A DAY OFF AT LAST

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The difficult Ranger schedule stretch of 21 games played over 20 days came to an end Sunday afternoon, when the Rangers beat the Chicago White Sox to win their weekend series two games to one.  The last three weeks of play included three four-game series and three three-game series, and the Rangers finished with a respectable 12-9 record.

As for the White Sox, the Rangers lost the series opener Friday night.  They had won the opening game of their last three series, but that streak came to an end with a 5-4 10 inning loss.

Ariel Jurado was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and he actually pitched better than his stat line.  He really made one mistake throwing a juicy pitch to Zack Collins, who was making his second Major League plate appearance, but his first official at bat.  It was an at bat to remember, as Collins belted a three run home run.

The Rangers had scored twice in the bottom of the first in the most memorable moment of the night for Texas.  With Elvis Andrus on base, Nomar Mazara blasted a line drive well into the second deck of the right field porch.  Statcast measured it at 505 feet, the longest estimated length of any home run hit at Globe Life Ballpark, and a number that tied for the longest home run in Major League Baseball during the Statcast era, which began in 2015.

Collins’ second inning round tripper put the Sox ahead 3-2, but Rougned Odor homered in the Rangers’ half of the inning to tie the game at three.  The Sox quickly recaptured the lead with a double, walk and single in the third inning.

The score stayed 4-3 until the seventh when the Rangers tied the game with a lead-off walk, a sacrifice bunt, and Danny Santana’s run scoring single.

Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth innings to send the game into overtime.  In the tenth inning, the White Sox put runners at first and third with two one-out singles.  They then plated what became the winning run with a safety squeeze play, with Yolmer Sanchez laying down an excellent bunt to score the runner from third.

The Rangers got a lead-off walk to start their half of the 10th, but a flyout and double play ground ball followed to end the game.  Sox reliever Kelvin Hererra went to 3-3 with the win and Alex Colome pitched the 10th to earn his 16th save.  Shawn Kelley is 3-2 with the loss.

Saturday, the Rangers came back to win one of the best played games of the year.  Both teams made outstanding defensive plays.  The White Sox notably threw three Ranger base runners out on the bases.

Lance Lynn started for Texas and promptly gave up four runs in the first inning.  An auspicious beginning for sure, but two things happened that turned the tide.  First, Nomar Mazara homered in the bottom of the first with a runner on base to cut the Sox’ lead in half.  The first didn’t end there though.  A single, a walk and Logan Forsythe’s double plated a third run.  At 4-3 going to the second inning, it was game on!

Second, Lynn showed what a quality veteran pitcher he is by shrugging off the first inning like it never happened.  He proceeded to complete seven innings, allowing just one more run on six hits for the night.  Not a great looking stat line for sure, but good enough to keep the Rangers in the game and the bullpen off the field until the eighth inning.

In the third inning, Mazara homered again to tie the game at four.  Tim Anderson hit a solo shot in the top of the sixth to put the Sox back in front 5-4.  In the bottom of the sixth though, the Rangers came back to take their first lead of the game with a pair of run scoring singles from Shin-Soo Choo and Delino DeShields.

Neither team scored the rest of the way making 6-5 the final score.  Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin shut out Chicago in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the win.  Lynn is 9-4 with the win.  Martin earned his third save, and Evan Marshall took the loss to go to 3-1.

On Sunday, Adrian Sampson put together a solid outing, a great sign for Texas, as he was not very good in his last two starts coming into this game.  Sampson was supported by three ground ball double plays; and at the end of the day, he completed seven innings allowing just one run on seven hits.

The Rangers put together a four run second inning, highlighted by home runs from Tim Federowicz and Santana.  DeShields, who ended the day with three hits, singled home a run in the third inning to stretch the Rangers’ lead to 5-0.

The outcome got dicey in the eighth inning though.  Peter Fairbanks took over for Sampson to start the inning and was immediately in trouble.  Two singles and two walks to the five batters he faced plated a run and brought Brett Martin from the pen.

A sacrifice fly should have been the second out and made the score 5-3.  DeShields however missed the fly and two runs scored to close the gap to 5-4 with runners at second and third.  Brett Martin then struck out the next batter and turned the mound duties over to Kelley, who had phoned the dugout from the bullpen to let manager Chris Woodward know that he was good to go for a four out save.  Kelley got the final out of the eighth – a strikeout of Tim Anderson, one of the best hitters in the White Sox batting order – and blanked the Pale Hose in the ninth inning to earn his 10th save.

Sampson is 6-4 with the win, and Chicago’s starting pitcher Ivan Nova is 3-6 with the loss.

The Rangers picked up a game on Houston in the American League West with the series win.  They now trail the Astros by 6.5 games (six in the loss column), and lead third place Oakland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column).  In the race for the second Wild Card spot, the Rangers are one-half game behind Cleveland and one-half game ahead of Boston.  However, the Rangers have closed the gap to just three games behind Tampa Bay for the first Wild Card playoff berth.

After Monday’s day off, the Rangers open a three-game series in Detroit.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Jesse Chavez (2-2) on Tuesday, Mike Minor (7-4) on Wednesday, and Ariel Jurado (4-3) on Thursday.  Games times (Central) are 6:10 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 12:10 PM on Thursday.

NOTABLE:

*     Joey Gallo and Hunter Pence are finalists at their positions for the All-Star team.  The fan voting begins Wednesday at 11:00 AM (Central) and closes 28 hours later at 3:00 PM (Central) on Thursday.

*     National writer Ken Rosenthal wrote recently that there are seven teams in Major League baseball with a chance to lose 100 games this season.  The Rangers face those teams 22 times in their remaining 84 games, beginning this week in Detroit.

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