BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Texas Rangers won Sunday to gain a split in this weekend’s four game series in Detroit. Texas won the series opener on Thursday, but dropped the next two. The Rangers finished the week 2-4, and fell a season high 20.5 games out of first place.
Sunday’s game was filled with drama. Austin Bibens-Dirkx was the starting pitcher, and he likely was pitching to keep his spot in the rotation. The bullpen was short after tossing 7-1/3rd innings on Saturday putting even more pressure on Bibens-Dirkx to perform. Shin-Soo Choo also came into the game with an active on-base streak of 46 games, tying the Ranger franchise record.
Bibens-Dirkx did well. He pitched five strong innings shutting out the Tigers and facing just the minimum 15 batters thanks to a double play and a caught stealing.
He ran into trouble in the sixth inning, giving up a single and a walk with one out. Acting manager Don Wakamatsu, “acting” because Jeff Banister was ejected in the second inning, wasted no time bringing in Jose Leclerc to relieve Bibens-Dirkx. Leclerc kept the shutout intact by striking out the next two batters and by striking out the side in the seventh inning.
The Rangers scored in the first inning on a Jurickson Profar home run. They opened the second inning with a walk and two singles to score a second run, but scrambled to get just one more run in the inning.
Three Ranger runs was all the scoring in the game, as Jake Diekman and Keone Kela shut down the Tigers in the eighth and ninth innings on one hit. Bibens-Dirkx is 2-2 with the win, and Kela earned his 22nd save in 22 opportunities.
As for Choo, he was 0-4 and due to bat fourth in the ninth inning. Ronald Guzman singled with one out in the ninth to give Choo the chance to keep the streak alive. He tapped a low outside pitch softly toward third base. With the infield shifted for a left-handed batter, the third baseman had a long way to run for the ball and didn’t even bother to make a throw when he caught it. It may not be a solid hit, but it was a hit that re-set the Ranger franchise consecutive game record of reaching base to 47 consecutive games, which also is the longest on-base streak in the Majors this season.
The start of Thursday night’s series opener was delayed because of rain. When the game finally got underway, the Ranger bats came alive. Joey Gallo hit a two run home run in the second inning. The Rangers rallied for two more runs in the third inning, one scoring on a ground out and the other on a fielding error on a ground ball that should have been the third out.
In the fourth inning, Profar singled, stole second and scored on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s single. Profar came across the plate in pouring rain, and play was stopped with a 5-0 score.
The second rain delay lasted about 30 minutes. Tiger starter Matt Boyd came out to finish the fourth inning, and immediately gave up another home run, this time to Guzman.
For whatever reason, the Rangers score runs when Yovani Gallardo pitches. Gallardo was the Ranger starter Thursday night. He zipped through the first three innings allowing just three hits while the offense was putting together the 7-0 lead.
Gallardo however, was not as sharp when he came back after the rain delay. He gave up three runs on three hits in the fourth inning, with the Rangers’ defense helping Detroit’s cause with an error.
Boyd was out after four innings, and four Detroit relievers shut out the Rangers for the rest of the game. Gallardo left the game in the sixth inning, shortly after giving up a home run to Nate Goodwin leading off the inning.
It was still 7-4 when the Tigers came to bat in the ninth inning to face Ranger closer Keone Kela. Two singles and a misplayed ground ball scored a run with no outs. Kela closed the door at that point coaxing two ground outs and a strikeout to earn his 21st save.
The final score was 7-5. It was a sloppily played game with the Rangers committing three errors and the Tigers two. Gallardo is 3-0 with the win, but his ERA stands at a disgusting 8.17 after giving up three earned runs in 5-1/3rd innings.
Friday night’s game was a great one to watch. Game time was 2:05, clearly the shortest Ranger game of the season. Both starters, Bartolo Colon for the Rangers and Jordan Zimmerman for the Tigers, were very good. They both completed eight innings, and no batter in the game walked.
Choo, who didn’t play Thursday night, hit the second pitch of the game into the stands for a 1-0 Ranger lead. James McCann hit a round tripper for Detroit in the second inning with a runner aboard. JaCoby Jones hit a solo shot in the eighth inning to pad the Tiger lead to 3-1.
That was all the scoring in the game. Joe Jimenez pitched a four up three down ninth inning to close it out. Colon is 5-6 with the loss.
The outcome of Saturday’s game was decided early, and the result turned on one play. Cole Hamels was the Ranger starting pitcher, and after striking out the Tigers’ lead-off batter in the game, he surrendered a home run to Nicholas Castellanos. It was the 21st home run Hamels has allowed in 18 starts.
The inning only got worse from there. Two singles with a stolen base in between scored a second Tiger run. Hamels struggled with his control, and proceeded to load the bases with a pair of walks, but he gave himself a chance to escape with minimal damage by striking out the next batter.
Jose Iglesias then hit a grounder back at Hamels, who deflected it toward the spot on the field where the shortstop normally plays. Elvis Andrus had moved toward second base to field the ball, and consequently had no chance to make a play once the ball was deflected. It was an infield hit and plated the third Tiger run.
The key play of the game came next. Jones hit a line drive to center field. Delino DeShields took a poor route back and awkwardly turned to attempt the catch. The line drive bounced off his glove, and all three base runners scored. When the next batter doubled Jones home, the Tigers led 7-0, and Ranger manager Jeff Banister had seen enough. He sent Hamels to the showers.
Banister explained later that he made the move because of the pitch count, which had reached 41. He feared the consequences of throwing more than 40 pitches in an inning.
Matt Moore relieved and did a great job. He completed 4-1/3rd shutout innings to get the game to the sixth inning. Alex Claudio shutout the Tigers over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to keep the other five members of the bullpen off the field.
Rougned Odor homered in the sixth inning. Profar doubled leading off the ninth inning, moved to second on a fly ball to right field and scored on a ground out. That was all the Ranger offense on the day. 7-2 was the final score. Hamels is 4-8 with the loss.
The Rangers continue the road trip with three games in Boston. Texas lost three of four games to the Red Sox earlier this season in Arlington. The announced starting pitchers are Mike Minor on Monday, Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday and Bartolo Colon on Wednesday, though there is some thought being given to activating Martin Perez on Wednesday, which would push Colon’s next start to Friday.
* Shin-Soo Choo was named to the American League All-Star team Sunday night. It is the first time that Choo has made a Major League All-Star team, and he is the sole Ranger representative on this year’s A. L. team.
* Thursday’s win was the 300th for manager Jeff Banister. He becomes the manager in Ranger history to record 300 wins in the fewest amount of games managed – 574. Johnny Oates had previously held the distinction, reaching 300 wins in 579 games.
* The Rangers won the season series with Detroit four games to three.
* Shortly before Sunday’s game, the Rangers announced a trade with the San Francisco Giants. Texas acquired pitchers Cody Gearrin and Jason Bahr along with outfielder Austin Jackson for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The crux of the trade is that Bahr is a very good prospect, and the Rangers have essentially bought him for the price of the remaining salaries of Gearrin and Jackson, approximately $5 million.