BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Texas Rangers took two of three games from New York in Yankee Stadium this weekend to finish the week with a 4-3 record. The winning week moved Texas over .500 for the season at 38-37. Unfortunately, Houston also won two of three games this weekend, so the Rangers remain 13 games out of first place in the American League West.
The showcase game of the weekend was the series opener on Friday night with the Japanese pitching matchup of Yu Darvish for Texas and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. These two had never squared off in a game in the Major Leagues, but had met four times in the Japanese league. The game was nationally televised in Japan, and a notable number of Japanese media were on hand to cover the game, far more than the usual cadre.
Actually on paper, the matchup did not look competitive as Tanaka had been scrambling with an ERA over 8.00 in his previous six starts. Amazingly though, the game lived up to the hype and even more. Both pitchers were magnificent.
Darvish completed seven innings allowing no runs on two hits. His pitch count was only 88, but he did not come out for the eighth inning with shoulder tightness. Tanaka was perhaps even better. He shut out the Rangers on three hits over eight innings. At one point, he retired 19 Rangers in a row.
The game went to the ninth inning still scoreless, and Texas finally pushed across a run when Elvis Andrus scored on a passed ball. The lead didn’t last long though, as Brett Gardner homered to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Matt Bush was on the mound for the save, but recorded his fourth blown save of the year instead.
Ranger manager Jeff Banister decided to send Bush back out for the tenth inning when his offense didn’t score in the top half of the inning. A pair of one out singles put Yankees on first and third base, but Chris Carter struck out to bring Bush within an out of extending the game to the 11th inning. Ronald Torreyes however drove in the game winner with the third single of the inning to give New York the 2-1 win. Bush was thus charged with the loss in addition to the blown save to bring his record to 2-3.
It was the 12th one-run loss of the season for Texas, which had just 11 such losses all last season.
The matchups for Saturday and Sunday didn’t look so good for Texas. They were sending out Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Nick Martinez, the rotation fill-ins for the disabled Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. It turned out to be no problem.
ABD, as Bibens-Dirkx is often referred, completed seven innings, allowing a run on six hits. The run naturally was a solo home run off the bat of Aaron Judge, who leads the league with 26 round trippers.
The Ranger offense supported ABD with three early runs and another in the seventh for a 4-1 score when he left the game. Alex Claudio relieved in the eighth and set the Yankees down one-two-three including one strikeout. The Rangers then put the game away in the ninth inning with four more runs. 8-1 was the final score.
Martinez was pretty darn good himself on Sunday. The Rangers scored three runs in both the first and second innings to hand the early lead to Martinez. Adrian Beltre hit a two-run dinger in the first and Shin-Soo Choo hit a three run blast in the second to account for most of the damage. Drew Robinson, just recalled from AAA got his first Major League hit in the fourth inning, a home run to push the score to 7-0.
The Yanks weren’t dead though. They rallied for four runs off Martinez in the fifth inning. It was a strange inning as Martinez struck out Austin Romine with two outs, but the third strike was a wild pitch allowing Romine to advance to first base and the inning continued. Aaron Judge singled home a run, and then Gary Sanchez followed with a three-run home run to cut the Ranger lead to 7-4.
In the seventh inning, the Yankees struck for two more runs off reliever Jose LeClerc, to pull within one at 7-6.
That left the eighth inning to Keone Kela and the ninth inning to Matt Bush to complete the win. Kela gave up a lead-off double, but retired the next three batters including two by strikeout.
Bush retired the first two batters in the ninth inning, including a strikeout, but Aaron Judge singled to keep the game alive and put the tying run on base. However, Bush had one more strikeout – Gary Sanchez to end the game.
It was the first one-run game the Rangers have won on the road this year bringing their one-run game record to 1-7 on the road.
The schedule doesn’t ease up at all as the Rangers open a four game series in Cleveland Monday night. The Tribe was swept in three games over the weekend by Minnesota to fall 1/2 game behind the Twins in the Central Division. Cole Hamels has been tabbed to pitch Monday’s game. Tyson Ross is Tuesday’s starter. Yu Darvish will pitch when his normal turn comes up – game three on Wednesday night. The rest of the Ranger rotation is in flux at this point.
* The Rangers have won their last three road series to teams that are currently leading their divisions – Washington, Houston and New York.