By Richard W. Humphrey
Yu Darvish pitched one of his best games of the year Sunday to avoid the Rangers getting swept in Washington. Darvish and Joakim Soria combined to shutout the Nationals 2-0, for the team’s first win in five tries against a National League team on the road. Texas scored exactly two runs in each game of the series, which was good enough for the one win in three games. Sunday’s game completed the Rangers’ longest road trip of the season with a 7-4 record that pulled their season record over .500 at 29-28.
Darvish was simply magnificent, showing a repertoire of pitches that ranged from 59-95 miles per hour. He struck out a season high 12 batters for the second time this year, including five in a row at one point. He gave up five hits and completed eight innings on 108 pitches (12.75 per inning) to bring his ERA down to 2.08. The win was his team leading fifth of the season against two losses. Darvish has now thrown four consecutive “ultra” quality starts defined as at least seven innings pitched with two or fewer earned runs allowed.
Soria faced three batters using 10 pitches to get a ground out and two strikeouts in the ninth inning to earn his 11th save this season.
The Nationals Tanner Roark (3-4) was almost as good as Darvish. He shutout Texas for the first six innings, before surrendering a home run to Leonys Martin in the seventh. Donnie Murphy drove home an insurance run in the eighth inning to account for all the scoring.
The Nationals clinched the series win in the first two games, both of which were routs, as Washington won 9-2 and 10-2. Texas actually took a 2-0 lead Friday and held the Nats off the board for three innings, before Washington scored in each of the final five innings to take the easy win. On Saturday, the Nats scored early and often, pushing across a run in the first inning, four more in the second, and three more in the fourth to build an 8-0 lead.
Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch were hit hard Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Lewis fell to 4-4 after he gave up nine hits and two walks in 5-2/3rds innings. Tepesch (1-1) was chased after just two innings on Saturday, as he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks.
The Rangers’ offense plated four runs in the two games on 13 hits – seven singles and six doubles. That made six games in a row without a Ranger home run.
Oakland swept the Angels over the weekend to extend their lead over the Rangers to six games. Texas is in third place, 1.5 games (two in the loss column) to the Angels and one-half game ahead of fourth place Seattle (tied in the loss column).
The Rangers are off Monday and open a nine game home stand Tuesday. Texas will send Joe Saunders (0-1), Nick Martinez (1-2) and Colby Lewis (4-4) out to pitch against the Orioles Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Former Ranger Nelson Cruz is now an Oriole and will be facing his former mated for the first time since leaving the Rangers. Cleveland for four games and Miami for two complete the home stand.
INJURIES: Sin-Soo Choo, Mitch Moreland and Michael Choice were held out of Sunday’s starting lineup with assorted injuries, though Choo pinch hit and walked in the game. Their absence pressed Donnie Murphy into the starting lineup at first base, a position he had never played professionally. There were just three Nationals’ groundouts in the game, which Murphy handled flawlessly.
* The Rangers are now 4-6 in interleague play this year.
* Colby Lewis singled home a run on Friday, the first hit for a Ranger pitcher this year. Lewis actually has a hit in three consecutive games in which he batted dating back to the 2012 season. The Ranger record for a pitcher’s hitting streak is four, set by Mike Paul in 1972, the first year the Rangers were in Arlington and the last year without the use of the designated hitter in the American League.
* Sunday’s shutout was the Rangers’ Major League leading 11th of the year.
* The Rangers have now scored exactly two runs in 10 games this year and are 1-9 in those games after Sunday’s win.
* The seventh inning home run by Leonys Martin was the Rangers first in their last seven games. After 57 games, the Rangers have not hit a three run home run.
* Starting pitcher Nick Martinez pinch hit for Nick Tepesch on Saturday and pinch ran for Sin-Shoo Choo on Sunday.
* Rangers’ highly regarded prospect Joey Gallo hit two more home runs Friday night, including a grand slam, to bring his minor league leading total to 20. He is expected to be promoted to AA Frisco in the next two weeks.