A SPLIT IN ST. PETE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas eked out a 2-1 win over the Rays on Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg to gain a split in their four game series with Tampa Bay. Wandy Rodriguez put in a strong bid for American League Player of the Week with another terrific outing. Adrian Beltre drove in both runs with a home run and a single, his first multi-RBI game of the season.

Rodriguez started and didn’t allow a base runner until Tim Beckham led off the Rays’ sixth inning with a single. That was 15 in a row retired to start the game; and coupled with the 19 in a row he retired to finish his last start, he set a new Ranger club record of retiring 34 consecutive batters. Beltre’s home run in the fourth inning staked Rodriguez to a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, Rodriguez hit a batter and gave up another single in the sixth inning to allow the Rays to tie the game. He finished the sixth, but that was his day on the mound. When the Rangers didn’t score in the top of the seventh, his chance for a win went out the door.

Keone Kela pitched a four up three down seventh inning, allowing a walk. He became the pitcher of record when Beltre singled home Elvis Andrus in the top of the eighth inning. Shawn Tolleson and Neftali Feliz both struggled, but they held the Rays off the scoreboard in the eighth and ninth innings to wrap up the win.

Kela 3-0 was the winning pitcher. He’s the first Ranger pitcher to win three games this year. Feliz earned his fifth save. Rays’ reliever Kevin Jepsen (0-2) took the loss.

The Rangers started the series on Thursday by running their season high winning streak to four games when they took the opener 5-4. When Nick Martinez starts, the Rangers usually score runs and usually win the game. They are now 6-0 in the games he started. However, this one took a circuitous rout to the finish line.

Offensively, the key play in the game was a Rougned Odor strikeout. He stepped to the plate with two outs in the second inning and runners on first and second base. As he is wont to do, he swung at a horrible pitch for strike three. The pitch bounced a least a foot in front of the plate. Not only did Odor fail to hit the pitch, but the catcher was unable to contain it either. What should have been the end of the inning became a bases loaded situation, as Odor easily beat the throw to first base.

At that point Chris Archer lost command of his pitches. He walked Delino DeShields, Jr. to force in one run. It was a good piece of hitting by DeShields, who was down 1-2 early in the count. Sin-Shoo Choo then drove home a second run with another walk. Andrus followed with a single that scored two more runs sending the Rangers’ lead to 4-0.

On the mound, Martinez pitched four beautiful innings, leaving him three outs shy of qualifying for the win and six outs shy of his sixth quality start of the season. The Rangers had added a run in the fourth inning to up the lead to 5-0 as Martinez took the mound in the fifth inning. It unraveled from there. Martinez retired just two batters, while giving up four hits and a walk. He was charged with three runs, which upped his ERA to 1.47.

Alex Claudio was summoned from the bullpen to close out the inning and became the winning pitcher, his first in the Majors, as the Rangers held on for the 5-4 win. Shawn Tolleson gave up the other Tampa run in the eighth inning, but Neftali Feliz was outstanding in the ninth to lock down his fourth save of the year.

Before the series began, Friday’s matchup figured to be the Rangers’ best chance to win a game in the series. They trotted out their opening day starter (Yovani Gallardo) against Tampa rookie Nathan Karns.

Karns had a 1-1 record coming into the game and is essentially an unknown in baseball. However, he is quite well known in certain areas of the Metroplex, as he played at Arlington Martin High School. On Friday night, he pitched as well as he did at Arlington Martin allowing two Ranger runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out eight batters and walked just two.

Gallardo gave up four runs, only three of which were earned. He departed with one out in the sixth. Claudio pitched to one batter (Guyer), who homered for the fifth Rays’ run. Stolmy Pimentel gave up three more runs in the eighth as Tampa Bay romped to an 8-2 win that evened the series at a game apiece. Karns (2-1) was the winning pitcher, while Gallardo fell to 2-5.

The Rangers chances of winning a second series this season flew out the door with Saturday’s home run derby game. Tampa Bay won 7-2 with all nine runs driven in with four home runs. Evan Longoria got the Rays off to a good start with a three run dinger in the first inning. Carlos Peguera brought the Rangers back to within a run with a two run home run in the fourth inning. However, Steven Souza blasted another three run shot for the Rays in the fifth inning, and Asdrubal Cabrera finished off the scoring with a solo home run in the seventh.

Ross Detwiler was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He surrendered five earned runs in four innings, as he failed to retire either batter he faced in the fifth inning. His ERA increased to 7.22, and his record fell to 0-4 with the loss. It was a disappointing start for the Detwiler, the weak link in the rotation so far this year.

It was also a disappointing offensive performance for Texas. Rays’ starter Jake Odorizzi was scratched with flu-like symptoms. Matt Andriese took the mound to start, and the Rangers knocked him out of the game in the fourth inning. Texas had scoring opportunities, but went 0-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Andrew Bellatti threw 3-1/3 strong innings in relief to earn the win, his first this year. The Rangers’ rally in the ninth inning failed to score but created a save opportunity for Brad Boxberger, who retired both batters he faced for his eighth save.

Odorizz was well enough to start on Sunday as he replaced the originally announced Rays’ starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who was placed on the disabled list on Friday with a shoulder problem. Odorizzi was almost as good as Wandy Rodriguez, pitching into the seventh inning and allowing just one run His ERA dropped to 2.09, but neither he, nor the Rays came away with a win Sunday.

Sunday’s win capped the best week and best road trip of the season for Texas at 5-2. The Rangers have climbed out of the A. L. West cellar with a 13-18 record. They lead last place Oakland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column) and trail first place Houston by seven games. They are just a game out of second place though. Their series record is now 1-6-3.

The Rangers flew back to Texas after Sunday’s game and open a seven game home stand with a four game series against the reigning American League champion Kansas City Royals on Monday night. The announced starters are Colby Lewis (2-2) on Monday, Nick Martinez (2-0) on Tuesday, Yovani Gallardo (2-5) on Wednesday, and Ross Detwiler (0-4) on Thursday afternoon. Kansas City counters with Danny Duffy (2-1), Edinson Volquez (2-3), Yordano Ventura (2-2) and Jeremy Guthrie (2-2).

NOTEABLE:

* HITTING STREAKS: Sin-Shoo Choo extended his to 10 games with two hits on Sunday raising his batting average to .183. Prince Fielder saw his nine game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday with an 0-3 performance.

* Prince Fielder has essentially become the Rangers’ full time designated hitter. He has now started 16 consecutive games at DH. His last appearance at first base was on April 22 against Arizona in Phoenix, a game in which the designated hitter was not used.

* Tampa Bay is generally considered to have the worst stadium in baseball along with Oakland. It obviously shows in attendance. The crowd at Thursday’s game was 8,701, the smallest in the history of the Rays.

* Mitch Moreland began his minor league rehab assignment by going 0-3 and a walk for AAA Round Rock against Nashville on Saturday. Josh Hamilton was officially assigned to Round Rock for Sunday’s game in Nashville. He singled off former Cy Young winner Barry Zito in his first plate appearance, and finished 1-3 on the day as he left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning.

* The Rangers are 25-20 all time on Mothers’ Day after Sunday’s win.

* Carlos Peguero leads the Rangers with four home runs, all hit in May, which ties him for the American League lead in the month.

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