Rangers Head Home On A Winning Note
BY: Dic Humphrey
Matt Harrison pitched the Rangers to 11-2 victory over the Blue Jays Sunday afternoon to send the Rangers home from a seven game road trip on a winning note. Texas won the Toronto series two games to one, finished with a 3-4 record on the trip to New York and Toronto, and is 70-50 for the season.
The Rangers banged out 19 hits to support Harrison. Offensively, Michael Young hit his first home run since May, a span of 349 at bats. The oft maligned Young had three hits and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. He drove in five runs on the day. Elvis Andrus had four hits, while David Murphy and Geovany Soto had three each. For most of the trip, the Rangers were offensive challenged, but managed double-digit run totals in both series’ finales.
Harrison went eight innings, allowing two hits, while striking out seven Jays and walking one. His pitch count was 90, so he easily could have finished the game. With the big lead, manager Ron Washington opted to get some game action for Mark Lowe. The win was Harrison’s 14th (against seven losses), which ties his career high set last year. It was also his 10th road win of the season, and his ERA dropped to 3.19. He should have six or seven starts remaining over the final weeks of the season to extend his success.
Harrison continues to grab the mantle as the leader of the starting rotation. It seems to have happened so gradually that fans do not realize the meteoric rise of his fortunes. It was just two seasons ago that his season deteriorated almost to oblivion. He began 2010 in the starting rotation and spiraled downward to the disabled list, and then to the bullpen when he returned, and to the ultimate insult – he was omitted from the post-season rosters, as the Rangers opted for Michael Kirkman as the second lefty in the bullpen for the playoffs. He came to camp in 2011 no better than ninth or tenth in the pecking order for the starting rotation. He pitched well enough to claim one of the rotation spots, won 14 games during the season. Now he has won 14 games again this season and made the All-Star team. With Colby Lewis lost for the season, Harrison has stepped up to be the senior leader among the Ranger starters.
On Friday, the news broke that Saturday’s scheduled starter Ryan Dempster would not be making the trip to Canada. He was placed on the restricted list for personal reasons, outfielder Leonys Martin was summoned from AAA Round Rock to fill the open roster spot, and Roy Oswalt was named to start Saturday’s game in Dempster’s place. Initially, rumors revolved around passport problems that prohibited his making the trip, though that has not been confirmed and seems illogical as Dempster is a native of Canada. The idea has also been floated that the personal problems revolve around custody issues with his children.
Oswalt pitched well. He had not pitched in a game for 10 days, and had not started a game since July 30. Perhaps worse, the turn of events with Dempster did not unfold until Friday, too late for Oswalt to have a preparatory bullpen session on Thursday. Washington replaced him with two outs in the fifth inning, having allowed a run on two hits and having thrown 62 pitches. Oswalt was obviously not happy to be lifted from the game one out shy of qualifying for the win, saying afterward, “He’s the manager. I just pitch,” as reported by Clark Rowe in a tweet.
The Rangers hung on to win 2-1. All the scoreboard damage came from Nelson Cruz, who blasted his 19th home run of the season with a runner aboard. Michael Kirkman was awarded the win in relief, his first of the season for Texas.
On Friday night, Yu Darvish pitched a marvelous game. He gave up three runs on three hits over seven innings. He struck out 10 for his seventh double-digit strikeout game of the season. Perhaps even better news is his walk total, which has been his Achilles heel all season. He walked just one.
Unfortunately, J. A. Happ pitched even better for the Jays as the Rangers mustered just two runs. Texas lost 3-2, but the Darvish turnaround made this game very encouraging for Ranger fans despite the loss.
The Athletics beat Cleveland 7-0 Sunday, while Los Angeles got beat 8-3 by Tampa Bay, as the Rays completed a four game sweep of the Angelinos. Zach Greinke started and lost Sunday’s game for the Angels, whose record is 1-4 in games started by Greinke since he was obtained from the Brewers. Texas thus maintained its five game lead in the West over Oakland, but now leads Los Angeles by nine games, 10 in the loss column. The Rangers’ magic numbers to win the West are 38 over the A’s and 33 over the Angels.
Texas returns home for 10 games beginning Monday night against the Orioles. They’re in for three games, followed by the Twins next weekend for four games starting Thursday night, and the home stand concludes with the Rays next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Dempster situation allows manager Ron Washington the flexibility to build in an extra day of rest for three starters. Dempster will pitch Monday night, Harrison will pitch next Friday on regular rest, and everyone else in the rotation slides a day. The pitching matchups for the Baltimore series are:
Monday Ryan Dempster (6-6, 3.12) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (5-2, 3.38)
Tuesday Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.63) vs. Chris Tillman (5-2, 3.65)
Wednesday Derek Holland (7-6, 4.98) vs. Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.49)
- Michael Kirkman was credited with the win for Saturday’s game in relief, his first of the season. He became the 17th Ranger pitcher to earn a win this season.
- With Kirkman’s win on Saturday, the Rangers’ bullpen has a 17-8 record, the best bullpen winning percentage in the Majors (.680) and the fewest losses of any bullpen.
- Joe Nathan recorded his 23rd save of the season on Saturday, his 22nd in a row without a blown save. That’s a new team record for consecutive saves, though it is two less than the longest streak in the Majors this year. Cleveland’s Chris Perez had 24 in a streak that ended July 5.