BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Texas Rangers’ seven game losing streak came to an end Tuesday night in St. Petersburg as they beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1. Ian Kinsler hit the first pitch of the game out for his twelfth home run, the first round tripper for Texas since the losing streak began which gave Texas the first lead they had held in any game since the streak began. Kinsler singled home a pair of base runners in the third inning to extend the Rangers’ early lead to 3-0. Elvis Andrus followed with his third home run pushing the lead to 5-0. Texas added single runs in the fifth and ninth innings, including Leonys Martin’s eighth home run for the final seven run tally.
Alexi Ogando was the somewhat surprise starting pitcher for the Rangers. Ogando has had a checkered season with reasonable success on the field, but marred by three stints on the disabled list. He had made four relief appearances covering six innings since being activated this month. He was quite effective as he gave up one hit, walked no one and struck out five batters. They were his most effective outings of the season, as he showed a better fast ball – higher velocity and better location – than in his starting assignments. The question was his stamina. The Rangers could easily have been looking at a short outing that would tax the bullpen, hampering games for the next few days.
Instead, Ogando was magnificent. He pitched similarly to his relief appearances, letting his fastball fly without regard to pacing as a starting pitcher. He gave up the lone Rays’ run on a Jose Lobaton home run. It was one of the two hits Ogando allowed. He walked one and struck out four. Ogando reached his pitch limit after four innings, but manager Ron Washington said after the game that Ogando said he felt strong, so he let him go another inning. That qualified Ogando as the winning pitcher which improved his record to 7-4.
The fifth starter will be needed twice more in the regular season – this Sunday in Kansas City and next week on Thursday at home against the Angels. Washington wasted no time announcing that Ogando will get the start this Sunday.
This September’s collapse that has all but mathematically eliminated the Rangers from the West Division championship has been a strain for sure. Washington was asked on ESPN radio if he was worried about losing his job as a result. Washington quite candidly answered “yes”. GM and President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels responded to questions, telling MLB.com’s T. R. Sullivan, “My full expectation is he’ll be back. My full expectation is I’ll be back.” It sounded like the dreaded vote of confidence for Washington.
In the race for playoff berths, Oakland also won, beating the Angels 2-1; so the Rangers remain 6.5 games behind in the West. Oakland’s magic number however was reduced to six. Any combination of Athletics’ wins and Rangers’ losses totaling six will clinch the division championship for Oakland. The win however evened the Rangers’ record with Tampa Bay. They occupy the top two spots in the Wild Card race. Cleveland also won Tuesday to remain one-half game behind in third place for the Wild Card. Baltimore trails by two games, while Kansas City and New York follow at 3.5 games behind.
The Rangers and Rays have two more games in this series. Derek Holland (9-9) opposes Chris Archer (9-7) Wednesday and Yu Darvish (12-9) faces Matt Moore (15-3) in the finale.
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