The Texas Rangers opened the second half of the season 43-45, three games behind the American League Wild Card leaders. After a long All Star break, the Rangers began their pursuit of the post season by winning two of three against the Royals in Kansas City. The series kicked off a huge ten-game road trip for Texas with the non-waiver trade deadline just days away. The pitching staff had a very good weekend. The starters combined to hold the Royals to just five earned runs in 21.1 innings pitched. The bullpen converted on both save chances and allowed just one run all weekend. Unfortunately, the run allowed was on a walk-off single in game three, preventing the Rangers from completing the sweep. The offense was hit-and-miss, and the Rangers were once again heavily reliant on the homerun this weekend. But starting the post All-Star break portion of the season with a series win on the road against another playoff contender is a great sign for the Rangers moving forward. The Rangers finish the weekend 16.5 games back of Houston for the division lead (no change from prior week) and three games out of a Wild Card spot (no change).
Rangers 5, Royals 3
Friday, July 14, 2017
W: Perez (5-6) L: Minor (5-2) SV: Claudio (2)
Martin Perez opened his second half with one of his stronger performances this season, and Texas belted two clutch homeruns as the Rangers opened the series with a 5-3 victory over the Royals. Perez fell behind early when he gave up a two-run homerun to Alcidas Escobar, his third of the season, in the second inning. It was the 16th homerun allowed by Perez this season, which tops the pitching staff. Perez would settle down nicely after the second, completing seven innings while allowing three earned runs on eight hits and just one free pass. The seven innings pitched matches a season high for Perez who hadn’t completed a full seven innings since May 18th. Perez only recorded one strikeout on the evening, but he induced two huge double plays to keep Texas in the game while the offense tried to get going. Perez has now induced 17 double plays this season, the second most in the American League.
Kansas City starter Jason Hammel, who came into the game winless in his last three starts, carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but faded fast. First half MVP Elvis Andrus hit an infield single with one out in the sixth to break up the no-no. Nomar Mazara followed with a single of his own to set the stage for Adrian Beltre. Moments later, Beltre tied the game with his 8th homerun of the season. It was his 453rd career homerun, passing Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski for 38th in MLB history. Mike Napoli, who surprisingly wasn’t in the starting lineup to begin the weekend, hit a two-run pinch hit homer in the seventh inning to give the Rangers their first lead of the night. Napoli’s blast scored Carlos Gomez who had singled ahead of Napoli entering the game.
The two Ranger homeruns in the sixth and seventh innings would account for all of the team’s scoring on the night, which was just fine for Perez and the bullpen. Following Perez’s effective seven innings, one-time closer Matt Bush came on to throw a perfect eighth, and closer for the day Alex Claudio worked a perfect ninth for his second save this season. Perez picked up his fifth win of the season. It was just his third win in his last 29 road starts.
Rangers 1, Royals 0
Saturday, July 15, 2017
W: Leclerc (2-2) L: Duffy (5-6) SV: Claudio (3)
Cole Hamels was dominant this evening, and the Texas offense benefited from two bloop singles in the ninth to take the second of three against the Royals. Texas has now won 12 straight against Kansas City dating back to last season. Hamels completed 7.2 shutout innings for the second straight start, and the Texas bullpen preserved the shutout as the Rangers improved to .500 on the season. The outing ran Hamels’ scoreless inning streak to 21, the longest active streak in the American League.
Hamels was chased in the eighth when Royals’ second baseman Whit Merrifield doubled to left. Rookie reliever Jose Leclerc was brought on to complete the inning and did so by striking out the one batter he faced in the inning. Leclerc was asked to come back out to pitch the ninth; however, after Leclerc walked the leadoff hitter, Alex Claudio was called upon to complete the shutout. Claudio struck out the first batter he faced, then followed that up by inducing a game-ending double play to pick up his third save of the season and his second in a row following the All Star Break.
Texas managed all of five hits on the evening as Royal starter Danny Duffy was terrific. Duffy allowed only one extra base hit, a Mike Napoli triple that nearly left the yard, in his 8.1 innings. Duffy was the victim of a little bit of bad luck in the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy blooped a single into right to start the inning. Lucroy was replaced by Joey Gallo as a pinch runner who would subsequently advance to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Delino Deshields. Designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo followed with the Rangers second bloop hit in the inning, and Gallo scored the deciding run, guaranteeing the Rangers a series win.
