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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DARVISH OR NO

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Sunday afternoon, the Rangers staged their third straight late inning, come from behind rally to complete an improbable three game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. The final score Sunday was 6-5, a win that came on the heels of a pair of 4-3 wins to begin the series.

Tampa Bay came in as a hot team, but the Rangers found ways to score late to capture all three wins. The sweep completed a 3-4 week, as the Rays’ series was preceded by getting swept in a four game series by the Orioles in Camden Yards. Texas is coming home having split the last 10 games on the road.

The Rangers’ record stands at 48-50 for the season, which puts them in a virtual second place tie in the American League West with Seattle and Los Angeles 17 games behind first place Houston. Texas is 2.5 games behind Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. They are one of nine teams that are within five games of a Wild Card playoff berth.

This road trip was considered critical to defining the thrust of the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline. Would they be sellers with at least seven veterans with contracts that expire after this season that could be attractive to contenders, or would they be buyers trying to shore up the roster to complete a run at a Wild Card playoff spot?

GM Jon Daniels said last Monday on the Ben & Skin radio show on 105.3 FM, the Fan that the results were less important than how the team played. He could not have been pleased with what he saw in Baltimore. The Orioles outscored Texas 34-11, twice scoring in double digits. The Rangers simply did not look good as there were fielding lapses, bonehead baserunning plays, poor pitching performances and an offense that looked all but dead.

Game four was especially disappointing as the Rangers looked to salvage a win in the finale and took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning with ace Cole Hamels looking strong on the mound. Baltimore rallied for eight unanswered runs and hung on to win 9-7.

At that point, the Rangers’ record stood at five games under .500 and speculation as to the Rangers being sellers at the trade deadline was rampant. There is no question that the player that would bring the most in return is Yu Darvish. He has 10-12 starts left this season, and a pitcher of his quality could make a difference to any team trying to hustle into the playoffs. Also any team that looks assured of a playoff spot, most notably Houston and the Los Angeles Dodgers, would be glad to add Darvish for the playoffs. He’s a top of the line difference maker, the quality of pitcher that isn’t always available near the trade deadline.

For his start Friday night in Tampa, scouts from the Astros and Dodgers were reported in attendance. He didn’t disappoint. He completed eight innings, striking out 12, while allowing just five hits. Three of them were solo home runs. Texas faced a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning, but tied the game with a two run Shin-Soo Choo home run, and won in the 10th.

As the speculation heightened, the revelation that Darvish has a limited no-trade clause surfaced. It’s surprising that the local media had not jumped on this one earlier. Some of the teams mentioned prominently as being interested in Darvish are on the list including the Yankees and Cubs. In any event, it could be an impediment to making a trade if the e Rangers choose to go that route.

However, national writer Ken Rosenthal contends that the Rangers will not trade Darvish; that their main objective is to re-sign him. Of course it’s possible to trade him this July and then make the winning bid for him in free agency this winter. An analgous situation unfolded last year with the Yankees trading Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in July, and they then re-signed him last winter.

It doesn’t happen very often though, and Rosenthal says that trading away a player in this situation often causes a disconnect. The Rangers have a good relationship with Darvish’s agent and may well hang on to Darvish even if the team isn’t going to make the playoffs this year.

There seems to be little chance that the Rangers and Darvish will agree on an extension prior to the trade deadline, but after he hits the free agent market, Texas could be in play. Having Darvish and Cole Hamels, who is under contract through the 2019 season, at the top of the rotation is a very good place to start building a playoff contending team for next year.

Of course, the Rangers could get overwhelmed with an offer. The Dodgers and Astros have loaded farm systems, such that they could make an attractive prospect package available. Los Angeles may have gained even more incentive to pursue Darvish as Clayton Kershaw left Sunday’s game with lower back stiffness. Dodger manager Dave Roberts said after the game that Kershaw will be placed on the disabled list. Kershaw has a history of recurring back problems, and he was definitely pessimistic about the injury.

A 5-5 trip did little to define the Rangers’ course of action, though it’s pretty much a microcosm of the season. The real question for Texas is whether they can put together a push for a Wild Card berth. The Rangers need to finish 42-22 (.656 winning percentage) to reach 90 wins. 90 wins may not be good enough or perhaps a figure like 88 wins will be good enough. In any event, the Rangers need to play much better to make the playoffs.

Texas is back home for nine games. Miami and Baltimore kick off the week with three game series starting Monday. The Rangers close out the home stand by hosting Seattle for three games next week as the Rangers are largely back to playing West Division foes into early August.

NOTABLE:

* Adrian Beltre’s career hit total is up to 2,989. It’s entirely possible that he will reach the 3,000 mark during the homestand that begins Monday night.

* The Rangers dominated in one-run games last season, going 36-11, but have struggled this year. However, four of the five wins on the road trip that ended Sunday were one-run games bringing this year’s record to 10-15.

* On the injury front, Robinson Chirinos injured his left ankle on a play at the plate Sunday afternoon. He stayed in the game to finish the inning, but left for a pinch hitter when the Rangers came to bat. X-rays were negative, but he was seen in walking boot after the game. Round Rock catcher Bret Nicholas was pulled from the starting lineup Sunday and could join the Rangers this week.

