TWIN KILLINGS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Minnesota Twins took two wins in this weekend’s three game series with the Texas Rangers.  Sunday afternoon, the Rangers scrambled to avoid getting swept with a 4-1, 11 inning win.  Rougned Odor hit a three run home run to give Texas its only lead in the series.  Texas finishes the week 2-4 and finishes the first half of the season at 48-42.

Sunday’s game was essentially a bullpen game for both teams.  Jose Leclerc was named the Ranger “opener”.  That was somewhat surprising as he was pitching for the second day in a row after throwing 30 pitches in Saturday’s game.  Leclerc gave up the only run the Rangers would allow on the day on a Byron Buxton triple that scored Miguel Sano from first base.  He threw 27 pitches to get five outs.

Starter Ariel Jurado followed Leclerc.  He got out of the second inning and shut down the Twins in the third and fourth innings.  Rookie Joe Palumbo followed, making his third Major League appearance and the first relief appearance of his career.  It was clearly his best outing with the Rangers.  He retired nine of ten batters that he faced sending the game to the seventh tied at one.

Danny Santana had singled home Joey Gallo in the fourth inning for the Rangers’ run.  Gallo figured prominently in getting the game to extra innings when he made a brilliant play in the fourth inning.  With one out and runners on second and third base, he caught a fly in center field and threw out Buxton trying to advance from second to third base.  The out at third was recorded before Jonathan Schoop running from third base crossed the plate; so Schoop’s run didn’t count.

Chris Martin and Shawn Kelley held the Twins scoreless in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings.  In the 11th, Gallo and Asdrubal Cabrera walked with one out, and Odor homered, an opposite field fly over the left center field fence to give the Rangers the 4-1 lead.

Kelley came out for the 11th inning.  He gave up a one out single, but struck out the final two batters to earn the win.  He’s 4-2.  Adalberto Mejia, the Twins’ sixth pitcher of the game surrendered Odor’s home run to take the loss and go to 0-2.

The series opened with a Twins rout.  Adrian Sampson started for Texas and got knocked around for six second inning runs.  He lasted into the fourth inning allowing seven runs on 11 hits.

Jesse Biddle, Brett Martin and Lock St. John finished the game, with each of them getting scored upon as the Twins scored 15 runs on the night.

Former Ranger Martin Perez was the Twins starting pitcher, and he got the win to go to 8-3.  He shutout the Rangers over the first six innings, but fell apart in the seventh.  He retired no one, giving up a walk, two singles and a double to the four batters he faced.  They all scored and the Rangers went on to score two more.  It was way too little, as the final score was 15-6.  Sampson is 6-6 with the loss.

Saturday afternoon’s game didn’t go much better for Texas.  Jesse Chavez started and gave up three runs in the the second inning and two more runs in the fourth.  He finished five innings giving up the five runs, one of which was unearned, on five hits.

The Rangers started chipping away at the lead with Elvis Andrus’s eighth home run leading off the sixth inning.  Two singles and Willie Calhoun’s fifth home run in the seventh inning brought the Rangers closer at 5-4.

That was as close as the Rangers would get.  The Twins added two more runs in the eighth inning to make the final score 7-4.

Chavez is 3-4 with the loss.  Michael Pineda is 6-4 with the win, and Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 12th save.

It’s certainly good to finish the first half with an exciting win over a good team.  However, the 2-4 week has shuffled the Rangers farther back in the standings.  They have sunk into third place in the A. L. West trailing second place Oakland by 1.5 games (one in the loss column) and first place Houston by nine games.

In the Wild Card race, Tampa Bay is still in the lead for the top spot.  Cleveland has taken over the second Wild Card spot, trailing the Rays by just one-half game.  Surprisingly, Cleveland is actually one game ahead of Tampa in the loss column.  Oakland and Boston are 1.5 games and two games respectively behind Cleveland, and the Rangers are three games out.

Texas is off until Thursday for the All-Star break.  It’s strange scheduling as 28 teams aren’t scheduled to play again until Friday, but the Rangers will host the Astros in a four game series beginning Thursday night.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Lance Lynn (11-4) Thursday, Jesse Chavez (3-4) on Friday, Mike Minor (8-4) on Saturday, and probably Ariel Jurado (5-4) on Sunday.  (Officially, TBD is listed as Sunday’s starting pitcher.)  Game times are 7:05 PM (Central) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2:05 PM on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     Mike Minor was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s game, which would have made him ineligible to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star game.  Consequently, he was replaced on the All-Star roster by the Indians’ Shane Bieber.  Subsequently, the Rangers decided to give Minor an elongated break by not pitching him Sunday.  By scheduling him to pitch the third game after the All-Star break, he will have 12 days between starts.

*     The Rangers were 41-56 at the All-Star break last season – 15 games under .500.  This year’s record of 48-42 – six games over .500 – is a material improvement.

*     The run the Twins scored Sunday is the first this year allowed by a Ranger “opener”.

*     Ranger catching prospect Sam Huff (High-A Down East) was the Rangers’ only representative in Sunday night’s Futures Game.  He homered with a runner on base to tie the game.  It ended in a 2-2 eight inning tie.  Huff was awarded the Larry Doby Most Valuable Player award for his performance.

*     With off days this week for the All-Star break and next week around a two game series with Arizona, the Rangers will start the second half with a four-man pitching rotation with Adrian Sampson moving to the bullpen.

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