BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers started three left-handed pitchers this weekend and swept the Baltimore Orioles. The series loss all but mathematically eliminated the Orioles from playoff contention as they dropped 4.5 games behind Texas for the second Wild Card spot, tied with Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the loss column and also trailing the Twins and Angels. With 32 games left in the season, that’s simply too many teams for the O’s to outplay.
Texas strengthened its grip on the playoff berth and now lead the Twins by 1.5 games (two in the loss column) and the Angels by 2.5 games (three in the loss column). They are four games behind the Yankees for the first Wild Card berth. Winning the West out right is still a possibility. The Rangers are four games behind Houston, but just three in the loss column. Texas has two series totaling seven games remaining with the Astros.
In Friday’s series opener, Ranger fans saw the Cole Hamels they had heard about. He wasn’t just good; he was dominant! It was obvious early that he was on as he struck out three of the first six batters he faced.
Hamels ran into control issues in the third inning as he threw a wild pitch and walked three batters, one with the bases loaded. That was his only shaky inning though. He completed eight innings on 111 pitches, allowing just the one run on two hits. He struck out 10, the most in a game for a Ranger pitcher this year.
Sin-Shoo Choo homered in the fourth inning to tie the game. Chris Gimenez homered in the fifth to give the Rangers the lead. Choo drove home another run in the inning with a groundout, and Delino DeShields, Jr. tripled home a run in the seventh inning.
4-1 was the final score. Hamels improved to 2-1 with the Rangers and evened his record for the year at 8-8. Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up all four Ranger runs on nine hits in 6-2/3rds innings to take the loss. He’s 2-6. Shawn Tolleson converted the save opportunity with a four up, three down ninth inning on 16 pitches. It was his 27th save of the year.
The Rangers clinched the series win Saturday night behind another quality start from Martin Perez and a strong bullpen performance. Texas took a 3-0 lead in the third inning as Choo doubled home a run and Beltre followed with a home run.
Perez shut the birds out for four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth starting with a Steve Pearce home run. Baltimore rallied for two more runs in the inning to tie the game.
Ranger catcher Bobby Wilson broke the tie when he doubled home Elvis Andrus in the sixth inning. That ended the scoring on the night as 4-3 was the final score.
Perez pitched into the seventh inning giving up the three runs on seven hits. Keone Kela got the last two outs of the seventh. Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson took care of the eighth, and Tolleson, pitching for the third straight day, blanked the O’s in the ninth inning for his 28th save.
Perez (2-3) was the winning pitcher, and Ubaldo Jimenez (9-9) took the loss for Baltimore.
Derek Holland finished off the birds Sunday afternoon, pitching his best game of the year. He threw a complete game shutout, striking out 11, the most for a Ranger pitcher this season. He walked none and gave up three hits. His record improved to 2-1, and his ERA is down to 2.82.
Texas scored six runs on 11 singles. DeShields and Choo singled to start the Ranger first. They both scored. Andrus singled home a third run in the third inning. Hanser Alberto extended the lead to 4-0 with an RBI single in the sixth inning. DeShields drove home a pair on insurance runs in the eighth with his second hit of the game.
6-0 was the final score. Miguel Gonzalez (9-11) took the loss for Baltimore.
Texas now embarks on a 10-game, three city road trip, the team’s next to the last road trip this season. It starts with three games in San Diego, the last inter-league games of the year for Texas. The two clubs met earlier in Arlington with San Diego winning two of three in July. The announced starting pitchers are Colby Lewis (14-6) on Monday, Yovani Gallardo (11-9) on Tuesday, and Cole Hamels (2-1 and 8-8) on Wednesday. San Diego opposes them with Tyson Ross (8-9), Andrew Cashner (5-13) and Ian Kennedy (8-12).
Meanwhile, the first place Astros are home for three games against the Mariners followed by three more against the Twins in their next to the last home stand of the year.
* Texas has won 68 games this season, one more than all of last year.
* Sin-Shoo Choo extended his on base streak to 34 consecutive starts. He did not walk in the series, but had one hit in each game to keep the streak alive.
* Andrew Faulkner, a left-handed reliever, joined the club on Friday, but did not see action in this series.