RANGERS RIP BIRDS FOR THREE WINS

BY:  Richard W, Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers’ offense exploded for 37 runs this weekend to take three wins in their four game series with the Baltimore Orioles.  It was the first time this year that the Rangers have won a four game series.  Baltimore narrowly escaped a Ranger sweep as they rallied from two deficits to win Sunday’s finale.

The series began with an offensive bang.  Texas essentially put game one away early by scoring 10 runs in the first two innings.  Jurickson Profar hit a three run home run in the first inning, and then the Rangers cashed in four doubles, two singles and two walks for seven more runs in the second.

The beneficiary of the Rangers’ offensive largesse was of course Yovani Gallardo.  He was making his eighth start for Texas, and the Rangers have averaged 10.4 runs in those eight games.  On this night, he pitched into the sixth inning, allowing five runs on nine hits.  Four of those runs came on two run home runs the Orioles hit in the fifth and sixth innings.

The Ranger offense just kept on scoring on this night though as the Rangers’ clamp on winning the game was never in doubt after the second inning.  Texas scored in every inning but the fifth, and the final score was 17-8.

With an offensive explosion of 17 runs, there are lots of contributors.  All nine hitters in the batting order got at least one hit and scored at least one run.  In fact, only two players did not have multi-hit games.  Profar led with four RBIs.  Joey Gallo hit his 27th home run and drove in three.

The real story offensively though was Rougned Odor, one of the two hitters with just one hit in the game.  Odor unbelievably walked five times, and his hit was a home run.  He scored three times and drove in three runs.  Three times previously Major League batters have hit a homer and walked five times in a game.  Their names are Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Edgar Martinez.  In each of their cases though, they accomplished the feat in an extra inning game and had an intentional walk.  Odor is the first in baseball history to do it in a nine inning game with five unintentional walks.

Gallardo is 6-1 with the win.  Billy Butler relieved him in the sixth inning and finished the game.  That qualified Butler for his first Major League save, despite the lopsided score.

On Friday night, the Rangers’ offense looked very similar to Thursday night’s.  This time the seven run inning came a bit later in the fourth inning.  Gallo started the fourth inning hit parade with a two run home run.  Robinson Chirinos followed with a solo shot.  Odor (that guy again) finished it off with a grand slam home run, the third in his career.

That staked rookie Ariel Jurado to an 8-0 lead.  Jurado finished the fifth inning, allowing two runs to qualify for the win.  He’s 2-1 in three starts, including 2-0 since the All-Star break when he was called up from AA Frisco for the second time this season.

The final score was 11-3.  Four relievers pitched an inning apiece after Jurado left the game.  Alex Claudio gave up a run, but the others whitewashed the birds over the final three innings on two hits.

The Rangers clinched the series win Saturday night in a good old fashioned ball game like it used to be played.  The pitchers pitched well, and the game moved fast.  The two teams had combined to score 39 run in the first two games, but on Saturday, they managed just four runs total.  The Rangers came out on top 3-1, and the game time was 2:25, the second shortest game time so far this season in Arlington.

Ranger starting pitcher Mike Minor was really good.  He said after the game he used four pitches.  He went seven innings, allowing a run on four hits.  He walked no one, and struck out six.  He efficiently needed only 86 pitches.

Minor continues to get better.  The win improved his record to 8-6.  Eight wins rank as the fourth highest total among free agent pitchers last winter.  His ERA is down to 4.53 in 21 starts, but over his last 10 outings, he is 4-2 with a 3.26 ERA.

Before the series opening game, Ranger manager Jeff Banister met with many in the local media for the first time since the trade deadline.  He was asked point blank if Jose Leclerc would become the closer in the aftermath of the Keone Kela trade.  Banister was not willing to name a closer at that point, instead listing four relievers including Leclerc that were candidates to close games.

Saturday’s game was the first to have a ninth inning save situation since the trade, and it was Leclerc that got the call.  He responded nicely with a three up three down ninth inning on 11 pitches.  It was his first save of the season.

Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor each homered to supply the offense.  Gallo’s came with a runner on base.  It was the fourth straight game for Gallo to go yard, and the third for Odor.

Sunday’s announced starter prior to the series was Martin Perez.  Late in Saturday’s game, the Rangers announced that they had signed Drew Hutchison, and that he would start Sunday’s game, sliding Perez to Monday.  Hutchison began the season with Philadelphia, and was designated for assignment in late May after posting a 4.64 ERA in 11 relief appearances.

He rejected the Phillies assignment to AAA, becoming a free agent, and then signed a minor league contract with Los Angeles.  He went 4-1, with a 2.14 ERA in seven starts and two relief appearances for the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate in Oklahoma City.  Under the terms of his Dodger contract, Hutchison had the right to request his release if he was not added to the Dodgers’ Major League roster by July 31.  He wasn’t, and he did.  The Rangers signed him.

Hutchison wasn’t very good Sunday afternoon.  The Rangers took leads of 2-1 after one inning and 5-4 after two innings. but Hutchison gave up the run in the first inning and coughed up the Ranger leads in the second and third innings.  That was the end of his day – six earned runs on six hits and three walks in three innings.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter had an even quicker hook for his starter, Yefry Ramirez.  Showalter summoned the first of five relievers with two outs in the second inning.  They did the job, giving up just one run over the final 7-1/3rd innings for the 9-6 win.

Hutchison is 1-2 with the loss, and his ERA is up to 6.29.

The Rangers’ home stand continues with three games against the Seattle Mariners to start the week.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Martin Perez on Monday, Bartolo Colon on Tuesday, and Yovani Gallardo on Wednesday.  The Monday and Tuesday games have the usual 7:05 PM start time, while Wednesday’s game is slated to start at 1:05 PM.

NOTABLE:

*     Elvis Andrus tripled in the first inning Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 16 games.  That’s the longest current hitting streak in the Major Leagues, the longest hitting streak of the year for a Ranger, and it ties Andrus’s career high hitting streak done previously in 2013.

*     The top prospect the Rangers received in their July trades was left-handed starting pitcher Taylor Hearn.  He made his debut with AA Frisco Friday night and caused a buzz.  Hearn’s fastball ranged from 91 to 96, but usually toward the upper end of that range.  He went 5-1/3rd innings allowing a run on three hits, while striking out eight batters, including all three in the second inning.

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