BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers played their first winning week of the season as they finished strong with a four game sweep of Kansas City to go 5-2 and move ahead of Seattle and Los Angeles into third place in the West. At 9-10 for the year, they trail first place Houston (13-6) by four games. Surprising Oakland (10-9) is in second place, one game ahead of the Rangers.
Texas took the Kansas City series with top notch starting pitching. The four starters – Andrew Cashner, Cole Hamels, Nick Martinez and Yu Darvish combined to pitch 25 innings while allowing four runs on 15 hits. That’s an ERA of 1.44.
The Rangers’ offense continues to fizzle, but put enough runs on the board to claim wins in all four games. The Ranger hitters mustered just 14 runs (3.5 per game) winning twice by one run – 1-0 in 13 innings in Thursday’s series opener and 2-1 Saturday – for the first two walk-off wins of the year. 6-2 and 5-2 were the Friday and Sunday scores behind aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.
The home run again played prominently in the Rangers’ offense. They didn’t hit one in Thursday’s game, but came back with seven in the final three games. Robinson Chirinos, who was spelling Jonathan Lucroy on Friday and Sunday, and Joey Gallo hit three each, while Mike Napoli hit the seventh. Chirinos and Gallo each hit two Friday night, and one of Gallo’s was astounding. Statcast measured the exit velocity at 116.1 MPH and the distance at 462 feet, both highs in Major League Baseball this season.
Gallo now leads the team with six home runs. He would not have made the opening day roster had Adrian Beltre been healthy, but it’s a virtual certainty that Gallo stays on the roster when Beltre returns. He has shown patience at the plate, played quality defense at third base, and run the bases well. And of course there is his prodigious power that we all knew was there. His average is only .213, but in this season of struggling offense in the Major Leagues, there are only three regulars with higher batting averages on the Rangers. He’s more than Major League ready – He’s a Major League player.
The week started well with a 7-0 shutout in Oakland. A. J. Griffen pitched his best game as a Ranger throwing six shutout innings while allowing just one hit and one walk. One of the baserunners was thrown out stealing, such that Griffen faced only one more than the mininum number of batters in six innings. He threw a strike on the first pitch to 15 of the 19 batters. Three Ranger relievers finished off the shutout giving up just two more hits and one more walk.
It was an unusual performance by the offense as they scored seven runs without hitting a home run. The Rangers cashed in seven hits for the seven runs with Shin-Soo Choo leading the way with three RBIs.
The road trip didn’t end well though, as Texas lost the final two games to finish the trip with a 3-6 record. Yu Darvish pitched brilliantly Tuesday night for five innings. The Ranger offense finally touched up Oakland for a pair of runs in the sixth driven in by Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara.
Darvish came out in the sixth and deviated from the game plan. One Oakland player said he thought Darvish got “too cute” with his pitch selection. He led off the inning by walking Trevor Plouffe, never a good start especially after just getting the lead. Jurickson Profar made an outstanding catch on Bruce Maxwell’s line drive for what proved to be the last batter Darvish would retire Tuesday night. Adam Rosales next hit a home run to tie the game at two. Darvish gave up a double and a walk to the next two batters to finish his outing.
It was a telling moment. Darvish was visibly upset about being taken out of the game. Pitching coach Doug Brocail and manager Jeff Banister were obviously upset that Darvish strayed from the game plan based on fastballs inside that had worked so well over the first five innings. Banister has since made the point more than once that there is no dissension between Broacail and Darvish. It makes you wonder why Banister feels the need to pass this along.
Tony Barnette and Dario Alvarez finished the inning, but not before allowing the two runners Darvish left on base to score. That made the score Oakland 4 and Texas 2, which was the final. The Rangers were nine up and nine down over the final three innings.
Wednesday afternoon’s finale was a total flop. Martin Perez gave up four first inning runs. Joey Gallo hit his third home run of the season in the fifth inning for the only scoreboard damage the Rangers would do on this day. Mike Huaschild gave up gave up five more runs driven in by three home runs in relief. A day later, he was designated for assignment.
9-1 was the final score.
The Oakland series was the third of a three city road trip. Statistics say that road teams usually do not do well in the third series in three city road trips. It’s not a good trend for the Rangers as they have six more three city road trips this season.
Texas finishes the 10-game hone stand this week with three games against Minnesota on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and three more next weekend against the Angels on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
* The Rangers’ staff ERA is 3.69 which ranks 11th among all 30 Major League teams and eighth in the American League. However, 23 of the 70 earned runs allowed were given up by Sam Dyson and Mike Hauschild, neither of whom is currently on the active roster. The staff ERA sans Dyson and Hauschild is 3.24