DOUBLE DIGITS

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers’ deficit in the American League West ballooned up to double digits this weekend, as they were swept in Anaheim by the Angels. Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Halos’ was the Rangers’ season high fifth in a row and completed the current road trip at 3-6. The Rangers are now closer to the last place Astros, where they lead Houston by three games, than they are to the third place Mariners, where they trail by 4.5 games. Texas is five games under .500 for the first time since 2008.

The outcome of the opening game in the series hinged largely on rain in Cleveland. Angels’ coming star Garrett Richards was Friday’s starting pitcher because their game in Cleveland Wednesday night was rained out. Instead of pitching Thursday’s series finale on Lake Erie, Richards became Friday’s starter, and he was dominant over the first six innings, allowing a run on four hits. He struck out seven and ran his record to 7-2 with the win.

The Rangers touched the Halos’ bullpen for two more runs, one of which came on Michael Choice’s eighth home run. Still, Texas lost 7-3, as Joe Saunders was hit hard. He didn’t get out of the fifth inning, giving up seven runs on 10 hits, to lose for the third time this year with no wins. 13 of the 25 batters he faced reached base.

On Saturday, the Rangers struck for a first inning run off Angels’ ace Jered Weaver. Chin-Soo Choo drove in Leonys Martin from third base with a ground out. That was all the damage they would do to Weaver. He completed eight innings, giving the Rangers just four hits.

Nick Martinez was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He was perfect through five innings. The perfect game ended when Hank Conger doubled to open the sixth inning. Two groundouts later, the game was tied at one. The game was still tied and Martinez was still pitching in the eighth inning, when C. J. Cron homered leading off the inning to put the Angels ahead 2-1. At that point, the Halos were three outs away from Weaver winning his eighth game of the year and Martinez losing his fifth.

In the end, neither starter figured in the pitching decisions. Choo homered in the ninth off Kevin Jepson to tie the game. Neal Cotts held Los Angeles scoreless in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. However, the Halos’ ultimately pulled it out with Howie Kendrick driving in the game winning run with a 10th inning single for a 3-2 final score. Cotts (2-4) took the loss, while Mike Morin (1-1) was the winning pitcher for Los Angeles.

Yu Darvish started for Texas Sunday. It was the Rangers’ best chance for a win in the series. He has historically done well against the Angels with a 7-1 record coming into the game in 11 career starts. That’s the most wins Darvish has against any team, and he had won five straight in Anaheim. History did not hold true Sunday night.

The Angels pushed across a controversial unearned run in the first inning. Kole Calhoun was called out on the play at the plate, but a video review overturned the call on the basis of Ranger catcher Chris Gimenez blocking the plate. Gimenez was charged with an error when the call was overturned, and Ranger manager Ron Washington was ejected for arguing after the overturn was decided.

In the fourth inning, the Angels completed their scoring on the night, hitting Darvish hard. C. J. Cron started the rally with a one out home run to double the Angels’ lead to 2-0. It was Cron’s sixth home run of the year, but half of those came this weekend, as he hit a home run in each game of the series. David Freese doubled home a run and later scored himself when Calhoun followed with his sixth home run of the year.

That ran the score to 5-0, more than enough runs for Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker. He improved to 5-1 as he pitched into the eighth inning, allowing a run on eight hits. Joe Smith gave up a ninth inning home run to Brad Snyder for the other Ranger tally. Darvish is now 7-4, 2.62. He gave up five hits in six innings, but three of them went for extra bases in the fourth. He again had command issues, as he walked four batters, two of which scored.

This road trip was termed “critical” by manager Ron Washington at the outset because it had the potential to bury the Rangers in the West if it didn’t go well. 3-6 didn’t exactly bury the Rangers, but it didn’t improve their standing.

Oakland continues to win and seemingly has a clamp on the division championship. They have the best record in the league, with five more wins than the next best A. L. record. The Angels are playing much better ball than when the season began. Josh Hamilton is back and hitting to shore up the offense. Garrett Richards will perhaps make the All-Star team. He gives the Halos three top starters in their rotation. The bullpen has been better of late, though is still the weakest area of the team. They are five games behind Oakland (four in the loss column) and lead in the Wild Card race. Seattle is now four games over .500. They have a plus 37 run differential, third best in the A. L. They are tied with New York and Baltimore for the second Wild Card berth, trailing the Angels by two games.

In short, the Rangers have three very good teams in front of them in the West.

The biggest culprit on this road trip was the offense. The Rangers scored 35 runs in the nine games, but 14 of those came in Monday’s inexplicable outburst against Oakland. The team averaged 2.5 runs per game in the other eight games. It’s amazing they were able to scratch out two more wins.

The defense proved porous too. They committed seven errors on the trip. and currently rank 29th in fielding percentage. (Cleveland is 30th.)

Texas is off Monday, then opens a six-game home stand Tuesday. They host the Tigers and Twins for a pair of three game series that will complete the first half of the season. The announced starters for the Tigers are Colby Lewis (5-4) on Tuesday, followed by Joe Saunders (0-3) and Nick Martinez (1-4).

ROSTER MOVES: The Rangers claimed lefthanded reliever Justin Marks off waivers from Oakland Friday. He was optioned to AAA Round Rock, and Prince Fielder was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Marks.

NOTABLE:

* Alex Rios and Michael Choice were ejected from Saturday’s game. That was the first Ranger game this year with multiple ejections.

* Adrian Beltre had two hits in Sunday’s game and now needs just one to reach the 2,500 mark for his career.

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