BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas won their eighth series of the year and third straight at home this weekend taking two of three from Minnesota. Houston also won two of three this weekend, so the Rangers stay 2.5 games in the standings and two games in the loss column out of first place in the West. The Rangers got quality starts in all three games to run their streak to 10 consecutive quality starts from the rotation, the longest such streak in the Majors this year, and the longest streak in club history. They also rediscovered their struggling offense as they plated 20 runs in the series, after scoring four or fewer runs in all but one June game prior to the series.
The Rangers won the series on Saturday after winning the first two games. Both games turned in the Rangers’ direction on one play. On Friday night, Twins’ center fielder Aaron Hicks dropped a catchable fly ball; while on Saturday, starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey was unable to handle the relay throw while covering first base to complete a double play. The Rangers took advantage of both plays to win those games. On Sunday, the Twins knocked Ranger pitching around solidly with nine extra base hits, but barely took a 4-3 win to avoid a sweep.
Wandy Rodriguez opened the series with another fine start. He gave up a run in the first inning and ran out of gas with two outs in the seventh inning after 122 pitches; but he left with just that one run on the board after giving up three hits and three walks. Keone Kela got the third out of the seventh to bail him out of the inning without further scoreboard damage.
Tommy Milone matched Rodriguez for the Twins. He shut out Texas over the first six innings, before giving up a two run shot to Elvis Andrus, his third home run of the season, in the seventh that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Kela looked good to be the winning pitcher at that point, but his win opportunity vanished quickly. Brian Dozier tied the game with a home run leading off the Twins’ eighth inning. Tanner Scheppers surrendered it, but retired the next three batters to keep the game tied.
The Rangers came back with a four spot in the bottom of the eighth inning with all runs scoring with two outs. The first two runs scored on a double off the bat of Mitch Moreland, the catchable ball that Twins’ center fielder Aaron Hicks didn’t catch that would have ended the inning without the Rangers scoring. It was originally ruled an error, but on Saturday, the official scorer changed the ruling to a double for Moreland. Elvis Andrus singled home two more for four RBIs in the game, a career high.
Shawn Tolleson gave up a hit in the ninth before retiring the side to nail down the win. It was a non-save situation.
6-2 was the final score. Aaron Thompson (1-2) took the loss in relief for Minnesota. Scheppers moved to 3-0 with the win, but was also charged with his second blown save of the year.
Texas won Saturday in a rock-em sock-em game. Texas failed to score in the first inning despite getting two hits, but they quickly atoned by putting runs across in the next three innings. They broke the game open in the fourth inning with six runs. Mitch Moreland had the big hit with a three run home run, and it came immediately after the double play that the Twins didn’t turn, a double play that would have ended the inning with the Rangers holding just a 4-3 lead. Joey Gallo followed Moreland’s at-bat with his third round tripper of the year. Gallo’s home run was monstrous – estimated at 461 feet, the fourth longest in the history of the ballpark. It was the third time this season that the Rangers have hit back-to-back home runs.
When the smoke cleared, Texas took a 9-3 lead into the fifth inning. 11-7 was the final score. Colby Lewis completed seven innings after which the rains came and delayed the game for 1:19. Lewis did not return when play resumed, but the three runs that scored in the span of four batters (a walk and three hits) in the third inning was all the Twins could muster off of Lewis. It was his second good outing after three bad ones, and it was good enough to win his team leading sixth game against three losses.
The seeds of Sunday’s loss may have been born in the two innings played after the rain delay. The back end of the Rangers bullpen was entrusted with an 11-3 lead, needing just six outs to end the game. Anthony Bass couldn’t do it. He gave up four runs and could not finish the ninth inning. By games end, defacto closer Shawn Tolleson was warming up in the Rangers’ bullpen.
The Twins started fast on Sunday when Dozier homered leading off the game. A two out walk followed by a double plated another run off Nick Martinez. Martinez gave up eight hits, and seven of them went for extra bases. Amazingly, he held the Twins to just one more run after the first inning. That one scored in a bizarre sixth inning, an inning in which the Twins hit three triples, yet scored just one run. A Robinson Chirinos pick-off at third base made that possible.
Martinez finished with seven innings pitched and three runs allowed , despite giving up four triples, two doubles and a home run. That kept the Rangers’ streak of quality starts alive at 10.
Texas put up two runs in the second inning on solo home runs from Joey Gallo and Leonys Martin. Gallo’s was estimated to travel 416 feet, the shortest of the four home runs he’s hit since arriving from Frisco. Prince Fielder drove in a third run in the fifth inning with a ground out to give the Rangers a brief and their only lead of the day at 3-2.
The game went to the ninth tied at three. Twins’ left-fielder Eddie Rosario doubled off Tolleson to drive in Bryan Buxton, the Twins’ top minor league prospect making his Major League debut, to reclaim the lead at 4-3. It was the second double of the inning that Tolleson allowed. Perhaps he would have been sharper if he had not had to warm up Saturday on the heels of throwing the ninth inning Friday.
Glen Perkins put the Rangers down easily in the ninth inning on eight pitches to earn his 22nd save in 22 tries. Tolleson (1-1) took the loss, and Casey Fien (2-2) was Minnesota’s winning pitcher in relief of starter Phil Hughes.
The Rangers now play the Los Angeles Dodgers four straight games. The first two are in Arlington, and the last two will be played at Dodger Stadium. These will be the third, fourth, fifth and sixth inter-league games for Texas this season. Unfortunately, local fans will not have the opportunity to see Clayton Kershaw, as he will start the Wednesday game in Los Angeles. The Rangers announced starting pitchers are Yovani Gallardo (5-6) and Alex Gonzalez (2-1) at home on Monday and Tuesday. In Los Angeles, Wandy Rodriguez (3-2) will pitch Wednesday and Colby Lewis (6-3) will pitch Thursday. The Dodgers counter with Carlos Frias (4-3) and Brett Anderson (2-4), the former Oklahoma State Cowboy, in Arlington, and Zack Greinke (5-2) pitch on Thursday following Kershaw (5-3).
* Colby Lewis’s win Saturday was his 60th as a Ranger which ties him with Darren Oliver for eighth place in Ranger history.
* Delino DeShields, Jr. injured his hamstring attempting a catch near the wall in left-center field in Sunday’s game. He has been placed on the disabled list, and Rougned Odor has been recalled from AAA Round Rock. DeShields is expected to miss at least three weeks. In Monday’s game against the Dodgers, Joey Gallo moves to left field, Hanser Alberto moves to third base, and Odor will play second base.
* The Rangers also had 10 consecutive quality starts in 1978. The six pitchers involved in that streak were Ferguson Jenkins, Jon Matlack, Doc Ellis, Doc Medich, Doyle Alexander and Steve Comer.
* Martin Perez suffered a groin strain from his minor league rehab appearance at Frisco last week. He will not make his next start originally scheduled for Monday night in Round Rock and will be shut down for a week. Texas announced Monday that Perez’s next start will be next Monday, June 22 in Frisco against Midland.
* On Friday night, the Rangers announced the signing of first round draft pick Dillon Tate, who was the first pitcher and fourth player taken in the draft. His signing bonus was $4,200,000, about $800,000 less than the amount for his slot in the draft. They also announced the signing of RHP Jake Lemoine (fourth round), SS Dylan Moore (fifth round), RHP Blake Bass (eighth round), RHP Peter Fairbanks (ninth round), and SS Leon Byrd (10th round). On Monday, the Rangers announced the signing of second and third round picks OF Eric Jenkins and RHP Michael Matuella.