QUESTION MARKS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Cleveland routed the Rangers Monday night 17-7 to win the series three games to one. The Tribe blasted Ranger pitching for five home runs, including three by Lonnie Chisenhall, who drove in nine runs in the game. Cleveland arrived in Arlington on a seven game winning streak, so have now won 10 of their last 11 to get back into the races for the a Wild Card berth and the Central Division championship, as they now trail first place Detroit by two games.

It was the third straight series loss for Texas, which is 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Rangers are 2-5 on the current home stand with two games remaining. Texas firmed its grip on fourth place as they now trail the Athletics by a season high eight games, are 3.5 games behind third place Seattle, 4.5 behind second place Los Angeles, and lead the on coming Houston Astros by just 2.5 games.

At this point in the season, the Rangers’ starting rotation is Yu Darvish and four question marks. Each time out, Darvish usually pitches a game that gives the Rangers a reasonable chance of winning on the low end, or he turns in a dominating performance on the high end. The other four starters are question marks that might give the Rangers five or six innings and somewhat of chance to win at the high end, or be knocked out before the fifth inning on the low end. That’s pretty much what happened in this weekend’s series against Cleveland.

Darvish started Friday night. He was not dominating, but he shut down the Indians in the first two innings. The bottom of the batting order then chipped in with four second inning runs. Number seven hitter Leonys Martin drove one in on a sacrifice fly. Number eight hitter, Michael Choice singled home a second run, and number nine hitter Rougned Odor capped off the four run rally with his second home run.

Four early runs with Darvish on the mound looked like a breeze, but it wasn’t, as Darvish coughed up the lead almost as fast as the Rangers gave it to him. He surrendered a three run homer in the third inning to Chisenhall, which got Cleveland back in the game. An inning later, Asdrubel Cabrera tied the game with a solo shot, his sixth home run of the year.

Darvish righted the ship and finished seven innings on 110 pitches. He was touched for nine hits and walked four, but gave up no more runs.

The bottom of the batting order struck again in the bottom of the seventh, as Choice drove in his second run of the game with his fifth home run of the season. That was good enough to make Darvish the winning pitcher, when the bullpen finished off the Indians without further scoreboard damage. The Rangers added an insurance run in the eighth for a 6-4 final score. Darvish improved to 6-2. with his ERA kicking up at notch to 2.36. Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria took over for Darvish, retiring six of the seven batters they faced. Soria earned his 13th save of the year.

On Saturday, a question mark, Nick Tepesch, started for the Rangers. He did well for five innings but the roof caved in in the sixth. The game was tied at one going into the sixth, but Tepesch retired just one of the four batters he faced. The other three scored. The Rangers came back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut Cleveland’s advantage to 5-3, but Robbie Ross, who relieved Tepesch ended up allowing three runs to put the game out of reach. Tanner Scheppers also gave up a home run in the seventh inning to complete Cleveland’s scoring. 8-3 was the final score.

The puny Rangers’ offense mustered eight hits on the day, but only one, an Adrian Beltre double, went for extra bases. Tepesch took the loss to fall to 2-2, while his ERA advanced to 4.91. Josh Tomlin (4-2) was the winning pitcher for Cleveland after stopping the Rangers over eight innings.

On Sunday, another question mark in the rotation, Joe Saunders actually pitched well. He went into the sixth inning, allowing three runs, one of which was unearned, on seven hits. He also walked four and took the loss to go to 0-2. Three Ranger relievers held the Tribe at bay over the final 3-2/3rds innings to no avail. The Rangers; offense managed just two runs on five hits off Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, and touched three relievers for one additional hit. 3-2 was the final score.

Masterson (4-4) was the winning pitcher and Cody Allen earned his sixth save of the season. Saunders (0-2) took the loss.

Monday, the Indians scored early and often. They put up three in the first and never looked back. They scored in each of the first four innings including five runs in the second inning. Chisenhall was the offensive star of the night. He went 5-5 with the home runs and RBIs already noted for what is arguably the most outstanding offensive performance in Cleveland Indians’ history. For the series, he went 10-17 (.588) with four home runs, seven runs scored and 13 RBIs.

Nick Martinez was the starting pitcher. He lasted just two innings, allowing eight runs on six hits and three walks. He fell to 1-3 with the loss. Scott Baker relieved, completing five innings to save the bullpen. He gave up the other nine runs on 11 hits, which zoomed his ERA to 7.62.

The Rangers hitters did put some runs on the board, but it was too little, too late. They knocked Cleveland starter Daniel House out in the fourth inning, putting six runs on the board. Unfortunately, that only cut the Tribe’s lead to 12-6 at the time. Scott Atchison relieved and got the win to improve to 3-0.

The Rangers complete the home stand with a pair of games against the Miami Marlins. The Rangers last played Miami in 2011 and are 9-6 all time over the fish. Colby Lewis (4-4), the fourth question mark in the rotation, and Yu Darvish (6-2) will be Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s starting pitchers. So far this season, the Rangers are 4-6 in interleague play. Texas is off Thursday before starting their next road trip.

INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: On Sunday, the Rangers announced that first baseman Mitch Moreland would undergo ankle surgery. It was first thought that he needed reconstruction surgery such that he would be lost for three months. A day later, an alternative surgery was considered that may keep him out only about one month. No roster move had been made by the end of the Indians’ series.

NOTEABLE:

* Elvis Andrus had hits in the first two games of the series to run his hitting streak against the Tribe to 39 games, the second longest in Major League history. (Vladimir Geurrero owns the longest such streak – 44 games against the Rangers while a member of the Angels.) The Indians finally solved the Andrus problem on Sunday in game three, when Andrus went 0-4.

* The Rangers have promoted third baseman Joey Gallo and pitcher Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez to AA Frisco from High A Myrtle Beach. Gallo played his first Rough Rider game on Tuesday, and fittingly hit a walk-off home run in Frisco’s 7-4 victory. He is ranked as the Rangers’ fourth best minor league prospect, while Gonzalez is considered their sixth best. Gallo was leading all minor leaguers with 21 home runs at the time of the promotion. He was batting .321. Gonzalez was 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 games, all starts.

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