HELLO LAST PLACE

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The second week of the season looked a lot like the first – two wins and four losses, including a pair of demoralizing losses after taking a lead to the ninth inning. The two ugly walkoff losses came in the first and last games of the week. In between, the Rangers won two nicely played games against the Angels, and lost twice to the Mariners on dominating pitching performances. At 4-8, the Rangers dropped to last place in the West, four games behind first place Houston.

Texas arrived in Seattle leading the Majors in runs scored per game and with the momentum of having won four of their last five games, but the offense went into hibernation. The Mariners held Texas to just one run in the first two games. They completed the series sweep Sunday coming back twice to win in walkoff fashion.

On Friday night, Felix Hernandez pitched masterfully, holding the Rangers to a run in 7-1/3rd innings. A pair of relievers got the last five outs, including three by strikeout. Martin Perez started for Texas in a start that didn’t look nearly as good as the results. Perez was constantly in trouble as he gave up six hits and four walks to the 23 batters he faced. To his credit though, he didn’t unravel and give up a big inning. He completed five innings allowing just one run.

Jose Leclerc relieved in the sixth with two runners on base and struck out the side to bail out Perez. The Mariners however tagged Leclerc for a run in the seventh which proved to be the game winner. 2-1 was the final score. Hernandez (1-1) was the winning pitcher and Leclerc (0-1) took the loss.

James Paxson was Saturday’s starting pitcher for Seattle, and he was even more dominant than Hernandez. Texas didn’t get a hit until Joey Gallo doubled in the sixth inning. Jonathan Lucroy was the only other Ranger to get a hit as Paxson tossed eight sparkling innings.

Andrew Cashner came off the disabled list to start for Texas. He matched Paxson in keeping the opponent off the scoreboard for five innings. However, with one out in the sixth, Seattle loaded the bases on a single, fielding error, and walk. Kyle Seager then ended Cashner’s night by singling home two runs. Mike Hauschild relieved and promptly put the game out of reach when he served up a home run ball to Taylor Motter.

That was all the scoring in the game. 5-0 was the final score. Paxson (2-0) was the winning pitcher, while Cashner (0-1) took the loss.

On Sunday, the Rangers built a 6-1 lead early with Shin-Soo Choo driving in five of the runs with his first two extra base hits of the season,a home run and a double. Mitch Haniger touched Cole Hamels for a three run home run in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead to 6-4. The Mariners tied the game with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings, but the Rangers got within three outs of a win when Nomar Mazara homered in the top of the ninth.

Sam Dyson was again called upon to earn the save, and it unravelled quickly. Jarrod Dyson, perhaps the fastest player in the American League, grounded up the middle to start the inning. Sam Dyson stabbed the soft grounder with his bare hand and deflected the ball toward shortstop. Jarrod Dyson was easily safe at first with the infield single and just as easily stole second. Leonys Martin then put down a bunt to move Dyson to third, but the Rangers were confused defensively. They made no throw after fielding the bunt putting runners at first and third with no outs.

Martin at first represented the winning run, and he promptly moved into scoring position by stealing second base. That led to an intentional walk to load the bases and set up the force. Dyson then walked Haniger forcing in the tying run. Robinson Cano grounded to second, and the Rangers kept the game alive by getting the force out at home plate. However, Nelson Cruz followed with a ground ball to short that Elvis Andrus couldn’t play. It was scored a single that drove home the winning run.

Dyson was charged with his third blown save and is 0-3 with the loss. Edwin Diaz 1-1 was Seattle’s winning pitcher. 8-7 was the final score.

The road trip began Tuesday night in Anaheim with the other ugly loss. The Rangers scratched out a first inning run to take the lead before Cole Hamels even took the mound. In the third inning, a pair of Ranger home runs drove in four more runs to push the lead to 5-0. Hamels turned in six shutout innings, before surrendering a home run to open the Angels’ seventh inning. He finished off the night without further damage to have a final line of one run allowed on four hits. He walked four and struck out five.

Tony Barnette gave up a run on two hits in the eighth, as the Angels cut the lead to 5-2 going to the bottom of the ninth. Sam Dyson was called upon to get the save. He again didn’t makeit happen. He coughed up the three run lead for his second blown save of the year. Texas lost the game in the 10th 6-5. A game that looked like a win in hand turned into a loss, and the Rangers fell to 2-5. Dyson’s body language clearly was not good. He looked unsure. He constantly nodded “no” to Jonathan Lucroy’s signs. He’s a mental mess.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister talked about Dyson’s situation after the game, “There’s definitely concern there. We’ll consider our options. We can’t continue to lose games in this manner when we have the lead.”

On Wednesday in the aftermath of Tuesday’s demoralizing loss, the injury news got worse. Matt Bush we were told was not available Tuesday night and on Wednesday, he returned to Arlington for treatment for his right shoulder. The Rangers also announced that Adrian Beltre and Tyson Ross had suffered setbacks in their rehabilitations. Beltre’s return had thought to be imminent, but with the injury worsening, he is now thought to be weeks instead of days away from returning. Ross’s setback is thought to delay his return an extra week.

On top of that Wednesday’s starting pitcher was A. J. Griffin, the weakest link in the Rangers’ four man rotation. Not to worry. Griffin turned in six innings of four hit ball, allowing three runs for a quality start. The Rangers hit three home runs, and added on to a late lead with two ninth inning runs. Jose LeClerc retired the final five batters to earn the first Ranger save of the season. Texas won 8-3, their first road win of the season, to end the Angels’ four game winning streak.

On Thursday, the Rangers won the series with an 8-3 relatively easy win over the Angels. Carlos Gomez led off the game with a home run, and Texas never trailed. Yu Darvish was at the top of his game. He threw seven shutout innings, striking out a season high (for him and the Rangers) 10 batters. The lead had grown to 8-0 by the the eighth inning, as the Rangers scored two more runs in the second and third innings, and three in the sixth.

Mike Huaschild pitched the last two innings. He looked good in the eighth inning, but gave up a three run homer in the ninth to Danny Espinosa, which broke the shutout.

As for the division race, Houston has moved into first place. They have won four games in a row and six of their last 10. They are 2.5 games ahead of second place Los Angeles.

The Rangers’ three city, nine game road trip continues Monday in Oakland.

NOTABLE:

* Yu Darvish has seen his offense score five or more runs in 32 of his starts. He has a 29-0 record in those games.

* The Rangers were 36-11 in one run games last season, which was a major reason they finished with the best record in the American League while posting just a plus eight run differential. This year the Rangers are 0-4 in one run games, but have a plus two run differential despite their 4-8 record.

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