rangers slim hopes of contending this year hung on a solid offense, and with Andrus and Adrian Beltre back and batting third and fourth, the Rangers’ batting order looks much more formidable.

The series started with an emotional win on Monday night.  Bartolo Colon was the starting pitcher, and he struggled through six innings.  He was knocked around for nine hits, but allowed just three runs to make his outing a quality start.  It was also good enough to qualify Colon for the win.

The Rangers’ offense got on the scoreboard quickly with a Shin-Soo Choo home run to start the game.  They came back in the third inning for four more runs.  Two walks and a single scored the first run, and Beltre homered to score the final three of the inning.

Colon gave back two runs in the Royals’ half of the third inning on a single, double and single.  An inning later, the Royals cut the lead to two runs at 5-3 with a single and a triple.  That was all the damage Ranger pitching allowed on the night.  Colon came back to shutout the Royals in the fifth and sixth innings, while Jake Diekman, Tony Barnette and Keone Kela allowed no base runners in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

The Rangers pushed across another run in the eighth inning to make the final score 6-3.

It was an emotional win for Colon – the 244th in his career.  That pulled him one ahead of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for the most wins by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday’s game was overshadowed by strange doings before the game.  The clubhouse was closed to the media early when it is usually available for reporters.  GM Jon Daniels later announced that there had been some sort of incident – a “violation of team rules” – that was being dealt with.

The focus was on Yohander Mendez, who was the originally announced starting pitcher in Wednesday’s series finale.  Mendez was optioned to AAA Round Rock as discipline for his part in whatever happened, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx was brought up from AAA to start Wednesday’s game.

Other players were also said to be involved, but received less harsh discipline.  Rougned Odor is generally thought to be one of the “others”, as he was in Tuesday’s original starting lineup, but was omitted from a revised starting lineup that was later posted.  Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News later wrote that Carlos Tocci and Martin Perez also received fines for their part in the incident.

Odor did not see action in the game, but starting pitcher Cole Hamels was really good.  He scattered four hits over seven innings, allowing an unearned run.  (Per The Athletic’s Levi Weaver, the error that made the run unearned was likely to be overturned making the run earned.)

Texas scored a pair of runs in the second and third innings.  Delino DeShields’ bases loaded double plated the two in the second inning, while runs scored on a double and a fielding error in the third inning.

Diekman and Kela were lights out in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the 4-1 victory.  Hamels is 4-6 with the win, and Kela earned his 17th save.

On Wednesday, Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his Major League catching debut.  Kiner-Falefa and Bibens-Dirkx are two of just three Major League players ever to have hyphenated spellings of their last names, so there was much ado that the pair was the battery on this night.

Bibens-Dirkx was excellent.  He pitched to contact and threw a preponderance of first pitch strikes.  With contact early in the count, he needed just 81 pitches to get through 6-2/3rds innings.  55 (68%) were strikes.

The Rangers supported him with three runs – one run in the first, second and sixth innings.  Odor homered in the sixth for the only Ranger round tripper of the game.  Bibens-Dirkx gave up just a run for an outstanding start.  Alex Claudio finished the seventh inning, and Jose LeClerc polished off K. C. in the eighth inning.

Kela was unavailable after saving the first two games of the series, so Diekman was called upon to pitch the ninth inning.  He promptly gave up a lead-off home run to Mike Moustakas that pulled the Royals within a run at 3-2.  It began to look shaky for the Rangers when Salvadore Perez followed with a single.

A strikeout and a ground ball force out at second got the Rangers one out away from the win with Hunter Dozier on first base.  Amazingly, Dozier tried to steal second base, his first stolen base attempt of the year.  It made sense as if successful, it would put the tying run in scoring position.  The chances of being successful looked good with a player catching his first Major League game.

Kiner-Falefa foiled the Royals’ plan.  He rifled a throw to second that caught Dozier to end the game.

Bibens-Dirkx is 1-1 with the win, and Diekman earned his second save.

Texas leaves Kansas City with a five game winning streak, their longest of the year.  They definitely caught the Royals at the right time, as K. C. has now lost nine straight games.  Texas picked up a game in the standings to cut first place Houston’s lead to 18 games in the American League West.  As for getting out of last place, the Rangers still trail Oakland by seven games, eight in the loss column.

The Rangers are off on Thursday and proceed to Minneapolis for a weekend series with the Twins.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor (Friday), Yovani Gallardo (Saturday) and Bartolo Colon (Sunday).

NOTABLE:

*     Shin-Soo Choo reached base in all three games to extend his streak to 34 games.  That’s the second longest streak in Major League Baseball this year trailing Odubel Herrera’s 40 game on-base streak.

*     Keone Kela has 17 saves in 17 opportunities, the most by any closer in the Majors without a blown save.  The Ranger record for consecutive saves to start a season is 19, done by Francisco Cordero in 2004 and Joe Nathan in 2013.  Kela converted his final two save opportunities last season to have 19 consecutive saves overall.

