BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 9-3 Wednesday night to win the rubber game of this week’s three game series. The Angels pounced on Ranger starting pitcher Bartolo Colon for two runs in the first inning, and never trailed in the game. Colon completed just four innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk. Shohei Ohtani hit a pair of home runs to spearhead the Angels attack.
Colon and Ohtani proved to be bigger stories than the game. Ohtani underwent an MRI which indicated that he needs Tommy John surgery. He has not agreed to undergo the procedure, but most likely he’ll be lost as a pitcher to the Angels in 2019. There is word that he likely will still be able to hit next season.
The Colon question revolves around the Rangers’ plan for him over the final days of the season. His record is 7-12 with Wednesday’s loss, and his ERA is up to 5.55. He’s allowed more home runs than any pitcher in baseball. The Rangers have been pleased to have Colon to promote in this lost season as he took the lead in wins for a native Latin American, but he’s 45 and most likely doesn’t figure in the Rangers’ plans after this season. Are the Rangers better off giving the remaining games he could start to a young pitcher for the experience and the opportunity for the Rangers to further assess their talent?
Manager Jeff Banister said after the game that Colon will continue to pitch, but he didn’t commit to giving Colon any more starts. Colon hasn’t committed to playing past this season, so Wednesday night could well have been his final big league start.
The Rangers employed an “opener” in game one of this series for the first time, and they had to feel like it was a success. Reliever Jeffrey Springs was the starting pitcher, and he had a relatively easy 13 pitch, three up-three down first inning. That was good enough to earn the shot at a second inning. Springs got into some trouble in the second, but got out of it without the Angels getting on the scoreboard.
The usual starting pitcher, Ariel Jurado, followed. Ranger manager Jeff Banister explained more of his thinking after the game. First, he wanted Jurado to start an inning, not come in during an inning. Thus when Springs got into trouble in the second inning, Conner Sadzeck, not Jurado, warmed up to cover the possibility of having to replace Springs.
Jurado completed four more shutout innings. The Rangers’ six shutout innings were matched by the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (five innings) and Taylor Cole (the sixth inning), so the game was scoreless going to the seventh inning, when all the scoring in the game occurred.
Zac Curtis relieved Jurado, and his night did not go well. Curtis was greeted with a lead-off single, and a wild pitch moved the runner to second base. Curtis then recorded a flyout, but that proved to be the only out he would get. Taylor Ward homered to put the Angels up 2-0. Curtis then struck out Jose Briceno, but strike three was another wild pitch allowing Briceno to advance to first base. That ended Curtis’s night. Briceno later scored to run the Angels lead to 3-0.
Joey Gallo’s two out double in the bottom half of the seventh inning drove home one run. That was all the scoring on the night. The final score was 3-1, with Curtis (0-1) getting the loss.
Tuesday’s starter was Mike Minor, clearly the Rangers’ best starting pitcher this season. He struggled with command needing 91 pitches to complete five innings, but he allowed just two runs on three hits.
Four relievers shut out the Angels over the final four innings. On the offensive side of the ball Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre hit solo home runs, and Nomar Mazara capped the scoring with a two run double, making the final score 4-2.
Minor is 11-7 with the win, and Jose Leclerc was again stellar in the ninth. He retired all three batters he faced on 12 pitches, striking out two. It was his ninth save.
The Rangers are off on Thursday, and then travel to Oakland for the weekend. The announced starting pitchers for the series are Yovani Gallardo on Friday night, Yohander Mendez on Saturday afternoon, and Ariel Jurado on Sunday afternoon.
* Mike Minor has held opponents to a .170 batting average in his seven starts since the All-Star break.
* Adrian Beltre is up to 3,149 career hits as he has gotten at least one hit in the first five games of September. He is three hits behind Paul Waner to tie for 16th place all time.
* Tuesday night’s loss mathematically eliminated the Rangers from winning the division. The Rangers finished the series 26 games out of first place, the largest deficit of the season.
* Tuesday’s game and Wednesday’s game drew fewer than 20,000 fans. They were the 17th and 18th home games this year with official paid attendance under 20,000. There was just one such game last season.