BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – This week’s four game series with the Los Angeles Angels took a decided turn before it ever started. Angels’ starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found unresponsive in his hotel room on Monday afternoon, and was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death has not been made public, but the Southlake Police Department has indicated that foul play is not suspected nor do they believe that is was suicide.
Monday’s game was immediately cancelled. It will be made up in August when the Angels make their third and final trip to Arlington this season. There was thought given to cancelling Tuesday’s game, and the decision was given to the Angels to make. It was almost noon on Tuesday before it was announced that the game would be played as scheduled.
Tuesday was a strange day at the ballpark. The Angels held a press conference with manager Brad Ausmus, General Manager Billy Eppler, club President John Carpino, and principal owner Arte Moreno meeting with media. There wasn’t much information passed along, but a lot of sorrow was expressed.
Prior to the game, the Rangers held a moment of silence in Skaggs’s memory. Finally the game began, but the Rangers definitely toned down the game presentation. The usual opening song wasn’t played when Mike Minor took the mound for his warm-ups before the first pitch. Walk-up music wasn’t played for Ranger hitters as they came to the plate.
Delino DeShields led off the third inning with his second home run of the season. For the first time in the history of Globe Life Ballpark dating back to 1994 when the stadium opened under the name The Ballpark in Arlington, the theme from The Natural was not played for a Ranger home run. Also, there were no fireworks exploded for the home run, a Ranger tradition since 2000.
The nightly Dot Race was not run. The seventh inning stretch was toned down. Ranger Captain did not jump upon the Ranger dugout to toss T-shirts to fans in sections 32 and 33. A more subdued version of “Take Me out to the Ballgame” was played, and the “Cotton Eyed Joe”, a Ranger seventh inning stretch tradition dating back to Arlington Stadium, was not.
On the field, the Angels strangely looked far less affected by Monday’s events than the Rangers. Angel players were at the top step of the dugout, definitely fully absorbed in the game. They looked like their mission was to honor their departed teammate with a win, and they did.
The Rangers on the other hand turned in their poorest performance of the year, losing 9-4 in a game that wasn’t as close as that score indicates. Minor, one of the Rangers’ three All-Stars, was not sharp. A 10 pitch at-bat to David Fletcher leading off the game set the tone. Minor lasted 4-1/3rd innings, and threw 110 pitches to get there. He had allowed just one run when he was replaced by Brett Martin, but he left two men on base, both of which subsequently scored to increase Minor’s ERA to 2.54, which no longer leads the league.
The Rangers and Angels each pushed across a run in the first inning, and the Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the third with DeShields’s home run and with Elvis Andrus’s steal of home.
However from the fifth inning on when Minor got knocked out, it was downhill for Texas. When the smoke had cleared, the six Ranger pitchers that saw action on the night combined to (1) walk 11 batters, (2) hit two more to give the Angels 13 free base runners, and (3) throw 249 pitches in the game, a new Ranger team record. The Rangers’ defense chipped in with four errors. The Angels were able to score the nine runs with just six hits. The nine inning game took 4:12 to play.
Wednesday’s game wasn’t much better for the Rangers. Texas managed just two runs on four hits. Tim Federowicz scored both runs, the first on Andrus’s sacrifice fly in the third inning, and the second two innings later on Fed-Ex’s third home run of the season.
Ariel Jurado (5-4) was the Ranger starting and losing pitcher. He looked very sharp early as he retired the first six batters he faced including the first three by strikeouts. The game turned on one play in the top of the third. A double and a single put runners on first and third base with one out. The key moment then came in Kole Calhoun’s at bat. Calhoun hit a sharp line drive to second baseman Rougned Odor. The exit velocity off his bat was 104 miles per hour. The drive zipped through Odor’s glove for a single, plating the first run of the game. Had Odor caught the drive, Dustin Garneau would have easily been doubled off first base to end the inning. Instead, the run scored, and Mike Trout followed with a three run home run to put the Halos ahead 4-0.
A tough catch? Yes. A catchable ball? Yes.
Trout completed the Angels’ scoring with a two run home run in the sixth inning to make the final score 6-2. Angel starting pitcher Jaime Barria gave up both Ranger runs and all four Ranger hits in five inning to improve to 3-2. Ranger hitters struck out 16 times against Barria and four Angel relievers.
Lance Lynn brought the four game losing streak to a halt on Thursday. He went seven innings allowing two runs on nine hits to win his 11th game, which ties him for the American League lead. Chris Martin and Lock St. John finished the game with St. John giving up another run to make the final score 9-3.
Odor homered twice in four at bats to push his batting average over .190. The pair of home runs drove in five runs, and Mazara drove home two more with a 4-4 night.
Angels’ starting pitcher Griffin Canning was knocked out in the fourth inning having allowed six runs on seven hits. He took the loss to go to 3-4 for the season.
The four game losing streak that ended Thursday night has dropped the Rangers to third place in the A. L. West. Houston leads second place Oakland by 7.5 games and third place Texas by eight games. Texas also trails Cleveland by 1.5 games (two in the loss column) for the second Wild Card berth.
The Rangers now finish the first half of the season with a three game series in Minnesota. The announced starting pitchers for the Rangers are: Adrian Sampson (6-5) on Friday, Jesse Chavez (3-3) on Saturday, and Mike Minor (8-4) on Sunday. Game times (all CDT) are 7:10 PM Friday and 1:10 PM on Saturday and Sunday.
* Hunter Pence had a set back in his first minor league rehab game last Sunday and was pulled back from the rehab assignment. He was replaced by Xander Bogaarts on the American League All-Star roster, but Pence will be attending and will participate in All-Star activities.
* Mike Minor will also attend the All-Star festivities, but will not play in the game. The postponement of Monday’s game pushed his second start of the week to Sunday, which disqualifies him to participate in the All-Star game.
* The Rangers’ third All-Star, Joey Gallo, will not participate in Monday night’s Home Run Derby. Gallo and the Rangers feared the appearance might re-aggravate the oblique injury that put him on the Injured list for three weeks in June.
* Matt Bush had been looking very good at AA Frisco and looked poised to join the Rangers perhaps this week. However, on Wednesday it was announced that he now needs Tommy John surgery and will be out until mid-season 2020 at the earliest.
* Mike Trout has hit 25 home runs on the season, and nine of them have been against the Rangers.