Royals 4, Rangers 3
Sunday, July 16, 2017
W: Herrera (2-2) L: Grilli (2-5)
For the second straight week, Yu Darvish took the mound on Sunday afternoon looking to deliver the Rangers’ first sweep since June 11th. Darvish was far from dominant; however, he did manage to hold the Royals to three runs (only two earned) through 6.2 innings. After a shaky start, Darvish seemed to settle down, retiring the side in the fifth and sixth innings. Yu took the mound in the bottom of the seventh shortly after Mike Napoli tied the game at three with his 20th homerun of the season. After retiring the first two batters of the seventh, Darvish allowed a single, followed by an RBI double to give up the lead and his day was done. Darvish has won just once in his last ten starts.
Matt Bush retired the lone batter he faced to end the seventh, and Alex Claudio was brought on to face three lefties in the eighth. Claudio retired the Royals in order completing three perfect innings this weekend. Newcomer Jason Grilli was brought on in the ninth to keep the game tied. The Royals loaded the bases with one out before Grilli retired Jorge Bonifacio with a clutch strike out. But with two outs, Lorenzo Cain hit a “single” to walk it off 4-3, salvaging the series finale for KC. Was it a hit? Was it an error? Or did the sun just win? You be the judge.
Mike Napoli finished the game with two hits and one run batted in. Nomar Mazara drove in his 57th run of the season, and Drew Robinson hit his third homerun of the season in just his 17th at bat.
Offensive Player of the Week – Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli was left out of the starting lineup for the series opener, but it didn’t take long for him to make his presence felt. Napoli hit two homeruns and drove in three runs this weekend. The veteran certainly had a flare for the dramatic this weekend. His first homerun of the series was a two-run pinch hit homerun to win the series opener. His second, a game-tying solo shot in the eight inning of the finale. Napoli finished the weekend 4 for 9 (.444), upping his average to .203 on the season.
Pitcher of the Week – Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels was dominant in game two against the Royals. Hamels pitched into the eighth, completing 7.2 innings without allowing a run. Hamels scattered four hits while walking one and striking out seven. Hamels improved to 4-0 with a 3.05 ERA on the season.
Texas opens the week in Baltimore with a four-game series against the Orioles. Baltimore (42-49) comes into the series fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The O’s were outscored 27-11 in the three games against the defending World Series Champs. Baltimore fell to six back of the Wild Card leaders following the sweep.
This week marks the first four of seven games between the Rangers and Orioles this season, all of which will take place in July. Last season, Texas won the season series four games to three. Baltimore is currently hitting .253 as a team on the season, good for 9th place in the American League. The Orioles currently rank 6th in the league in total homeruns and 11th in runs scored. Baltimore’s pitching staff comes into the series against the Rangers with a league worst 5.19 ERA. The Rangers will throw Andrew Cashner (4-7, 3.54 ERA), Tyson Ross (2-1, 5.33 ERA), Martin Perez (5-6, 4.55 ERA) and Cole Hamels. The Orioles will counter with Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.90 ERA), Dylan Bundy (8-8, 4.33 ERA), Kevin Gausman (5-7, 6.39 ERA) and Wade Miley (4-8, 5.40 ERA).
The Rangers will conclude the upcoming week and the ten-game road trip with a three-game set in Tampa Bay (49-44). The Rays opened the second half of their season by winning two of three against the Angles in Los Angeles. Tampa Bay currently owns one of the top two Wild Card spots and is just 2.5 games behind Boston for the lead in the AL East.
The Rays took two of three from Texas in May. Neither pitching staff fared well in the first series as both squads put up 22 runs a piece in the three-game set. Texas blew leads after the seventh inning in each of its two losses against Tampa Bay in May, giving up 9 runs in 9.1 innings in the process. Tampa Bay is one of the league’s better hitting teams, carrying a team average of .257 (7th in the AL) while currently ranking 4th in the American League in runs scored. The Rays 137 team homeruns trail only the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. Tampa Bay also ranks in the top five in team ERA at 4.12 and the pitching staff is 7th in the league in total strikeouts. Probably starters have not yet been announced.
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