BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers won their first series of the season this weekend, taking two of three games from the Houston Astros. It was improbable that the first series win would come on the road. It was improbable that the first series win would come against the reigning World Series champions. It was improbable that both Ranger wins came in extra innings. It was improbable that it would happen with two rookies in the lineup making their first Major League starts. All of that and more happened.
The critical point in the series came Saturday afternoon when the Astros took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. After losing Friday night’s series opening game, the Rangers’ goose looked all but cooked. At that point, the Rangers had lost five straight games in which they had not even held a lead at any point.
The two rookies – Isaiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman – made their first Major League starts on Friday night, and both nabbed their first Major League hit. On Saturday, Kiner-Falefa sparked the comeback with his first Major League home run in the fifth inning, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-4. Adrian Beltre and Joey Gallo homered in the sixth and eighth innings. Beltre’s was a solo shot, but Gallo’s came with a runner on base to pull Texas within a run at 5-4.
Guzman then followed Gallo with his first Major League home run to tie the game.
Mike Minor was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He gave up the five runs and completed five innings, allowing five hits and a walk. However, five Ranger relievers followed Minor to the mound and shutout the Astros the rest of the way.
Texas scored in the tenth inning making Keone Kela the winning pitcher. Alex Claudio wrapped up the 10th inning for his first save of the year.
Texas had lost Friday night 3-2. Robinson Chirinos and Gallo homered in the seventh inning to tie the game, but the Astros tagged Kevin Jepson for the winning run in the eighth inning. Jepson is 0-2 with the loss.
Cole Hamels was Friday night’s starting pitcher and he turned in a quality start going six innings and allowing two runs. He struck out seven.
The split in the first two games set up the rubber match in Sunday night’s ESPN national telecast. Bartolo Colon was the starting pitcher taking the turn that would have gone to Doug Fister had he not gone on the disabled list.
Colon was simply magnificent. He was perfect for seven innings. In the eighth, the perfect game went good-bye when he walked the first batter. The no-hit bid went good-bye when Josh Reddick followed with a double. That was it for Colon. A sac fly brought home an Astro run to tie the game at one. Texas had earlier scored on Chirinos’ second home run of the series.
Once again, the game went into extra innings. Once again, Chirinos plated runs, this time two runs with a double. Jake Diekman gave up a hit, but struck out two in the bottom of the 10th to close out Houston. Kela was the winning pitcher again making his record 2-0. Diekman earned his first save of the season.
The Rangers for sure miss Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor after they joined the disabled list last week. However, they looked energized from their replacements – Guzman and Kiner-Falefa. The road trip continues with games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Martin Perez, Matt Moore and Hamels are the scheduled starting pitchers for Texas.
* Tim Lincecum’s Ranger debut has been delayed to at least late May. He was moved from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Renato Nunez, a utility infielder claimed on waivers from the Oakland Athletics. On Monday, Renato was added to the acxtive roster, and Ryan Rua was optioned to AAA Round Rock to make room.
* Houston’s Justin Verlander was named the American League Player of the Week. He made two starts, and won the award even though the Astros lost one of those games. He struck out 20 batters and allowed one run in 15 innings for the week.