BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers extended their streak of winning series to four as they polished off the San Diego Padres Wednesday night in the rubber game of their three game series. Mike Minor threw the best pitched game of the year for any Ranger starter to run the Rangers’ winning streak to nine out of their last 11 games.
Minor put down the first 19 Padres that came to bat Wednesday. Eric Hosmer then broke up the perfect game with a single. Minor finished his night by coaxing two more flyouts to end the inning. On the night, Minor retired 21 of the 22 batters he faced, five of which were strikeouts. His pitch count was low at 84 pitches, but Ranger Manager Jeff Banister replaced him in the eighth inning as he tries to manage Minor’s innings after arm surgery.
A pair of doubles with two outs in the third inning plated the Rangers’ first run. Jurickson Profar later singled home a second run in the inning. A squeeze play with Delino DeShields bunting and beating it out for a hit scored Joey Gallo with the Rangers’ third run.
The Rangers finished off their scoring with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, one of which came on Ryan Rua’s third home run of the season. Chris Martin gave up three hits and retired just one batter in the Padres’ eighth for San Diego’s two scores on the night.
The final score was 5-2. Minor is 6-4 with the win, and Keone Kela notched his 20th save in as many tries with a perfect ninth inning, retiring two of the three batters by strikeout.
The series began with two well pitched games by starting pitchers. Cole Hamels and Joey Lucchesi both threw four shutout innings to start the game. Lucchesi was especially good giving up just one hit and striking out four. Hamels gave up just four hits over the same span.
Lucchesi was activated from the disabled list to make the start and had a pitch limit. He was done after four innings, relieved by Robert Stock. Hamels had a rougher fifth inning, as the Padres broke the scoreless tie with three runs. Manuel Margot hit a three run home run to vault the Padres into the lead.
The Rangers got one run back in their half of the fifth with Elvis Andrus singling home the run. Hamels has been prone to give up the home run this season, and Monday’s game was no exception. Jose Pirela led off the sixth inning with another round tripper off Hamels extending the Pads’ lead back to three runs at 4-1.
That finished Hamels’ night on the mound. The final tally was five innings pitched, four runs allowed on nine hits. Tony Barnette relieved and finished the sixth inning without further damage.
The Rangers’ offense finally came alive in their half of the sixth inning. Texas took the lead with five runs. Three singles and a sacrifice fly scored the first two runs. Two more singles and another sacrifice fly scored the final three runs, giving Texas a 6-4 lead.
From there, Jose LeClerc, Martin and Kela closed out San Diego with no further scores. The Rangers added a run in the seventh inning to make the final score 7-4. Barnette is 2-0 with the win, and Kela earned the save.
On Tuesday, the Rangers looked to have a win in the bag late. Austin Bibens-Dirkx threw five shutout innings as he makes a case to stay in the Rangers’ rotation. Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos hit solo home runs in the second and fourth innings. With the usually reliable Ranger bullpen, it felt like a win was about to happen.
The game went to the eighth inning with the Rangers still leading 2-0. Jake Diekman took the mound and turned in perhaps his worst performance of the year. He walked a batter and surrendered three hits as the Padres took a 3-2 lead. Two Padres’ relievers closed out the Rangers in the eighth and ninth innings, evening the series at one game apiece.
Diekman’s melt down did afford Shin-Soo Choo to extend his streak of getting on base to 39 games. After striking out in the seventh inning, Choo was 0-4 and his streak appeared to have come to an end. The Padres’ rally forced the Rangers to bat in the ninth, giving Choo one more chance to keep the streak alive, and he did with a single.
Texas gets a day off on Thursday, and then hosts the White Sox over the weekend. The announced pitchers for Texas are Yovani Gallardo on Friday, Bartolo Colon on Saturday and Cole Hamels on Sunday.
* There were five players in the Majors that played in all 162 games of the 2017 season, and three of them appeared in this series. Rougned Odor played them all for Texas, and Freddie Galvis did the same for San Diego. Eric Hosmer, now a Padre, played all 162 for Kansas City last year.
* Shin-Soo Choo reached base in all three games to extend his streak to 40 games That ties Odubel Herrera for the best on-base streak of the season in the Majors this year, is Choo’s career best on-base streak and is the fourth longest on-base streak in Ranger history. (Julio Franco with 46 consecutive games in 1993 holds the Ranger record.)