By: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers avoided a sweep at the hands of the Astros Sunday afternoon, as Nick Martinez won his second game in 15 starts, his first win since May. Houston’s Dallas Keuchel was unhittable for three innings as the Astros took a 2-0 lead, but Texas came back to tie with two in the fourth and took the lead for good with two more in the fifth inning. Adrian Beltre and Sin-Shoo Choo led off the sixth and seventh innings with home runs to complete the Rangers’ scoring. 6-2 was the final.
Martinez improved to 2-8, as he allowed five hits over five innings on 102 pitches. He struck out six and walked two. Three relievers finished the game allowing one hit and one walk over the final four innings. Shawn Tolleson completed two innings, a rarity for Ranger relievers, though he needed just 24 pitches to record the six outs. Neftali Feliz was perfect in the ninth inning in a non-save situation. Keuchel, Houston’s ace, took the loss to fall to 10-8.
On Friday night, the Rangers staked Miles Mikolas to a 2-0 with a first inning two run shot from J. P. Arencibia. Mikolas qualified for a win with five innings of one-run ball on four Astros’ hits. The Rangers took that 2-1 lead into the eighth inning, but Neal Cotts couldn’t hold it. He gave up three runs on four hits, the big blow being a Chris Carter two-run home run that gave the Astros the lead at 3-2.
The insurance run the Spacemen tacked on later proved to be the game winner as the Rangers scored one in the ninth inning, before Chad Qualls recorded the third out. 4-3 was the final score. Jose Veras (2-1) was the winning Astros’ pitcher in relief. Qualls earned his 13th save. It was Cotts’ sixth blown save, and the loss moved his record to 2-6.
Saturday’s game was the matchup that looked most favorable for a Rangers’ win. Yu Darvish has dominated Houston in the past, but it didn’t happen that way Saturday. He was knocked out when he failed to retire a batter and allowed four fifth inning runs. Houston got 13 base runners (nine hits and four walks) from the 24 batters that faced him in four plus innings. His record fell to 10-7 with the loss.
After falling behind 6-0, the Rangers rallied for three runs in the sixth and seventh innings, including a solo home run from Jim Adduci, his first in the Major Leagues. Houston answered with sixth and eighth inning runs off Ranger relievers for the 8-3 final score. Former Ranger Scott Feldman pitched into the seventh inning for the win, his sixth against eight losses.
Texas is now 26 games out of first place and 25 games under .500 at 46-71. The Texas win ended a seven game Astros’ winning streak in the series, but the two wins for Houston improved their lead over the Rangers for fourth place in the division to 2.5 games, two in the loss column. Houston now leads the season series 8-4 and needs just two wins in the final seven meetings to re-claim the Silver Boot trophy, awarded to the winner of the season series between the two Texas Major League teams. Texas has won the Silver Boot the last seven years.
The Rangers return home for a seven game home stand starting with four games against Tampa Bay. The announced starting pitchers for the series are Colby Lewis (8-8) on Monday, Nick Tepesch (4-7) on Tuesday, Miles Mikolas (1-4) on Wednesday and Yu Darvish (10-7) in Thursday’s finale. All four games are scheduled to begin at 7:05. Texas lost two of three games to the Rays in April in the only other action this season between the two teams. The home stand concludes next weekend with three games against the Angels.
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES: The Rangers designated Chris Gimenez and Jerome Williams for assignment and activated Geovany Soto from the disabled list prior to the start of the series. Williams was claimed on waivers by Philadelphia. Gimenez cleared waivers, but has not decided whether he will accept the Rangers’ offer to join AAA Round Rock. Derek Holland’s third minor league rehab start went well. He threw three scoreless innings for Frisco Saturday night. He gave up three hits, struck out four, and threw 49 pitches (30 strikes). Alex Rios was out of the lineup in the first two games of the series with an ankle sprain, but returned Sunday. However, he reinjured the ankle sliding into home and was forced to leave the game.
* Scott Feldman, the winning pitcher in game two of the series, is one of two pitchers to make opening day starts for both Texas teams. The other of course is Nolan Ryan.
* Sin-Shoo Choo recorded his 1,000th Major League hit in Saturday’s game. That hit was his 100th of this season.
* Elvis Andrus’ 13 game hitting streak came to an end Friday night with an 0-3 performance.
* BAD NEWS: Texas is 18-28 against American League West foes. MORE BAD NEWS: 30 of the Rangers final 45 games are against A. L. West teams.