RANGERS LOSE GROUND

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas started the week with two losses in three games to Oakland after the A’s closed out the series with a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon. With the two losses, Texas fell two games below .500 at 35-37 and a season high nine games out of first place. They also trail Seattle by two full games for third place.

Athletics’ ace Sonny Gray shut down the Rangers on six hits and two walks over seven innings on Wednesday. Only one hit, an Alex Rios double, went for extra bases. Both walks came in the fifth inning, and both proceeded to score on a Sin-Shoo Choo single for the only runs allowed by the Vanderbilt alum. He improved to 7-3 on the season. Sean Doolittle finished the game with a perfect ninth inning to record his ninth save.

Nick Tepesch (2-3) was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher. He gave up all four runs on nine hits, while walking two and striking out one. It was a struggle throughout the day for Tepesch. Scott Baker pitched the final three innings for Texas to give the rest of the weary bullpen a day off.

In Monday’s opener, the Rangers’ offense came alive. Last weekend, they managed six runs in three games against Seattle; but on Monday night, they more than doubled that total, scoring a season high 14 runs. The outburst was fueled by four home runs (two for Donnie Murphy, and one each for Michael Choice and Robinson Chirinos). It was the first game this year that the Rangers hit more than two round trippers. They seemingly broke the game open with six runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth to make the score 10-2.

Unfortunately, they needed almost every one of those runs to win. Colby Lewis started and gave up five runs as he once again did not complete six innings. Robbie Ross followed Lewis to the mound and promptly surrendered a home run. Oakland actually brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning, before Neal Cotts put out the fire. Texas added three more in the 8th and 9th innings to run the final score to 14-8.

The Rangers ended with 16 hits, but allowed 15 for Oakland. 17 of the 18 starting position players had at least one hit – the lone exception being Choo. Every Ranger in the starting lineup not only reached base, but also scored a run. Alex Rios and Rougned Odor were the only two Ranger starters that did not drive in a run.

Lewis was the beneficiary of the Rangers’ offensive largesse, as he won his fifth game, despite letting 13 of the 28 batters faced reach base. Oakland’s Drew Pomeranz (5-4) took the loss. He was so frustrated with his performance that he slammed a chair after being removed from the game and broke his hand, forcing a trip to the disabled list.

After Monday’s offensive explosion, there was tremendous optimism for Tuesday’s game. The offense indeed did a wonderful job as they scored six runs Tuesday night. With staff ace and hot hand Yu Darvish on the mound, it surely had to be a win for Texas. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the games are played on the field and not on paper. Darvish entered the game with a 1-7 record against the Athletics, and now he’s 1-8. He simply could not pin point his pitches, most notably his fastball. The patient A’s hitters didn’t swing at bad pitches, which got Darvish behind in the count, forcing him to come in with very hittable pitches that the A’s batters didn’t miss.

Darvish struggled to complete five innings. He actually went to the mound to start the sixth inning with the Rangers trailing 5-3. However, he walked the A’s leadoff batter, and Washington pulled him when the second batter reached base on an error. Both those runners scored, so the bottom line was seven runs allowed on eight hits and a season high five walks. His record dropped to 7-3, and his ERA rose to 2.39 with the performance.

The Rangers’ defense didn’t help. They committed two errors that led to three unearned runs. The team continues to talk about being a good defensive team, but that is largely a myth. After the Oakland series, the Rangers ranked next to the last in American League fielding percentage, and 28th out of 30 teams in baseball. Their error total of 52 translates into the obscene season total of 117. With the season closing in on the halfway mark, these stats have meaning. Ranger fans need to face it. This is not a very good defensive ball club, and it’s not likely to change this year.

The critical June road trip concludes this weekend in Anaheim. The Rangers have announced that Joe Saunders (0-2) will start Friday, Nick Martinez (2-2) on Saturday, and Yu Darvish (7-3) on Sunday. This will be the second meeting between Los Angeles and Texas this season, with the Rangers holding a two games to one edge from the first series between the two, which was also played in Anaheim.

INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: After Monday’s game, Robbie Ross was optioned to AAA Round Rock, and Aaron Poreda was recalled from the same club. Ross will go into the Round Rock starting rotation, though if and when he returns to Texas, he will likely be in the bullpen. By putting him in the rotation, he can pitch more innings to hopefully get back on track quicker. Mitch Moreland sought and received a third opinion from a doctor in Iowa on the possible surgeries for his ailing ankle. He then opted for reconstructive surgery that will sideline him for the balance of the season. The surgery is scheduled for Monday. The Rangers responded by signing Carlos Pena, a 36 year old first baseman who was released by two teams last season, and by the Angels in spring training. Pena, who was originally drafted by the Rangers with the 10th overall selection in the 1998 draft, was assigned to Round Rock as potential “depth” at the first base position. I.E., he has the opportunity to play his way onto the Rangers’ Major League roster.

NOTABLE:

* During Tuesday’s game, the Twitter universe lit up with messages that ESPN Dallas reporter Richard Durrett had collapsed and died. Durrett was one of the most well liked members among the beat writers and certainly one of the most respected. Last year, he teamed with Ian Fitzsimmons for an afternoon radio show on KESN 103.3 FM, the ESPN radio station in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market. He later chose to give up the radio show and stay with ESPN when the management of KESN changed. He was the father of two, and reports surfaced Wednesday that his wife is expecting their third child. He was a really good guy, and he is already missed.

* Texas began the series with Oakland having used 41 players this season, which tied them with four other teams for the Major League lead. 11 of those players were rookies, second most in the Majors behind the Angels’ 12. They also have used 23 pitchers, second most in the Majors to the Yankees’ 24.

* Adrian Beltre needs five base hits to reach 2,500 in his career. Only five players whose primary position was third base have amassed 2,500 career hits – George Brett 3,154; Wade Boggs 3010; Brooks Robinson 2,846, Chipper Jones 2,726; and Buddy Bell 2,514.

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