By: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers were swept in a four game series this weekend by the Angels for the first time in Ranger history. Los Angeles outscored Texas 33-15 to maintain their lead as the highest scoring team in baseball. The Angels’ sweep also completed an 0-7 home stand for Texas, the first time the team has ever lost every game of a home stand of more than six games. For the 20 game stretch over the last three weeks leading up to the All-Star game, the Rangers finished 3-17. They go to the break with the worst record in baseball at 38-57.
Houston outscored the Rangers 28-14 earlier in the week, and in game one of this series, the Angels started in on Ranger pitching where the Astros left off. Colby Lewis was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, and he set two dubious records while recording just seven outs. He allowed the most runs (13) and earned runs (11) in an appearance by a Ranger pitcher. The Angels scored four in the first inning, and after the Rangers answered with two in the bottom half, Los Angeles came back with a vengeance to score six more in the second, and three more in the third, all being charged to Lewis. He didn’t walk a batter, but allowed 13 hits to the 20 batters he faced. Four of the 13 hits went for extra bases, including Mike Trout’s 21st home run.
Aaron Poreda gave up two more runs in the eighth inning to make the Angels’ final tally 15. The Rangers added single runs in the fourth and sixth and two more in the ninth to make the final score 15-6. The Angels’ Hector Santiago (1-7) was the beneficiary of the Angels’ offensive explosion as he started and won for the first time this season.
It was another sloppily played game as the Rangers were charged with two errors. Elvis Andrus also missed a foul pop that should have been caught, but he was not charged with an error on the play. After using three relievers, including Mark West making his Major League debut, Washington wanted to save his beleaguered bullpen. Consequently, Chris Gimenez pitched the ninth inning, and he did well. He retired the Angels in order, including a strikeout, on 12 pitches. It was the second time this year, but just the eighth time in Ranger history, that a position player took the mound.
After the game, Washington was furious and held a 30 minute team meeting. Few details of his talk at the meeting have surfaced, though jobs were threatened. Washington says he knows the players are trying, but he questions their commitment. The Rangers however responded with three more losses.
Games two and three of the series broke the pattern of high scoring affairs. Only three runs were plated in game two on Friday night. Unfortunately, for Texas all three of them were Angels’ runs, as Garrett Richards pitched a marvelous seven innings, and the always scary Angels’ bullpen got the final six outs to complete the shutout. The win ran Richards’ record to 11-2, and the seven shutout innings dropped his ERA to 2.55. He is perhaps the biggest snub of players left off the All-Star team.
Nick Tepesch pitched well for Texas. His record fell to 3-5 with the loss. In this season that has become about “development” instead of winning, a strong performance from Tepesch over the balance of the season is one of the best things that could happen for the Rangers. With little likelihood of contributions from Matt Harrison and Martin Perez next year, establishing a reliable pitcher for the starting rotation, even if he’s just a back of the rotation starter, would be a big plus for 2015.
Eric Nadel was honored prior to Saturday’s game as he prepares to be inducted into the media wing of baseball’s Hall of Fame. The giveaway item for the evening were 15,000 Eric Nadel bobble head dolls. The game that followed was similar to the game two. The score was 5-2 instead of a romp.
Miles Mikolas (0-2) was the Ranger starting and losing pitcher. He did well early as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning. The Rangers failed to support him defensively, and he seemingly ran out of gas, giving up four runs in the sixth, which he couldn’t finish. Jered Weaver (10-6) allowed both Ranger runs over seven innings. A pair of Angels’ relievers held Texas off the scoreboard over the final two innings to secure the win.
In Sunday’s finale, Scott Baker was the starting pitcher. He gave up five runs on nine hits in four innings and was tagged with his third loss. Four relievers followed with each giving up at least one run. 10-7 was the final score. The score was tied at four after three innings, but the Angels never trailed again after taking the lead in the fourth. Los Angeles consistently pounded Ranger pitching as they failed to score in just the first and seventh innings. Surprisingly on a very hot day, there were no home runs hit in the game.
Angels’ lefty Tyler Skaggs (5-5) was the winning pitcher, and Angels’ closer Joe Smith earned his 15th save with a perfect ninth inning. Smith has been terrific since taking over as the Angels’ closer. He has converted 15 of 16 save opportunities and has not allowed a hit in his last 10 appearances.
One continuing problem for the Rangers is their defense. They made at least one error in each of the four games with the Angels, and have committed an error in each of the last six games, a season high. They have the second lowest fielding percentage among the 30 Major League teams and have committed 69 errors, a pace of 118 for the season.
The Angels finish the first half having won five games in a row and 26 of their last 35 to put the heat on division leading Oakland. The A’s have the best record in baseball as they are 23 games over .500 at 59-36. That’s five more wins than any other division leader, yet they lead Los Angeles by just 1.5 games (one in the loss column), as the Angels have the second best record in baseball.
The Rangers, except Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre take four days off for the All-Star break. Play resumes next Friday in Toronto. Darvish (8-5) will start the opening game of the series. The starters for the games next Saturday and Sunday have not been announced. The road trip continues to New York for four games with the Yankees next week before the Rangers return to Arlington.
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: Texas sent Phil Irwin, the announced starting pitcher for the finale of the Angels series to Round Rock on Thursday and called up reliever Mark West, as the bullpen was decimated from the short starts in the Houston series. On Saturday, the Rangers optioned Aaron Poreda to Round Rock and called up left-hander Ryan Feierabend. Feierabend became the 50th player to appear for the Rangers this season, the most ever used by a Major League team before the All-Star break. Derek Holland was sent back to Arizona for more rehabilitation, though he is tentatively scheduled to make his first minor league rehab appearance on July 28 for Frisco. Outfielder Engel Beltre was recalled from his minor league rehab assignment and placed back on the disabled list. Jim Adduci is expected to start a minor league rehab assignment soon.
* Adrian Beltre’s hitting streak came to an end at 15 games when he went 0-3 in Saturday’s game. He still goes into the All-Star break with the league leading batting average at .337.
* Rookie outfielder Jake Smolenski has 10 hits in his first six games with the Rangers and is hitting .476. He also made two brilliant diving catches in Saturday’s game.