BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The San Diego Padres took two of three this weekend to finish the first half of the season. Texas lost four of five games on the week, lost seven of eight games on the home stand, fell four games under .500, and trail surging Los Angeles by six games. Houston has lost six straight games to fall behind the Angels in the West. The Rangers have now lost three series in a row and a golden opportunity to make up ground in the standings with Houston’s losing streak.
The series began with a Ranger win Friday night. Wandy Rodriguez won for the first time this season at Globe Life Ballpark. He gave up a run in 5-1/3 innings on only three hits, one of which was a Melvin Upton, Jr. home run. He walked two and struck out five. The win improved his record to 6-4 for the season.
Rodriguez was supported by a pair of home runs. Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre went back-to-back with solo home runs in the fourth inning, which doubled the Rangers lead from 2-0 to 4-0. Fielder and Carlos Corporan had driven in the first two runs on a sacrifice fly and ground out.
In the eighth inning, the Padres pulled to within a run by scoring a pair off Tanner Scheppers. Shawn Tolleson nailed down the win though in the ninth inning earning his 13th save. San Diego’s Ian Kennedy (4-9) was tagged with the loss.
On Saturday, the Rangers looked poised to win the series as they took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning. They managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory however, as the Padres rallied for three runs, the last two of which scored with two outs on a Yangervis Solarte home run, his fifth. It was Tolleson’s first blown save of the year. He was charged with the loss to fall to 2-2.
Colby Lewis was the Ranger starting pitcher, and he threw one of his best games. He gave up three runs on five hits, one of which was a two run home run off the bat of Matt Kemp, over seven innings. Scheppers and Sam Freeman took care of the eighth inning to set up the fateful ninth.
Texas was led offensively by Mitch Moreland, who hit two home runs and drove in three. It was Moreland’s third two-home run game of the year, but the first that Texas did not win.
Padres reliever, Joaquin Benoit (6-4), was the winning pitcher in relief of “Big Game” James Shields. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his 22nd save.
The Pads took the rubber game of the series Sunday afternoon by a 2-1 score. Tyson Ross (6-7) was San Diego’s starting and winning pitcher. He gave up just three hits over 6-2/3rds shutout innings. Kimbrel came on in the eighth inning for a four out save, his 23rd, giving up the Rangers’ lone run of the day in the ninth inning before striking out Leonys Martin to end the game.
Yovani Gallardo started for Texas and took the loss as he gave up one run on six hits. Keone Kela surrendered the other Padres’ run in the seventh inning.
At six games out of first place in the West and tied with two other teams at 5.5 games out of the second Wild Card playoff spot, the Rangers are certainly mathematically in the race. Oakland has the worst record in the A. L., yet they are only eight games out of the second Wild Card spot. Literally no A. L. team has been essentially eliminated from the playoffs.
Texas was miserable in April (7-14), but got back into the race with a 19-11 May. June started well at 11-6 to reach a season high six games over .500, but their fortunes have turned down from there. They have dropped to four games under .500 since, which includes 2-8 in July.
The bottom line is that the Rangers will have some tough decisions to make over the next couple of weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Teams hate to send the message that they are giving up on the season by trading veterans to contenders; but at the same time, thinking a team really has a chance to make the playoffs when they really don’t has led teams to miss great opportunities to enhance their talent base for the long run.
The Rangers, except for Prince Fielder, are off this week for the All-Star break. Play resumes Friday in Houston, the first of a three game set, and the first series in a three series, nine game road trip. Texas has not announced their starting pitchers for the series, but Houston plans to start Collin McHugh (9-5) on Friday, Scott Feldman (4-4) on Saturday and Dallas Keuchel (11-4) on Sunday.
* Neftali Feliz turned down the Rangers’ offer to go to Triple-A after he cleared waivers and opted for free agency. He almost immediately signed with the Tigers and pitched out of their bullpen Saturday. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw 10 fastballs in his appearance that averaged 98.9 MPH, and topped out at 99.5. He threw 15 pitches total as he faced three batters, giving up a lead-off single, but getting a double play ground ball from the next batter and striking out the third.
* Nick Martinez started for Round Rock Saturday night, allowing a run on four hits over four innings. He struck out four. Martinez likely starts one of the Rangers’ first five games after the All-Star break.
* On Saturday, reliever Ross Detwiler was designated for assignment. Reliever Roman Mendez was recalled from AAA Round Rock to take Detwiler’s place on the active roster.
* Texas finished the first half with a 16-26 record at home and a 26-20 record on the road. The Rangers have a losing record at the All-Star break for the second year in a row, but have won four more games this season.
* Texas is 5-6 in interleague play, having lost five of their last six interleague games. There are three three-game interleague series remaining – the Giants in Arlington and the Padres and Rockies on the road.
* In Sunday’s “Futures Game”, the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara went 2-3 as the designated hitter for the World Team. Nick Williams, the Rangers’ number seven minor league prospect according to MLB.com, came off the US team’s bench to drive in a run in the sixth inning as the US team won 10-1.
* Prince Fielder made the All-Star team three times with Milwaukee and twice with Detroit. He is the 79th Major League player to make the All-Star team with at least three different teams. He is batting .429 in All-Star games (3-7) with a double, triple and home run, and four RBIs. He was the MVP of the 2011 All-Star game.