BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers hopes of making the playoffs took a severe hit this weekend as they were swept in three games by the last place Oakland Athletics. The Rangers’ offense was almost a total no-show as they scored just seven runs in the series. The offense is overly reliant on home runs; but this weekend, the Rangers hit just one big fly and went 3-24 with runners in scoring position.
The week that started so well when Texas took three of four from the Angels finished as a losing week at 3-4 and dropped them two games under .500 at 64-66. They are still in fourth place in the West trailing first place Houston by 15 games. The elimination number, sometimes called the magic number, is 18. Any combination of Astros’ wins and Rangers’ losses totalling 18 eliminates the Rangers from winning the West.
In the Wild Card race, New York holds the first Wild Card spot with a 3.5 game lead over Minnesota. Texas is three games behind the Twins. They are one of seven teams within three games of the second Wild Card spot. The likelihood is that the Rangers will need to go 20-12 at a minimum to take the second Wild Card playoff berth.
The sereis began with the A’s winning 3-1 on Friday. On paper this game was the most favorable pitching matchup for Oakland. Kendall Graveman was their starter, and he gives the Rangers trouble. Texas took the early lead when Adrian Beltre singled home a run in the first inning. That turned out to be all the Ranger offense of the game, as Graveman scattered nine hits over seven innings. However, he walked no one, and struck out six. Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen held the Rangers hitless in shutting them out over the final two innings.
Nick Martinez was the Ranger starter, and he turned in a fine effort. He has pitched well at AAA since his last demotion; and in his first action since returning, he allowed just four hits over seven innings. Unfortunately, Ranger nemesis Khris Davis was again a problem. He tied the game with a home run in the fourth inning, and put the A’s ahead 2-1 with another solo shot in the seventh inning. Oakland added an insurance run later in the seventh inning to make the final score 3-1.
Saturday’s loss was the one that really hurt. Cole Hamels was the Ranger starter, and Texas simply needs to win every time he pitches. He didn’t have command of the strike zone on Saturday. Adrian Beltre again put the Rangers in front with a two run single in the first inning, but the A’s came back with single runs in the first, third and fourth innings to take the lead for good.
Hamels was then knocked out in the fifth inning as Oakland added three more runs to make the score 6-2. Hamels gave up the six runs, all earned, on nine hits and three walks. 12 of the 23 batters he faced reached base, as he lasted just 4-1/3rd innings. Tony Barnette relieved and gave up two more runs in the sixth inning.
Beltre scored a run in the seventh inning to bring the Rangers a little closer, but 8-3 was the final score.
Sunday’s game was close most of the way. Texas again scored first with a run in the third inning, but Oakland came back with three in their half. Ranger starter A. J. Griffin was knocked out in the fourth inning as he gave up the three runs. Texas got within a run at 3-2 with a fifth inning score. Oakland scored a singleton in the sixth, and the Rangers answered with a run of their own in the eighth inning to again trail by one at 4-3. However, sloppy fielding opened the door for Oakland to score four runs in their half of the eighth to make the final score 8-3.
The Rangers are now 6-6 for the season against Oakland. The teams face each other in two of the final three series of the season with the four game series being in Arlington as the final four regular season games for both teams.
The Rangers’ next game is up in the air. They are scheduled to play the Astros Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Houston. With the flooding in the Bayou City, the games may not be played as scheduled and alternatives are being considered. One possibility is that the games will be moved to Arlington this week and the series scheduled in Arlington on September 25, 26 and 27 will be moved to Houston.
Both Houston, which played a three game serie in Anaheim this weekend, and Texas were scheduled to fly back to Dallas after Sunday’s games while the situation gets sorted out. A decision on this week’s series should be forthcoming Monday afternoon.