BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers secured their clamp on fourth place in the division by losing two of three to Toronto this weekend. They won the Sunday matinee game 6-2 to end a four game losing streak and avoid the series sweep after losing Friday and Saturday nights. Toronto had won six consecutive games in Arlington before Sunday’s Ranger win stopped the streak. The Rangers have now fallen seven games out of first place, trail second place Los Angeles by 3.5 games and are one-half game behind Seattle (one in the loss column) as the Mariners also dropped two of three games this weekend. Texas is two games under .500 at 21-23 and still lead the last place Astros by five games.
Sunday’s win came behind Nick Martinez’s third start, but his first in Arlington. The former college infielder turned pitcher as a professional has shown tremendous poise and mound presence in his two earlier spot starts, and has certainly done the same in five relief appearances. He was equally poised Sunday as he completed five innings allowing a run on four hits, one of which was a home run off the bat of Juan Francisco, a huge shot into the upper deck in right field. Texas was hoping to get 60 effective pitches out of Martinez, as he had twice relieved earlier in the week in Houston for more than an inning each time and had not started a game for almost a month. He lasted 84 pitches, a touch high for five innings, but effective none the less.
Martinez left the game as the pitcher of record as Texas held a 2-1 lead, thanks to a two run fourth inning triple from Alex Rios. Martinez’ chance for a win went away in the sixth inning though when Aaron Poreda surrendered another Blue Jay home run, this time to Edwin Encarnacion into the visiting team’s bullpen, which tied the game at two.
Mitch Moreland broke the tie in the seventh inning with a two run shot, a hard line drive that barely cleared the fence in right field. Texas padded the lead in the eighth inning with two more runs, driven in by a Sin-Shoo Choo double, who later scored on Adrian Beltre’s single.
Joakim Soria pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation. He put a pair of Blue Jays on base before striking out Jose Reyes to end the game.
6-2 was the final score. Poreda, 2-0, was the winning pitcher. Former Ranger turned knuckleballer R. A. Dickey (4-4) took the loss, as he pitched 6-1/3rd innings and gave up four runs, three of which were earned.
Prior to Sunday’s game, Adrian Beltre and Rios called a players only meeting. After Saturday’s loss, the Rangers had dropped four games in a row and three straight series. A players only meeting is usually a bad sign, and it may ultimately prove to be this time. However, the Rangers were sharper and crisper in their play Sunday and got the win to avoid the sweep. The main problem continues to be the struggling offense. They got just 18 hits in the three games with the Jays, including seven on Sunday. However on Sunday, four of the seven went for extra bases to be the difference in the game.
The series started with a 2-0 shutout by the Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison (2-3), who tossed his first career shutout and won for just the second time this year. It was the second time this week the Rangers had been shut out by teams with questionable pitching staffs. The feeble Ranger bats managed just three hits, all singles off Hutchison.
Yu Darvish was the Ranger starting pitcher, and he was again magnificent. He threw seven shutout innings, before Melky Cabrera doubled home the only two runs of the game in the eighth. Darvish struck out 11, walked three and allowed five hits over eight innings. He’s now 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA.
The start of Saturday’s game was delayed by ceremonies to honor Michael Young, the Rangers’ all time hits leader. Elvis Andrus spoke briefly giving a trip to Disney World to Young and his family on behalf of the team. Vernon Wells, who came through the Blue Jays’ minor league system with Young spoke too. There were video tributes from former teammates Cliff Lee, Mike Napoli, Mark Teixeira, and Mark DeRosa. There were also video tributes from Don Mattingly, Mike Modano and Derek Jeter.
There is talk of Young getting back into the game in some capacity. With the Rangers’ offensive performance that ensued after the pre-game tribute, perhaps that capacity could be playing for the Rangers. Texas had eight hits in the game, but like Friday night’s loss, all the hits were singles. Toronto jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jose Bautista homered off Robbie Ross. A walk and two singles tied the game in the third inning, with Michael Choice driving in the run. Toronto scored single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to secure the 4-2 win.
Ross labored on the mound and didn’t complete the fifth inning. He was constantly in trouble allowing just three hits, but walking four batters. He used 91 pitches to complete 4-1/3rd innings. Five relievers finished the game, but Shawn Tolleson was the only one that was effective. Neal Cotts (1-3) took the loss in relief as he allowed the go ahead run in the eighth inning that broke a 2-2 tie.
The Rangers are off Monday, then play a two game series with Seattle before heading to Detroit for the weekend. Colby Lewis (3-2) faces Hisachi Iwakuma (2-0) on Tuesday night. Nick Tepesch (0-0) makes his second Ranger start Wednesday afternoon against former Ranger and Highland Park High School graduate Chris Young (3-1) on Wednesday.
INJURIES: Friday on ESPN radio (103.3 FM), general manager Jon Daniels said that Prince Fielder had been suffering from neck stiffness. On Saturday, the team announced that Fielder had been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck and had received a nerve blocking injection for the condition. Fielder did not play in Saturday’s game and wasn’t even at the park on Sunday. He is not expected to need surgery for the condition and is not expected to be placed on the disabled list. Alexi Ogando was struck by a batted ball on Saturday night off the bat of the only batter he faced. He was immediately taken out of the game and was not available to pitch on Sunday with a bruised right hand, though he is not expected to be placed on the disabled list. Martin Perez has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will be performed on Monday by team doctor Keith Meister.
ROSTER MOVES: On Sunday, relief pitcher Miles Mikolas was sent down to AAA Round Rock and infielder/outfielder Daniel Robertson was recalled from Round Rock.
* Hot hitting minor league prospect Joey Gallo hit his 18th home run on Saturday for High-A Myrtle Beach, which leads the minor leagues.
* The Rangers currently lead the Major Leagues with 13 players on the disabled list. They have used the DL 16 times total, which also leads the Major Leagues.
* When Prince Fielder did not play Saturday, he ended a streak of 546 consecutive games played.