* A. J. Griffin will make his third minor league rehab start Monday night for Frisco. If all goes well, he could be activated later this week. The news wasn’t good on righthander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez. He had a set back in his rehab and now will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out all next year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SECOND HALF KICKS OFF

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The ceremonial second half began well for the Rangers. They came back from the All-Star break with a series win over the Royals, taking two of three in Kansas City. Texas has clearly dominated the Royals over the past two seasons. They finished with six wins in seven games this season, and extending back to last year, the Rangers won 12 straight games until Sunday afternoon’s loss.

The Rangers were looking for a sweep Sunday after taking the first two games by 5-3 and 1-0 scores. They had Yu Darvish on the mound. It looked promising for breaking out the brooms.

Darvish wasn’t great, but he was certainly good enough to win. He was knocked out with two outs in the seventh inning having thrown 98 pitches. He was charged with three runs, but one was unearned, so his ERA dropped to 3.45. That third run scored in the seventh breaking a 2-2 tie, as Drew Robinson and Mike Napoli had earlier homered.

The Rangers came right back to tie the game in the eighth inning to take Darvish off the hook for the loss. In the ninth however, the Royals got Jason Grilli in hot water as they loaded the bases with one out. The gritty veteran battled though, striking out the next batter and then giving up what appeared to be an inning ending fly ball to right field.

It wasn’t to be though. Shin-Soo Choo battled the sun, and the sun won. The fly ball was in and out of his glove allowing the winning run to score for Kansas City. The official scorer generously gave Lorenzo Cain a hit on the play, but it was clearly a ball that should have been caught.

In the series opener on Friday night, Texas failed to get a hit in the first five innings, falling behind 3-0. However in the sixth inning, they not only broke the ice with base hits, they tied the game with a three run blast off the bat of Adrian Beltre. In the seventh inning, Mike Napoli came off the bench to hit a two-run home run as a pinch hitter. It was the first pinch hit home run in his career.

Martin Perez completed seven innings allowing the three runs on eight hits. He was the winning pitcher to improve to 5-6 Matt Bush shut down the Royals in the eighth inning, and Alex Claudio wrapped them up in the ninth, as the Royals went six up and six down in the final two innings. Claudio got the save.

On Saturday, there was an old time pitchers’ duel. Kansas City’s Danny Duffy and Texas’ Cole Hamels were excellent. Hamels completed 7-2/3rds scoreless innings to extend his current streak to 21 straight scoreless innings. Duffy pitched into the ninth, when the Rangers finally scratched out a run with the RBI coming on a Shin-Soo Choo bloop single that was barely fair down the left field line.

Jose LeClerc finished the eighth inning to qualify for the win, while Claudio got three outs in the ninth to earn saves on consecutive days.

After Sunday’s loss, the Rangers were still one game under .500 at 45-46. They are in a virtual tie with Seattle for second place 16.5 games (16 games in the loss column) behind the Astros in the West. They are now 2.5 games behind New York for the second Wild Card spot.

There is no question that this 10 game road trip that continues with four games to start the week in Baltimore and concludes with three games next weekend in Tampa Bay, is critical to the Rangers’ playoff hopes and the direction of the team at the July 31 trade deadline. Jon Daniels said earlier in the week that he expects his team to contend for a playoff berth and that they would make trades accordingly.

Certainly, the good start in Kansas City is encouraging. Winning the West is virtually out of the question. A Wild Card playoff berth is the team’s only realistic chance at playoff baseball. There are essentially nine teams in the running for the two Wild Card slots. All three opponents on this trip are among the other eight. Consequently, each win is really worth two, as the Rangers will be tagging a rival for a playoff berth with a loss each time they win.

In the era of two Wild Card teams in each league, the Giants and Royals have won the World Series after entering the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Realistically, though if all nine teams are even, that represents a 22% chance of winning one of the Wild Card playoff berths. That earns a one game play-in to the playoffs proper with eight teams. With a 50%-50% chance of winning that play-in game, the Rangers essentially have an 11% chance to make the playoffs.

INJURIES:

Keone Kela was not activated during the Kansas City series, but is expected to join the active roster very soon, probably in Baltimore this week. Jake Diekman has been cleared to throw off the mound this Thursday for the first time this year after multiple surgeries for a colon condition.

NOTABLE:

* Saturday’s win was just the sixth this year in which the Rangers did not hit a home run. The Rangers hit four home runs in the series which drove in seven of the nine runs Texas scored.

* Texas has two 1-0 wins this season, both against the Royals.

* Alex Claudio threw a shutout inning in each of the three games and needed just 23 pitches total to do so. He’s averaging 12.9 pitches per inning, fewest in the Major Leagues among relief pitchers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE FIRST HALF

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers lost 3-0 to the Angels Sunday to complete the portion the schedule prior to the All-Star game. Texas finished the first half, as defined by baseball, with a 43-45 record, which places them in a second place tie 16.5 games behind the Astros (16 in the loss column) in the A. L West. They are three games out of the second Wild Card berth, and are one of nine teams after the three division leaders that are within five games of the two Wild Card playoff spots. Only the Tigers, Athletics and White Sox in the American League are more than five games out of the playoff chase.

