BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers limped into this week’s All-Star Break, losing their last two games to the lowly Baltimore Orioles and completing a 1-5 week and a 3-7 road trip.  Texas finishes the first half of the season with a 41-56 record.  They are in last place in the American League West trailing first place Houston by a season high 22 games and trailing the fourth place Los Angeles Angels by eight games.

Cole Hamels was the starting pitcher Friday night against Baltimore, which came into the series with the worst record in baseball.  Consider these stats for Hamels:  Home games 1-6, 5.83.  Road games 4-2, 2.93.  Day games 0-6, 8.28.  Night games 5-2, 2.93.

Obviously for Ranger fans, the best scenario is to have Hamels pitching a night game on the road.  Friday night, he was magnificent for six innings, giving up a run on three hits.  Joey Gallo homered in the fifth inning, such that the game was tied after six at 1-1.

Ryan Rua pinch hit for Carlos Tocci in the seventh inning with two runners on base.  He homered, his first pinch hit of the season after going 0-18.  Later in the inning, Elvis Andrus walked with two outs and scored on Nomar Mazara’s double.  That pushed the Ranger lead to 5-1.

Hamels retired the first batter in the seventh inning, but two singles and a walk loaded the bases and ended his night on the mound.  Jose Leclerc relieved and struck out the first batter he faced.  Leclerc had allowed just four inherited runners to score this season, but that number almost doubled when Caleb Joseph cleared the bases with a double.

It was a game again at 5-4.  Hamels pitching line didn’t look spiffy – 6-1/3rd innings pitched, four runs allowed on five hits, but it was still good enough to qualify him for the win when the bullpen took care of the last two innings.  Jesse Chavez and Jake Diekman shut out the Orioles in the eighth inning, and Keone Kela finished them off in the ninth, earning his 22nd save in as many opportunities.  Hamels is 5-8 with the win.

Martin Perez returned after more than two months on the disabled list to start Saturday’s game.  He had been extremely good in three minor league rehab starts, and he was very good again Saturday.  He completed seven innings allowing a run on five hits.

A walk, a single and an advancement on a throwing error put Baltimore runners at first and third in the seventh inning.  Jonathan Schoop followed with a sacrifice fly for the Baltimore run.

That was the only run of the game, as Yefry Ramirez and four relievers shut out Texas on four hits.  Perez is 2-4 with the loss.

On Sunday, the Rangers got off to a great start.  Ronald Guzman hit a grand slam home run in the first inning to hand Ranger starter Mike Minor a 4-0 lead before he took the mound.  It was Guzman’s first career grand slam and his ninth home run of the season.  He has driven in 37.  Not bad at all for a rookie that started the season in AAA.

Manny Machado got one run back for Baltimore in the bottom of the first with a home run.  Minor threw a three up, three down second inning; but he unraveled in the third.  A walk and a double scored a run.  Later in the inning, a bases loaded double put the O’s ahead 5-4.  Minor didn’t finish the inning and a fielding error allowed another run to score extending Baltimore’s lead to 6-4.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers within a run at 6-5.  The Rangers could do no more damage though, so that was the final score.  Minor is 6-6 with the loss.

All teams are off for four days this week.  The All-Star break began with the Futures Game Sunday afternoon, with the USA team beating the World team 10-6.  Texas had two representatives at the game – outfielder Leody Taveras (World team) and reliever C. D. Pelham (USA team).  Taveras entered the game in center field in the bottom of the sixth, and went 0-2 with a pop up and a ground out.  Pelham faced two batters retiring neither.  The first walked, and the second reached on an error.

The Home Run Derby is Monday night, and the game itself is on Tuesday.  Choo is the only Ranger All-Star, becoming just the third Korean born player to make a Major League All-Star team.  Chan Ho Park with the Dodgers and Byung-Hung Kim with Arizona are the other two.  Choo is hitting.293 with 18 home runs with 43 RBIs.

The Rangers resume play in the second half this weekend in Arlington.  The Cleveland Indians are in town, and the pitchers announced to start against them are Martin Perez on Friday night, Bartolo Colon on Saturday night and Cole Hamels on Sunday afternoon.


*     Shin-Soo Choo had four hits and four walks in the series, including at least one hit in each game.  That extended his on-base streak to 51 games.

*     The Rangers were shut out twice on the ten game road trip, the fourth and fifth shutouts of the year.

*     Alex Claudio was placed on the disabled list Saturday becoming the Rangers’ 27th D. L. placement of the year.  That’s the most of any Major League team and one short of last year’s total of 28.

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