Weather and missed opportunities cost the Texas Rangers a series sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays
BY: Dic Humphrey
The Rangers have now won all three season opening series after taking two of three from the Rays this week. Tampa Bay salvaged a win and avoided a sweep with a 2-0 victory over the Rangers Wednesday afternoon. Texas actually secured the series win with victories Monday and Tuesday nights by the scores of 5-4 and 6-1.
The story of game one was the controversial ending in which the Rays Ben Zobrist was called out on strikes to end the game. The pitch was obviously outside, and when home plate arbiter Marty Foster was slow in making the call, both Eric Nadel on radio and Steve Busby on television called the pitch ball four. Rays manager Joe Maddon argued vehemently with Foster as he plodded from home plate to the umpires field entrance to no avail, and afterward said, “That should not happen in a Major League game.” Even Foster admitted after the game and obviously after watching a replay of the pitch that he missed the call.
Unfortunately, the game ending controversy overshadowed another fine performance by Alexi Ogando (2-0). Ogando was certainly viewed as a question mark in the Rangers’ starting rotation when the season began, but he turned in a second outstanding start by pitching into the sixth inning while allowing just one run on three hits. His ERA stood at 0.77 after the game.
The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson (0-1, 6.35) was the starter and losing pitcher, throwing on his 26th birthday.
The story of game two was Nick Tepesch. He is 24, a former 14th round draft choice that played in college at the University of Missouri. He won out as the team’s fifth starter in spring training from a host of internal candidates. For sure, the team was criticized for not pursuing free agent Kyle Lohse, especially when top prospect Martin Perez dropped out of the fifth starter competition with an early injury. Lohse ultimately signed for $33 million, but GM Jon Daniels resisted the temptation and went with his home-grown candidates. At least for one start, he is making Daniels look smart, as Tepesch was simply magnificent Tuesday night. He lasted into the eighth inning, while allowing just a run on four hits. He struggled in the second inning when he walked the bases loaded with two outs, but he got out of that jam unscathed.
Tepesch has four pitches in his repertoire, and Tuesday, he seemingly threw them at will with ease and command. The most impressive aspect of his performance though was his mound presence. He was calm, cool and collected throughout the game.
Tampa manager Joe Maddon said afterward, “He’s got a nice delivery. He’s got velocity. He’s got other pitches that he commands. That’s something they’ve got to be excited about.”
Tepesch tracked down 27 tickets for family and friends, and when asked about pitching his Major League debut in front of the throng, he said. “It’s pretty special. I’m glad they could make it. It’s unbelievable.”
Tampa’s Roberto Hernandez (0-2, 6.08), formerly known as Fausto Carmona when he pitched for the Indians, pitched into the seventh inning, allowing all six Ranger runs and taking the loss.
Wednesday afternoon’s finale was the coldest day game ever in Ranger history. The game time temperature was 39 degrees, and it rose only slightly to 44 by game’s end. The start of the game was delayed 1:29 because of the rains that crossed the area earlier Wednesday. The end result was that the ball did not carry at all, putting offense at a premium.
Texas had plenty of scoring opportunities after receiving eight walks and getting five hits, but they were 0-7 with runners in scoring position to get shutout for the first time this year. The Rays scratched out a third inning run without a hit. Ben Zobrist drove home that run with a ground out after three Derek Holland walks. The Rays added another in the fifth when Desmond Jennings doubled leading off the inning, moved to third base on a ground out and scored on an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly. That was all the run scoring on the day.
Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40) was the hard luck loser. He completed eight innings giving up just five hits. He has now pitched 17 innings in two starts. His offensive teammates have provided one run of support during the innings Holland pitched and three runs total in the two games.
Matt Moore (2-0, 0.00) was the winning pitcher, going 5-1/3 innings and giving up just one hit. He did walk six and struck out five. Three Rays’ relievers finished off the Rangers with Fernando Rodney earning his first save of the season with a four up three down ninth inning.
The Rangers play 14 of their next 17 games on the road, fitting a three game series with the Mariners on May 19, 20 and 21 between two seven game road trips. The first road trip opens Thursday night in Seattle with Justin Grimm, just recalled from AAA Round Rock, as the starting pitcher. He replaces Matt Harrison, who was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with back problems, which he now admits he was experiencing late in spring training. He has not pitched well in his two starts, which he lost. Hopefully, a couple of weeks off will get his health back enough to perform at the All-Star level that was expected. The pitching matchups for the Seattle series are:
Thursday 9:10 PM RHP Justin Grimm (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (1-1, 2.57)
Friday 9:10 PM RHP Yu Darvish (2-0, 1.98) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 2.57)
Saturday 8:10 PM RHP Alexi Ogando (2-0, 0.77) vs. LHP Joe Saunders (1-1, 3.48)
Sunday 3:10 PM RHP Nick Tepesch (1-0, 1.23) vs. Brandon Maurer (0-2, 16.20)
- After Wednesday’s game, the Rangers issued a statement indicating that Nolan Ryan will remain as the team’s Chief Executive Officer.
- Joe Nathan’s save in Monday’s opening game of the series was his 300th of his career. He is the 24th pitcher to reach 300 saves. Rays’ manager Joe Maddon autographed his lineup card for the game and sent it over to Nathan for a souvenir of the evening.
- Julio Borbon was designated for assignment Tuesday to make room for Tepesch on the roster. Borbon is a career .283 hitter in 216 Major League games (685 at bats). He will undoubtedly get claimed if waived, so the Rangers will continue to attempt to make a trade for him within the 10 days allowed after he was DFA’d.
- Yu Darvish has suffered with blisters in his first two starts. He was lifted after five innings in his last start because of the condition, but Wednesday, he pronounced himself healthy and expects to make his scheduled start against the Mariners on Friday.
- Next week’s games against the Cubs will mark the Rangers’ second trip to Wrigley Field and the earliest dates in a season to play inter-league contests.