RANGERS GAIN GROUND IN OAKLAND

Magic Number Down to Seven

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas swept Oakland in three games to start the week, while Houston lost two of three to the Angels enabling the Rangers to solidify their grip on first place in the West Division. Texas leads the Astros by 3.5 games in the standings and four in the all important loss column. The Angels are in third place 4.5 games behind Texas in the standings and five in the loss column.

The series opened on Tuesday after the Rangers enjoyed their final scheduled off day of the regular season. It was a very good night. After falling behind 5-1, the Rangers rallied for an 8-6 win. Meanwhile in Houston, the Angels held off a late Astros’ charge to win 4-3.

Martin Perez was the starting pitcher Tuesday night, and it was not one of his better performances. He was charged with five runs on six hits in four innings. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez followed and halted the Athletics’ charge. He pitched two innings giving up no hits or walks and earned the win when Texas came back to take the lead in the sixth inning.

On the other side of the ball, the Rangers pecked away to take the lead and padded it with a pair of eighth inning runs. Three runs scored on sacrifice flies, and they had three more sacrifice bunts. Mitch Moreland had three hits including a home run.

Gonzalez ran his record to 4-5 with the win. Drew Pomeranz (5-6) in relief of starting pitcher Sean Nolin, took the loss. Shawn Tolleson earned his 33rd save, despite allowing a run on two hits in the ninth inning.

Wednesday was another very good day for the Rangers. The Houston bullpen coughed up a late lead in the afternoon finale of their series with the Angels to lose 6-5. Later that night, the Rangers routed Oakland 10-3, as Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus hit three run home runs to seize the early lead. Rougned Odor added a solo shot later. Colby Lewis tossed his 20th quality start of the year, which leads the team, as he completed six innings allowing two runs on five hits. He earned his 17th win, easily a career high and the team leader.

Texas changed their pitching rotation for Thursday’s game. Cole Hamels, who was originally announced as the starting pitcher for Friday’s series opener in Houston, was moved up to Thursday. By doing so, Hamels will be available to start the last game of the season on normal rest if needed. If he’s not needed, he’ll be available for the first post-season game.

He pitched another good game for Texas, which won for the eighth consecutive time when Hamels started. He took a 2-0 lead to the mound in the bottom of the first inning as Delino Deshields singled to open the game and scored on Sin-Shoo Choo’s double. Choo then scored on Adrian Beltre’s single. Texas added a single run in the second inning, and blew the game open with three more in the sixth inning.

8-1 was the final score, with Hamels getting the win. He allowed a run on four hits over six innings to improve to 5-1 in 10 starts for the Rangers and 11-8 overall for the season. Oakland’s starting pitcher Chris Bassitt struggled with command issues and lasted just three innings. He took the loss to fall to 1-7.

This weekend, Texas plays their final road series of the year in Houston. Unbelievably, this is a showdown for the American League West championship between teams that both lost more than 90 games a year ago. Texas has won the Silver Boot trophy as they lead the season series 12-4. The Rangers have swept three of the five series with the Astros so far this year, including the last two. Friday’s game is a night game, but the Saturday and Sunday games are day games, after the FOX network picked up Saturday’s tilt for a national telecast. The starting pitching matchups are Yovani Gallardo (12-11) against Scott Kazmir (7-10) on Friday, Derek Holland (3-3) faces Collin McHugh (17-7) on Saturday, and Martin Perez (3-5) verses Dallas Keuchel (18-8) on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

* Alex Gonzalez became the first Ranger pitcher to win a game this season as both a starting pitcher and as a reliever when he earned the win in game one of the Oakland series.

* Elvis Andrus’s home run on Wednesday night was his seventh of the season, a new career high.

* The Rangers lost the season series to Oakland nine games to 10, but was 6-4 in the games played at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum.

* Colby Lewis’s 17 wins rank second in the American League to 18 game winners Dallas Keuchel (Houston) and Felix Hernandez (Seattle). 17 is the most that a Ranger pitcher has won in a season since Matt Harrison won 18 in 2012.

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