The Texas Rangers Take Two in San Francisco
BY: Dic Humphrey
The Rangers finished their ten game road trip Sunday afternoon on a high note with a 5-0 whitewashing of San Francisco to win the series two games to one, and finish the trip 4-6. Four Ranger pitchers held the Giants off the scoreboard allowing just three hits. It was the first series win for Texas in four tries since sweeping Toronto over Memorial Day Weekend.
Sunday afternoon, Alexi Ogando made his first start of the season. He won 13 games as a starter last year and has been a good soldier about his demotion to the bullpen this year. However, he has made it known that he preferred to be in the rotation. Derek Holland’s injury presented the opportunity, and Ogando made the most of it, at least for a while. He was perfect for three innings, needing just 39 pitches to record nine outs. Unfortunately, he was injured running out a bunt in the fourth inning – a strained groin – and was immediately removed from the game. He beat the bunt out for a hit, raising his career batting average to .571! (4-7) He will be evaluated further early next week, but manager Ron Washington said after the game they were being very cautious in making the substitution, suggesting that Ogando could have stayed in the game and leaving the hope that he will be available to make his next start this Saturday against Houston.
Robbie Ross followed Ogando to the mound. He couldn’t hold the Giants hitless, but he kept them off the scoreboard for four innings to earn his sixth win. There is almost always an element of luck when bullpen pitchers earn wins, but Ross’s ERA is 1.30 after Sunday’s outing. He may be fortunate to have six wins, but he has been a very good pitcher for more than a third of the season. Four innings is his longest outing of the year, and there is speculation that his innings were pushed Sunday to build his stamina to start if Ogando can’t go this weekend. Mike Adams and Joe Nathan finished off the Giants in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the Rangers’ 35th win of the season.
The series started with a 5-0 win for the Rangers on Friday evening. After losing three of four to Oakland, the Rangers needed a well pitched game, and Matt Harrison gave it to them. He went the distance, allowing five hits, striking out four and walking no one. Keeping the bullpen off the field was especially important with Feldman and Ogando scheduled to pitch the final two games of the series. Three of the hits Harrison allowed were of the infield variety, such that only three balls were hit to the outfield. He was simply masterful. Offensively, Craig Gentry had his finest game ever. He went 5-5, drove in a pair and scored a run.
Saturday’s game was Scott Feldman’s fifth start of the year after replacing Neftali Feliz in the rotation. He has struggled in that capacity, and there is no secret that Ranger management has searched other options, especially after Feldman did not complete two innings and allowed eight runs in his previous start. He was much better this time, pitching into the sixth, allowing three runs, only two of which were earned. The Rangers trailed 5-0 after Koji Uehara gave up two more runs in the seventh, and hit solo home runs in the eighth (Mitch Moreland) and ninth (Mike Napoli) innings for a 5-2 final score in the loss.
Moreland’s home run came in a pinch-hitting appearance and was notable, as he hit the ball completely out of the stadium into McCovey Cove. It was the league leading fourth pinch hit home run for the Rangers this season. Home runs landing in McCovey Cove are termed “Splash Hits”. Moreland became just the 34th player to hit a home run into McCovey Cove, and his home run is the 87th Splash Hit in the 13 year history of the park, 61 by Giants and 26 by opponents. Moreland was just the second American Leaguer to smash a Splash Hit. David Ortiz is the other.
Despite finishing the trip on a good note, the truth is that June has not been kind to Texas. The offense was held to one or two runs by opponents four times in April and four more in May, and the Rangers were 2-6 in those games. Already in June, the Ranger batsmen have been held to fewer than three runs six times, including the first shutout of the year, and the team is 0-6 in those games. Texas has lost two of three series in the month and is 4-6. The team batting average is .251 in June, 31 points lower than the season average, and the Rangers have hit just six home runs in the 10 games.
Derek Holland has joined Neftali Feliz on the disabled list, and the Rangers have their fingers crossed that Alexi Ogando won’t be next. The Rangers’ lead is down to three games over the Angels, a lead that was nine games earlier. They are now into their seventh week of sub-.500 baseball after starting the season 15-4. June has not been good to Texas.
On the other hand, the schedule has been a bear, and that is changing. For the rest of June, all but three games (San Diego on the 18th, 19th and 20th) are home games. In fact, there are just six road games period until play resumes after the All-Star break on July 13. There are eight more series until the All-Star Break, and seven are against teams that currently have records under .500, with three games against the White Sox (July 3, 4 & 5) being the exception.
After an off day on Monday, Texas opens a six game home stand with Arizona on Tuesday. The Rangers last played the Diamondbacks in 2009 in Phoenix and in 2006 in Arlington. They have a 15-7 record against the D-backs all time including 8-3 at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers are using Monday’s off day to give extra rest to Yu Darvish, who will not take his regular turn on the mound Wednesday and will be pushed to the Friday opener against the Astros. The pitching matchups for the Arizona series are:
Tuesday Colby Lewis (4-5, 3.38) vs. Ian Kennedy (5-5, 3.93)
Wednesday Matt Harrison (6-3, 3.87) vs. Wade Miley (7-2, 2.53)
Thursday Scott Feldman (0-5, 6.39) vs. Daniel Hudson (2-1, 4.65)
NOTABLE: Friday night’s win was the Rangers’ first ever over the Giants in ATT Park in 12 tries, including two 2010 World Series games. Counting games played in Candlestick Park, the Rangers are 4-13 in San Francisco….With Sunday’s win, the Rangers are 12-9 in the final game of a series this year and 8-2 on Sundays….Roy Oswalt’s next minor league start has been scheduled for Tuesday night at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco against Midland. With Ogando’s health in question, it is possible that Tuesday’s outing will be Oswalt’s final tune-up before joining the Rangers….AA Frisco’s Mike Olt hit a grand slam home run Saturday night, his Texas League leading 19th of the season….When Ogando started Sunday afternoon, he became the seventh starting pitcher for Texas this season, matching last year’s total.