MARLINS SINK RANGERS’ SHIP

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers’ offense put up a touchdown and a field goal Wednesday night, but it wasn’t nearly enough to win. The Marlins scored a club record 22 runs to take two of three games in this series. It was a game with far more than the outcome of the series on the line. The Rangers are teetering between being buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline to shore up the roster for a run at the playoffs, and being sellers at the trade deadline to obtain prospects to open a new window of opportunity for multiple playoff runs in the future.

Miami won this series after shutting out the Rangers 4-0 in game one and dropping game two by a 10-4 score, a game in which the Rangers hit four solo home runs. The series win may well have sunk the Rangers’ playoff hopes.

Yu Darvish was Wednesday’s Ranger starting pitcher in what now looks like his last start as a Ranger. There was not only the pressure to pitch well to keep his team in the race for a playoff berth, but with trade speculation revolving around him, there was the pressure of pitching to see where he will be living over the final two months of the season.

The pressures undoubtedly affected Darvish, as Wednesday’s start was his worst of the year. The Marlins jumped on the first pitch of the game for a home run, and followed it with another solo shot two batters later. The roof really caved in during the fourth inning though. Darvish retired just two batters, while allowing eight more runs, as the Marlins took charge of the game with an 11-1 lead when the Rangers came to bat in their half of the fourth.

Eight runs in an inning and 10 runs allowed in a game are new highs for Darvish.

The Marlins exploded for 11 more runs over the final three innings to stave off the Rangers’ rally and seal the 22-10 win.

All six Ranger pitchers on the night were scored upon, and that included reserve catcher Brett Nicholas, who pitched the ninth inning and gave up four runs on five hits. “I must have been tipping my pitches,” he joked after the game.

The Rangers knew at the All-Star break that the team needed to put together some wins to really be a contender for a Wild Card berth. (The American League West was essentially wrapped up by the Astros in June.) After Wednesday’s loss, the Rangers dropped to 6-7 since the break, which includes a 1-6 record against the two opponents with losing records.

Wednesday’s ugly loss is apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. National writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted Thursday night, “Rangers confident they will get quality trade for Darvish, informing clubs they will move him.”

The Dodgers, Astros and Yankees appear to be the best fits to obtain Darvish, though Washington may also be a candidate. Darvish has a no-trade clause in his contrac for 10 teams, and those four teams are not on the list. The Cubs have expressed interest, and the Indians are thought to be interested, but they are on Darvish’s no-trade list.

The Rangers have a good relationship with Darvish’s agent. They have acknowledged that talks of a contract extension have taken place, and clearly the Rangers have come to the realization that they will not be able to make a deal with him at this time. Trading him now thus becomes a must, as the Rangers will receive more from a trade than the meager draft choice compensation they would get if they keep him now and lose him to another team in free agency.

As for the Rangers’ playoff hopes, the Rangers are three games under .500 after playing 101. They need to win at least 37 of the last 61 games to have a chance at earning a Wild Card playoff berth. It’s more likely that the team that Ranger fans have seen so far is what this team is. They will struggle to have a .500 season. The pieces may look good on paper to Jon Daniels, but this team simply hasn’t gelled on the field.

Still selling is a bitter pill for Ranger management to swallow. The bill is coming soon to season ticket holders to pay for the new stadium. The Rangers have not announced their plan yet for the sale of bonds or seat licenses tied to retaining the premium season ticket locations. It’s a much easier sell if the team is a playoff team instead of rebuilding for an uncertain future.

The Rangers’ home stand continues this weekend with three games against Baltimore in Arlington. A. J. Griffin or Austin Bibbens-Dirkx will likely start Saturday in Tyson Ross’s rotation spot to push Darvish’s next start to Tuesday, the day after the trade deadline. The question is what uniform will Darvish be wearing when that start comes around?

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION: Adrian Beltre had seven hits in the series to bring his career total to 2,996. It is thus extremely likely that he reaches the treasured 3,000 hit mark on this home stand, perhaps even this weekend. He also was ejected from Wednesday’s game in one of the most bizarre ejections ever.

There is a round loose carpet with the Rangers’ logo that marks the on deck circle. Many players actually stand away from this on deck circle to decrease the chance of being hit by a foul ball. As the Rangers’ eighth inning at bat was about to begin, second base umpire Gerry Davis told Beltre to get into the on deck circle. Beltre responded by moving the circle to where he was standing to remain further out of harm’s way. Once he did, Davis tossed Beltre from the game.

Personally, I have seen more than 1,000 games at Globe Life Ballpark and many more on television. I have never seen any batter even cautioned to stay in the circle, and I had no idea there was even such a rule requiring the on deck batter to stand in it.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister reacted with a strong argument that got him tossed too. He noted that with the score out of hand (18-5) at the time, that many fans had stayed simply to watch Beltre’s quest for hit number 3,000; and that Davis had robbed them of the opportunity.

NOTABLE:

* Ivan Rodriguez gets inducted into the Hall of Fame this Sunday. People in attendance that have touched his past include Nolan Ryan, Rudy Jaramillo, and Gloria Oates, the widow of former Ranger manager Johnny Oates.

* Joey Gallo hit two home runs in Tuesday’s game as he continues to lead the Rangers with 25 round trippers.

* Rougned Odor also homered in the series, his 20th. He becomes the third Ranger to reach the 20 home run level, joining Gallo and Mike Napoli (22). The Rangers are the first American League team to have three players reach the 20 home run level. Four National League teams have at three players with at least 20 homers.

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