By: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers lost Wednesday night 5-4 to drop the three game series with Houston two games to one. The teams traded shutout victories Monday and Tuesday. The Astros win on Tuesday ended a streak of 10 consecutive wins at Minute Maid Park for Texas, and the series win was the first for the Bayou City boys since 2008. The Rangers and Astros have now split six games this season, with the home team winning two out of three in each series. Houston beat the Rangers just twice last year.
The Rangers record fell to 20-21, the first time they have been under .500 this late in the season since the final game of 2008. Texas remains in fourth place in the A. L. West, but now trails Oakland by five full games. Second place Los Angeles is two games ahead of the Rangers, and third place Seattle is one-half game ahead, one in the loss column.
Texas got off to a flying start Wednesday night by racking up a 4-0 lead on 10 hits in the first five innings. Alex Rios started the scoring with his third home run of the year, a solo shot in the second inning. Elvis Andrus extended his current hitting streak to 11 games with a third inning single and subsequently scored on a Prince Fielder single. In the fifth inning, Andrus doubled leading off. He scored on Adrian Beltre’s single, who also scored on Fielder’s double.
That was it for the Rangers’ offense, which mustered just one more hit, Beltre’s third hit of the game in the seventh inning. Fielder’s pair of hits ran his batting average up to a semi-respectable .252.
Nick Tepesch made his 2014 Ranger debut on the mound. He threw five shutout innings, but walked Dexter Fowler with one out in the sixth. Early in the game, Houston had worked Tepesch hard even though the Astros didn’t score. That took its toll as it ran up his pitch count, as Tepesch left the game having thrown 104 pitches. Fowler scored two singles later for the only run Tepesch allowed. The Astros added another to cut the Rangers’ lead in half at 4-2 after six innings.
Houston tied the game in the seventh with a two run home run from George Springer, one of the Astros’ bright young hitting prospects. It was Springer’s third of the year in his 26th game.
The game stayed tied until the ninth. Nick Martinez was in to pitch for Texas, and he retired Springer to start the inning. Fowler singled, and Martinez walked Jason Castro. That set the stage for Matt Dominguez to hit a long fly ball off the wall in right center field. It was ruled a single as the game was over when Fowler scored on the hit. Martinez (0-1) took the loss.
“They just got us,” manager Ron Washington said in a post-game television interview. “That’s all I can say. It just got away from us.”
Losing Wednesday’s game was far from the worst Ranger news of the day. Prior to the game, both Matt Harrison and Martin Perez were placed on the disabled list, and it is doubtful that either will pitch again this year. Perez has a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. He could be headed for Tommy John surgery. Harrison could need spinal-fusion surgery, which is career threatening.
The only Ranger win in the series came Monday night when Colby Lewis started and won his third game of the season against two losses. It was his best start of the year. He gave up seven hits over 5-2/3rds scoreless innings. Eight of the seventeen outs were strikeouts.
Nick Martinez relieved and pitched into the eighth. Neal Cotts got the last two outs of the eighth, and Joakim Soria completed the shutout by striking out the three batters he faced in the ninth on 19 pitches in a non-save situation.
Offensively, Adrian Beltre got the ball rolling in the third inning with a two run home run, his third of the season. Rougned Odor singled home Mitch Moreland an inning later to extend the Ranger lead to 3-0. It was Odor’s first Major League RBI. He didn’t wait long to get another, as he led off the sixth inning with his first Major League home run. The final score was 4-0.
Houston turned the tables on Tuesday. Astros’ lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-2) tossed a complete game shutout at the Rangers. He walked no one, struck out seven and allowed seven Ranger hits; only one of which, a Beltre double, went for extra bases.
Matt Harrison was the Texas starter. It was immediately obvious that he wasn’t right. His velocity was down considerably, and he retired just five batters. He came out of the game with tightness in his back in the same area that troubled him last year. He was charged with three runs after allowing four hits to take the loss that evened his record at 1-1.
Justin Germano relieved and promptly put the game out of reach, as he gave up five runs in 3-1/3rd innings. The final score was 8-0.
Texas limps home for an off day on Thursday and a three game set with Toronto this weekend. Last year, the Rangers were 1-6 against the Jays, losing all four games in Arlington. The only for sure Rangers starting pitcher in the series is Yu Darvish (3-1) on Friday. Robbie Ross (1-4) and Colby Lewis (3-2) are the most likely starters in the other two games, though not necessarily in that order. Michael Young will be honored prior to Saturday’s game.
ROSTER MOVES: Matt Harrison and Martin Perez were placed on the disabled list on Wednesday. Justin Germano was designated for assignment. Pitchers Scott Baker, Nick Tepesch and Miles Mikolas were added to the active roster.
* The scoring call in the seventh inning of last Friday’s near no-hitter by Yu Darvish was overturned by the American League on appeal from the Red Sox. The fly ball into short right field was initially ruled an error by official scorer Steve Weller, but has now been changed to a base hit for David Ortiz.
* Elvis Andrus now has two hitting streaks of 11 games this season, his career high. He is one of four Major League players with two double-digit hitting streaks this year, joining Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and the Mets’ David Wright.
* With his Wednesday night start, Nick Tepesch became the ninth pitcher to start a game for Texas this year.