BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Arizona Diamondbacks blasted the Texas Rangers in two games this week taking 9-2 and 19-4 wins to sweep this week’s series and finish the season series with a 3-1 edge.  Texas now trails Houston by 9.5 games (nine in the loss column) in the American League West.  Oakland has moved to within shouting distance of the Astros, now just 4.5 games behind the Astros and five full games ahead of the Rangers.  Three teams are virtually tied for the two Wild Card playoff berths – Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.  The Rangers are five games behind those three, and the Angels are now just one-half game behind Texas.

Lance Lynn started the opening game with Arizona Tuesday night.  He finished six innings like he usually does, but Arizona’s hitters had a good game plan.  They put the ball in play.  Lynn usually has high strikeout totals, but recorded only six Tuesday, and Arizona catcher Alex Avila accounted for four of those.  The rest of the D-backs made contact.  Lynn gave up eight hits on the night, and five of them were softly hit with exit velocities of less than 80 mph.

The score was tied 1-1 after four innings, but Arizona broke the game open with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth inning.  Ildemaro Vargas had the big hit – a two run home run in the sixth inning that broke the game open at 5-1.

Arizona put four more on the board in a sloppy Ranger ninth inning to make the final score 9-2.  Joey Gallo homered, and Elvis Andrus hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the Ranger runs.

Lynn is 12-5 with the loss, and Arizona starter Alex Young, who attended TCU and lives in Dallas, was the winning pitcher.  He’s 3-0.

Wednesday’s game started bad and never got better.  The Diamondbacks batted around in the first inning putting seven runs on the scoreboard.  Ranger starting pitcher Jesse Chavez lasted just two-thirds of an inning.  Adrian Sampson relieved and didn’t do much better.  He finished the first inning and completed the second recording four outs total.  He was charged with five runs as Arizona led 12-0 as the Rangers came to bat in the second inning.

Hunter Pence led off the second with a single.  Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe followed with home runs to cut the deficit to 14-3, but that was the highlight of the night for the Rangers.

The D-Backs answered the Ranger rally with two runs in the third inning to move the score to 14-3.  They scored three more runs in the sixth inning, all driven in by Eduardo Escobar’s second home run of the night.  They finished off the night with single runs in the seventh and ninth innings.  The ninth inning run came on a home run hit by catcher Carson Kelly, who hit it off the Ranger catcher for the first eight innings – Tim Federowicz, who made his Major League pitching debut in the ninth.

The only answer the Rangers had was Santana’s second home run of the night in the sixth inning.

Chavez is 3-5 with the loss.  Arizona starter Robby Ray is 8-6 with the win.

The Rangers are in Houston this weekend after an off day on Thursday.  The announced Texas starting pitchers for the series are Mike Minor (8-4, 2.73) on Friday.  Ariel Jurado (5-5, 4.63 on Saturday, and Lance Lynn (12-5, 3.87) on Sunday.

The Astros’ rotation is almost as troubled as the Rangers’.  Justin Verlander (11-4, 2.98) is the announced starter on Friday and TBD is set to go on Saturday and Sunday.  Game times (all Central Daylight Time) are 7:10 PM on Friday and Saturday and 1:10 PM on Sunday.

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