Texas finished the week with a 3-3 record. They lost the first two games to Boston, a close game on Monday that the Red Sox pulled out in the 11th inning, and a lackluster performance against the Carmines on Tuesday. Boston scored in six of the nine innings and built an 11-0 lead before the Rangers put any runs on the scoreboard.

However, the Lawmen came back to pound the baseball in the next three games and got nice pitching performances especally from Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.

Darvish started the final game before the All-Star break. He was once again magnificent, and inexplicably, the Rangers’ offense once again failed to provide support. He took the loss despite giving up just two runs on three hits over 7-1/3rd innings. He’s an All-Star on the mound, but his record is just 6-8 for the season. The Rangers have scored two or fewer runs in eight of Darvish’s last nine starts and not surprisingly have lost eight of the last nine games he’s started.

The mathematical first half of the season actually ended on Saturday of week 13. The second half started much like the first half – the Rangers lost the first three games. In this topsy-turvy season of ups and downs, the calls for the Rangers to be big sellers of veterans before the trade deadline were all over the local media.

The three game winning streak prior to getting shutout on Sunday quieted those yells at least for the moment. The team is off until Friday when they take to the road for a three city 10-game trip that starts in Kansas City and continues into the East Division with games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. For sure, the Rangers’ success or lack thereof on this road trip will go a long way to defining the course of the team at the trade deadline.

The best bet is that little of consequence will happen. GM Jon Daniels will cling to the slenderest of hope for making the playoffs no matter how bleak the situation looks in the final week before the trade deadline. He will hang on to veterans and try to make deals to shore up the team, rather than try to restock the farm system by sending veteran help to teams more solidly in the running for a playoff berth.

On the other side of the trade coin, Texas no longer has a well stocked farm system to make trades for the ilk of Cole Hamels and Jonahan Lucroy as they have in the past two seasons; so don’t expect any spectacular acquisitions.

It has already been reported that the Rangers have decided to keep Yu Darvish. The team of course has not confirmed. Darvish is really the only veteran dump that could bring a haul of talent akin to the Mark Teixeira trade that fueled the run to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.

There is a rumor that the team is open to trading Lucroy, who has definitely been disappointing. His batting average is decent, but there is virtually no power. His RBI total actually trails Adrian Beltre’s, who missed the first two months of the season.

The problems that have been problems so far this season are still problems. The bullpen is unreliable at a minimum, and could well be considered a disaster. They have 17 blown saves resulting in a 43.3% conversion rate. That’s the worst in baseball, and the average is 64%. The names have changed – Frieri, Hauschild, Dyson, Scheppers, Claiborne are gone, but the results haven’t.

The offense is inconsistent caused mainly by heavy strikeouts. There is enough explosiveness to score big on any given day, and it happens enough to make the average runs per game look decent enough to be better than the record.

And on top of all that, it’s not a very good defensive team. Jonathan Lucroy’s skills have diminished considerably at catcher. There’s little if any improvement at second base from Odor, and Carlos Gomez is the only decent defender in the outfield.

Even if the team could put together a second half that gets the Rangers in the playoffs, is the roster good enough to have any post-season success? Doubtful.

However, no matter what the Rangers do at the trade deadline, the likelihood is that the team looks dramatically different next season. Players eligible to become free agents after this season include starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross (60% of the current starting rotation), Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Napoli, and Carlos Gomez (one-third of the usual starting nine). Also Jason Grilli in the bullpen.

There isn’t much in the top two tiers of the minor league system knocking on the door for Major League jobs. The likelihood is that Darvish is gone if the Rangers don’t sign him to an extension before he hits the free agent market, Lucroy is gone no matter what, and probably Napoli too. Once the dust clears, other situations may arise, like Adrian Beltre. Will he really want to stay if the team is looking at a major rebuilding project?

On top of all that, the team is undoubtedly wanting to put forth at least the image of being in contention as they attempt to monaterize a good portion of the $500 million the team is required to fund for the new stadium. Unquestionably, the fans are going to feel the bite.

NOTABLE:

* MISCELLANEOUS FIRST HALF STATS: The Rangers have scored 49.1% of their runs on home runs, the third highest percentage in baseball. They trail Toronto and Oakland. Texas has a 30-13 record when they hit two or more home runs, but only a 13-32 record when they hit less than two. The Astros and Dodgers have the two best records in baseball, and coincidentally, they have the two best records in games in which they hit zero or one home run.

* Ranger fans will not see any Ranger players participate in tonight’s All-Star game. Yu Darvish was selected for the team, but he pitched Sunday and disqualified himself from pitching on Tuesday. He went to Miami to participate in the All-Star game activities, but a substitute was named to replace him on the roster.

* The Ranger that most deserved to be on the All-Star team is Elvis Andrus. He is having a simply spectacular season, clearly better than either of the seasons in which he did make the All-Star team. However, the fan vote elected Carlos Correa, and manager Terry Francona chose his shortstop in Cleveland – Francisco Lindor – as the backup. On the other hand, it may be best for Andrus to skip the game. He became a father last Thursday, and the best use of his time may be at home with his wife and son.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DEATH, TAXES AND THE RANGER BULLPEN

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

It was another disappointing week as the Rangers went 2-5 against the Indians and White Sox. The road trip looked promising when they took two of three from the Yankees to kick it off, but Texas finished at 4-6.

