BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Texas took three of four games in Baltimore this week to end a series losing streak at three. The teams played home run derby in the first three games, and the Rangers scored late to shutout the Orioles 2-0 in the final game. Texas hit 10 home runs in the series, the most in any series since 2012. For the Rangers, the road portion of the schedule prior to the All-Star game is complete. They returned to Arlington after Thursday’s finale to play eight games against three teams before the break.
The Rangers got the series off to a powerful start with four home runs in the opening game. It was the second time this season that the Rangers have hit four home runs in a game. Mitch Moreland accounted for two of them to bring his season total to 12. Carlos Corporan and Sin-Soo Choo hit the other two round trippers. Notable in the 14 hit attack was Joey Gallo’s first Major League triple, which came with the bases loaded. Fielder finished the night 1-3 to end a streak of five consecutive multi-hit games, which tied his career high.
Wandy Rodriguez rebounded from a poor start with a fine performance. He was often in trouble as he allowed ten base runners in five innings (eight hits and two walks), but he was touched for just one run. Four relievers finished off the game – an inning apiece – and collectively gave Baltimore just one hit. Sam Freeman was especially impressive striking out the side in the ninth inning on 11 pitches.
8-1 was the final score. Rodriguez (5-3) was the winning pitcher, while Bud Norris (2-7) was tagged for the loss.
The Rangers had a similar offensive game plan in game two. Moreland, Choo and the catcher homered again, with Moreland again hitting a pair to take the team lead with 14. This time the catcher was Robinson Chirinos. They assured a split in the series by winning the game 8-6.
Colby Lewis started and had virtually nothing. Somehow he gutted out a quality start, giving up three earned runs on six hits in six innings. It was uglier than it sounds as he gave up three home runs and five runs total, but two of the runs were unearned as they resulted from a Rougned Odor error. Two of the home runs, each with a runner on base, were hit by former Ranger Chris Davis. Keone Kela, Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson each pitched an inning in relief. Tolleson gave up the Orioles sixth run in the ninth.
Lewis (8-3) was the winning pitcher and now leads the team in wins. Tolleson earned his 11th save in as many opportunities. Miguel Gonzalez (6-5) was Baltimore’s starting and losing pitcher.
Josh Hamilton was activated from the disabled list before the game and started in left field. He batted fifth and went 2-4. To make room on the roster, popular rookie Joey Gallo was sent to AAA Round Rock. Gallo played 25 games for the Rangers hitting .218 in 87 at bats. He had five home runs and 13 RBIs, but struck out 43 times. The stint in the Major Leagues will undoubtedly speed up his arrival for good in Arlington.
The Orioles came back with a left-handed starting pitcher in game three, always a problem for the left-handed oriented Ranger lineup. Choo and Ryan Rua hit home runs, but two runs was all the Rangers could muster, as they managed just two other hits. Texas lost 4-2.
Nick Martinez pitched into the seventh inning, allowing four runs, one of which was unearned. It was his 12th quality start which keeps him among the league leaders. He took the loss to even his record at 5-5. Wei-Yin Chen was the Orioles starting and winning pitcher. He also evened his record at 4-4 with eight solid innings. Zach Britton struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his 23rd save.
After combining for 15 home runs in the first three games, the two teams had difficulty cracking the scoreboard in Thursday’s finale. Yovani Gallardo extended his scoreless inning streak to 29-1/3 with six shutout innings, which is the fourth longest in Ranger history. He gave up two hits and walked three. He is now 6-0 with a 0.79 ERA in nine starts this season following a Rangers’ loss.
Kevin Gausman more than matched Gallardo for the Birds. He pitched into the seventh inning, shutting out Texas on four hits and two walks.
The game was still a 0-0 tie going to the ninth. Two unlikely Rangers hit run scoring singles in the top half – Rougned Odor and Leonys Martin, who has struggled mightily in recent weeks. Shawn Tolleson kept his save percentage perfect at 100% as he converted his 12th save in 12 opportunities. He needed just 12 pitches to retire the three Orioles he faced in the ninth inning.
Keone Kela finished the eighth inning to qualify for the win. He’s 5-5. Chaz Roe (2-1) took the loss for Baltimore.
Before the game, the Rangers sent Nick Martinez to AAA Round Rock and activated Neftalit Feliz from the disabled list. Texas is concerned about Martinez’s innings total, now at 97. He’ll pitch some innings for the Express, but he’s mainly there to rest. With two off days next week followed by the All-Star break, Martinez will miss just one start for Texas.
Also before the game, the Rangers announced that Matt Harrison will start either next Tuesday or Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. It will be his first start since early in the 2013 season, when back problems that led to multiple surgeries ended his season. Harrison wasn’t particularly effective in his minor league rehab starts, but the Rangers decided to give him a shot against Arizona.
Texas finished the road trip with four wins and three losses to run their road record to 26-20. That’s the most road wins of any team in baseball. They are in third place, one-half game behind second place Los Angeles and 5.5 games behind first place Houston.
The Rangers have now played 12 more road games than home games, so the schedule tilts to a multitude of home games. An eight game home stand begins this weekend with three games against division rival Los Angeles, with which the Rangers are neck and neck for second place. The Angels series is followed by five inter-league games with the Diamondbacks and Padres leading up to the All-Star break.
The announced starting pitchers for Texas in the Angels’ series are Alex Gonzalez (2-3) on Friday night. Gonzalez flew home before Thursday’s game in Baltimore to get a good night’s rest. He’ll be followed by Wandy Rodriguez (5-3) on Saturday night, and Colby Lewis (8-3) on Sunday. The Angels counter with Garrett Richards (8-5), Hector Santiago (4-4) and C. J. Wilson (6-6). Sunday’s game has a rare 6:05 PM start time.
* The Rangers’ win in the series opener was their first in two seasons at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
* Three of the Rangers six shortest games of the year came on this road trip. Wednesday’s game time in Baltimore was 2:18, second shortest of the year, and two of the game times last weekend in Toronto were 2:24 and 2:26.
* Martin Perez made his fourth rehab start Thursday night pitching for Round Rock against Iowa. He gave up three earned runs in four innings that required 72 pitches. He has perhaps two more starts in his minor league rehab assignment.
* Sin-Shoo Choo homered in the first three games of the series, becoming the first Ranger to homer in three consecutive games since the 2012 season.