BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Texas won the first two games this week in Seattle, but dropped the last two to split the series and finish the next to the last road trip of the year at 5-5. Playing .500 ball on the road is just fine in this pennant race, especially when you consider that the team was shut out four times and scored just 28 runs total in 10 games.
Houston dropped two of three in Oakland to start the week, so the Rangers picked up one-half game in the West. They now trail the Astros by 2-1/2 games, two in the loss column, as Houston has played one more game than Texas.
The series began with another shutout, the third of the road trip, but this time, it was the Ranger pitchers that shut out their opponent. Yovani Gallardo pitched into the sixth inning, striking out four and allowing five hits.
Manager Jeff Banister pulled Gallardo from the game with one out and a pitch count at 92. Texas led 2-0 at the time, so it was a surprise that Banister brought in Andrew Faulkner, who was making just his second Major League appearance. Faulkner was cool, calm and collected though. He proceeded to retire all five batters he faced, striking out three.
Sam Dyson and Shawn Tolleson were each four up and three down in the eighth and ninth innings respectively to preserve the shutout.
Reonis Elias was very good for the Mariners. He threw five shutout innings, but ran into trouble in the sixth, when the Rangers pushed across two runs. Both scored on an Adrian Beltre single. An inning later, Rougned Odor daringly scored from third on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far past the catcher.
That was all the scoring. 3-0 was the final score. Gallardo got the win to improve to 12-9. The performance also lowered his ERA to 3.18. Tolleson earned the save, his 30th this year.
On Tuesday, the Rangers played home run derby. They quickly built a 6-0 lead on three home runs – a solo shot by Mitch Moreland, his team leading 19th of the year, a two run home run from Odor and a three run homer from Sin-Shoo Choo, all of which were hit off Mariner starter Taijuan Walker.
Joey Gallo hit the fourth Ranger home run of the game, a season high in the eighth inning. The Rangers also pushed across single runs in the sixth and ninth innings, and needed the additional scoring.
Cole Hamels was good, taking a low pitch count and 7-1 lead into the seventh inning. He ran into trouble though giving up three more runs to put the M’s back in the game at 7-4. Hamels gave up the four runs on eight hits. Jake Diekman followed with a rough eighth inning. He walked a batter and served up a home run to Robinson Cano.
Keone Kela finished off the eighth, facing three batters and striking out two. Tolleson likewise faced three batters and struck out two in the ninth inning to push his save total to 31. 9-6 was the final score and Hamels got the win. He’s 3-1 with Texas and 9-8 overall. Walker fell to 10-7 with the loss.
The big offensive night on Tuesday was not a harbinger of things to come. The Rangers never scored again in the series and had just five hits in the final two games.
In game three, Seattle’s announced starting pitcher before the series began was “TBA”. He turned out to be Vidal Nuno, who had made 20 consecutive starts without a win. The lefty had little difficulty with the Rangers though as he breezed through seven innings on 106 pitches. He gave up one hit – a single to Prince Fielder and struck out 10 to run his record to 1-3.
Danny Farquhar and Carson Smith were flawless in the eighth and ninth innings, striking out three collectively.
Martin Perez started for Texas and was knocked around. He gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings, though it didn’t look as bad as those numbers suggest. There were certainly some seeing eye ground balls and soft line drives that dropped for hits, though two of the seven hits were round trippers. He fell to 2-5 with the 6-0 loss.
Former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez was just as good in Thursday afternoon’s series finale. He gave up three hits over eight shutout innings to improve his record to 17-8. 17 wins tied Dallas Keuchel for the league lead.
Derek Holland started and went seven innings, giving up five runs on nine hits. His former teammate Nelson Cruz had two of the hits, including his 40th home run of the season. 5-0 was the final score. Holland’s record is now 3-2.
Despite the disappointing performance of the offense to end the road trip, the Rangers are in a nice position to make the playoffs. Texas has 23 games remaining and 17 are at home. Seven of the 23 are against first place Houston, the only team in the division that the Rangers hold a winning record over this year.
The Rangers return home for their second 10-game home stand of the year. It starts with three games against Oakland this weekend. The announced starting pitchers are: Colby Lewis (14-8) verses Jesse Chavez (7-14) on Friday night, Yovani Gallardo (12-9) against Sean Nolin (0-1) on Saturday night, and Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez (2-5) on Sunday afternoon against Felix Doubront (3-1).
Manager Jeff Banister made the decision to go with Gonzalez Thursday morning. The move gives the starting rotation an extra day of rest and pushes Cole Hamels back a day to start game one of the Houston series next week.
* Seattle clinched the season series with the split having won 10 of the first 16 games between the two teams. They face each other three more times in Arlington over the weekend of September 18, 19 and 20.
* Josh Hamilton will have arthroscopic surgery on his ailing knee, but may still be able to return this season.
* Shawn Tolleson is the ninth pitcher in Ranger history to earn 30 saves in a season. It is the 16th time that a Ranger pitcher has reached the 30 save plateau, the most recent being Joe Nathan in 2013.
* Mitch Moreland leads the Rangers with 12 game winning RBIs, which ranks third in the American League.