BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers brought the magic number down to 30 Monday night with a 4-0 win over Boston. Any combination of Rangers’ wins and Angels’ losses that adds up to 30 will make the Rangers the West Division champs. C. J. Wilson (13-5) gave a strong pitching performance, throwing 6-2/3rds innings of shutout ball to become the first Ranger pitcher to win 13 games this year. Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz retired seven of the final nine Red Sox batters to wrap up the game.
Offensively, the big hit came from designated hitter Mike Napoli, a sixth inning three-run home run off Boston starter Erik Bedard. It was Napoli’s 21st home run of the season. He now has 53 RBI’s.
The game was a tight pitching duel from the beginning. Wilson struggled through a 22 pitch first inning, but was magnificent the rest of the way. He allowed four Red Sox hits, struck out four and walked two, while lowering his ERA to 3.08. The combined four-hit shutout by the Rangers staff was the American League leading 15th of the year for the Rangers’ staff, two shy of the club record. It was the ninth time Boston has been shut out this year. It was also Boston’s fourth straight loss of the season in Arlington after Texas swept the Sox in a three game series to open the season. The Rangers have also beaten the Red Sox 11 times in the last 13 games in Arlington.
Boston starter Erik Bedard (4-9) almost matched Wilson pitch for pitch. Bedard is a notoriously slow worker on the mound, and Monday night he lived up to his reputation with an excruciatingly slow pace. The official game time was 3:10. However, Bedard had his team in the game until Napoli stretched the lead to the final 4-0 score with the sixth inning home run.
Los Angeles was not scheduled Monday, so the win increased the Rangers’ lead to 4-1/2 games over the Angels. Texas still has a slim chance of finishing the season with the American League’s best record. They trail Boston and New York, so Monday’s win not only helped their cause with a win, but also tagged one of the teams they are chasing with a loss.
If the playoffs were based upon the current standings, Texas would host Boston in the first round of the playoffs; so this series could easily be a playoff preview. The series continues Tuesday night when Colby Lewis faces Boston’s John Lackey.
NOTES: The Red Sox changed Thursday’s starting pitcher, originally announced as Tim Wakefield. LHP Andrew Miller will start instead, pushing Wakefield’s next start to Fenway Park when the Red Sox return home. Wakefield is the winningest active pitcher in the major leagues, and will be trying to win his 200th career game in his next start.