By: Richard W. Humphrey
Baltimore cashed in eight home runs for a four game sweep of the Texas Rangers to start the week. The Rangers dropped to 11 games under .500 for the season and now trail Oakland by 15 games, the largest deficit of any team in baseball except for the last place Astros, who are just two games behind the Rangers.
The Rangers were never really in the first two games. Joe Saunders, making his 10th Ranger start, was terrible in game one. He gave up four home runs for the second time in his career that led to seven runs scored for Baltimore. 7-1 was the final score. Saunders’ record fell to 0-5. The Rangers finished June with a 9-17 record and just two series wins during the month.
ESPN radio’s Mike Peasley commented that Washington was as down as he has seen him in a long time after Monday’s game.
The month of July didn’t start any better. Baltimore blasted three more home runs, including one by Nelson Cruz in an 8-3 loss. Nick Martinez probably pitched better than his pitching line, but he didn’t pitch well. He was charged with all eight runs, two of which were unearned, allowing seven hits and walking a batter. His record dropped to 1-6.
The Birds took charge of both games early by scoring four runs in the first and second innings in both games.
Texas actually took a lead in game three, pushing across a run in the first and adding three more in the third inning. Meanwhile, Miles Mikolas was blanking the Orioles the first time through the batting order. The Birds chipped into the four run lead with a singleton in the fourth inning, but Mikolas took that 4-1 lead into the sixth. He retired just one batter, as did relievers Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts. Mikolas ended the evening charged with three runs, and his chance to be the winning pitcher went out the door when Baltimore finished the sixth with three runs scored to tie the game.
They proceeded to add two more runs an inning later off Cotts, who took the loss to drop his record to 2-5. The final score was 6-4, though the game didn’t end quickly. There was a rain delay of 1:38 after Baltimore took the lead, such that this one ended at almost midnight local time. It was the first weather delay for Texas this year.
The second weather delay came a day later, as Thursday’s series finale was delayed 56 minutes at the start. The result was the same as Baltimore won 5-2. Baltimore scored first in the third inning, but Texas came back with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. It was short-lived however, as Baltimore answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim the lead for good.
Hurricane Arthur perhaps decided Thursday’s game. Yu Darvish was the originally scheduled Ranger starting pitcher. He was scratched for fear of a wasted start thwarted by inclement weather. He was moved to Friday against the Mets in New York, though now Tropical Storm Arthur still threatens rain delay problems.
Scott Baker took the start on short notice and did an admirable job. He allowed three runs on seven hits over 4-2/2″3rds innings, but took the loss to fall to 0-2.
Since the Rangers’ critical nine game road trip began on June 13 against the three teams ahead of them in the West, Texas has gone 5-14 to essentially wipe out the 2014 season. The offense was already offensive, but the starting pitching has absolutely cratered. Darvish has started and won three of the five games the Rangers have won over the past three weeks. Basically, Texas has little chance to win in the games he does not start.
The road trip concludes this weekend with three games in New York against the Mets. It will be the first Ranger appearance in CitiField. The announced starting pitchers are Yu Darvish (8-4) on Friday night, Colby Lewis (5-5) on Saturday, and Nick Martinez (1-6) on Sunday.
ROSTER MOVES AND INJURIES: On Monday, Tampa Bay claimed reliever Cory Burns on waivers. Burns had been waived to make room on the 40-man roster for the addition of Adam Rosales. On Tuesday, the Rangers designated Joe Saunders for assignment and called up Miles Mikolas from AAA Round Rock. Mikolas was immediately inserted into the rotation to start Wednesday’s game in Baltimore.
* Adrian Beltre was named as the Rangers’ Player of the Month for June. He hit .392 with a league leading 22 RBIs. It was the seventh time he has won the award, which ties him with Alex Rodriguez for the most by a Ranger since the Award was instituted in 1998.
* Adam Rosales made his 2014 Ranger debut as Tuesday’s designated hitter, and Miles Mikolas made his Ranger debut as Wednesday’s starting pitcher. They became the 43rd and 44th players to appear in a Ranger game this season.
* Ranger executive Jim Sundberg announced Wednesday that he would be retiring at season’s end. Sundberg has been a member of the Rangers’ front office since 2004, and his current title is senior executive vice president, which he has held since October of 2008. He broke into the big leagues with Texas in 1974 and played 16 years in the Majors, also appearing with the Cubs, Royals and Brewers. He has also served the Rangers as a broadcaster and minor league instructor.