By Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – Tampa Bay completed a series win three games to one with a 6-3 victory over the Rangers Thursday night. The Rangers lone win came in the longest home game of the season – a 14 inning affair on Tuesday night, while the Rays handily won the other three games.
The Rays opened the series with a 7-0 whitewashing of the Rangers. Drew Smyly, the former Arkansas Razorback making his second start for Tampa since being acquired from the Tigers, was the starting and winning pitcher. He limited the Rangers to three hits over 7-2/3rds innings for the win, his first for Tampa and his seventh against 10 losses for the season.
The Rangers had some chances, but went 0-5 with men in scoring position. Colby Lewis (8-9) was the Rangers’ starting and losing pitcher. He had command issues and needed 101 pitches to struggle through five innings. He walked four and gave up five hits as nine of the 25 batters he faced reached base (.360 on base percentage) and five of them scored, though a Ranger error made three of those runs unearned.
On Tuesday night, Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson continued the Rangers’ scoreless streak for six more innings. In the top of the sixth, the Rays hit a pair of triples, and both scored. Desmond Jennings hit the first one and scored on a sacrifice fly. Matt Joyce hit the second one and scored on the play as the relay throw to third base went into the stands.
Hellickson’s chance for a win went out the door immediately in the seventh inning. Leonys Martin singled and Geovany Soto doubled to lead off the inning. They both scored on Rougned Odor’s sacrifice fly and Sin-Shoo Choo’s double.
The game stayed tied at two until the 14th inning. Both teams had opportunities, but the Rangers finally cashed in when Adam Rosales walked with two outs and the bases loaded for the 3-2 win. It was the fifth walk-off win for Texas this year.
Scott Baker (1-3) was the winning pitcher with two solid innings of relief. He became the 18th Ranger pitcher to record a win this season, the third most in baseball, but still four away from the Ranger record of 22. Cesar Ramos (2-5) was the loser for Tampa. The pitching story for Texas though was Nick Tepesch, who continues to make the most of his tryout for the 2015 Ranger starting rotation. He completed seven innings, allowing the two runs on four hits. He walked no one, as did the Ranger relievers that pitched the final seven innings of the game.
Neither team hit a home run in the first two games of the series the 16th and 17th homerless games this year at the ballpark now known as Globe Life Ballpark. That re-set the old record of 13 set just last season. The homerless streak ended early on Wednesday in game three, as the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce and Brandon Guyer all homered in the first two innings. That gave the Rays an early 5-0 lead and they coasted to a 10-1 victory.
Miles Mikolas was the Rangers’ starting pitcher and victim of the Rays’ offensive largesse. He gave up all 10 runs over six innings on nine hits and two walks. The performance zoomed his ERA up to 7.71, and the loss dropped his record to 1-5.
Alex Claudio, summoned Wednesday after the 14 inning game, made his Major League debut by pitching a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout. J. P. Arencibia made his Major League pitching debut in the ninth inning, becoming the third position player to pitch for the Rangers this year.
Yu Darvish being placed on the disabled list opened the door for Robbie Ross’s return. Ross started Wednesday night, breaking a string of 38 consecutive Rangers games started by right-handed pitchers. Ross looked to have gotten turned around at Round Rock as he had a 2.91 ERA over his last five AAA starts. He got off to a good start by striking out the side in the first inning, but his outing was down hill from there. A two out home run put two runs on the board for the Rays in the second inning. Ross gave up two more runs in the third and fifth innings. He retired just one batter in the fifth.
Geovany Soto tagged Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi for a two run home run in the fourth inning to cut the Rays lead to 4-2 at the time. Rougned Odor hit his fifth home run of the year in the eighth inning for the Rangers’ other tally. 6-3 was the final score. Odorizzi (9-9) was the winning pitcher, while Ross (2-8) took the loss.
Part of this series can be explained by motivation. The Rays had the worst record in baseball in early June, 18 games under .500. With the series win in Arlington this week, they have pulled within one game of being even .500. They are still 10 games out of first place in the East where Baltimore has taken charge of the division, but the Rays have crept within six games of the second Wild Card slot. With 41 games remaining and with a bunch of momentum, the Rays have a legitimate chance to slip into the playoffs.
The Rangers on the other hand look like a team motivated to get the season over with. They committed five errors in the four games and had the usual assortment of base running blunders and bonehead plays that weren’t scored errors. The three losses dropped their record to 9-17 since the All-Star break, and they are 26 games out of first place. Their 47-74 record is the worst in the American League and is tied with Colorado for the worst in baseball. Texas could still climb out of the cellar as they are 2.5 games behind Houston for fourth place in the division.
The home stand continues this weekend with three games against the Angels, another team that is highly motivated. Los Angeles arrives in second place in the division, but with the second best record in baseball. They are virtually assured a playoff spot. They have a great chance to overtake the Athletics for first place and have a comfortable 5.5 game lead over the team in third place in the Wild Card standings. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Nick Martinez (2-8) on Friday night, Colby Lewis (8-9) on Saturday night, and Nick Tepesch (4-7) on Sunday. Former Ranger C. J. Wilson is not scheduled to pitch in the series for L. A.
ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: Chris Gimenez, who had earlier cleared waivers after being designated for assignment, accepted the outright assignment to AAA Round Rock. Yu Darvish was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season with elbow soreness. He is expected to miss two starts. Alex Claudio was called up from Round Rock to replace him. Robbie Ross rejoined the team to start Thursday’s game. Nate Adcock was optioned to Round Rock to make room for Ross. Derek Holland started and pitched for Round Rock Thursday night, allowing three runs (one earned) in 3-2/3rds innings. He allowed three hits, walked two, struck out four and was charged with the loss, as the Reno Aces won the game 6-1.
* Texas has now used 56 players this season, a total that leads the Major Leagues and is a new team record. Alex Claudio was the 17th rookie to appear for Texas, which is tied with Arizona for the most this season. With Claudio and J. P. Arencibia pitching in the series, the Rangers have now used 35 pitchers this season, a team record.
* Leonys Martin had four hits in Tuesday’s 14 inning game, his first career four hit game.
* The Rangers 14 innings played on Tuesday matched their longest game of the year by innings. They earlier played 14 against the Yankees in New York. The game time of 4:49 was five minutes less than the other 14 inning game. There were six errors in the game, three by each team to match the most errors committed in any Major League game this season. It was also the longest game in ballpark history without a home run.