The source of the disappointment will undoubtedly be the story of this year’s team at the end of the season – the bullpen. The Rangers saw three large and/or late leads dissipate, turning wins into losses. The bullpen stats for the road trip were a 1-4 record, two saves in six chances, 6.67 ERA. The blown saves bring the Ranger total to the year to 17 out of 30 opportunities, a measly 43% cnversion rate.

The week began in Cleveland, where the Tribe took three of four games. This series finished the regular season games between these two teams with Cleveland dominating with six wins in seven games.

Cleveland’s pitching surrendered nine home runs but little else. 13 of the 14 runs the Rangers scored in the series were driven in by home runs. The Tribe kept the Rangers off the scoreboard by the strikeout weapon. Texas batters reached double digit strikeout totals in three of the four games. 55 of the 108 outs Cleveland recorded in the series were strikeouts.

The series began with the most disappointing loss of the season for the Rangers. It looked so promising early when the first four batters for Texas scored, the last three on Adrian Beltre’s home run. The Rangers added three more runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to hold a 9-2 lead.

Cole Hamels was making his first start since April, and it was obvious from the beginning that he didn’t have his good stuff. Command was a problem. His first pitch was a strike, and then he threw nine consecutive balls. The third batter singled to load the bases with no outs. Hamels was able to get out of the inning with only one Cleveland run scoring.

The Tribe scratched out another run in the third, while their starting pitcher was getting chased. Carlos Carrasco lasted into the fourth inning and allowed eight of the nine Ranger runs.

After the top of the fourth though, the game belonged to the Indians. They pushed across a third run in the bottom of the fourth, and then the roof caved in on Hamels in the fifth. He retired just one of the five batters he faced. The other four scored, as Cleveland drew to within two runs at 9-7 with all seven runs charged to Hamels.

Dario Alvarez gave up a walk and a single to allow the three runners he inherited to score, but oddly, he was the only Ranger pitcher on the night that did not allow a run.

The sixth inning was worse. Tanner Schepprs began the inning, but retired no one. He walked a batter and gave up two singles to the three batters he faced. They all scored. Alex Claudio finished the inning, but not before the Indians had scored two more runs to take a 12-9 lead. Cleveland struck for three more runs off Preston Claiborne, making his Ranger debut. By week’s end, Scheppers and Claiborne were no longer Rangers.

15-9 was the final score. Scheppers took the loss. He’s 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. Alex Claudio was charged with his second blown save.

Tuesday’s game was the antithesis of Monday’s. Starting pitchers Tyson Ross and Mike Clevinger were excellent. They turned in identical lines of six innings pitched, allowing one run on two hits. A walk, stolen base and single to the first two Indian batters of the second inning caused the scoreboard damage to Ross and gave Cleveland the early lead. Robinson Chirinos’ 11th home run in the fifth inning tied the game.

Seventh and eighth inning relievers for both teams didn’t allow a hit, much less a run. The game was still tied at one when the ninth inning began. Both teams garnered a hit. The Ranger hit was Adrian Beltre’s 450th career home run. The Indian’s was a single,and that runner was stranded.

2-1 was the final score. Keone Kela finished the eighth inning to earn the win. Matt Bush polished off the Tribe in the ninth to earn his 10th save.

The Rangers’ offense fizzled in the last two games of the series. Yu Darvish gave up three runs to take the loss in Wednesday’s 5-3 affair, while Andrew Cashner was knocked around for five runs in five innings to take the loss in Thursday’s 5-1 game.

On Friday, the Rangers suffered their second demoralizing loss of the week. They scored four runs in the sixth inning to take a 7-2 lead, and got within two outs of a win before the White Sox rallied for three ninth inning runs to win 8-7. Matt Bush pitched the ninth getting tagged with his sixth blown save and fourth loss.

The Rangers got their second win of the week on Saturday at the expense of former Ranger Derek Holland. Holland gave up five runs in 5-1/3rd innings to take his eighth loss against five wins. Four White Sox relievers gave up another five runs.

Cole Hamels was the beneficiary of the offensive largesse in the 10-4 Ranger win. He got off to a rough start, but finished by retiring the final 19 batters he faced. He’s 3-0 with the win.

The week closed out like it began with another ugly bullpen meltdown. Texas took a 5-4 lead to the eighth inning. Todd Frazier tagged Jose LeClerc for a two run home run with two outs as the Sox took a 6-5 lead. The Rangers loaded the bases in the ninth inning before Carlos Gomez struck out to end the game.

The Rangers are now back home for three games with Boston beginning on Monday night, and three games with the L. A. Angels to finish up the so called first half of the season before the All-Star break. Thursday’s off day will be the Rangers’ first after playing 20 consecutive days.

