BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Minnesota Twins proved to be the curative tonic the Rangers needed for their eight game losing streak. Rangers’ starting pitchers gave up just two runs in 21-1/3rd innings this weekend to propel the team to a series win, two games to one. The Twins avoided a sweep with a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon, after losing 5-4 and 5-0 in the first two games. It was the first series win for the Rangers since taking two of three in Seattle over Father’s Day weekend, and just their second series win in the month of June.
Nick Tepesch started the weekend with his best outing of the season and perhaps his best outing ever in the Major Leagues. He took a shutout into the eighth inning, departing with one out and a 5-0 lead. He was touched for three hits and walked two, while striking out five. Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts each retired a batter to get out of the eighth. Texas looked on point to finish off a comfortable win as they sent Joakim Soria out in the ninth still holding that 5-0 lead.
Soria has seen little action in the past couple of weeks with the team struggling to win games. The rust showed. The first four batters reached base on two hits, a walk and a fielding error. After a pop out, Jorge Polanco tripled for his first Major League hit to unload the bases and bring the Twins within one at 5-4. With the tying run only 90 feet away, Soria stiffened, getting a strikeout and groundout to strand Polanco and secure Tepesch’s win, which evened his record at 3-3.
Twins’ starter Kevin Correa was charged with the loss to drop his record to 4-9.
The standout performance of the weekend for Texas though was the gem that Yu Darvish threw at Minnesota on Saturday. Darvish usually experiments with his pitches early in games to see what works. On Saturday, it turned out to be the cut fastball. Once he kicked in, he was truly dominating. Minnesota got three hits in the first two innings, but the second proved to be the only inning that two Twins reached base.
After the second, there were just two more Twins’ base runners in the game. Darvish finished eight shutout innings to drop his ERA to 2.42. His record improved to 8-4, after he had lost in his two previous starts. He struck out 10 in the game, the 25th start of his career in which he has a double digit strikeout total. That’s good enough for second place in Ranger history behind Nolan Ryan’s 34.
Neal Cotts finished off the shutout with a spotless ninth inning. It was the Rangers’ league leading 14th shutout, and Darvish has been the starting pitcher in six of them.
Offensively, the Rangers staked Darvish to a lead with single runs in the second and third innings. 2-0 was still the score when the Rangers came to bat in the eighth as Twins’ starter Phil Hughes was dealing almost as well as Darvish. However, the Rangers loaded the bases with one out, and brought Luis Sardinas off the bench to pinch hit. Pinch bunt may be a better term for his at bat, as he executed a suicide squeeze play perfectly with Elvis Andrus scoring from third. The extra insurance run looked good, but Leonys Martin put the icing on the cake when he followed Sardinas with a two run double.
Hughes (8-4) took the loss for Minnesota.
Colby Lewis was Sunday’s starter, and he completed six innings for the second consecutive start, the only two starts of six innings this season for the big man from Bakersfield. Texas staked him to a one run lead when Adrian Belte singled home a run in the first inning. The Twins pushed across two in the third off Lewis to take the lead, but a Robinson Chirinos home run in the fifth inning tied the game at two.
The game stayed tied until the ninth inning, when the Twins touched Joakim Soria for a run. That made Twins starter Kyle Gibson (7-6) the winning pitcher after he completed eight innings. Glen Perkins struck out the three batters he faced in the ninth inning for his 20th save. Soria, who allowed five of the seven runs the Twins scored in the series, took the loss to fall to 1-3 on the season.
Sunday’s game was the Rangers’ 81st of the year, the mathematical halfway point in the season. Texas has hit 57 home runs, which ranks 14th out of 15 A. L. teams. The Rangers’ record is now seven games under .500, good for fourth place in the West. They trail first place Oakland by a season high fourteen games. They are two games ahead of Houston and trail Seattle for third place by 6.5 games. The Rangers’ front office has all but waived the white flag on the season, as General Manager Jon Daniels indicated this week that this season is now about “development”.
Texas departs for a seven game road trip. It starts with four games in Baltimore this week, followed by inter-league play against the Mets in New York over the Fourth of July weekend. The announced starting pitchers in Baltimore are Joe Saunders (0-4) on Monday, Nick Martinez (1-5) on Tuesday, Nick Tepesch (3-3) on Wednesday, and Yu Darvish (8-4) on Thursday. The Rangers beat the Orioles once in a three game series in early June in the only action this season between the two teams.
ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: After Sunday’s game, the Rangers announced that they would add infielder Adam Rosales to the roster for the series in Baltimore, and that Luis Sardinas has been optioned to AAA Round Rock to make room on the active roster for him. Brad Snyder ended up rejecting the assignment at AAA Round Rock and chose free agency instead. Derek Holland was with the team this weekend and threw 67 pitches in a simulated game Saturday morning. He will not be joining the Rangers on this week’s road trip and plan to make a decision as to minor league re-hab assignments when the team returns from the next home stand.