BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers arrived in Anaheim for this weekend’s series with the Angels with the season literally on the line. An Angels three game sweep would have gotten the Rangers’ deficit in the West to 11.5 games, a knockout punch. Instead, Texas responded with a series win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They trailed in all three games and came back in two to take the series two games to one. The series win cut their deficit in the West to 7.5 games out of first place, and 6.5 games out of second. They now lead Seattle by two games and last place Oakland by 4.5.
Colby Lewis kicked off the series with one of his best starts of the year. He lasted 7-2/3rds innings and gave up two runs on five hits. He struck out a season high nine, a season high both for him personally and the Rangers. (Yovani Gallardo has also struck out nine in a game this season.) Lewis’s breaking ball was particularly sharp.
The Angels took the early lead on a Mike Trout solo home run in the third inning. Texas came back with three runs in the fifth inning. Josh Hamilton doubled with one out, moved to third on Elvis Andrus’s single and scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Sin-Shoo Choo then doubled home Andrus to grab the lead. Robinson Chirinos followed with a single to center field that plated Choo with the third run of the inning. Chirinos drove home Hamilton in the seventh inning on a squeeze play to complete the Rangers’ scoring on the night.
Lewis took that 4-1 lead into the eighth, He gave up a bunt single to start the inning, but retired the next two before surrendering another single that ended his night on the mound. He had thrown 103 pitches. Keone Kela relieved and promptly gave up a single to Trout which drove in the Angels second run. However, Kela zipped a fastball past Albert Pujols for called strike three to end the inning.
Sean Tolleson needed 13 pitches for a three up, three down ninth inning, including one strikeout, to earn his 16th save. Lewis (10-4) was the winning pitcher in the 4-2 game. He leads the Rangers in wins. Nick Tropeano started for Los Angeles and gave up all four Ranger runs on seven hits. He took the loss to fall to 1-1 on the season.
On Saturday, the Angels seemingly took charge of the game twice, but the Rangers kept coming back to finally win 7-6. Los Angeles looked in command with a 4-1 lead after three innings, but starter Hector Santiago unraveled in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing three Ranger runs to tie the game at four. One of the four runs was unearned on an Albert Pujols throwing error.
The Haloes came right back with single runs in their half of the fifth and sixth innings to retake the lead at 6-4. They were six outs away from a win, but a bonehead play cost them an out in the eighth inning leading to three runs for the Rangers. Neither team scored again.
Yovani Gallardo started for Texas in what many believe will be his last start as a Ranger. He did little to enhance his trade value, as he was knocked out in the fifth inning. 11 of the 23 batters he faced reached base, as he gave up five runs, all earned, on eight hits and three walks.
Four Ranger relievers followed with Spencer Patton throwing a four up, three down seventh inning to qualify for the win. He’s 1-0. Tanner Scheppers has struggled mightily in recent appearances, but he too pitched a four up, three down eighth inning with two strikeouts. Tolleson gave up a hit in the ninth, but retired Los Angeles on 10 pitches. He earned his 17th save in 18 tries. Joe Smith (4-3) started the eighth inning for L. A. and was charged with his fourth blown save and the loss.
The Rangers mustered nine hits. Rougned Odor had two including his seventh home run and 11th double of the season. Robinson Chirinos also had a pair of hits to drive in two runs.
On Sunday, the Rangers’ pitching cratered. Nick Martinez gave up four runs on six hits in five innings plus a batter in the sixth. He took the loss to fall to 5-6. Anthony Bass was the first of three relievers that followed Martinez in the sixth inning. Spencer Patton was the third, and he gave up the big blow of the inning – a grand slam home run to Trout. 8-2 was the score when the dust cleared after the sixth.
Los Angeles added five more runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Texas had a pair of two runs innings – too little, too late – to make the final score 13-6. Odor had another big day with two hits and three RBIs. Included was his eighth home run. In 32 games since his return from the minor leagues, Odor has hit .367 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus also had a multi-hit games.
The Rangers now come home for their longest home stand of the year. They play three series – 10 games over the next 10 days starting with the Yankees for four. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Matt Harrison (1-1) on Monday, Martin Perez (0-1) on Tuesday and TBA on Wednesday and Thursday. There is some likelihood that Wandy Rodriguez comes back to the rotation to start one of those TBA games, which would be his first start since the All-Star break. The Yankees counter with Ivan Nova (2-3) on Monday, TBA on Tuesday, Masahiro Tanaka (7-3) on Wednesday and Michael Pineda (9-7) on Thursday.
These pairings could easily change as the non-waiver trade deadline is Friday afternoon. It has been a slow developing market, but a flurry of trades are expected. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Rangers will do. Had they lost the series in Anaheim, they most certainly would have been sellers, with Gallardo, Lewis and perhaps Wandy Rodriguez as candidates to move to a new team. They instead won the series to revive their waning playoff hopes. There is continued speculation that the Rangers are extremely interested in the Phillies Cole Hamels, who pitched a no-hitter Saturday. Hamels is signed through 2018, with an option for 2019; such that he would be a long term addition to the Rangers’ starting rotation.
* Adrian Beltre became the 55th player in Major League history to play in 2,500 games Friday night.
* Texas was 5-4 on the road trip to bring their road record to 31-24 for the season. That’s the most road wins of any team in baseball. For the trip, Texas batted .305 with 52 runs scored, an average of 5.8 runs per game.
* The 55 road games that Texas has played are the most of any team in baseball. Consequently, they have 39 home games remaining this season, which may not be good news. The Rangers have lost 10 of their last 11 home games, and are 16-26 (.381) at home for the season, which is the lowest home winning percentage in the Majors.