RICHARD W. HUMPHREY
Texas finally won a series, sweeping Houston this week in a three game set. The Rangers had not even won two games in a row when the series began, the only Major team not to do so. Houston came into the series with the best American League record and the second best in the Majors, while Texas came in with the worst record in the American League and the second worst in the Majors. Houston was on a 10 game winning streak, while the Rangers had won just two of their previous ten games.
In the series opener, Houston started perhaps the best pitcher in the American League, former Razorback Dallas Keuchel; while the Rangers started Ross Detwiler, definitely their worst starter on the season. On paper, it looked like a mismatch, but that’s why the game is played on the field instead of on paper. Both teams played super. Both starting pitchers pitched great.
The Astros took the early lead 1-0 in the first inning without benefit of a hit. Keuchel shut out the Rangers through seven innings, while Detwiler scrambled to complete seven innings allowing just four hits and no more runs. Jake Smolinski doubled home a run in the eighth inning to tie the game. Robinson Chirinos hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to score the go ahead run. Keone Kela and Neftali Feliz were extremely impressive as they retired all six Astros batters in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the 2-1 win.
Kela (2-0) was credited with the win, while Feliz earned his third save. Chad Qualls (0-2) was the losing pitcher for Houston.
The pitching matchup on Tuesday was between “formers”. Former Ranger Scott Feldman started for Houston, while the Rangers went with former Astro Wandy Rodriguez. On Tuesday night, Rodriguez was the story. He was simply magnificent. On the fourth pitch he threw, Luis Valbuena hit a home run. That was the only scoreboard damage he allowed on the night. In the second inning, he walked Robbie Grossman to load the bases with two outs. Grossman proved to be the last Astros’ base runner on the night, as Rodriguez retired the final 19 batters he faced, and Shawn Tolleson pitched a three up three down ninth inning to make it the final 22 Astros’ batters retired.
The Rangers’ offense showed up prominently. They staked Rodriguez to a 4-0 lead before he took the mound. Prince Fielder drove home the first two runs with a double. Carlos Peguero drove home the other two with his first home run of the season. Kyle Blanks topped off the Rangers’ scoring in the fifth inning with his third home run in six games since joining the club. Blanks’ three home runs leads the team.
Rodriguez (1-0) earned the win, his first in almost two years. He relied on a fastball and sweeping curve. It may be just one night, but he his “stuff” looked every bit as good as it did in the past when he was the ace of Houston’s starting rotation. He could be a real find for Texas.
Texas blasted Houston in the series finale Wednesday night. Peguero led the charge with a pair of home runs. He had three hits and a sacrifice fly, drove home three runs and scored three runs. Sin-Shoo Choo also homered, and Adrian Beltre had three hits, as the Rangers plated 11 runs on 13 hits. They scored early, giving Ranger starter Colby Lewis a 4-0 lead in the second inning. They added two more runs in the third and essentially put the game away in the fifth inning with four more runs to push the lead to 10-0.
Lewis shut out Houston for seven innings, then surrendered a run in the eighth inning. Reliever Spencer Patton gave up a two-run home run in the ninth in his 2015 Ranger debut to make the final score 11-3. Lewis improved to 2-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.81 with the performance. He gave up six hits and struck out six. His record is 5-0 with a 1.21 ERA in five starts at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The sweep cut three games off the Rangers’ deficit in the West and allowed the Rangers to climb out of the division cellar. Texas is now 11-6, 6.5 games behind Houston and 1/2 game ahead of last place 11-17 Seattle. The Astros are still the only team in the division with a record over .500 and lead second place Los Angeles by five games.
On the injury front, Mitch Moreland had a good batting practice session on Wednesday. He likely will be activated from the disabled list next week when he first becomes eligible. Leonys Martin came out of Monday’s game with an inflamed wrist sustained when he attempted a diving catch. He did not play on Tuesday or Wednesday and reported that he is unable to swing a bat at this point. A disabled list stint is possible, but the Rangers are willing to wait at least a day or two more before making a decision to lacet him on the DL.
The Rangers now complete the road trip with four games in St. Petersburg against the Rays this weekend. Texas will send out Nick Martinez on Thursday, Yovani Gallardo on Friday, Ross Detwiler on Saturday, and Wandy Rodriguez on Sunday. Tampa Bay counters with Chris Archer (3-3, 1.64), Nathan Karns (1-1, 4.05), Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 2.21) and Doug Smyly (0-1, 2.70).
* The Rangers are now 4-2 in May and 8-7 in road games.
* Dallas Keuchel has allowed just four runs on the season after Monday’s game. The Rangers have scored three of them.
* Sin-Shoo Choo has a six game hitting streak since ending an 0-21 streak last Friday. He has at least one extra base hit in each game during the streak and has raised his batting average to .154.
* The Rangers have hit at least one double in 26 straight games, the longest such streak in the Majors this season and the second longest in Ranger history. They also doubled in 26 straight games in 1990, and set the club record of 34 games in 1996.