BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers appeared to have a series win in hand with a 10-5 lead in the seventh inning of the rubber game of a three-game set with Seattle Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t to be. The Mariners came back with six runs in the final three innings to walk off Safeco Field with an 11-10 victory and a series win two games to one. When the season began, the Rangers’ biggest area of concern was the bullpen. Sunday the concern proved valid.
It was former Ranger Nelson Cruz that drove home the game winner. He hit a sharp single to left field with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth to cap the rally. It was his fifth RBI of the day as he had earlier hit a pair of home runs, one with two men on base. The former Ranger fan favorite showed what the team is missing by choosing Sin-Shoo Choo at twice the price Cruz was willing to accept.
The Rangers used six pitchers on the day, and only one (Anthony Bass) performed well. Ross Detwiler started and was knocked out in the third inning. He gave up five runs on seven hits and a walk, ballooning his ERA to 10.95. It was Detwiler’s third bad start and his status in the rotation going forward has to be at least questionable, though manager Jeff Banister says that Detwiler will remain in the rotation. For sure, the starting rotation has two huge holes right now – Detwiler and the rotation spot vacated by Derek Holland.
Detwiler gave up three runs in the first two innings, but the Rangers appeared to take control of the game with a seven run third inning. It started with a Leonys Martin single. Elvis Andrus then reached base on a throwing error. Prince Fielder drove home the first run of the inning with a single. Another single loaded the bases, and Sin-Shoo Choo then plated the second run with a ground out. Adam Rosales followed with a run scoring single. Rougned Odor then grounded into a force out driving home the fourth run. That set the stage for Jake Smolinski’s first home run of the season, a three run blast that completed the seven run outburst.
Texas put together another rally in the sixth inning to score three more runs. Unfortunately, 10 runs was not enough with this Ranger bullpen.
Bass relieved Detwiler in the third inning and did an outstanding job again; a performance that should have earned a win. He pitched 3-2/3rds innings allowing no runs on four hits. He walked no one and struck out three.
That got the Rangers to the seventh inning. Shawn Tolleson, Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz were supposed to be the backbone of this bullpen, with the question marks being the rest of the relief corps. On this day though, all three were scored upon. Tolleson gave up one run in the seventh, the first he’s allowed this year in five outings. Scheppers walked three men in the eighth; and they all scored, one on a Keone Kela bases loaded walk. That was the only batter Kela faced, as Feliz was called upon for a five out save. He allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth inning on Ranger killer Kyle Seager’s single, to bring the Mariners within a run at 10-9. After the M’s tied the game at 10 with two outs in the ninth, Cruz singled home the game winner.
It was Feliz’s first blown save of the year, first loss of the year and first blown save ever against the Mariners. In fact, it was the first time the Mariners have scored on Feliz in 23 career appearances, including one start.
It was also unquestionably the most disappointing loss of the season for Texas.
The Rangers and Mariners traded 3-1 wins to open the series. Texas won Friday night, the first win in the opening game of a series this season in four tries. Yovani Gallardo started and shut out the Mariners for six innings. Tolleson was good again with a three up three down seventh inning. Two of the outs were strikeouts. Scheppers made his 2015 debut in the eighth inning. He was shaky, giving up a run on two hits. Neftali Feliz closed out the game by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
Gallardo got the win. He’s 2-1 and his ERA dropped to 3.45. Tolleson and Scheppers earned holds, already the third for Tolleson. Feliz earned his second save.
Offensively, the batsmen scored in the first inning with Martin scoring on Fielder’s double to give the Gallardo a 1-0 lead before he ever took the mound. Robinson Chirinos became the first Ranger to hit two home runs this season in the fifth inning when he hit a solo shot to center field. Adam Rosales singled home the third run in the eighth inning.
On Saturday, the Rangers simply could not solve Felix Hernandez. There’s a reason he’s considered one the top pitchers in the American League, if not THE top pitcher. He’s good! He struck out 12 over seven innings, allowing a run on two hits. Danny Farquhar and Fernando Rodney finished off the Rangers in the eighth and ninth innings, as they allowed no base runners and struck out three of the six batters they faced.
Andrus drove in the Rangers’ run with a fifth inning ground out. Martin had both Ranger hits.
Hernandez improved to 2-0 on the season with a 2.37 ERA. Rodney earned his third save. Colby Lewis (1-1) took the loss as he allowed all three runs on 10 hits over 5-2/3rds innings.
The Rangers fell into last place in the West at 5-8 with Sunday’s loss. Houston surprisingly sits atop the division at 6-6, 1.5 games ahead of the Rangers. Next up for Texas are the Arizona Diamondbacks for two games in Phoenix after an off day on Monday. The Rangers are 19-10 all time against Arizona. The D-Backs will be the Rangers’ first non-divisional opponent and first inter-league opponent this year. Nick Martinez and Gallardo will be the starting pitchers Tuesday and Wednesday.
* Nelson Cruz’s two home runs Sunday brought his season total to eight, which leads the Major Leagues.
* The Rangers’ seven run inning was just their second since the start of the 2014 season.
* The Rangers are 1-4 in day games this year, having lost four straight since winning the afternoon finale in the opening series in Oakland. Surprisingly, the Rangers have seven home runs in the five day games, but just three home runs in the eight night games.