BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers routed Los Angeles 14-3 Sunday afternoon to take two of three in the weekend series with the Angels. Texas had lost the two previous series coming into the weekend, but reversed their fortunes to pick up a game in the standings on first place Oakland, after the A’s lost two of three in Boston. Texas now stands in second place, two games behind the Athletics and 1.5 games ahead of the third place Angels.
Texas came out with their hitting shoes on Sunday as they tallied three first inning runs. After giving up solo home runs in the bottom of the first to Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols, Texas came back with two more runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth to build a 9-2 lead. Texas added five more in the ninth to push their run total into double digits for the fourth time this season. 14 runs scored is the season high for the Rangers. It was rare offensive support for starting pitcher Yu Darvish, as Texas had scored a total of 11 runs in Darvish’s previous five starts combined.
Darvish finished 6-1/3rd innings, giving up seven hits en route to his second win of the year. It was the first time in seven games that the Rangers’ starting pitcher completed six innings. He struck out nine and walked one. Nick Martinez finished the game to save the worn out Ranger pen. He faced nine batters to record the final eight outs, lowering his ERA to 2.41 in two starts and two relief appearances.
Offensively, Michael Choice hit his second home run and drove in four. Prince Fielder had three hits including a pair of run scoring doubles. Sin-Shoo Choo reached base four times with a pair of walks and hits to increase his on base percentage to a league leading .482. His batting average rose to .349. J. P. Arencibia also hit his first round tripper as a Ranger as part of a two hit game.
Sunday’s win clinched the series as the Rangers won Friday night by a 5-2 score. Texas came into the series having lost four games in a row and five of the last six. One common denominator was the long ball, or lack thereof. The team had not hit a home run in any of the six games. That ended in the sixth inning of game one when Sin-Shoo Choo led off with his third round tripper of the year. The run cut the Angels’ early lead in half at 2-1. Four batters later, Alex Rios homered, this time with a runner aboard to give the Rangers the lead. Texas added two more runs an inning later, with Choo and Andrus getting the RBIs. 5-2 was the final score.
Colby Lewis was the starting pitcher. He once again pitched into the sixth inning, giving up the Angels’ early runs in the second and fourth innings on seven hits. The Angels pushed across both runs with two outs.
Five Ranger relievers followed Lewis to get the final 10 outs of the game. They collectively allowed just one hit, while walking one and striking out two. Joakim Soria got the final three outs, needing 12 ninth inning pitches to do so. That made Lewis the winning pitcher. He’s now 2-1, and Soria earned his seventh save.
Matt Harrison started Saturday’s game. He may be back on the roster and in the rotation, but he’s not back to the All-Star form he showed in 2012, when he won 18 games. The velocity on his fast ball is down, and on Saturday night, he didn’t have much working with his sinker or change. He was hit hard, giving up 10 hits in 4-1/3rd innings. He was in trouble virtually every inning, but amazingly was charged with just three runs.
“I was lucky I got out of there without giving up 10 runs,” he told MLB’s T. R. Sullivan after the game.
The Rangers bunched five singles into the fourth inning and cashed them in for three runs, so the game was locked at three going into the sixth inning. Howie Kendrick battled Shawn Tolleson for a two out double. Tolleson looked great having struck out Grant Green and coaxing a pop up from Colin Clowgill in the fifth inning to keep the Angels off the scoreboard in relief of Harrison. He struck out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to start the sixth before Kendrick’s double. Rookie C. J. Cron, appearing in his first Major League game, blooped a broken bat hump back liner into left field to score Kendrick.
The Angels padded the lead with an eighth inning run, and the oft maligned Angels’ bullpen faced just nine batters to retire the Rangers over the final three innings to win 5-3. Angels’ starter Garrett Richards (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Tolleson (0-1) took the loss, and Joe Smith saved his third game.
There was no certainty that Lewis or Soria would contribute this year. Lewis had arm and hip operations last year, injuries that thwarted his attempt to pitch in the Majors in 2013. He is not a dominating pitcher, and in fact never was. His fast ball rarely crawls past 90. He says his hip feels better than it has in years before the operation, but at times, there is a slight limp. However, he’s given the Rangers four solid starts, and the Rangers have won three of those games. It may not be dominating or even pretty, but the results are good. He’s a solid contributor to this rotation.
Much the same can be said for Soria. He was signed for the 2013 season coming off his second Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t physically able to pitch in a game until last July, and his performances were inconsistent at best. He has big shoes to fill in replacing Joe Nathan as the closer. Nathan blew just three saves last year in 46 opportunities. However, Soria always has a calm demeanor. So far, he’s seven for seven in save opportunities. The pitching line for his saves look almost identical Three up, three down on 12-15 pitches with one strikeout. It feels much more comfortable this year than it did with Nathan last year.
Texas amazingly made no roster moves over the weekend. Sin-Shoo Choo started all three games in the outfield after DHing twice against the A’s earlier in the week since leaving a game on April 21 with a sprained ankle. Choo reports the ankle is about 80% healthy. Starting pitcher Michael Saunders, currently on the 15-day disabled list, is scheduled to make his first minor league rehab start on Tuesday against Midland at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.
Texas plays the Colorado Rockies in the next four games. The first two are in Denver, while Wednesday’s and Thursday’s games are in Arlington. The Monday and Tuesday games will be the first this year played in a National League park, requiring the pitcher to bat. The scheduled pitchers are Martin Perez (4-1) on Monday, Robbie Ross (1-2) on Tuesday, Colby Lewis (2-1) on Wednesday and Matt Harrison (0-0) on Thursday.
* Texas has played 19 of the first 31 games this year against West Division opponents, and the team’s record is 11-8 in those games.
* Yu Darvish is 5-1 against the Angels in Anaheim, his most victories in an opponent’s ballpark.
* Manager Ron Washington successfully challenged a close play at third base Sunday. The Rangers are now 3-6 in replay challenges this year.
* The next four games will be the second and third inter-league series this year. Texas beat Philadelphia two games to one in the first three games of the year in the other inter-league action of the 2014 season.