The Rangers actually hit the mathematical halfway point in Saturday’s game. Their record is now 40-42, and they are in fourth place in the West trailing first place Houston by 15.5 games, a season high. Eight teams after the three division leaders are in the running for two Wild Card spots. The Rangers are the worst of those, but only two games out.

NOTABLE:

* Yu Darvish was named to the American League All-Star team. It was his fourth time to be an All-Star, more than any other Ranger pitcher.

* Elvis Andrus is on the five player ballot for the final roster spot on the the team. He’s going to need a ton of support from Ranger fans to win because two of the other candidates are shortstop from big market teams – Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and New York’s Didi Gregorius.

* Joey Gallo leads the Rangers with 21 home runs, and was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game. He chose not to accept the invitation.

* Elvis Andrus has had remarkable success against the Indians in his career, success that continued this past week. He went 7-16 in the four games which brings his career batting average against Cleveland to .372. He has at least one hit in 58 of 64 games.

* Prior to Monday’s game, the Indians honored Mike Napoli, who played for Cleveland last year. Cleveland’s manager Terry Francona presented Napoli with his World Series ring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DARN YANKEES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers took two of three games from New York in Yankee Stadium this weekend to finish the week with a 4-3 record. The winning week moved Texas over .500 for the season at 38-37. Unfortunately, Houston also won two of three games this weekend, so the Rangers remain 13 games out of first place in the American League West.

The showcase game of the weekend was the series opener on Friday night with the Japanese pitching matchup of Yu Darvish for Texas and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. These two had never squared off in a game in the Major Leagues, but had met four times in the Japanese league. The game was nationally televised in Japan, and a notable number of Japanese media were on hand to cover the game, far more than the usual cadre.

Actually on paper, the matchup did not look competitive as Tanaka had been scrambling with an ERA over 8.00 in his previous six starts. Amazingly though, the game lived up to the hype and even more. Both pitchers were magnificent.

Darvish completed seven innings allowing no runs on two hits. His pitch count was only 88, but he did not come out for the eighth inning with shoulder tightness. Tanaka was perhaps even better. He shut out the Rangers on three hits over eight innings. At one point, he retired 19 Rangers in a row.

The game went to the ninth inning still scoreless, and Texas finally pushed across a run when Elvis Andrus scored on a passed ball. The lead didn’t last long though, as Brett Gardner homered to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Matt Bush was on the mound for the save, but recorded his fourth blown save of the year instead.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister decided to send Bush back out for the tenth inning when his offense didn’t score in the top half of the inning. A pair of one out singles put Yankees on first and third base, but Chris Carter struck out to bring Bush within an out of extending the game to the 11th inning. Ronald Torreyes however drove in the game winner with the third single of the inning to give New York the 2-1 win. Bush was thus charged with the loss in addition to the blown save to bring his record to 2-3.

It was the 12th one-run loss of the season for Texas, which had just 11 such losses all last season.

The matchups for Saturday and Sunday didn’t look so good for Texas. They were sending out Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Nick Martinez, the rotation fill-ins for the disabled Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. It turned out to be no problem.

ABD, as Bibens-Dirkx is often referred, completed seven innings, allowing a run on six hits. The run naturally was a solo home run off the bat of Aaron Judge, who leads the league with 26 round trippers.

The Ranger offense supported ABD with three early runs and another in the seventh for a 4-1 score when he left the game. Alex Claudio relieved in the eighth and set the Yankees down one-two-three including one strikeout. The Rangers then put the game away in the ninth inning with four more runs. 8-1 was the final score.

Martinez was pretty darn good himself on Sunday. The Rangers scored three runs in both the first and second innings to hand the early lead to Martinez. Adrian Beltre hit a two-run dinger in the first and Shin-Soo Choo hit a three run blast in the second to account for most of the damage. Drew Robinson, just recalled from AAA got his first Major League hit in the fourth inning, a home run to push the score to 7-0.

The Yanks weren’t dead though. They rallied for four runs off Martinez in the fifth inning. It was a strange inning as Martinez struck out Austin Romine with two outs, but the third strike was a wild pitch allowing Romine to advance to first base and the inning continued. Aaron Judge singled home a run, and then Gary Sanchez followed with a three-run home run to cut the Ranger lead to 7-4.

In the seventh inning, the Yankees struck for two more runs off reliever Jose LeClerc, to pull within one at 7-6.

That left the eighth inning to Keone Kela and the ninth inning to Matt Bush to complete the win. Kela gave up a lead-off double, but retired the next three batters including two by strikeout.

Bush retired the first two batters in the ninth inning, including a strikeout, but Aaron Judge singled to keep the game alive and put the tying run on base. However, Bush had one more strikeout – Gary Sanchez to end the game.

It was the first one-run game the Rangers have won on the road this year bringing their one-run game record to 1-7 on the road.

The schedule doesn’t ease up at all as the Rangers open a four game series in Cleveland Monday night. The Tribe was swept in three games over the weekend by Minnesota to fall 1/2 game behind the Twins in the Central Division. Cole Hamels has been tabbed to pitch Monday’s game. Tyson Ross is Tuesday’s starter. Yu Darvish will pitch when his normal turn comes up – game three on Wednesday night. The rest of the Ranger rotation is in flux at this point.

