BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Los Angeles Angels won two of three games from the Texas Rangers this weekend.  After winning the series opening game on Friday night, Texas dropped one-run games Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, Oakland swept a three game series against the hapless Seattle Mariners to overtake the Rangers for second place in the American League West.  The Rangers now trail first place Houston by eight games and the Athletics by 1.5.

The Rangers finally got the pitching performance they’ve been hoping for from Drew Smyly in game one of the series.  Smyly had not been frugal with his pitches, which led to short outings that taxed the bullpen.

Friday night’s game actually did not start well for the former Arkansas Razorback hurler.  He got an early lead as Shin-Soo Choo homered to open the game.  Smyly erased that lead by allowing a pair of second inning home runs to lesser hitters in the batting order – Jonathan Lucroy and Brian Goodwin.  The Rangers trailed 3-1 after two innings, and Smyly’s pitch count was up to 39.

From that point, Smyly righted the ship, shutting out the Angels over the next four innings.  His final line was six innings pitched with three runs allowed on five hits.  He walked and struck out four batters.

Asdrubal Cabrera doubled home a run in the sixth inning, and Hunter Pence singled home a pair of runs in the seventh inning to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.  That was the final score as Jesse Chavez, Chris Martin and Shawn Kelley blanked Los Angeles over the final three innings.

Smyly earned his first win since 2016.  He’s 1-3 on the season, and Kelley earned his fifth save.  The Rangers won the series opening game for the fifth time this season, and three of those wins have been against the Angels.

On Saturday, Mike Minor turned in his usual sterling performance.  Minor is clearly the best pitcher on the Rangers’ staff, but strangely his good performances do not always lead to wins.  It didn’t Saturday.  The Angels won in walk-off fashion, and the Rangers are now 5-6 in games that Minor has started.

Minor gave up one run on five hits over the first six innings.  His ERA is down to a sterling 2.56.  The Rangers’ offense however supported Minor with no runs while he was on the mound.

The Angels were clinging to the 1-0 lead going to the ninth inning, but the Rangers went ahead on run scoring hits from Ronald Guzman and Rougned Odor.

Kelley came into the game for the bottom of the ninth.  He was pitching for the fourth time in five days since being activated from the injured list, and it showed.  A one out single followed by a double tied the game.  Jared Walsh singled home the game winning run with two outs.

Kelley was charged with his second blown save, and his record is 3-1 with the loss.  Hansel Robles, who was also charged with a blown save, was the winning pitcher for the Angels.  He’s 2-0.

On Sunday afternoon, the Rangers seemed well in command after six innings with a 5-1 lead.  Choo and Pence hit solo home runs in the fourth inning to offset Mike Trout’s first inning round tripper.  In the sixth inning, the Rangers added three more runs with RBI hits from Pence, Logan Forsythe and Odor.

Ranger manager Chris Woodward wanted to stay away from three of his top four relievers, who he felt needed rest.  Kelley, Chavez and Jose Leclerc were thus not available, and the roof caved in the seventh inning.

Ariel Jurado had pitched a solid game and started the seventh by retiring the lead-off batter.  When Dvid Fletcher followed with a single, Jurado’s day was over.  Jeffrey Springs relieved and retired none of the four batters he faced.  Kyle Dowdy followed Springs to the mound and got the final two outs of the inning, but not before the Angels had scored six times to take a 7-5 lead.

Choo doubled home a run in the ninth inning to make the final score 7-6.  Springs was charged with the loss.  He’s 1-2, and Dowdy was charged with his first blown save.  Angels’ relievers Luis Garcia (1-1) and Justin Anderson earned the win and the save, the first for Anderson.

The road trip continues Monday through Wednesday in Seattle.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (6-3) on Monday, Adrian Sampson (2-3) on Tuesday and Drew Smyly (1-3) on Wednesday.  The Rangers however may utilize an opener in front of Sampson and Smyly.  The start times are 8:10 PM on Monday, 9:10 PM on Tuesday and 2:40 PM on Wednesday.


*     Ranger pinch hitters are 8-22 (.364) on the season with three home runs and 12 RBIs.  For the 2018 season, Ranger pinch hitters hit .170 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.


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