A GREAT SPLIT!

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers arrived in Seattle with their starting rotation in shreds, their bullpen was dog tired, and their offense wasn’t clicking.  The drudgery of getting swept in Oakland continued by losing the first two games to Seattle to extend their losing streak to five games.  However, they bounced back with good pitching and an explosive offense to leave Seattle Sunday with a split in the series and riding a two game winning streak before starting a five game home stand.

The big game of the series was Saturday’s turnaround that ended the losing streak.  It came on the heels of a disappointing 11 inning loss in game two Friday night.  Mike Minor has not only established himself as the Rangers’ number one starter, but also as one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League.  He showed why Saturday.

Minor completed seven innings with 111 pitches, the most thrown by a Ranger pitcher in two years.  He gave up just one run on three hits and 13 of the 21 outs he recorded were strikeouts, tying the Ranger record by a Ranger left-handed pitcher.

He was heavily supported by the Rangers’ offense, which came alive to plaster the Seattle scoreboard with 15 runs on 20 hits, both season highs.  All nine offensive starters had at least one hit, and seven had multi-hit games.  Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo each hit a home run, and Andrus, Hunter Pence and Logan Forsythe each drove in three runs as Texas won 15-1!

Minor is 3-2 with the win, and Seattle’s Mike Leake, who was rocked for nine runs on 10 hits, took the loss to fall to 2-3.

Sunday’s game looked a lot like Saturday’s.  Lance Lynn made a strong start completing seven innings while allowing a run on five hits.  He struck out nine.

The offense almost duplicated Saturday’s hammering of Seattle’s pitchers.  They scored 14 runs on 17 hits.  Andrus, Forsythe, Pence, and Shin-Soo Choo hit home runs.  Pence led the way with four RBIs and Forsythe had three.

The 14-1 win went to Lynn, who is now 3-2.  Mariner starter Erik Swanson is 0-3 with the loss after giving up nine runs on 11 hits in four innings.

When the series began, the Rangers were so pitching desperate that they flew in Taylor Hearn from Nashville to make the start on Thursday.  Hearn is ranked by MLB.com as the number 11 pitching prospect in the Rangers system.  He had made four starts at Nashville with a 1-3 record and 4.05 ERA.  His strikeout total was impressive, but his walk total was also high.

On Thursday, he faced eight batters retiring only one.  Those that reached base included four that walked, as Hearn simply couldn’t find the plate.  He threw 39 pitches, and only 18 were strikes.  Plus his fastball that was clocked north of 95 MPH at AAA registered only 90-92.  Five runs scored, four earned which leaves his ERA at 108.00!

After Hearn was replaced, the night only got worse for Texas.  14-2 was the final score, the most runs allowed in a game this year by the Rangers.  To save an inning on the bullpen, catcher Jeff Mathis pitched the eighth inning, retiring three of the four batters he faced.

Hearn complained of soreness in his forearm after he was relieved.  He was placed on the injured list on Friday and will be shut down from throwing for three weeks and then reassessed.  He likely will not be back on the mound in a game situation until June.

The Rangers also sent Jeffrey Springs to the minors.  Ariel Jurado and Wei-Chieh Huang were added to the roster to bring fresh arms to the bullpen.  Rougned Odor was also activated from the injured list and Patrick Wisdom was optioned to Nashville before Friday’s game.  Asdrubal Cabrera also left Thursday’s game with a leg injury but the Rangers held off on making a roster move to see how he fared, and he did not play again in the series.

Friday’s game was especially disappointing.  Texas trailed 4-2 going into the eighth inning, but pushed across single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

It was still tied when Seattle came to bat in the 11th inning.  Kyle Dowdy gave up a single and then walked two batters after retiring Seattle’s first batter.  Mitch Haniger then grounded to Forsythe at third base.  Forsythe opted to try for the inning ended double play.  However, he didn’t get the ball out of his glove cleanly, and the only out recorded was the force at second base.  The runner on third scored to end the game.

Dowdy is 1-1 with the loss.  Roenis Elias, Seattle’s eighth pitcher in the game, is 2-0 with the win.

The two big wins Saturday and Sunday salvaged what looked to be a horrid week.  The Rangers actually ended the week with a positive run differential of plus two (46-44).  They finished the week with a 14-13 record still over .500 with one game left in April.  They woke up Monday morning in third place, 2.5 games behind division leader Houston, but tied in the loss column with second place Seattle that has played four more games than Texas.

This week the Rangers get Monday and Thursday off sandwiching in a two game series with Pittsburgh.  Adrian Sampson (0-1) and Shelby Miller (1-1) are the announced starting pitchers for Texas.  Tuesday’s game starts at 7:05, and Wednesday’s game  is an afternoon matinee starting at 1:05 PM.

NOTABLE:

*     Elvis Andrus played his 1,500th game as a Ranger on Friday night.  He is the fifth player to play that many games as a Ranger.  The other four are Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Sundberg, and Ivan Rodriguez.

*     Former Rangers’ hitting coach and Dallas native Rudy Jaramillo was inducted into the Dallas ISD Athletics Hall of Fame.  Jaramillo is recognized as one of the greatest hitting coaches of all time, and his Major League resume includes stints with both Texas teams – 15 years with Texas and four years with Houston.

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