BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Tampa Bay Rays beat Texas in St. Petersburg, Florida Saturday and Sunday to send the Rangers to their first series loss since May 26, losing two games to one. Texas still holds on to the second Wild Card position in the American League standings one-half game ahead of Oakland and Cleveland and two games ahead of Boston. They return to Arlington with their second straight winning road trip, four games to two. The Rangers finished the month of June with an 18-11 record.
The series began with a dominating performance by Lance Lynn. He threw eight shutout innings in Friday night’s series opening game. He gave up just three hits, walked only one, and struck out 10 Rays. The final score was 5-0, and it was the second straight and fifth time in the last six series that the Rangers won the first game.
This was an important win because: (i) It assured that the Rangers would not get swept by the Rays. (ii) It brought the Rangers’ record to 10 games over .500 at 46-36, a season high. (iii) It tied the Rangers with Tampa for the first playoff berth in the standings.
Two walks followed by two doubles brought home three Ranger runs in the second inning. Joey Gallo singled home a run in third inning, and Shin-Soo Choo singled home the fifth run in the ninth inning.
Lynn is 10-4 with the win, the first Ranger pitcher to record 10 wins before July since 2011. Rays starter Yonny Chirinos is 7-4 with the loss.
The Rays added Brendan McKay to their roster to start Saturday’s game. McKay is the top ranked pitcher in the Rays’ farm system as well as the number 23 prospect in baseball. He was fantastic in his Major League debut, throwing five perfect innings before the Rangers put a runner on base. McKay finished with six shutout innings allowing one hit and one walk to win his debut.
Asdrubal Cabrera doubled leading off the Ranger eighth inning, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch. Joey Gallo doubled in the ninth inning, moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Logan Forsythe’s ground out. Those two runs were all the Ranger offense on the day.
The first three Rays’ batters in the second inning doubled, doubled and homered to take an early 3-0 lead. Willie Adames and Travis D’Arnaud hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning to complete the Rays scoring and making the final score 5-2.
Adrian Sampson was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher. His record falls to 6-5.
The Rangers’ offense again struggled on Sunday as they lost 6-2. Jesse Chavez was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher. He completed six innings allowing four runs, one of which was unearned to make it a quality start. He gave up five hits, walked no one, and struck out eight. He’s 3-3 with the loss.
Blake Snell was last year’s Cy Young Award winner, and he looked like the 2018 version of Blake Snell Sunday. He struck out 12 Rangers in six innings, allowing the Ranger runs on Gallo’s fourth inning home run. Snell is 5-7 for the year with the win.
Four relievers blanked the Rangers over the final three innings. Texas notably struck out 17 times in the game.
The Rangers lost two games in the standings to the Astros in the American League West, as Houston swept the Mariners in their three game series. The Rangers now trail Houston by 6.5 games (six in the loss column). Oakland is in third place one-half game behind Texas.
The Rangers are now home for four games with the Angels – Monday through Thursday. They are the last four home games before the All-Star break. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor (8-4) on Monday, Ariel Jurado (5-3) on Tuesday, Lance Lynn (10-4) on Wednesday, and Adrian Sampson (6-4) on Thursday. Game time for all four games is 7:05 PM (Central).
ALL-STAR NOTES: Sunday afternoon, the All-Star reserves and pitchers were named. Hunter Pence had already been named to the team by the fan vote. He was joined by Joey Gallo and Mike Minor, both making the All-Star team for the first time in their Major League careers. It was the first time since 2013 that the Rangers have had as many as three players make the All-Star team, and Houston with six was the only American League team to place more players on the A. L. All-Star team. Gallo is the first player drafted and developed by the Rangers to make the All-Star team since Ian Kinsler in 2012.
* The Ranger starting pitchers recorded a quality start in all six games of the road trip and have gone 10 consecutive games of completing at least six innings.
* Elvis Andrus had at least one hit in each game on the road trip to run his hitting streak to eight games. Nine games is the longest hitting streak for a Ranger this season.
* Hunter Pence has joined the Frisco Rough Riders for a minor league rehab stint. He is expected to be activated onto the Rangers’ roster either Tuesday or Wednesday.
* Mike Minor finished first in the American League in ERA (1.70), innings pitched per game started (7-1/3rd) and opponents’ batting average (.180) for the month of June making him a serious candidate to be the A. L.’s Pitcher of the Month.