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers have won their last three road series to teams that are currently leading their divisions – Washington, Houston and New York.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers are off to New York this weekend for three games with the Yankees. It’s the start of a 10-game, three city road trip with stops in Cleveland and Chicago to finish it off. The Rangers are in the midst of a 20 game stretch over 20 days, the maximum allowed without an off day under the CBA with the players. Texas has just one off day (July 6) until the All-Star break.

They leave after splitting four games with Toronto to complete a 4-3 home stand. The teams alternated wins with Toronto taking the first and third games, while the Rangers won the second and fourth games of the series.

In Monday’s opener, the story was another ninth inning bullpen breakdown. Texas rallied from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead into the ninth inning. Matt Bush couldn’t seal the deal. He gave up two runs on three hits as Toronto took a 7-6 lead. Three outs later, 7-6 was the final score.

It was the third blown save for Bush since taking over for Sam Dyson as closer. Bush has the classic big fastball that is preferred in closers, but this is just his second year in the Majors, and there is a learning curve. He’s probably not in danger of being replaced as closer, but he’s a concern. Texas simply cannot let games like Monday’s slip away if they hope to make the playoffs. The Rangers are now 4-11 in one run games after going 36-11 last year.

Tuesday, Nick Martinez made his second strong start in a row in an effort to tie down a spot in the rotation even when Cole Hamels returns. He lasted 6-1/3rd innings, allowing a run on two hits.

The Ranger hitters supported him with six runs, and the bullpen whitewashed Toronto for a 6-1 final score.

Wednesday was Tyson Ross’s second start, and it didn’t go well. He had control problems, walking the first batter. When the smoke had cleared in the first inning, Ross had thrown 41 pitches and Toronto had pushed across six runs, including two on a Darwin Barney home run.

Ross was out of the game after three innings. Toronto led 7-0. Texas rallied back with home runs from Joey Gallo (an inside the parker) and Shin-Soo Choo. However, five runs was all they could muster on this night. 7-5 was the final score.

In Thursday’s series finale, the game was similar to Wednesday’s, but the roles were reversed. This time it was Texas that built the 7-0 lead, as they scored in each of the first four innings.

Martin Perez shut out the Jays through four innings, but he has been prone to one bad inning, and it happened in the fifth. He looked to be in good shape after allowing a lead-off single followed by a ground ball double play to start the inning. It went down hill from there. Three hits, two walks and one hit batter later, the Jays had scord four runs to close the gap to three at 7-4.

That proved to be as close as the Jays would get. Perez came out to shut down Toronto in the sixth inning, while Jose LeClerc and Alex Claudio polished them off in the final three innings. Carlos Gomez padded the lead with a two run home run in the seventh inning, his second of the game, and the Rangers scrambled for two more runs in the eighth inning to make the final score 11-4.

The series starts in New York Friday night with Yu Darvish facing Masahiro Tanaka in the pitching matchup. It will be the first time the two have squared off in the Major Leagues, but they have met four times in the Japanese leagues. Darvish has a 3-1 record with a 1.36 ERA in those games.

The Rangers’ record is an even .500 at 36-36. Unfortunately, the Astros swept Oakland in four games to start the week such that the Rangers fell two games further back in the standings. They are now in fourth place in the West 13 games behind Houston. They are however, just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card berth, but are one of nine teams that are within 2.5 games of the second Wild Card.

NOTABLE:

* Cole Hamels completed 5-2/3rds innings for AA Frisco, allowing a run (a home run) on two hits on Wednesday. He threw 81 pitches. The Rangers have not announced where his next start will be, but it could well be with the Ranges in the Cleveland series.

* Joey Gallo’s inside the park home run was just the fourth by a Ranger in the 24 years of play at Globe Life Ballpark. The other three were hit by Luis Alicea, Craig Gentry and Ryan Rua.

* On Thursday, the Rangers placed Jeremy Jeffress on the 10-day disabled list and called up Preston Claiborne from AAA Round Rock. Claiborne was the fourth pitcher added to the roster during the home stand with Tyson Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Ernesto Frieri being the other three. Claiborne did not see action in Thursday’s game, but when he does pitch, he’ll become the 22nd pitcher used by the Rangers in 2017.

* The Blue Jays won the season series with Texas four games to three.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RANGERS BASH SEATTLE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers took two of three games from the Seattle Mariners this weekend and have now won seven of their last nine games to crawl back into contention at least for a Wild Card playoff berth. It was their third straight series win and brought them to .500 for the year at 34-34.

The Rangers turned over 20% of their roster during the course of the series with Seattle. Tyson Ross was activated from the 60 day disabled list to be Friday’s starting pitcher. Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli were activated from the 10 day disabled list, and both started Friday’s game. Dario Alvarez was summoned from AAA, and he appeared in Friday’s game.

Friday’s game was the first all season where the Rangers reasonably had the roster that they envisioned before the season began at their disposal. It showed. Ross was fine, especially for his first Major League outing in more than 14 months. He allowed two runs on two hits, walking three and striking out five over 5-2/3rds innings.

The offense took charge of the game with five runs in the third. Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Lucroy each drove home two runs with singles. They added two more runs in the fourth inning to push the score to 7-1 en route to a 10-4 win. Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Gomez hit home runs.

