BY: Richard W, Humphrey
For the second straight series, Prince Fielder didn’t play, and the Rangers won three of four games on the road. Texas clinched the series win Thursday afternoon with a come from behind 5-4 win over Minnesota. The win also assured a winning road trip no matter what happens in Washington this weekend. The series win moved the Rangers into third place in the division and cut Oakland’s lead over Texas to four games. The Rangers’ record at 28-26 is now two games over .500.
The series began on Memorial Day, and the Rangers’ hitting prowess from the weekend series in Detroit continued in game one, as they beat the Twins 7-2. The game was much closer than that score indicates. Minnesota scored first with a Trevor Plouffe home run in the first inning. Texas took a brief 2-1 lead in the second when Chris Gimenez singled in Alex Rios and later scored on a Michael Choice double. Eduardo Escobar singled home Josh Willingham in the bottom of the second to tie the game at two.
It stayed tied until the fifth inning, when Elvis Andrus gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead with a double that drove home a pair. The Rangers put the game away in the eighth inning with three more runs, all scoring with two outs. Gimenez drove home two and scored the other.
That secured the win for Nick Tepesch, who worked into the seventh inning to record his second win against no losses. He allowed seven hits and the two Twins’ runs. The outing dropped his ERA to 2.95. Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts finished out the game, retiring seven batters and allowing two hits to the final nine Twins hitters of the game.
Kevin Correa (2-6) took the loss for Minnesota.
On Tuesday afternoon, the sobering news came that Yu Darvish had been scratched from his start with a stiff neck. The condition was similar to the one that landed Darvish on the disabled list on opening day. Scott Baker came back on three days rest to take the start and turned in a magnificent performance under the circumstances. He gave up two runs on three hits, striking out four and walking no one. He completed six innings, retiring 18 of the 21 batters he faced.
Texas took an early 2-0 lead Tuesday to support Baker. Donnie Murphy hit a sacrifice fly and Rougned Odor drove in another with a ground rule double in the second inning. Oswaldo Arcia homered in the bottom half of the inning to cut the lead in half, and Joe Mauer doubled home a run in the third to tie the game. Gimenez put the Rangers back into the lead with a six inning RBI single, which qualified Baker for the win.
Texas held that 3-2 lead going into the ninth inning, but instead of a win for Baker, it turned into one of the most disappointing losses of the year. The Rangers were within an out of winning the game, when Eduardo Nunez singled home the tying run off closer Joakim Soria and advanced to second base on the throw to the plate. It was Soria’s first blown save of the year.
A strange play ensued when the next batter grounded to third. Adrian Beltre attempted to tag Nunez running from second base. Nunez ran perhaps as much as 15 feet toward left field to avoid being tagged. He got around Beltre with the maneuver and beat him to third base. Surprisingly, he was not called out for running out of the base line. There is no question that Beltre should have thrown the ball to first base for the out that would have sent the game to extra innings. Since he didn’t, the inning was still alive for the Twins. Their next hitter, Danny Santana, tapped a slow roller to the third base side of the mound. Soria fumbled the ball and could not make a throw to first base, as Nunez scored the Twins’ game winning run on the play.
Soria took the loss and is now 1-2.
The Rangers clinched a tie in the series Wednesday night with an improbable win. Joe Saunders came off the disabled list to start the game. Quite frankly, he was not very good in spring training, and had been less than outstanding in minor league rehab appearances. He struggled through three ugly innings to start the game. The Twins had base runners in all three innings, including loading the bases in the second. Amazingly, they did not score as they stranded six base runners. Saunders stayed on the mound for two more innings and was really good. He finished the night with five shutout innings.
Unfortunately, the prolific offense the Rangers displayed last weekend in Detroit was throttled by the Twins’ Kyle Gibson, a young pitcher the Twins think will be a top of the rotation starter some day. He looked the part Wednesday night as he threw six shutout innings at the Rangers allowing six hits and walking no one.
That left the game to the bullpens. Shawn Tolleson followed Saunders and retired five of the six men he faced. Neal Cotts finished the seventh and got two outs in the eighth as he retired all three batters that he faced. Jason Frasor finished the eighth and Soria was perfect in the ninth, with two strikeouts among the three batters he faced.
The Rangers scratched out a seventh inning run, driven home by Luis Sardinas. That was all the scoring in the game. 1-0 was the final score. It was the Rangers’ 10th shutout of the year, which equals the total for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Tolleson was credited with the win, his first. He became the 15th different pitcher to earn a win for the Rangers this year. Soria was credited with his ninth save.
In Thursday afternoon’s getaway game, Nick Martinez started. He wasn’t at his best, but he managed to pitch into the sixth inning giving up all four Twins’ runs on nine hits. His ERA moved up to 2.75 with the performance.
The story of the game though was the Rangers’ bullpen. Alexi Ogando finished the sixth and pitched the seventh. When Texas took the lead in the eighth, he became the winning pitcher to improve to 2-2 on the season. Frasor pitched the eighth. Cotts retired left-handed batting Joe Mauer to start the ninth. Soria came on to get the final two outs, which included one strikeout. Soria was credited with his 10th save of the year, pitching for the third straight day.
Offensively, the Rangers took a 3-0 lead in the second when Sin-Shoo Choo doubled with the bases loaded and two outs. All three scored on the play. The Twins came back with two runs in the third and two more in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. Robinson Chirinos singled home Leonys Martin in the sixth to tie the game at four. Martin also scored the game winning run in the eighth, scoring from third base on a short fly ball to center field. He just beat the throw home to score for the third time on the day.
The Rangers complete the road trip with three games in Washington this weekend. It will be the second time the Rangers have played in Washington’s Nationals Park. Texas has played the Montreal/Washington in three previous series. They played the Expos in Puerto Rico in 2003, the Nationals in Arlington in 2005, and the Nationals in Washington in 2008, the year Nationals Park opened. Colby Lewis (4-3) opens the series Friday night. Nicke Tepesch (2-0) is Saturday’s starting pitcher in a noon start local time that translates into an 11:05 AM start in Texas. Yu Darvish (4-2) will start in Sunday’s series finale.
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: The ensuing news on Darvish was good. He underwent an MRI in Minneapolis, which was read by team doctors in Texas. It was clean. He will not be going on the disabled list and is scheduled to pitch this Sunday in Washington. Aaron Poreda was optioned to AAA Round Rock on Wednesday to make room on the active roster for Joe Saunders, Wednesday’s starting pitcher.
* Ron Washington became the most tenured manager (including the early years of the franchise in Washington) in franchise history Tuesday night when he managed his 1,187th game to pass Bobby Valentine. Washington already leads in managerial wins with, 639 after the series in Minneapolis.
* The Rangers opponents this week, like the Rangers, all have ties to Washington, D. C. The first Washington Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins when the American League expanded in 1961. One of the 1961 expansion teams was the second Washington Senators, which moved to Texas to become the Rangers. The National League moved the Montreal Expos to Washington in 2005 to become the third Washington Major League franchise.
* The Texas win on Monday was the first this month in which the Rangers did not hit a home run. They added two more to the May total, as they did not hit a home run in the series.
* Alex Rios had at least one hit in each game against the Twins to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest this year by a Ranger.