BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Texas took two of three from Seattle this weekend, winning their first series out of the last five, to move within a game of third place in the West. The Rangers managed to score just six runs in the three games, but were able to convert those six into a pair of wins. They clinched the series by winning the first two games, but Hisashi Iwakuma was too much for them in the finale as he pitched the Mariners to a win that avoided a Ranger sweep.
Texas is 34-35 on the season, one game behind Seattle. First place Oakland leads Texas by eight, Seattle by seven and second place Los Angeles by 4.5 games, the second largest lead among the six divisions. Houston is in last place, three games behind the Rangers as they trail Oakland by 11.
Nick Tepesch started game one on Friday night. He had struggled in his three most recent starts, but has been working between outings to make adjustments. It showed Friday. He breezed through five scoreless innings on 47 pitches. His problem in recent starts has come as he faced the opponent for the third time through the batting order. That problem was still present in the seventh inning. Tepesch had allowed just four hits after throwing a scoreless sixth, but he walked two of the first three batters to start the seventh. Ron Washington has noticed the trend too. He quickly got Tepesch out of the game when the trouble began.
Jason Frasor finished the seventh striking out both batters he faced. Shawn Tolleson needed just seven pitches to complete a perfect eighth, and Joakim Soria finalized the shutout with a scoreless ninth in his usual fashion – one strikeout and two groundouts on 14 pitches. The Rangers won when they pushed across the only run of the game in the ninth inning that made Tolleson (2-2) the winning pitcher and earned Soria’s 14th save.
Paradoxically, the Rangers came into the game with the worst ERA in the American League, but finished the night with the league leading 13th shutout of the year. They are just six shutouts away from the Ranger record of 19 in a season.
Texas won game two when once again the Rangers scored in the ninth inning, and Soria followed with a perfect bottom half to win 4-3 and earn Soria’s 15th save. Joe Saunders was the starting pitcher, and he was very good. He completed six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. The performance dropped his ERA to 3.48.
Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez threw five shutout innings at Texas, but was replaced by Danny Farquhar to start the sixth. The Rangers tallied three runs off of Farquhar to give Saunders a 3-2 lead when he left the game. Adrian Beltre doubled home Choo for the first Ranger run, and Robinson Chirinos followed with his fifth home run to account for the three runs. However, Seattle tied the game with a run off Shawn Tolleson in the seventh inning, which took away Saunders’ chance for the win.
The game was still tied going into the ninth, but Leonys Martin delivered a two out single to score Luis Sardinas with what turned out to be the game winning run. Soria needed just 11 pitches to strike out one, catch a line drive himself, and coax an infield pop to second baseman Rougned Odor to earn the save.
Iwakuma improved to 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA Sunday afternoon as he completed eight innings with 106 pitches. He allowed six hits – one the first Major League home run off the bat of Brad Snyder that accounted for the Rangers’ scoring on the day. He struck out six and walked no one.
Nick Martinez was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and he threw the staff’s fourth consecutive quality start as he completed six innings and allowed two earned runs. It was ugly, as he was in an out of trouble. He allowed 10 base runners – nine hits and a walk, but in the end, just two Mariners crossed home plate.
Robbie Ross relieved and his struggles continue. He put the game out of reach by giving up three more runs on four hits and a walk. Suspicion grows that Ross may need time at AAA to work out his problems. Ben Rowen pitched a one-two-three eighth inning in his Major League debut for Texas. 5-1 was the final score.
It’s difficult to describe a road trip in June as critical. No matter how this trip goes, there is still more than half the season to be played. However, this IS a critical trip. The Rangers entered play Friday night in fourth place, eight games behind Oakland. The opponents on this nine game road trip are the three teams in front of the Rangers in the West. Every game provides the opportunity to gain a game in the standings against at least one of the three. On the other hand, a bad trip could run the Rangers’ deficit in the West into double digits. They started by taking two of three from Seattle to pull within a game of third place, but still trail Oakland by eight games after the A’s took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend.
The Rangers now have the opportunity to pick up ground on the Athletics as the trip continues Monday in Oakland, the first of three against the Athletics. The announced pitchers for the A’s series are Colby Lewis (4-4), Yu Darvish (7-2), and Nick Martinez (2-2). So far the Rangers and Athletics have split six games this year, with Texas winning three in Oakland, and with the A’s returning the favor in Arlington.
ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: Mitch Moreland has not yet decided between the two ankle surgeries. The Rangers have made 20 disabled list moves, the most in the Majors, and the most for Texas in a season since 2010, when they made 25. The Ranger record is 29, set in 2004.
* The Rangers’ Wednesday game starts at 12:05 PDT (2:05 CDT). It’s the only day game in the next 10 games, as the next scheduled day game is in Arlington on Saturday, June 28 against the Twins at 3:05 PM.