BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers are off Thursday and open a nine game home stand on Friday. They arrive having won Wednesday in Phoenix to gain a split in their two game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The win ended a four game losing streak and completed their first road trip of the year with a 2-4 record. The American League West has no team with a record under .500. The 6-6 Rangers and 8-8 Oakland occupy fourth and fifth places in the division. They trail first place Seattle by five games.
The Arizona series opened with the most disappointing loss of the season to date. The Rangers opened the game by taking a 2-0 lead before the Diamondbacks came to bat. Shin-Soo Choo doubled leading off the first inning, and Rougned Odor followed with a bunt single that moved Choo to third. Elvis Andrus singled home Choo and Nomar Mazara drove in Odor. The rally fizzled from there when a strikeout and ground out ended the inning.
Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, setting up another RBI opportunity for Andrus who singled. An error on an infield grounder brought home another run to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead.
From there, the bats went cold. Texas managed just two more hits in the game and didn’t score again. They finished the night 3-12 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base.
Mike Minor started for Texas and threw his best game of the year. He completed seven innings allowing two runs on five hits. Chris Martin zapped the D-Backs in the eighth on one hit to get the game to the ninth inning with the Rangers still leading 4-2.
Jose Leclerc took the mound in the ninth inning for the save. Dating back to last season, he had converted 14 consecutive save opportunities and had not allowed a run in his last 25-1/3rd innings. That all changed Tuesday. Leclerc was in hot water immediately as he surrendered a single and a run scoring double to the first two batters he faced that cut the Ranger lead to 4-3. He struck out Nick Ahmed, but that was the only out he recorded. Jarrod Dyson pinch hit with a home run to end the game.
The final score was 5-4. Leclerc was charged with his first blown save on the season and the loss. He’s 1-1. Arizona’s Matt Andriese pitched the eighth and ninth innings to earn the win and go to 2-0.
Lance Lynn started Wednesday and pitched almost as well as Minor. He completed six innings, allowing a run on four hits.
Left-hander Robbie Ray was the D-Backs’ starting pitcher and he was very good too. Ranger manager Chris Woodward stacked the batting order with right-handed hitters as Joey Gallo was the only left-handed bat in the starting lineup. Ray still held the Rangers hitless and shut them out over the first five innings.
Delino DeShields opened the sixth inning with a single, stole second and scored on Logan Forsythe’s single to tie the game at one. That ended Ray’s night having thrown 94 pitches.
In the seventh inning, DeShields singled home Isiah Kiner-Falefa to put the Rangers ahead 2-1. Hunter Pence extended the lead to 3-1 in the eighth inning with a solo home run, his first as a Ranger. Texas added two more runs in the ninth inning to take what looked like a comfortable 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Leclerc was again summoned to pitch the ninth inning, and again he was not good. He faced five batters and retired just one. He was greeted with a lead-off single, and then hit the next two batters to load the bases. A foul pop out followed, but Leclerc walked the fifth and final batter he faced to bring in a run. He had thrown 18 pitches, only seven of which were strikes.
Kyle Bird was summoned to finish the game. He struck out the first batter he faced and then gave up a sharp line drive to David Peralta that was caught by a diving Forsythe to end the game.
The final score was 5-2. Lynn is 1-1 with the win, his first as a Ranger. Bird got the save, his first in the Major Leagues. Arizona reliever Andrew Chafin was charged with the loss. He’s 0-1.
The home stand begins with three games against Oakland Friday night. Drew Smily, Adrian Sampson and Shelby Miller are the announced starting pitchers for Texas. Game times are 7:05 PM on Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:05 PM on Sunday afternoon.
* The Rangers are now 3-2 in inter-league play this year. The two games in Phoenix were played without the designated hitter, and Ranger pitchers went 0-4 in the series.
* Hunter Pence has gotten a hit and scored a run in each of the five games he has started this year.