Alvarez finished off Seattle when Ross departed in the sixth. Jose LeClerc was touched up for two runs in the seventh, but Alex Claudio shut out the Mariners over the eighth and ninth innings to wrap up the win.

On Saturday, Andrew Cashner was placed on the disabled list, replaced by Ernesto Frieri, who had been in the Ranger organization less than a week.

In Saturday’s game, the Rangers took charge early. After the first two Ranger batters of the game were retired, the team exploded for five straight hits, the last of which was a Mike Napoli home run. All five scored to hand the early lead to Martin Perez.

Seattle whittled away at the lead though scoring one in the third inning and three more in the fifth inning courtesy of a three run home run from Mike Zunino.

Not to worry The Rangers answered back with another five run inning, their third of the series. Rougned Odor led off with a solo shot, his 12th of the year, and Napoli followed with his second round tripper of the series. Shin-Soo Choo’s home run capped off the inning.

That made the score 10-4 after six innings, and three innings later, 10-4 was the final score for the second straight night.

The sweep however was not to be, no matter how favorable Sunday’s pitching matchup looked for the Rangers. Yu Darvish started for Texas, and he simply didn’t have it. He gave up four first inning runs, and one more over the five innings that he completed.

The Mariners banged around Dario Alvarez for two more runs in the seventh inning as they avoided the sweep with a 7-3 win.

At this point, the entire American League is in the hunt at least for a Wild Card spot. The Oakland A’s have the worst record in the American League despite sweeping the Yankees this weekend. They are just 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card slot.

Texas is one game out in the Wild Card race, and made up one game on Houston in the West Division this weekend, as the Astros lost two of three to Boston. The Rangers are still 11 games out of first place in the West.

Toronto comes to town next. The Jays are struggling as they scrambled for a win Sunday to avoid getting swept over the weekend by the White Sox. They are in town for four games beginning Monday night.

NOTABLE:

* Cole Hamels made his first minor league rehab start Friday night in Frisco. He allowed no runs on one hit over three innings, throwing 35 pitches. He then threw approximately 20 more pitches in the bullpen to finish off his night. His next rehab start is scheduled for Wednesday in Frisco’s 11:00 AM start.

* The Rangers lost Dillon Gee and Peter O’Brien this weekend. They were both designated for assignment. Gee was DFA’d on Friday to make room on the 40-man and 25-man rosters for Tyson Ross. He cleared waivers and rejected assignment to the minor leagues to become a free agent. O’Brien was DFA’d on Saturday to make room on the 30-man roster for Ernesto Frieri and was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar were optioned to AAA Round Rock.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HOME FROM HOUSTON

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers surprisingly completed their first winning road trip by taking two of three games in Houston to go with a sweep of three games in Washington for a 5-1 trip. Texas was 3-6 in each of the first three road trips of the season. The result is doubly surprising as competition-wise, both the Nationals and Astros led their respective leagues in wins when the trip began.

It’s a season changer for Texas, at least for the moment. The Rangers are still under .500 at 32-33, and they still trail Houston by 12 games (11 in the loss column); but a poor showing on this road trip would have all but doomed the season.

Monday night was a must win. The Astros had won six of seven meetings in the previous two series between these two Texas teams; and for the Rangers, Monday starter Yu Darvish is their best shot at a win. A loss in Darvish’s start would open the door for an Astros’ sweep.

Darvish was masterful. He completed seven innings allowing a run on only one hit. Texas staked him to a 3-1 lead, but then blew the game open in the eighth inning with a three run Nomar Mazara home run.

Jeremy Jeffress took care of the Astros in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the 6-1 Ranger win.

On Tuesday, Nick Martinez was almost as good. He battled the Astros for six innings with the only scoreboard damage coming on a pair of solo home runs.

The Rangers pushed across a run in the fifth inning to cut the Stro’s 2-0 lead in half, and then tied it on Rougned Odor’s home run in the seventh. An inning later, Odor struck again with a two run shot to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. That proved to be the game winner.

Jose LeClerc relieved Martinez and earned the win to even his record at 1-1. Matt Bush recorded the final four outs for his eighth save.

Houston looked shell shocked in the first two games. With their two top starters recently going on the disabled list, the Astros swagger was gone. However, on Wednesday, they showed up with a different attitude. They looked more energetic, and played a sharper, crisper game.

Houston scored single runs in the first and second innings to take the lead they would never surrender. The Rangers had a golden opportunity to take charge of the game in the fifth inning. They loaded the bases with no outs to start the frame, but disappointingly pushed across just one run, which came on a wild pitch.

After surviving the fifth inning, Houston did take charge. They scored two in their half of the fifth to answer the Rangers’ run, and then exploded for nine runs in the sixth.

Joey Gallo hit a mammoth home run estimated at 466 feet to finish the Ranger’s scoring. 13-2 was the final score.

For Texas, the biggest factor in the successful road trip was the starting pitching. The starters averaged more than six innings per game and had an ERA of 1.97 in the first five games.

