SERIES STREAK ENDS IN OAKLAND

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers streak of winning series ended at six Thursday afternoon in Oakland. The Athletics shut out Texas in the rubber match after the teams had split the first two games of this three game set. It was a disappointing end to the streak as the A’s have the worst record in the American League, and Ranger starting pitchers combined to throw 20 innings allowing just three runs. With numbers like that, better results are expected,

The series began with Nick Martinez bouncing back from his worst start of the year to out pitch Oakland’s ace, Sonny Gray. Martinez threw six shutout innings of one hit ball. He had some command issues which caused him to walk three batters and ran up his pitch count to 103 forcing him out after six innings.

On the other side of the diamond, Gray was dealing almost as effectively. He gave up a run in the third on a soft line drive into no-man’s land between the shortstop, left and center fielders off the bat of Prince Fielder. Delino DeShields, Jr. scored on the play. In the sixth, Mitch Moreland tagged Gray for a monstrous home run, a solo shot to center field. The distance was estimated at 455. That proved to be all the Ranger scoring on the night.

The last three innings after Martinez exited were scary. Jonathan Edwards and Ross Detwiler scuffled through a harrowing seventh inning, but holding the A’s scoreless. Detwiler came back out to start the eighth. Two batters later, Oakland was on the scoreboard with a double and a single, cutting the margin to 2-1 with no outs. However, Tanner Scheppers relieved Detwiler, and he couldn’t have been better. He coaxed a double play ground ball to take the potential tying run off the bases, and then struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Shawn Tolleson gave up a hit, but retired the other three batters he faced in the ninth. He got the save, his eighth. Martinez won his fifth game. He’s 5-2 with an outstanding 2.65 ERA. Sonny Gray took the loss to fall to 7-3.

On Wednesday night, Yovani Gallardo threw another outstanding game for the Rangers. He went seven innings, allowing a pair of earned runs. That lowered his ERA to a very respectable 3.45. He left the game with the Rangers in front 4-2. They took a 3-1 lead in the third inning with Fielder, Moreland and Leonys Martin driving in runs, Martin’s coming on a hit by pitch with the bases loaded. Moreland singled home another run an inning later for the Rangers’ final run of the night.

This time the bullpen didn’t do the job. Sam Freeman faced two batters to start the eighth inning. He retired the first, but gave up a single to the second and was replaced by Scheppers, who gave up a single to right field. From there, the Rangers kicked the ball around trying to throw out the runner on first going to third base. When the dust cleared, one run was in and the batter advanced all the way to third base. He then scored to tie the game at four on the second hit of the inning allowed by Scheppers.

Keone Kela pitched the ninth inning, retiring just one batter before Oakland scored the winning run. Kela took the loss. His record is now 4-3. Oakland reliever Tyler Clippard (1-3) won for the first time this year.

Chi Chi Gonzalez was the Ranger starter in Thursday afternoon’s rubber match. He again pitched well, going seven innings and allowing one run, the first he has allowed in three starts since being called up from Round Rock. On this day though, one run was all that Oakland would need as lefty Scott Kazmir dazzled the Rangers with eight sharp innings of one hit ball. The roof fell in on the Texas bullpen in the eighth inning. Oakland batted around and scored six runs off Freeman, Edwards and Detwiler.

7-0 was the final score. Kazmir improved to 3-4, while Gonzalez fell to 2-1.

The Rangers departed Oakland after Thursday’s game to open a five game home stand, starting with Minnesota this weekend. The surprising Twins arrive in Arlington with a 33-26 record that puts them in second place in the Central Division. They trail first place Kansas City by two games and lead the pre-season favorite to win the division, the Detroit Tigers by 2.5 games. The announced starting pitchers are Wandy Rodriguez (3-2) on Friday night, which is the “University Days Night” that honors Baylor University. Colby Lewis (5-3) and Nick Martinez (5-2) are the starters for Saturday’s and Sunday’s afternoon games. Minnesota counters with Tommy Milone (2-1), Mike Pelfrey (5-2) and Phil Hughes (4-6).

NOTABLE:

* Even with Thursday’s loss in Oakland, the Rangers lead the Major Leagues in road wins with 20.

* Texas won five of seven games in the last home stand, but have just 11 home wins total this season to go with 15 home losses.

* Martin Perez was outstanding in his first minor league rehab start Wednesday in Frisco. He threw 45 pitches (33 strikes) to go 2-2/3rds innings. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session in Arlington this weekend and start for AAA Round Rock on Monday night.

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