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RANGERS TAKE TWO

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers recorded their most improbable win of the season on Sunday afternoon to take the series with the Colorado Rockies two games to one.  Despite the series win, the blistering hot Houston Astros completed a 10-game road trip undefeated pushing the Rangers a game farther down in the standings.  The Rangers are now 19 games out of first place in the American League West.

The fairy tale story of this series though was a little known double-A catcher.  Jose Trevino, the Rangers’ top minor league catching prospect, was driving to Frisco’s Dr. Pepper Ballpark Friday afternoon expecting to play for the AA Rough Riders that night.  On the way, he received a phone call from Frisco manager Joe Mikulik summoning Trevino to is office when he arrived at the park.

It was a life changing phone call.  The message was that Trevino would be playing Friday night in Arlington instead of Frisco.  Ranger catcher Robinson Chirinos had been bowled over by the Dodgers Matt Kemp Wednesday night in Los Angeles.  The bench clearing fracas that ensued earned Chirinos a one-game suspension.  Chirinos was sore from the collision and needed Friday night off anyway, so he accepted the suspension to get it out of the way.

Trevino then was to be Carlos Perez’s backup Friday night.  The thought was Trevino would get a taste of the Major Leagues from the Rangers’ bench Friday night and return to Frisco on Saturday.  It was supposed to be a one day trip to the Majors.

However, fate stepped in.  Perez injured his ankle in the second inning on a tag play.  He finished the inning on the field, but when his turn at bat came in the bottom of the inning, Trevino pinch hit and played the balance of the game at catcher.

Trevino had a nondescript game going 0-4.  Texas plated five runs in the first inning, getting two run home runs from Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo.  The 5-0 lead didn’t last long however, as Colorado came back with six runs in the second inning, tagging Yohander Mendez, who came up from AAA Round Rock to make the start.

Mendez was out after three innings, and the Rangers never scored again.  9-5 was the final score, with Mendez (0-1) taking the loss.

On Saturday, Perez was placed on the 10-day disabled list, so Trevino’s stay in the Majors was extended.  Chirinos was still sore, so Perez got his first Major League start instead of returning to Frisco.

Mike Minor pitched his best game for the Rangers Saturday.  He gave up two runs over seven innings.  The Texas bats were quiet against Rockies’ starter Kyle Freeland, who shut the Rangers out over the first six innings.  The Rockies scratched out single runs in the second and sixth innings to take a 2-0 lead into the seventh.

Rougned Odor led off with a triple and cut the Rockies’ lead in half when Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled him home.  Kiner-Falefa later scored the tying run on Trevino’s ground ball single, his first Major League hit and RBI.

An inning later, the Rangers tagged the Rockies’ bullpen for three more runs, taking a 5-2 lead.  DeShields walked leading off the inning and went to second on a Profar single.  Adrian Beltre then tripled both runners home, and Guzman completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly.

Jose LeClerc and Keone Kela shut down Colorado in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the win.  LeClerc is 2-2 with the win, and the save was Kela’s 15th.

Sunday afternoon’s Fathers’ Day matinee was a warm game.  Chirinos was able to play.  It was one of those days when pitchers just could not have any success.  John Gray started for Colorado and was sharp for five innings, allowing just a run.  The Rockies backed him with five runs.  In the sixth though, Gray fell apart, as the Rangers put a five spot on the board to take the lead.

The momentum of overtaking the Rocks on the scoreboard didn’t last long.  Colorado came back in the seventh inning with five runs of their own to take a 10-6 lead.  Alex Claudio started the inning, but retired neither of the two batters he faced.  LeClerc followed and gave up hits to four of the five batters he faced.  When smoke had cleared, Claudio was charged with two runs and LeClerc was charged with three.

Texas drew within a run by scoring three in the seventh inning, but the Rockies pushed across two insurance runs in the ninth inning.  They led 12-9 and sent their closer Wade Davis to the mound to wrap it up.

Davis is one of the best closers in the game, but on Sunday afternoon, he couldn’t find the plate.  He ended up throwing 38 pitches, only 15 of which (39%) were strikes.  He gave up a hit and walked four batters to pull the Rangers within a run at 12-11.

Adrian Beltre had pinch hit for Chirinos in the eighth inning, so Trevino caught the ninth.  His turn in the batting order came up again in the Rangers’ half of the inning.  The bases were still loaded, and Trevino blooped a single into no man’s land in left center field.  Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the runner on second, and he got a good read on the hit, and didn’t hesitate to see if it would be caught.  He scored the game winner without a play, and Trevino was the center of a mass of players celebrating the improbable win.

Jesse Chavez (3-1) was the winning pitcher for Texas.

The Rangers now go on the road for six games starting with three in Kansas City.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Bartolo Colon on Monday, Cole Hamels on Tuesday and Yohander Mendez on Wednesday.

ROSTER MOVES: The weekend was filled with roster moves.  Prior to the series STARTING, Hanser Alberto was sent to AAA Round Rock to make room for Friday’s starting pitcher, Johander Mendez, to be added to the Rangers’ roster.  The hole in Round Rock’s starting rotation left by Mendez’s promotion was filled with waiver claim of Deck McGuire from the Toronto Blue Jays.  Martin Perez was moved from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for McGuire.

