BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers took two of three this weekend from Oakland to move ever closer to the first place Astros in the American League West and maintain their hold on the second Wild Card playoff spot. The Astros lost two of three in Anaheim, such that Texas has cut their lead to 1.5 games.
The series began Friday night with an outstanding pitching performance from Colby Lewis. Lewis was coming off three bad starts, but turned in his best start of the year. He was perfect for seven innings before giving up a lead-off double to start the eighth. He completed the game giving up one more hit to shut out the Athletics 4-0.
Ranger batters staked Lewis to an early 3-0 lead. Mitch Moreland doubled home a pair of runs in the first and scored himself on Rougned Odor’s single. Sin-Shoo Choo singled home the fourth run in the seventh inning.
The win for Lewis was his team leading 15th. He’s 15-8, while Oakland starter Jesse Chavez fell to 7-15 with the loss.
On Sunday, Chi Chi Gonzalez made a spot start to give the rotation an extra day of rest. He was the beneficiary of the best offensive Ranger day in two weeks. Choo homered in the first for an early 1-0 lead. Adrian Beltre followed with a pair of homers to drive in five more runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Elvis Andrus followed with a two run single in the fifth to push the score to 8-0. Choo singled home a run in the sixth, and Odor added a three run home run late to complete the Rangers’ scoring.
The final score was 12-4. Gonzalez (3-5) got the win. Oakland’s Felix Dubront (3-2) took the loss.
The A’s took the middle game of the series on Saturday night by a 5-3 score, a game that wasn’t as close as that score indicates. Yovani Gallardo was knocked out in the fifth inning as he gave up all five runs on seven hits, two of which left the ball park. He took the loss to fall to 12-10.
Sean Nolin (1-1) won his first game of the year with 5-2/3rds innings of one run ball. Sean Doolittle, the fourth Athletics’ pitcher of the night gave up a pair of runs on a Prince Fielder double in the ninth inning before recording the final out.
First place Houston now comes to town for four games. Texas leads the season series 8-4, but this season, a whole lot more than the Silver Boot trophy is on the line. Texas and Houston face each other seven times in the next 13 games, which could well decide the American League West championship this season.
The Astros continue to struggle on the road as they went just 2-4 this week to allow the Rangers to close the gap. They have won just 14 road games since late May.
The pitching matchups for the series are Cole Hamels (3-1 for Texas and 9-8 overall) against Scott Kazmir (7-10) on Monday night. That matchup is followed by Martin Perez (2-5) against Collin McHugh (16-7), Derek Holland (3-2) verses Dallas Keuchel (17-7) and Colby Lewis (15-8) against Lance McCullers (5-5) in Thursday’s finale. All four games start at 7:05 PM.
* Mike Napoli started in left field on Sunday against the A’s, his first appearance in the outfield as a Major League player.
* Delino Deshields, Jr. returned from an injury this weekend, batting leadoff in all three games. The Rangers average 5.3 runs per game when he bats leadoff and just 3.2 runs per game when he does not.
* Texas went above .500 at home by taking this series. The Rangers are now 34-33 at home this season.
* Sin-Soo Choo has a 14 game hitting streak at home, the longest by a Ranger this year. He has reached base in 33 of his last 34 games.