BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers are off to New York this weekend for three games with the Yankees. It’s the start of a 10-game, three city road trip with stops in Cleveland and Chicago to finish it off. The Rangers are in the midst of a 20 game stretch over 20 days, the maximum allowed without an off day under the CBA with the players. Texas has just one off day (July 6) until the All-Star break.
They leave after splitting four games with Toronto to complete a 4-3 home stand. The teams alternated wins with Toronto taking the first and third games, while the Rangers won the second and fourth games of the series.
In Monday’s opener, the story was another ninth inning bullpen breakdown. Texas rallied from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead into the ninth inning. Matt Bush couldn’t seal the deal. He gave up two runs on three hits as Toronto took a 7-6 lead. Three outs later, 7-6 was the final score.
It was the third blown save for Bush since taking over for Sam Dyson as closer. Bush has the classic big fastball that is preferred in closers, but this is just his second year in the Majors, and there is a learning curve. He’s probably not in danger of being replaced as closer, but he’s a concern. Texas simply cannot let games like Monday’s slip away if they hope to make the playoffs. The Rangers are now 4-11 in one run games after going 36-11 last year.
Tuesday, Nick Martinez made his second strong start in a row in an effort to tie down a spot in the rotation even when Cole Hamels returns. He lasted 6-1/3rd innings, allowing a run on two hits.
The Ranger hitters supported him with six runs, and the bullpen whitewashed Toronto for a 6-1 final score.
Wednesday was Tyson Ross’s second start, and it didn’t go well. He had control problems, walking the first batter. When the smoke had cleared in the first inning, Ross had thrown 41 pitches and Toronto had pushed across six runs, including two on a Darwin Barney home run.
Ross was out of the game after three innings. Toronto led 7-0. Texas rallied back with home runs from Joey Gallo (an inside the parker) and Shin-Soo Choo. However, five runs was all they could muster on this night. 7-5 was the final score.
In Thursday’s series finale, the game was similar to Wednesday’s, but the roles were reversed. This time it was Texas that built the 7-0 lead, as they scored in each of the first four innings.
Martin Perez shut out the Jays through four innings, but he has been prone to one bad inning, and it happened in the fifth. He looked to be in good shape after allowing a lead-off single followed by a ground ball double play to start the inning. It went down hill from there. Three hits, two walks and one hit batter later, the Jays had scord four runs to close the gap to three at 7-4.
That proved to be as close as the Jays would get. Perez came out to shut down Toronto in the sixth inning, while Jose LeClerc and Alex Claudio polished them off in the final three innings. Carlos Gomez padded the lead with a two run home run in the seventh inning, his second of the game, and the Rangers scrambled for two more runs in the eighth inning to make the final score 11-4.
The series starts in New York Friday night with Yu Darvish facing Masahiro Tanaka in the pitching matchup. It will be the first time the two have squared off in the Major Leagues, but they have met four times in the Japanese leagues. Darvish has a 3-1 record with a 1.36 ERA in those games.
The Rangers’ record is an even .500 at 36-36. Unfortunately, the Astros swept Oakland in four games to start the week such that the Rangers fell two games further back in the standings. They are now in fourth place in the West 13 games behind Houston. They are however, just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card berth, but are one of nine teams that are within 2.5 games of the second Wild Card.
* Cole Hamels completed 5-2/3rds innings for AA Frisco, allowing a run (a home run) on two hits on Wednesday. He threw 81 pitches. The Rangers have not announced where his next start will be, but it could well be with the Ranges in the Cleveland series.
* Joey Gallo’s inside the park home run was just the fourth by a Ranger in the 24 years of play at Globe Life Ballpark. The other three were hit by Luis Alicea, Craig Gentry and Ryan Rua.
* On Thursday, the Rangers placed Jeremy Jeffress on the 10-day disabled list and called up Preston Claiborne from AAA Round Rock. Claiborne was the fourth pitcher added to the roster during the home stand with Tyson Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Ernesto Frieri being the other three. Claiborne did not see action in Thursday’s game, but when he does pitch, he’ll become the 22nd pitcher used by the Rangers in 2017.
* The Blue Jays won the season series with Texas four games to three.