Trevino was called up Friday to be the back-up catcher with  Chirinos serving the one game suspension for his part in Wednesday’s collision at home plate and the bench clearing that ensued.

Relievers Chris Martin and Matt Bush were also placed on the 10-day disabled list.  That made room on the active roster for Trevino and reliever Brandon Mann, who was called up from Round Rock.

Mann was returned to AAA Round Rock on Sunday and Doug Fister was moved from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the active roster and 40-man roster for Yovanni Gallardo, who started Sunday’s game.

Elvis Andrus is expected to be activated from the disabled list when the Rangers go to Kansas City this week.  To make room for him on the active roster, Ryan Rua was sent to Round Rock after Sunday’s game, and Deck McGuire was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

NOTABLE:

*     The Rangers are now 2-3 in inter-league play this season, and have an all-time record of 19-17 against Colorado, including 11-7 in Arlington.

*     Shin-Soo Choo reached base in all three games to extend his streak to 31 consecutive games of reaching base.  That’s the second longest streak of the Major League season, trailing Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera, who reached base in 40 consecutive games.

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SWEPT IN LA LA LAND

LOSING STREAK HITS SEASON HIGH SIX GAMES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers were swept in a two game set at Dodger Stadium this week to push their record to a season high 16 games under .500.  They have plummeted to a season high 18 games out of first place (19 in the loss column) in the American League West.  As for getting out of last place, they trail fourth place Oakland by eight games in the standings and nine in the loss column.

As a testament to how low the Rangers’ season has sunk, the most talked about play of the series was a home plate collision between Matt Kemp trying to score for the Dodgers and Robinson Chirinos making the tag at home plate in Wednesday’s series finale.  Nomar Mazara’s throw home forced Chirinos into the path of the runner, and Kemp ran over Chirinos with a forearm to his throat.  Chirinos held onto the ball after the collision to record the out.

All agreed the play was legal, but Kemp immediately came after Chirinos shoving him backwards.  Chirinos shoved back and the benches cleared.  The ruckus was over quickly.  Chirinos and Kemp were ejected from the game.  Oddly, Ranger relief pitcher Chris Martin tweaked his hamstring coming in from the bullpen and was unavailable to pitch later in the game when he was needed.

Wednesday’s game started with a site that has become all too familiar.  Cole Hamels surrendered a solo home run in the first inning to put the Rangers behind early.  The Dodgers scored again in the second inning when Yasiel Puig stole third and proceeded home when the catcher’s throw went into left field.

The Rangers tied the game in the fourth inning when Mazara doubled and scored on Jurickson Profar’s single.  Profar went to second on the throw home and then scored on Joey Gallo’s single.

The game stayed tied at two until the 11th inning, when the Dodgers scored on a bases loaded ground ball back to the pitcher.  Matt Bush’s throw home was errant allowing the runner from third to score.

Hamels pitched well going six innings, allowing the two runs, only one of which was earned.  Jesse Chavez (2-1) was the undeserving losing pitcher

The series began with a clunker for the Rangers.  Bartolo Colon was hit hard, giving up eight runs, all earned, in 3-1/3rd innings.  His ERA zoomed to 4.94.  Included among the nine hits he allowed to the 19 batters he faced, were three home runs and two doubles.

The Dodgers struck first for three runs in the second inning.  The Rangers came back with a pair in the third inning, but Los Angeles put this game away in the fourth inning with seven runs scored.

The final score was 12-5.  Of note for Colon is that he struck out three batters, putting him over the 2,500 total for his career.  He’s 3-4 with the loss.

This road trip was brief – just two games.  The Rangers are back home this weekend after an off day on Thursday.  Colorado is in Arlington for three games as interleague play continues.  The Rangers’ pitching plans are up in the air, but the announced starting pitchers are Friday – Yohander Mendez, Saturday – Mike Minor, and Sunday – TBA.

NOTABLE:

*     With no DH in the National League park, Adrian Beltre played third base in both games, his first time to play consecutive games in the field since returning from the disabled list.  He collected five hits in the series to move into 21st place on the all time hit list with 3,092.  He passed Ichiro Suzuki to become the all time hits leader for a player born outside the United States.  Next up on the list is Dave Winfield with 3,110 hits.

*     Shin-Soo Choo also had hits in both games to move his streak of reaching base to 28 games.  That’s his career high and ties Detroit’s Jeimer Candelario and Philadelphia’s Cesar Hernandez for the second best streak in the Majors this season.  They trail Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera who reached base in 40 consecutive games.

*     The Rangers are 11-14 all time against the Dodgers and will play two more games with them in August in Arlington.

*     On Tuesday, the Rangers announced the signing of their top five draft picks in last week’s amateur draft.  They are #1 Cole Winn (RHP), #2 Owen White (RHP), #3 Jonathan Ornelas (IF), #4 Mason Englert (RHP), and #5 Jayce Easley (IF).

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