BY: Richard W. Humphrey
For the second straight series, the Rangers won game three to avoid a sweep, this time a sweep that would have come at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles had beaten Texas seven consecutive games going back to last season before Thursday’s Ranger win. The two losses in three days dropped the Rangers another game behind first place Oakland. They now trail the A’s by seven games with a dead even 30-30 record. The Angels and Mariners are tied for second place, 1.5 games in front of Texas (two in the loss column), while the last place Astros are 4.5 games behind the Rangers (five in the loss column).
The series started with a tightly played game that turned into an Orioles rout late. Joe Saunders, who has been masterful in the past when facing the Orioles, scrambled in and out of trouble as he gave up 10 hits and a walk in six innings. Somehow he lasted those six innings, and somehow he managed to give up just two runs, one of which came on Adam Jones’s seventh home run of the year.
Texas matched the Orioles fourth inning run in the bottom half of the inning with Adrian Beltre’s sixth home run. Saunders left with the Rangers trailing 2-1, as Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez limited the Rangers to four hits over 5-2/3rds innings. That left the game in the hands of the bullpens. Robinson Chirinos took Jimenez’ chances for a win away when he hit his third home run in the seventh inning to tie the game at two.
Alexi Ogando came on to pitch the eighth inning after Jason Frasor retired three of the four batters he faced in the seventh. Ogando once again fizzled. He hit a batter and gave up two base hits, retiring just one batter. All three scored. Neal Cotts, who did not retire a batter, and Shawn Tolleson finished the inning. They gave up three more, all scoring on Nelson Cruz’s 21st home run of the year. That made the score 8-2.
The Rangers added one more run in the ninth to make the final score 8-3, as the Orioles pounded out 17 hits, their second highest hit total of the year. Ogando was charged with the loss, his third against two wins. His ERA ramped up to 6.84, and a day later he was placed on the disabled list, the 18th time the Rangers have placed a player on the DL this season.
Nick Martinez and Bud Norris were the game two starting pitchers. Norris lasted five innings; Martinez one out longer. They gave up all the runs in a 6-5 Orioles win. The birds took the early lead with an unearned run in the first inning. Luis Sardinas, somewhat surprisingly the starter at shortstop, dropped a two out pop off Cruz’s bat. Adam Jones singled him home for the early lead that did not last a half inning, as Adrian Beltre hit a two run home run in the bottom half of the first to give Texas the lead at 2-1.
The O’s re-took the lead with three runs in the third. Nick Markakis started the scoring with a lead-off home run to tie the game. Jones and J. J. Hardy drove home the other two on a single and sacrifice fly. Again, one of the runs was unearned, as Sardinas’s throwing error put Cruz on base, and Cruz scored on the sac fly. The Birds extended the lead to 5-2 on Chris Davis’s fifth inning home run, his eighth of the year.
The Rangers came back to tie the game in their half of the fifth on Beltre’s second home run of the game, this time with two runners aboard. It was the first game this year that a Ranger hit two home runs in a game. The most recent time a Ranger had a multi-home run game was last July when Beltre hit two against Baltimore.
Martinez though quickly got in trouble in the sixth when the first two batters singled and walked. A failed sacrifice bunt attempt nicely played by Martinez ended his night on the mound. Aaron Poreda relieved and was an out away from making it a scoreless inning for Baltimore. However, Markakis singled home the go ahead, and ultimately the winning, run.
From there, the bullpens closed out the game without any further scoring. Martinez (1-2) took the loss, while Norris (4-5) was credited with the win. Zach Britton earned his fifth save after pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
The Rangers threatened to make Thursday’s finale a laugher. The first three batters of the game reached base with Sin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus scoring on Mitch Moreland’s single. They came back with three more runs in the second inning. The first two batters singled and homered (Michael Coice’s fourth) to extend the lead to 4-0. Andrus singled home Rougned Odor for the fifth run.
However, this was not to be a laugher. Colby Lewis has an opponent’s batting average of .338. He promptly surrendered a two run home run to Markakis as the Birds pulled to within 5-2 in the third inning. They came all the way back to tie the game in the fifth inning with two runs scoring on Jones’s double, and Jones scoring on Davis’s single.
Lewis was out after five innings, having given up the five runs, all earned, on seven hits, four of which went for extra bases. His ERA rose to 5.77 with the performance.
The Rangers offense rallied back for three seventh inning runs to re-take the lead for good. Tanner Scheppers, activated from the disabled list Thursday afternoon, gave up an eighth inning home run to Jones, the first batter he faced. That was all the scoring. Texas won 8-6, with Robbie Ross (2-4) getting the win, and Joakim Soria earning his 12th save with another spotless ninth inning. Brian Matusz (2-2) took the loss for Baltimore.
The home stand continues with four games against Cleveland over the weekend. Yu Darvish (5-2) is on tap to start Friday’s game. He’ll be followed by Nick Tepesch (2-1) on Saturday, Joe Saunders (0-1) on Sunday and Nick Martinez (1-2) on Monday. The Miami Marlins complete the home stand with games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
ROSTER MOVES/INJURIES: Left-handed reliever Aaron Poreda was recalled from AAA Round Rock on Wednesday to take Ogando’s place on the roster. His stay in Arlington lasted just a day this time, as he was sent back to Round Rock on Thursday to make room for Tanner Scheppers on the roster, who was activated from the disabled list. Ogando was diagnosed with acute inflammation in his elbow and will be shut down from throwing altogether for at least three weeks. A course of action will be determined after those three weeks. Surgery does not look warranted at this time, but he likely is out for two months.
* The start time of the Rangers’ game against the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday, June 22 has been moved to 7:05 PM (CDT), as the game was selected by ESPN for their Sunday evening national telecast.
* On the first day of the amateur draft, Texas took right-handed pitcher Luiz Ortiz with the number 30 pick in the draft. It was a compensatory pick for losing Nelson Cruz in free agency to the Orioles. The Rangers forfeited their number one pick by signing Sin-Shoo Choo. Ortiz is a 6′-3″, 220 pound pitcher from Sanger High School in California. They took another high school player in the second round – shortstop Ti’quan Forbes from Columbia (Mississippi) High School. He was the 59th player taken on Thursday.
* 55 of the Rangers’ 60 games have lasted 2:45 or more.
* Jim Gentile, a power hitting first baseman in the 1950′s and 1960′s, most notably for Baltimore, celebrated his 80th birthday at Globe Life Park on Tuesday night.