Texas Rangers: Pregame buzz
But he has plenty of arms to turn to if needed.
Washington said all of his pitchers, including starters Alexi Ogando, Matt Garza and Derek Holland, are available to come out of the bullpen in Game 163, an elimination game, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yu Darvish is the only pitcher who won't be used.
|Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
"It just depends on what is happening," Washington said. "If he has issues in the first inning, it could be the first inning. If he has issues in the fifth inning, it could be the fifth. It could be the second, the third. We just have to see what scenario is being played out there."
Washington said he'll work with his complete bullpen Monday night. The Rangers' pen has dominated during their seven-game winning streak, allowing one run in 20 1/3 innings. They have 27 strikeouts.
Setup man Tanner Scheppers has thrown 36 pitches while throwing four straight days, so his low count helps. Closer Joe Nathan also has pitched four straight days and he's available for the elimination game.
Keeping his pitch count down has been huge for Scheppers.
"It helps him to allow us to use him," Washington said. "He comes in and pounding the strike zone. What Joe's been doing after Scheppers has been outstanding."
Scheppers said there's no stopping now and that he'll be ready.
"It doesn't matter anymore," Scheppers said. "You can't be down for (Game) 163."
Put Gentry in ink: Nelson Cruz's return to the Rangers' lineup as the designated hitter means that Washington was able to keep Craig Gentry in at left field, which is good because Gentry is the Rangers' hottest hitter with 17 hits in his last 36 at-bats. He wasn't coming out for anyone.
"I never thought about taking Gentry out of there," Washington said.
Wash on Price: Rays starter David Price, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has not pitched well against the Rangers. He has a 10.26 ERA in Arlington and has lost all three postseason starts against Texas.
If the Rangers have a secret, they're not revealing it. "I can't give you that," Washington said. "It's something that happened."
Washington said the Rangers have the utmost respect for Price, who is 9-8 with a 3.39 ERA this season.
"We're certainly not that confident that we're going to go out there and destroy Price because of what we've done in the past," Washington said. "It's Sept. 30, 2013 and this is a different time and a different day. We just have to go out there and continue to play our game and see what happens.
"Believe me, there's no one in this clubhouse taking Price lightly."
Short hops: Injured pitcher Colby Lewis, the Rangers' best all-time postseason pitcher, will throw out the first pitch before Monday's game. He'll also be in uniform for the game. Washington said that Lewis and Matt Harrison will accompany the Rangers on the road if they make the postseason. ... The Rangers and Rays are the only teams in the major leagues with four straight seasons with 90-plus wins.
Nothing about Nelson Cruz, who wasn't in the Rangers' clubhouse Sunday morning. Nothing about Monday's potential starting pitcher, which on rotation would be Martin Perez.
Not a thing.
"We don't know about anything past today," Washington said.
The Rangers probably have a good idea, they're just not going to say it until after they beat the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. That would mean the season would go on, either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday depending on how Tampa Bay and Cleveland do.
Washington said that everyone is available for Sunday's game, including Perez and potential Wednesday wild-card game starter Matt Garza.
Pierzynski is DH: Washington wanted A.J. Pierzynski in the lineup Sunday against a left-handed starter, so he's the designated hitter with Geovany Soto catching Yu Darvish for the fifth straight game.
"I want A.J.'s bat in there. Period," Washington said. "He's a threat."
Pierzynski is 6-for-24 with four RBIs during the Rangers' six-game winning streak. Soto has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, batting .393 with two home runs and five RBIs.
Darvish forecast: If Washington could have one wish for Darvish's start, he was asked by a reporter if he would want it to be fastball command. He offered another answer.
"I wish that the headlines be, 'Darvish dominates,' in big letters written by you," Washington said.
Washington on Game 162: For the third straight season, the major league season comes down to Game 162 with three teams -- the Rangers, Rays and Indians -- battling for two playoff spots.
It's amazing when you considered the regular season lasts six months and comes down to one day on the schedule.
"When you have the balance that the league has, it happens," Washington said. "This new format makes it exciting. If we had four division winners, it probably wouldn't be. But this gets other teams involved and sometimes you don't have to have that super year to have a chance. That's what I think the commissioner has done with this game and the format we're in. You never know what's going to happen in a one-game playoff. We proved that last year. I'd rather be in that one game than not be in it at all."
Short hops: Craig Gentry's right ankle is doing OK after it was stepped on by Angels' first baseman Mark Trumbo in Saturday's game. Gentry said he will have the ankle taped as usual as he starts for the ninth straight game in left field. ... Rangers TV broadcaster Steve Busby turns 64 today.
He had no issues with the baseballs, five innings after former Ranger C.J. Wilson blamed slippery baseballs for control issues that led to three wild pitches and two hit batters.
"I can't tell you I noticed any difference," Scheppers said of the baseballs that were used Friday night.
Wilson said after the game that one in four of the baseballs were not rubbed down properly, a procedure that is done by a Rangers official -- an umpires' attendant -- before each game. The Rangers prepare 12 dozen baseballs per game with baseball rubbing mud. The baseball are inspected by the umpires.
They didn't meet to Wilson's approval.
"The balls were kind of squirting around,” Wilson said. “Are you going to call it a coincidence? It’s not a coincidence. Let’s be honest.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Saturday that home plate umpire Mike DiMuro notified him about Wilson's concerns.
"I’ve been in the game since 1970," Washington said. "I haven’t seen a game ball until it was in the game."
Rangers closer Joe Nathan also said Saturday he had no issues with the baseballs in the ninth inning and hasn't had any during his career.
“I don’t know why they thought they were an issue,” Nathan said. “[Wilson] spoke his opinion. That’s all. It’s not something I would’ve done, but at the same time everybody is entitled to their own way of going about things and how to handle stuff.”
There is a home remedy on the mound if the baseballs aren't rubbed down enough, reliever Jason Frasor said.
"You've got to do it yourself," Frasor said. "It takes less than 10 seconds."
Scheppers ready: Scheppers said he'll be ready to go if called upon for a third straight game Saturday. "I'll be ready by one," said Scheppers, noting that the start time is 11:05 a.m., so the late innings will roll around a couple hours later, giving him some extra time to wake up.
Scheppers was superb Friday night, working a perfect top of the eighth with strikeouts of Trout and Hamilton. Scheppers has allowed two runs in his last 16 games.
"Wash has done a good job of managing me this year," Scheppers said. "He gave me a good break around the All-Star break."
Short hops: Martin Perez threw his usual bullpen Saturday morning in anticipation of a potential Monday wild card play-in game against Cleveland or Tampa Bay. ... The Rangers have a stolen base in a club-record 10 games.
If they do find themselves in that situation, with a game on Monday, 22-year-old rookie Martin Perez will get that start.
"If we have to play this through and it's his turn on Monday, then yes," manager Ron Washington said on Wednesday. "It would be another challenging experience for him to get. He deserves it."
Perez won his 10th game of the season in Wednesday's 7-3 victory over Houston, passing Matt Harrison's nine wins in 2008 for the most ever by a Texas rookie. Perez is tied with Oakland's Dan Straily for the most wins by an American League rookie.
Baker improving: Jeff Baker has been taking ground balls the last three days and could be ready to test his sore groin at first base in the postseason, should the Rangers get there.
"I feel like I'm getting a little better and I'm able to run a little harder each day," Baker said.
Baker should get two starts at designated hitter this weekend with left-handers C.J. Wilson going for the Angels on Friday and Jason Vargas on Sunday.
Short hops: The Rangers have 47 come-from-behind victories after Wednesday night's win, the most in franchise history ... third baseman Adrian Beltre needs six hits in his final four games to reach 200 for the next four games ... center fielder Leonys Martin and infielder Jurickson Profar both said they expect to play winter ball for Licey in the Dominican League.
He wants the fans to be excited, to enjoy these last five games.
Yes, if the season ended today, the Rangers would be out of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
|Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
"It's fun, it's nerve-wracking, it's all of the above," Washington said. "No matter what, I'm proud of these guys for the way they have fought all year with all the adversity. They never complained.
"It's fun, it's nerve-wracking and your stomach gets in knots. But what doesn't get in knots is your focus. You have to do what you have to do. You've got to live with what's going on in front of us."
The Rangers may be victims of their own success when it comes to perception with their fans and some of those that opine about the club. One local columnist compared this week to a funeral procession.
National and local columnists and talk shows are already playing the blame game with the Rangers a game out of the second wild-card spot.
The Rangers are 7-15 in September and another final month fade could be happening in Arlington. Texas had a two-game lead in the AL West when September started and Oakland clinched its second consecutive division title on Sunday as the Rangers faltered.
Still, the Rangers could win their final five games -- all at home -- and make the playoffs. Maybe even make the World Series for a third time in four years.
“You look at every other city that has a chance of being in the playoffs now, and there’s joy,” Washington said. “I don’t see a whole lot of joy in Arlington. I’m not knocking anybody. I just don’t see it. All they can talk about is how we collapsed. That’s not right.”
Moreland back at first: Mitch Moreland drew Wednesday's start against a left-hander, Houston's Dallas Keuchel. He has hits in two straight games after going though an 0-for-14 stretch.
Remember that Moreland hit a home run off the last left-handed starter the Rangers faced, Tampa Bay's Matt Moore, on Thursday in an 8-2 victory.
"My options are limited, so I put him in there," Washington said. "He may catch one. He is my best first baseman, so I'm going to take my chances and see what happens."
Wash trusts Frasor: There was still much discussion Wednesday about Washington opting for reliever Jason Frasor with runners at first and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth with the Rangers clinging to a 3-2 lead over Houston and not closer Joe Nathan for a four-out save.
Washington trusts Frasor, and the veteran reliever came through for him after taking the loss Friday in Kansas City.
"Early on he was just having trouble getting going," Washington said. "But the more we've been able to get him the ball, the more in tune he has become with his stuff."
Frasor, who first starting warming up in the fourth inning with Yu Darvish struggling, entered the game four innings later.
"I've pitched in the fourth (inning) and the ninth in my career," Frasor said. "I was ready to go."
Short hops: The Rangers have won 86 games for a club-record five consecutive seasons. They had won 86-plus games just twice in franchise history before this winning run. ... Darvish has a major league-league leading 269 strikeouts, equaling the most in a single season since Randy Johnson had 290 Ks for Arizona in 2004. Justin Verlander also had 269 punchouts in 2009.
It's an opportunity for Soto to catch a game.
"Anything else I say, I'm going to lead down a path I don't want to go," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Leave it at that."
Washington doesn't want to get into the discussion of Soto as Darvish's personal catcher because he wants the right to change his mind and use A.J. Pierzynski, his starting catcher, at his discretion.
Soto helped Darvish in his last start on Thursday night at Tampa Bay. There's no debating that.
Darvish struggled with his command and was on the verge of coming out of the game several times -- as early as the third inning -- and he made it through five innings to get a win in the Rangers' 8-2 win over the Rays.
"They work well together," Washington said. "If you don't think they work well together, the other night in Tampa proved it. He got him through it."
Soto works hard and watches video. Darvish, who can be emotional on the mound, seems to take some comfort in having Soto behind the plate.
"I try to be very positive and upbeat," Soto said. "You get on some guys. You have to know pitchers have different personalities, so you have to know what to do with who."
Darvish's numbers with each catcher are almost exactly the same. He has a 2.80 ERA throwing to Pierzynski. He has a 2.81 ERA to Soto.
Darvish was 7-1 to start the season with Pierzynski catching most of his games, so Washington doesn't want to hear about Darvish being better with one particular catcher.
"I think that's excuses," Washington said.
Holland goes over 200: Derek Holland went over 200 innings on Monday night. Darvish needs four outs to make it there.
What does reaching that mark mean?
"It means he went deep [into his starts]," Washington said. "As a starter when you go deep, it means you're giving your team a chance."
They have carried the Rangers' staff from a workload standpoint with injuries to Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and others.
Short hops: Jeff Baker is expected to be the designated hitter on Wednesday against Houston starting left-hander Dallas Keuchel Holland's seven shutouts are the third most in the majors since the start of the 2009 season. Former teammate Cliff Lee has 10 shutouts, and his current teammate in Philadelphia, Roy Halladay, has nine.
They can't wait for a healthy Alexi Ogando to pitch again Friday.
Ogando averaged 95 mph on his fastball and allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings in his last outing. Unfortunately, the Rangers lost Sunday to Kansas City, 4-0, on walk-off grand slam.
But Ogando's dominance was a positive coming out of a tough loss.
"That's the Ogando we thought we were getting out of spring training," manager Ron Washington said.
Ogando has had three different stints on the disabled list this season for right shoulder inflammation and biceps tendinitis. He has freedom in his right arm, which has brought his velocity back after it dipped to 93 mph. The bite is back with his slider.
"I feel stronger right now," Ogando said. "My arm feels good now."
"We finally nailed down his issue," Washington said. "The issue he was having in his shoulder, we finally nailed it down. We had to put him on the DL two or three times to figure it out, but we finally figured it out."
There's been much debate about Ogando's role as a starter or a reliever. General manager Jon Daniels said the club has not begun making plans for the 2014 season.
The pitcher continues to fall on the starting side of the debate.
"I'm going to work for that," Ogando said.
Soria improving: Reliever Joakim Soria gave up the walk-off grand slam to Kansas City's Justin Maxwell on Sunday, but Washington sees a pitcher getting better in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Soria got two outs with the bases loaded in the 10th inning Sunday, but got himself in a full-count situation with Maxwell and lost the fight.
"As he's moved along, he's starting to execute better," Washington said. "I thought he did a good job yesterday, he just didn't get that third out. Maxwell battled him and got him in a spot where he had to throw a fastball and he didn't miss it. He's competing good. His stuff looks good."
Rios stands by decision: Alex Rios said Monday that if he had to do it again, he would gamble and try to move up from second to third on a fly ball like he did Sunday in the ninth inning.
Rios was thrown out at third on an accurate throw by Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who leads the AL in outfield assists. Rios said he was testing Gordon's accuracy.
The Rangers have to stay aggressive on the basepaths because of their struggles scoring runs, Rios said.
"Play aggressive but be smart," he added.
Short hops: The Rangers have allowed five walk-off home runs this season, tying a club record set in both 1976 and 2002. It's tied for the most in the majors with Cincinnati, Seattle and the New York Mets. ... Third baseman Adrian Beltre started Monday needing eight hits for 200, two homers for 30 and two RBIs to reach 90 for the season.
"An adventure," Beltre said.
The man who carried the Rangers for long stages this season is batting .253 for the final month with two extra-base hits. He hasn't homered and has six RBIs.
Beltre isn't the reason the Rangers are 5-14 in September, that's more about ineffective starting pitching, an overall erratic offense and a six-game winless homestand. But Texas has missed his thunder.
So what's up?
"I'm not getting hits like then," said Beltre of his summer run when he was American League Player of the Month in July and also a repeat winner in August.
He does have hits in five straight games and had a key RBI single in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Royals, getting the break he probably needed when a sharply hit ground ball up the middle caromed off the second-base bag and through the legs of Kansas City second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
Beltre still leads the American League in hits with 190. He needs 10 more in eight games to reach 200 for the first time since 2004, the only time he's reached that mark. He had exactly 200 hits for the Dodgers.
Beltre said physically he's fine and that the September swoon isn't a product of hamstring issues he had earlier this season.
It's just baseball, manager Ron Washington said. Beltre got off to a slow start to the season, had an MVP-type summer and has cooled off, much like Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who was chasing his second consecutive Triple Crown. Cabrera has tailed off in the final month, batting .264 with a homer and six RBIs, very similar numbers to Beltre.
"He's missing pitches," Washington said of Beltre. "He's getting good passes at balls and just missing it."
Gentry plays on: Craig Gentry was back in the starting lineup Sunday for the second consecutive game against a right-handed starting pitcher. Gentry has started three of the last four games with the last two in left field.
He's earned the playing time. He had a four-hit game on Thursday in Tampa Bay, and after a day off Friday, had three more hits in Saturday's 3-1 win.
"He's doing a good job," Washington said. "It's a case of riding the hot hand."
Gentry downplayed his production of late, but did say he's thrilled to be starting in meaningful games in September.
"It's only two games," Gentry said. "I'm just going to try to keep it going and contribute in any way I can."
Astros in Arlington: The Rangers head home for their final seven games, all at Rangers Ballpark, the first three against a Houston Astros team that they've beaten 14 out of 16 times.
The Astros have struggled against wild card contender Cleveland, losing the first three games of a four-game series to the Tribe entering Sunday. But Washington said the Rangers can expect to see a better Houston team than the one they've dominated so far this season, mainly because of an up-and-coming young starting rotation.
"They've come a long way this year," Washington said. "They've been competitive."
Short hops: Gentry has four steals in his last two games, giving him 18 for the season to match his career high set in 2011 ... Matt Garza's eight-plus innings thrown Saturday night means the Rangers' bullpen is fully rested with Sunday starter Alexi Ogando only expected to throw 80 pitches. Close Joe Nathan in the only reliever who pitched Saturday.
The 22-year-old Perez said he didn't feel any pain when lifting weights Saturday. He'll be ready to go for his next start Wednesday against the Houston Astros.
Perez fractured a bone in his left forearm during a spring training game in early March, which postponed the start to his season. This ball hit in a different place higher up on the muscle.
So it put a scare into him when it happened again Friday night.
"When I saw the ball come to me and felt the ball on my arm, I thought, 'Again?'" Perez said before Saturday's game.
Perez didn't come out of the game and was able to get out of the inning after the Royals put two runners on base. Perez was dealing with traffic on the bases all night, allowing seven hits and four walks.
Cotts rolls on: Reliever Neal Cotts starts Saturday with a 1.04 ERA, the lowest relief ERA in the major leagues. It's not something he's following.
"I don't pay attention," said Cotts, who has made the long journey back from Tommy John surgery. "I focus on what's going on here."
Cotts, pitching in the majors for the first time since 2009, would be a shoo-in for American League Comeback Player of the Year in any other season, but the award will likely go to Mariano Rivera, despite his seven blown saves this season.
Gentry in lineup: Rangers manager Ron Washington said he decided on the drive home from the ballpark that he would start Craig Gentry in left field.
It's the fourth different left field in four games for the Rangers. Gentry had four hits in the Rangers' 8-2 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Short hops: Alexi Ogando is good for around 80 pitches in Sunday's start against the Royals The Rangers are averaging 3.31 runs in September.
"Hector Ortiz," Pierzynski said.
There you go. The Rangers' minor league catching instructor, who also works closely with Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, is the man behind the scenes helping the club's catchers throw out 27 percent of all basestealers.
That percentage has risen dramatically as Pierzynski has improved this season. The first 25 runners who tried to steal on him were successful. You can see the success rate -- or failure rate -- of Rangers opponents since then.
Soto threw out two basestealers in the second inning of Thursdays' 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, helping starter Yu Darvish wade through a start in which he had command issues. Soto has thrown out 30 percent of basestealers.
Pierzynski said, for eight seasons in Chicago, the White Sox didn't care about throwing out baserunners. It wasn't a team philosophy.
With Ortiz around for the Rangers, it is. Ortiz studies video religiously. "I try to pay attention to the little things," Ortiz said. He also studies video and calls and talks to the Rangers' catchers when he's on the road instructing the minor league catchers.
Pierzynski has improved his footwork and his weight shift during the season, helping him to make stronger throws. It says something that Pierzynski, a 13-year veteran, would be willing to listen to Ortiz.
That speaks volumes.
"They like it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Pierzynski and Soto getting instruction from Ortiz. "You can see the difference. They're both throwing the ball well."
What's Ortiz's secret?
"He's good at getting them to apply," Washington said. "That's a coach right there. That's a teacher."
The Rangers have to slow down the running game in this weekend series against Kansas City. The Royals lead the major leagues with 147 stolen bases. The Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers are next with 132 steals.
Nathan sends message: Closer Joe Nathan told pitching coach Mike Maddux he wanted to pitch the ninth inning Thursday night against Tampa Bay, even with the Rangers holding a 6-2 lead, even with Nathan pitching for a third straight day.
The reason? Nathan wanted to send a message to the Rays after he blew a save against them on Wednesday night in the 11th inning. Nathan had two strikes on two straight hitters and allowed them to reach base, the second one David DeJesus' walk-off single.
Nathan rebounded Thursday, allowing one hit. He got the last word.
"We're going to see those guys again," Nathan said of a possible wild-card game matchup with Tampa Bay. "I wanted that last game to be a positive. I wanted them to be the ones carrying in, in a one-game playoff, to have that bad taste in their mouth."
Nathan also said the extra work will help with his sharpness. He hadn't pitched in nine days before pitching the last three games against Tampa Bay. He said before Friday's game that he feels great, he likes to pitch regularly and he expects to be ready if needed against Kansas City.
Short hops: Pierzynski has a bruised finger on his glove hand, but it's not considered to be a serious injury Darvish will pitch the final game of the regular season next Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, if the Rangers are playing a meaningful game as far as the postseason.
Manager Ron Washington admitted he had a hard time crashing after Wednesday night's excruciating 4-3 loss to the Rays in 12 innings, with the the Rangers coming within a strike twice of winning the game in 11.
Washington said he was up until 2:30 a.m. thinking about several things, from Derek Holland's bounce-back start to the Rangers' inability to turn a double play in the sixth inning -- which was followed up by Holland allowing a game-tying, two-run home run.
There was the combined work of Elvis Andrus scurrying around the bases and third-base coach Gary Pettis being alert enough to send him home for the go-ahead run in the 11th inning. There was Joe Nathan's blown save in the bottom of the inning, the Rangers' failure to score with runners at first and third and one out in the top of the 12th and the lack of execution by reliever Joseph Ortiz in the bottom of the 12th.
It was a lot of stuff; enough to keep you up all night.
"Each game we play is meaningful," Washington said.
One thing Washington wanted to clear up -- Jurickson Profar's poor throw turning the double play in the bottom of the sixth that would have ended the inning with Rangers still ahead 2-0. It wasn't a rookie mistake, Washington said.
"I've been seeing Profar field his butt off," Washington said. "I don't think it was a young mistake. It was a mistake, that's all. Any second baseman in the game could have done that, pulled it. We didn't need it to be pulled. We needed it to be turned, and we didn't get it turned.
"I put him out there because I trust him. And I don't think that the moment had anything to do with it. I've seen him turn tough double plays with people on top of him. I've seen him turn all kinds of double plays."
Bullpen turns: Nathan, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers all have pitched in back-to-back games in the series. Expect to see them again Thursday night if the Rangers have a late-inning lead.
"If we get in a position and have a chance to put the game away, then the guys we've been using all year to put it away will be out there," Washington said. "I don't think anybody's concerned about getting rest now."
Baker at DH: Jeff Baker was the designated hitter Thursday, and don't expect to see him at first base anytime soon. He is nursing a groin injury.
Utility man Adam Rosales would be the first option as a right-handed hitting first baseman against a lefty starter. But Mitch Moreland was in the lineup Thursday for his defense.
Soria returns to Kansas City: Joakim Soria returns Friday to Kansas City, where he was the Royals' closer and pitched for five seasons. Soria downplayed his return.
"I don't think too much about that," Soria said. "I'm thinking about helping this team win. It's a pleasure to return to Kansas City because they gave me a chance to be a big league pitcher."
Short hops: Cotts has the lowest qualifying ERA in the majors with a 1.07 mark. The Rangers are 3-8 in extra innings, the worst winning percentage and lowest win total in the majors.
So he was more than happy to be back on the mound in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay, even in a non-save situation.
|Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
"The fact is it always feels a little weird when you've had that many days off," Nathan said. "You can't simulate the intensity of pitching in a game. It makes a big difference."
It was a significant outing for Nathan. The Rangers hold a $9 million club option on him for the 2014 season, but he can have that voided by finishing one more game.
Nathan said before Wednesday's game that he's not keeping a count in his locker, crossing off the numbers as he gets closer. "No," he said, laughing.
Ogando gets Sunday: Alexi Ogando will start Sunday in Kansas City as he again has forged his way into the starting rotation, at least for the final 12 games of the regular season.
Ogando has his fastball velocity back and 96 mph in Tuesday's 7-1 victory after being around 94 mph during August before he went on the disabled list for shoulder inflammation.
"I know what kind of weapon he can be out of the bullpen," manager Ron Washington said. "But right now he's a starter. When he came back, that's we were trying to do, get him innings and get him back in the swing of things."
Of course, there's always the question of whether Ogando will be one of the Rangers' five starters next season. He's been on the disabled list three times this year, but the Rangers have no evidence that it's because he's bounced between the bullpen and the rotation."
"I'm not concerned about next season," Washington said. "I'm concerned about tonight."
Ogando threw five innings and threw 69 pitches Tuesday night. He could be good for 10 to 15 more pitching against the Royals, Washington said.
DH rotation: Ian Kinsler was the designated hitter Wednesday night as Washington wanted to give him a day off his feet.
Jeff Baker will likely get the DH spot Thursday with left-hander Matt Moore starting. Lance Berkman was the DH on Monday and Tuesday and didn't get a hit in five at-bats. And trainers have told Washington that Berkman can't swing right-handed.
So it's a DH rotation for the rest of the season. "Whatever it takes," Washington. "We'll figure it out every day."
Soto likely catching Darvish: Geovany Soto will probably catch Yu Darvish on Thursday night, but Washington said he deserves the right to change his mind.
This is not the case of Soto being Darvish's personal catcher -- they've been paired together the last two starts. Does Washington want to avoid that perception?
"No doubt about it," Washington said. "If I decide to go with Soto tomorrow it's because it fell that way."
Whether he'll play again for the Rangers -- if they make the playoffs -- has still not been determined, at least publicly. The Rangers have to turn around a seven-game losing streak starting Tuesday night against Tampa Bay, and Cruz has to get game-ready.
“He has been working out in the outfield, hitting and doing baserunning drills,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “I don’t know if he’ll be in every game. We’ve got a lot of guys who need work, but he’ll get at-bats so he can be ready as an option. Then we’ll make a decision.”
The Rangers sure could use Cruz in the lineup. He had a team-best 27 home runs and 76 RBIs when he was suspended for 50 games Aug. 5. He's still second on the team in home runs, one behind Adrian Beltre.
The Rangers have gone seven consecutive games without a long ball.
On the homer drought: The Rangers' homerless streak is their longest in 23-plus years. They went eight games without a long ball from Aug. 10-17, 1990.
The Rangers enter Tuesday night's game going 269 at-bats and 297 plate appearances without a home run; the team's last HR was Alex Rios' solo shot off the Angels' Jason Vargas in the first inning on Sept. 8.
Short hops: The Rangers' rotation in September has a 1-12 record with a 5.99 ERA entering Tuesday's game. It's the second-highest starters' ERA in the major leagues in the month. ... Derek Holland has been charged with two more earned runs after a scoring change was made in the Rangers' game Sept. 7 in Anaheim. J.B. Shuck hit a soft grounder that Holland fielded and threw away down the right-field line for a two-base error. The call was changed by Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, to a single with an error on Holland to advance Shuck to second base.
"I'm in favor of it," Magadan said. "I'm not against it."
|Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.
So Magadan would happliy make scoring early runs a part of his hitting philosophy.
"It would be nice to jump out to a nice lead," Magadan said. "The guys know that. They hear it all the time. They realize what's at stake and what we're going through. I have confidence in our guys and we have to prove it."
Magadan was the hitting coach for a Boston Red Sox team that collapsed in 2011 and missed the playoffs, but he said that season wasn't anything like what the Rangers' offense is going through.
"It was different," Magadan said. "It's something you don't forget. I don't think frustrating is the right word (for what the Rangers are dealing with). Baseball's a funny game. It's not an easy game. It's why these guys get paid a lot of money to do it. They know what they need to do to get out of it. There are so many variables as a hitter. Like (Sunday) I thought we had some pretty good at-bats."
Magadan pointed to an at-bat by Ian Kinsler with two runners on when he lined out to A's right fielder Josh Reddick. Joey Butler and Jim Adduci also had good at-bats. Adduci had three hits.
Magadan said it's important for his players to have a good approach and try not to change too much. He came to the Rangers stressing a hitting approach of "doing the little things a lot." He wanted to see the Rangers be as versatile on offense -- whether it's hitting home runs or stealing bases -- to generate runs as they were when they reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
It just hasn't happened. The Rangers haven't hit a home run in six straight games. They're 12th in the American League with runners in scoring position with a .251 average. They've batted .225 in the last 15 games and the Rangers have won twice.
It hasn't been the first season Magadan thought it would be in Texas, but he refuses to stop believing.
"Certainly the first year with the team, you want everything to go great," Magadan said. "It would be nice to be not only at the top of the standings, but doing a good job offensively. As a hitting coach, it's not so much scoring a lot of runs, you don't want the offense to be the reason you're not winning games."
But Magadan says he's still confident his hitters will turn things around in these final 14 games.
"We have as tough a group of guys as anybody in baseball," Magadan said. "They've been through a lot, young guys that are learning to make it through the tough times. They learn from the veteran guys. We have a good group of guys that talk to our young guys. There's a respect factor there."
Manager Ron Washington defended Magadan and all of his coaches, saying it's everyone's responsibility.
"He believes in our guys. He believes in every one of those guys," Washington said. "It comes down to a point where you have to stop looking for reasons and start seeing what the reasons are for real. In our last nine ballgames, no coach has had anything to do with those games. It's not just the coaches. It's all of us. It's all of us. When things go wrong, the coaches, the players, everybody is responsible. It's not just the coaches."
Fifth-starter: Washington said he'll decide about Tuesday's starter after Monday's game with Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch, Travis Blackley and Ross Wolf all candidates to make the start.
Ogando would seem like the best candidate, but Washington said he'd likely be able to go only three innings after returning from the disabled list to the bullpen. Tepesch would be good for five innings.
Ogando has impressed in his return with his velocity back to 95-96 mph and his slider is working again. He has six scoreless innings in four games since coming back from his third stint on the DL For shoulder inflammation.
"He's been throwing the ball well," Washington said. "The issue that he had when he was on the DL cleared itself up. And now he has freedom and now his arm is swinging better and that's why his velocity is better. He doesn't feel uncomfortable. He even has more bite on his slider. It's snapping, not spinning."
Players-only meeting: The Rangers had a players-only meeting before Monday's game, one that manager Ron Washington was happy about, but also responded to by saying, "I hope they've figured it out."
"Go out there and do it," Washington said. "I don't give a damn what they said, I want them to go out there and do it. It comes down to getting a win."
The meeting lasted for about 15 minutes and ended with the players coming out in good spirits.
"Everybody is back on the same page," outfielder David Murphy said. "We're ready to basically give everything we have and throw our best game out there for the last 14."
Short hops: Adduci is the man in left field against right-handers, which means Murphy will be coming off the bench. "If I can find it for the remaining 14 games, for whatever opportunities I get, it's going to be a huge opportunity to help the team," Murphy said. "So I'm going to do whatever I can." ... Lance Berkman started Monday's game at designated hitter and with right-handers going for Tampa Bay on Tuesday and Wednesday -- Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Archer -- we might see more of the veteran if his health and swing hold up.
That was a big improvement on a previous outing 12 days earlier when his fastball was in the 85 to 87 mph range in a start against Minnesota. He lasted 4.1 innings and was charged with eight hits and three earned runs.
Blackley was unsure what caused the downturn in the first place.
“It probably was a little bit of a dead arm,’’ Blackley said. “I kept telling everybody my arm didn’t hurt, but I don’t think they believed me. It really didn’t hurt. It also could have had something to do with it being about 185 degrees that day. Maybe in the heat, you don’t kick your leg as high.
“The main thing is my arm is feeling good, I’m throwing free and easy with good action on my pitches.’’
The Rangers have not penciled in a starter for the second game of the series at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Blackley is technically in the bullpen now, but would covet another start.
Nick Tepesch is another candidate for the Tuesday start. Tepesch struggled in a one-inning relief outing Friday, allowing two runs on three hits with three walks.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do,’’ said Tepesch.
Wash’s take: Ron Washington is looking ahead, not behind. “I’m not thinking about anything but winning a ball game,’’ the manager said at his pre-game media conference. “If we can win a game, we’ll see where it goes from there.’’
The manager said he never imagined his hitters would be in this kind of a lull.
Washington had high praise for Saturday A’s starter Bartolo Colon, who twirled his second 1-0 win over the Rangers this season:
“He’s a very athletic guy. He has a good feel for the game and he can put the ball right where he wants it.’’
Lineup shuffle: Oakland made some late lineup changes for today's game, scratching scheduled starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (illness) and designted hitter Yoenis Cespedes (sore left shoulder). The pitching change from a right-hander to left-hander Tommy Milone generated some Rangers lineup changes of their own. Jeff Baker and Joey Butler replaced Lance Berkman and Leonys Martin.
Bad combo: The Rangers have a couple of trends working against them today. They’ve lost six straight at Rangers Ballpark and they are 19-23 in day games.
The six straight home defeats is one shy of the record set in 2005. This is the second time this season the Rangers have lost six straight at home. Only Houston with 11 has fewer daytime wins than the Rangers in the AL.
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.