The Rangers returned to Arlington after Wednesday’s game, are off Thursday, and then open a three game series this weekend with Seattle. They are starting to look healthy again. Tyson Ross has been announced as Friday’s starting pitcher. Carlos Gomez is likely to rejoin the team this weekend also. Mike Napoli began his minor league rehab assignment on Wednesday. Cole Hamels will likely begin his minor league rehab assignment this weekend.

There is still a long way to go for the Rangers to get back into the A. L. West race, and they need to play much better ball to be a factor in the Wild Card race. However, the 5-1 road trip against quality opponents and the promise of a healthier roster gives the team more than just hope that they can do both.

NOTABLE:

* The attendance for the series was a disappointing 90,534, an average of 30,178 per game. That total was boosted by a crowd of more than 37,000 for $1.00 hot dog night on Wednesday. Certainly, Houston can’t be happy with the schedule makers. All three of the Rangers – Astros series in Houston this year are during the week. A weekend series would attract fans from not only the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, but from many Texas communities with loyalties to one team or the other.

* Yu Darvish has thrown four games in his career, including Monday night’s, in which he has completed at least seven innings and allowed one hit. Surprisingly, all four such games are against the Astros in Houston.

* On Tuesday, the Rangers and Astros combined for four home runs out of 51 that were hit in Major League baseball that night. That’s the most hit in MLB on any day this season.

* In the quest for the Silver Boot trophy, Houston leads seven games to three with nine to play. Three of the remaining nine games are in Houston and six are in Arlington.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BACK TO YESTER YEAR

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

It was back to the heady days of 2016 for Ranger fans this weekend. Texas swept the high flying Nationals in a three game series in Washington, DC. It was the first time in more than a year that the Washingtonians were swept at home. For Texas, the sweep completed a 4-1 week, and with Houston losing two of three to the Angels at home, the Rangers shaved two games off the Astros’ West Division lead.

Texas looked like last year’s team with timely hitting, daring base running, lock down bull pen work, and starting pitching that was good enough. The team got major contributions from unexpected sources.

For example, they won Sunday behind a strong starting pitching performance from Austin Bibens-Dirkx. The 32 year-old Bibens-Dirkx was signed to fill out the AAA starting rotation with little expectation of seeing the light of day in the Major Leagues this year. On Sunday, he completed seven strong innings allowing a run on three hits, two of which came on the first three pitches he threw in the game. At one point, Bibens-Dirkx retired 19 consecutive batters.

He’s 2-0, as he out-pitched the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Scherzer gave up three runs to take the loss and fall to 7-4.

It was a 1-1 game going to the seventh inning when the Rangers erupted for four runs on only two hits. 5-1 was the final score.

Robinson Chirinos was considered a weak link in the Rangers’ lineup last year, and the Rangers gave a king’s ransom to upgrade the catching position when they traded for Jonathan Lucroy. On Saturday though, it was Chirinos that belted a three run home run in the 11th inning to provide the winning margin in a 6-3 win.

Friday’s winning pitcher was starter Andrew Cashner, as he pitched seven strong innings allowing a run on six hits. The outing lowered his ERA to 3.17 and improved his record to 3-5. Cashner was recovering from injuries when the season began, but has come on to solidly be the number two starter in the Cole Hamels-less rotation.

Jonathan Lucroy supported Cashner with a three run home run.

Matt Bush retired two of the three batters he faced in the ninth inning to close out Friday’s game and earn his seventh save. 6-1 was the final score.

The Rangers outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the series in part because they rampantly ran the bases. They stole seven in the series including a season high five in Saturday’s game. Delino DeShields went 4-12 in the series to up his average to .293 and stole three bases.

The Rangers return to the home state to finish the current road trip with three games in Houston starting Monday night. At 30-32, Texas is still under .500 for the season and is in fourth place in the division trailing the Astros by 13 games (12 in the loss column). Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish leads off the series Monday night, but Astros’ ace Dallas Keuchel won’t face the Rangers. He’s on the disabled list with no projected time table to return. It’s a crack in the armor that the Rangers need to take advantage of if they have any hope of getting back into the race for the A. L. West pennant.

Hopefully for Ranger fans, the good times of the 2016 season will continue for another series, if not considerably longer.

NOTABLE:

* Elvis Andrus had at least one hit in each game of the Washington series to bring his current hitting streak to 15 games. That’s the longest current streak in the Major Leagues and is one game short of Andrus’s career best.

* Adrian Beltre got back in the lineup for the final two games of the series starting at third base, after suffering an ankle sprain earlier in the week against the Mets. He was 0-4 Sunday to end his eight game hitting streak and is hitting .333 for the season. He also stole a base in Saturday’s game and has at least one stolen base in each of his 20 Major League seasons.

* Texas is now 10-2 in interleague play this season.

* Texas used 19 of 25 active players in Saturday’s game, the most since June 15, 2004, when they also used 19 of 25.

* On the injury front, Tyson Ross is expected to be activated and start next weekend either Saturday or Sunday at home against Seattle. Carlos Gomez began his minor league rehab assignment Saturday and could rejoin the team next weekend. Hanser Alberto has experienced pain in his throwing arm and has been recalled from his minor league rehab assignment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment