Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Leonys Martin's single ended a wild ninth inning as the Texas Rangers earned their fourth walk-off win at home this season, 3-2 over the Seattle Mariners. Texas did all the damage with two outs. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, Mitch Moreland walked and then the Rangers got some help. Donnie Murphy's ground ball to short should have ended the inning, but the flip to second was high. The error kept the inning going and loaded the bases for Martin. A wild pitch scored the tying run, and then, Martin's single to left ended it. A few quick thoughts:
Pitch counts: It seems to be a topic of conversation every time Yu Darvish pitches, but the 27-year-old ace threw 107 pitches in seven innings Wednesday -- an average of 15.2 per inning. He came into the game No. 2 in the AL in pitches per inning at 12.7, nearly four fewer pitches per inning than his average last season. Darvish had two full counts in a 19-pitch first inning and didn't get much more efficient from there. Darvish adjusted by throwing more breaking pitches earlier in the count for strikes, but his command of his fastball and slider was not as good as it was in his first two starts.
Ambushing the fastball: Knowing that Darvish was getting ahead on hitters with first-pitch strikes in his first two starts, the Mariners came in with the idea of swinging at first-pitch fastballs and got a triple off one from Nick Franklin with one out in the second inning to get Seattle in position to score. A single by Mike Zunino plated Franklin. Darvish also walked Dustin Ackley with two outs, and that proved costly, as Abraham Almonte's single brought home Ackley to make it 2-0.
Where's the run support?: Darvish has pitched 22 innings this season, and his offense has yet to score a run for him. Not one. Blame Felix Hernandez for that Wednesday, but it's been like that all season. Darvish has no margin for error. On Wednesday, the Rangers managed just four hits and were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position while Darvish was on the mound.
Defensive issues: In the two-run second for the Mariners, Shin-Soo Choo charged Almonte's single but seemed to hesitate before throwing home. His throw home was off target and went to the backstop, allowing a runner to advance. A few innings later, Martin and Choo had a communication issue, and what should have been a routine fly-ball out glanced off Martin's glove and hit the ground. It was scored a hit but was another mistake by the defense. Texas has 15 errors in 15 games this season, which leads the AL, but the Rangers have made other miscues that haven't been called errors.
Hernandez dazzles: It sure looked like the Cy Young version of Hernandez on the mound Wednesday. He allowed one run (in the eighth) on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. He was lifted after just 96 pitches following Martin's leadoff triple in the eighth. Martin scored on Michael Choice's sacrifice fly. Hernandez threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. In three career meetings against Darvish (the other two in 2012), Hernandez is 3-0 and has a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts and three walks. Darvish didn't have his best stuff but hung in for seven innings, allowing two runs.
Briefly: Kouzmanoff's ninth-inning single kept his hitting streak alive. He's hit in all seven games he's played for the Rangers. ... Moreland's first walk of the season came against Hernandez in the fourth. He also walked with two outs in the ninth off Fernando Rodney.
Up next: Right-handed pitcher Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88 ERA) goes up against righty Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.
Texas has scored one run in three of its past four games and is averaging 3.5 runs per contest -- but that's inflated thanks to two 10-run efforts, one of which was a 14-10 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day.
Are they frustrated?
"No, we're not," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "It's too early. I don't like that word, not even when you have 200, 300 at-bats. We have to keep our head up and just keep playing. We know we'll start hitting again. We have to keep fighting and keep playing hard."
It doesn't help that a major piece of the offensive puzzle is out due to injury. Adrian Beltre was placed on the disabled list Sunday, despite the fact that he disagreed with the decision and wanted to play. The club wants to be sure the third baseman stays healthy for the long term -- which even Beltre concedes was "probably smart." But it doesn't change the fact that this lineup misses him greatly.
Perez loves double plays: Young Martin Perez found a nice pace in Sunday's game, pitching quickly and with confidence. He allowed four hits, but no runs and the double play was very helpful for him. He induced four ground-ball double plays, including one to end the eighth inning, his final frame of the game. Perez was leading the AL with five ground-ball double plays before the game started.
Long start: For just the second time in his career, Perez got through at least eight innings. The only other time he did it was Aug. 11, 2013 against the same Astros. In that one, he got a complete-game victory, allowing just one run on four hits.
Don't steal from me: Catcher Robinson Chirinos' arm was impressive on Sunday as he threw out two Houston runners attempting to steal. He nailed Jonathan Villar in the third and Matt Dominguez in the fifth. He has thrown out four baserunners this season.
Andrus ejected: Elvis Andrus argued a called third strike to end the third inning and was quickly ejected by home plate umpire Alan Porter. It was a low strike call and Andrus didn't like it. The ejection also brought an end to Andrus' streak of hitting safely in every game this season. He was at 11 games prior to Sunday, so he won't catch Al Oliver's club-record 13 in 1979.
Solid substitutes: Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy made their presences felt in Sunday's game. Wilson moved over to shortstop and Murphy came in to play second when Andrus was ejected. They played solid defense, and provided some offensive help in the sixth. Wilson led off the inning with a single, went from first to third on a single by Shin-Soo Choo and scored on Murphy's sacrifice fly, which game in the spot that Andrus would have batted in had not been asked to depart early.
Ogando in for the save: With Joakim Soria having pitched for two straight games, Alexi Ogando got the opportunity to save Sunday's game and came through. It was his fourth career save, his last one coming in 2012 as he pitched when Joe Nathan needed rest that season, grabbing three saves.
Defensive gems: Prince Fielder made a nice diving stop toward the first-base line to take an extra-base hit away from Jesus Guzman with one out in the fourth. Fielder worked earlier this homestand on his footwork and short-hops at first base with manager Ron Washington and will get some more work on other aspects of his defense before the homestand ends. But that was a very nice play for Fielder to keep the Astros off the bases. ... Josh Wilson, playing shortstop after Andrus' ejection, ranged to his left and snagged a line drive from L.J. Hoes, preventing a hit in the fifth.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Texas Rangers comeback fell short on Saturday, as the Houston Astros scored in the 10th inning and held on for a 6-5 win.
Texas tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but a triple by Jason Castro, aided by a strange bounce off the wall in right, put him in position to score on Jose Altuve's sac fly to right. A few thoughts:
Great stop: Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar made a terrific diving play, backhanding a ball to his right and throwing to first to get Alex Rios with Elvis Andrus at second and no outs in the bottom of the 10th. The Astros wiggled out of the jam and preserved the win. The game could still be going on if not for Villar's play.
Baserunning blunder: After Rios hit a double off the wall in left-center to score Andrus and make it a one-run game, the outfielder tried to steal third. He was caught stealing for the first out of the inning, preempting the rally. The next two Rangers batters got out quickly, and any hope of tying the game at that point was lost. Rios also had trouble with a throw back to the infield in the 10th, missing the cutoff man, though it didn't allow the Astros an extra base (that happened on the odd bounce off the wedge wall).
Right Choice: Michael Choice didn't start the game, but he came in to pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and belted his first career home run 412 feet into the Rangers bullpen to tie the score. It was only the 13th at-bat of the season for Choice, who hits mainly against left-handed pitchers. That included lefty Kevin Chapman in the ninth on Saturday, and Choice took advantage.
Two-out runs: Through three starts for Tanner Scheppers, he's had trouble finishing off innings with runners on base. That was the case again on Saturday as the Astros came back from a 2-0 deficit to score five runs -- four with two outs -- in the fourth inning to take the lead. Scheppers didn't allow a hit in the game until that frame but gave up three singles, a walk and a three-run home run to alter the game early.
Velocity up: When Scheppers was in the bullpen, he was regularly able to dial up his fastball to 95 or 96 mph. That didn't happen this season until Saturday. Scheppers touched 97 at one point and had that fastball in the 93-95 range consistently. That was an improvement.
Better finish: The fourth inning -- and Robbie Grossman's three-run homer specifically (with some help from the Globe Life Park jetstream) -- ruined any bid for a quality start, but Scheppers did bear down in the next three innings to get through seven. He needed 29 pitches as he retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced to finish off his start.
Hard-hit balls: Prince Fielder hit a few balls hard on Saturday, perhaps a sign that his timing is coming around. Fielder's single in the first was a one-hopper through the shift and probably the hardest ball he's hit all season. He also hit a long fly ball in the third. It's a small thing, but with Fielder struggling to do anything, it was noticeable.
Leadoff strikeouts: Neither leadoff hitter had a good night on Saturday. Shin-Soo Choo, who came in with seven strikeouts the whole season, had five in five at-bats, including four off Jarred Cosart (two of them looking). It was the first time he had five strikeouts in his career. The last time he had four strikeouts in a game was in July 2012 while with Cleveland. Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn't much better, striking out in his first three at-bats against Scheppers (one of those looking).
Did it hit him?: Carlos Corporan was given first base in the sixth on a hit-by-pitch that plate umpire Rob Drake said hit the jersey. But it sure looked on the replay like it didn't hit him. That is a call the manager can challenge, but the Rangers chose not to do that. The HBP came with two outs, and Scheppers retired the next batter to end the inning.
Briefly: Donnie Murphy got a chance to play second base and took advantage with a double, a walk and two runs scored. Andrus has now hit safely in 11 games to start the season. The club record is 13 by Al Oliver in 1979.
Up next: Left-hander Martin Perez (1-0, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers in the final game of this series against Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91) in a 2:05 p.m. game.
Beltre completed a light workout Saturday that included some fielding drills, jogging, hitting off a tee in the batting cages and even participating in batting practice. As he walked to the field before BP, Beltre said he "felt a little better," but didn't get into any details.
The team has some roster flexibility, so they are waiting a few days to see if Beltre's quad improves to the point where a DL stint isn't needed. But the club also doesn't want to take any chances with its starting third baseman.
"We haven’t made that call yet," Daniels said. "That’s probably the smarter thing, to err on the side of caution. The last thing we want is to be without him for an extended period of time."
The Rangers can wait until they need to make a roster move for Colby Lewis, who starts Monday or Tuesday, before deciding on Beltre.
It was the longest game (by innings) to go scoreless in Arlington since Sept. 22, 1992, when the Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in 13 innings. Nolan Ryan started the game for the Rangers with Pudge Rodriguez catching. Both Ryan and Rodriguez were at the game Friday.
Darvish dazzles: The Rangers' ace loves pitching against the Astros. Last season, he was one out away from a perfect game in Houston in April. On Friday, he had a perfect game through five innings before Matt Dominguez -- hitting .129 when the game started -- hit an 0-2 breaking pitch for a looping hit to left-center. Darvish retired the next three batters to end the inning with no damage done, but it ended his perfect game and no-hit hopes. In that at-bat, Dominguez hit a foul ball down the right-field line that Alex Rios nearly caught but wasn't able to (and it would have required he dive against the wall, which would have been risky). Shortly thereafter, Darvish gave up the hit.
Still, Darvish went eight innings and gave up that lone hit with one walk and nine strikeouts. It was a terrific performance. He now has pitched 15 innings of scoreless baseball.
Darvish established his fastball the first time through the order, then utilized the slider more the second time through. Once again, he was efficient, throwing 101 pitches in his eight innings of work. Darvish was in command and in control out there, not even getting to a three-ball count until he walked Jose Altuve with two outs in the seventh. It didn't hurt that the Astros rolled out a lineup that featured six batters hitting under .200 and another hitting .226.
Baserunning problems: Shin-Soo Choo did a terrific job of getting on base Friday, drawing three walks and a single in six plate appearances. But after a single in the 11th, Choo stole second base with one out and Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Choo froze rather than moving to third. With Andrus' speed, it would have put even more pressure on the Astros, never mind possibly putting the winning run at third base with two outs, should a wild pitch or something have happened. Instead, Choo stayed at second and the Astros retired Alex Rios to end the inning.
10th-inning issues: Texas had a great chance to win the game in the 10th inning, loading the bases with no outs. Houston brought in Marwin Gonzalez and inserted him as part of a five-man infield with no left fielder. The Rangers needed a fly ball and couldn't get it. Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder's choice with the Astros throwing out Rios at home. Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin grounded out to second.
Not quite in ninth: The Rangers rallied with two outs in the inning as Martin singled and Josh Wilson also singled, with Martin going to third. Choo had a typically solid at-bat, getting behind in the count but still drawing a walk. Andrus came up with the bases loaded and grounded out to end the inning.
Is that blood?: At one point in the sixth inning, TV cameras showed the top of Darvish's thumb was cut and he was bleeding a bit. It didn't seem to bother him as he continued to pitch.
Nice arm: Astros catcher Jason Castro threw out two Rangers runners Friday. He got Andrus trying to steal after Andrus didn't get a good jump to end the third, and he nailed Martin on a pitch-out call to end the fifth.
Nice catch: Martin had the highlight of the night, making a diving catch to end the seventh inning.
Offensive issues: The Rangers couldn't do much with the bats, though they had some chances. The best might have been in the seventh, when the Rangers put two on with one out and had the bases loaded with two outs and couldn't score anything. Houston opted to intentionally walk Martin -- the first time that has happened in his young career -- to pitch to Wilson and Scott Feldman struck him out to end the frame. Give Feldman some credit. His curveball was working and he pitched very well only two days after his father died.
Hesitancy hurts: With Kouzmanoff at first, Moreland laced a ball to the gap in right-center in the second inning, but Kouzmanoff didn't get a good read on the ball and hesitated. He ended up at third base but might have had a chance to score had he been running right away. That put runners and second and third with one out, but J.P. Arencibia struck out, and Martin grounded out to end the threat.
Big hand for Nolan: Ryan, a Hall of Famer and former Rangers CEO, was at the ballpark on Friday night and sat next to former president George W. Bush in the owner's box (his usual place from the past handful of seasons). He was shown on the video board between innings early in the game and received a standing ovation (while "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" played as background music).
"Rios has hit fourth a little bit in his career, but he's not a fourth hitter," Washington said. "I want to put him somewhere where he's comfortable. I just switched them."
Rios has hit .280 in nearly 2,200 career at-bats in the No. 3 spot. It's something that's very familiar for Rios. Fielder has certainly spent some quality time as the cleanup hitter as well. He's batted .290 in 4,489 at-bats in the No. 4 position.
It means that Fielder protects Rios -- and it's never bad to have Fielder protecting you, just ask Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun, not to mention Elvis Andrus, in a small sample so far this season -- and with Kevin Kouzmanoff in the lineup, it will be Kouzmanoff hitting fifth and Mitch Moreland sixth, to break up the right-handed and left-handed hitters.
It's likely Washington will keep the middle of the order like this until Beltre returns. When that is hasn't been determined yet. We'll see how Beltre feels after getting some treatment and resting some this weekend.
To postpone that decision, the club is pushing back Colby Lewis' planned debut. Since he has an out in his contract for today -- meaning he could have taken his release -- the team and Lewis at least had to have a plan in place. They do, and it means Lewis won't start until Monday or Tuesday. That way Beltre can have the weekend to see how his quad responds.
The Rangers' rotation lines up this way for the next five days:
Friday vs. Houston: Yu Darvish
Saturday vs. Houston: Tanner Scheppers
Sunday vs. Houston: Martin Perez
Monday vs. Seattle: Robbie Ross or Lewis
Tuesday vs. Seattle: Ross or Lewis
The news on Beltre, at least for today, was better than some in the organization expected. It does not mean he won't go on the DL next week. But it also doesn't mean he will. He'll see how he feels and the training staff will help determine what makes the most sense. In the meantime, Kevin Kouzmanoff will play third.
Kouzmanoff will serve as infield depth for Texas after third baseman Adrian Beltre left Tuesday night’s game with tightness in his left quad. Beltre flew back to Dallas on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to see Dr. Keith Meister.
“Just the reality of the way our roster is set up, we need another infielder,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We want to make sure we have coverage.”
Kouzmanoff last appeared in the majors with the Colorado Rockies in 2011. The 32-year-old was off to a 5-for-16 start in four games with Triple-A Round Rock this year before being purchased.
"I'm ready to go, I feel good," Kouzmanoff said. "I'm here to help produce and help win some ballgames."
Rosin allowed three runs in three appearances (four innings) with the Rangers this season. A Rule 5 draft pick, Rosin will be offered back to the Philadelphia Phillies if he clears waivers.
“Seth did a nice job,” Daniels said. “It was kind of a whirlwind few weeks for him.”
Asked whether the team would consider making a deal with the Phillies to keep Rosin, Daniels said, “We’ll see what happens ... It all depends on what they ask.”
And while Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington knows what star power he has at the top of his lineup, it was the rank-and-file bottom of the order, including Chirinos, that bolstered Texas to a 10-7 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.
Chirinos, the 29-year-old catcher who made his first Opening Day roster with the Rangers this season, lit the firecracker to the Rangers’ five-run third inning, in which they batted around, sending 11 men to the plate. He turned on an 89-mph fastball from Felix Doubront on a 3-2 pitch and cleared the Green Monster with plenty of distance.
It was Chirinos’ first home run since 2011, when he was a Tampa Bay Ray, and the second of his career.
“I knew that he sometimes has a hard time throwing strikes,” Chirinos said of Doubront, “so if we bring him to the strike zone, we’d get good swings.”
Chirinos finished 2-for-4, reaching three times, driving in two runs and scoring two out of the 8-hole.
“You’re trying to get on base for those guys hitting in the middle of order -– they’re going to bring us home if we can get on base,” he said.
But while the bottom half of the order was supported by Chirinos and second baseman Donnie Murphy, who doubled and drove two in while making his third straight start and batting sixth, there’s another question which was opened up as cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre (2-for-3, 2 RBI) left the game with tightness in his left quadriceps. Beltre will return to Texas to see Dr. Keith Meister.
If Beltre is to miss any length of time, that will only compound the importance of the bottom half doing its job.
“It’s better than hitting with nobody on base,” said leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo, who was on base four times and scored two runs on Tuesday.
“He did a great job tonight, hitting a home run, getting on base a couple of times,” Choo said of Chirinos. "He made a lot of his opportunity.”
Setting the table: Rookie southpaw Robbie Ross opposes Jake Peavy in today’s matinee rubber match from Fenway. Making his second major league start, Ross looks for his first career win and is opposed by Peavy, who gave up six hits in six innings in his season debut April 4 against the Brewers.
BOSTON – The Texas Rangers' bats came alive and starter Martin Perez found an ally in the double-play ball as they beat the Boston Red Sox 10-7 in the second game of the teams’ series at Fenway Park.
Texas (4-4) batted around in the third inning, sending 11 men to the plate and scoring five. Meanwhile, Perez navigated his way through 6 1/3 innings, despite giving up eight hits, to earn his first win on the season.
Threes are wild: Perez found his way out of trouble in the home half of the second inning after surrendering back-to-back singles to start the frame. After getting Xander Bogaerts to fly out to right, Perez induced an inning-ending double play, 6-3.
Then, the Rangers struck for five runs and batted around in the third against Red Sox starter Felix Doubront with hard-hit balls throughout the lineup.
Robinson Chirinos led off the third with a home run that flew over the Green Monster on a 3-2 offering. It was Chirinos’ first home run since Aug. 3, 2011, when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Prince Fielder showed signs of life, bounding a double down the right-field line for an RBI double, scoring Shin-Soo Choo. Adrian Beltre then followed with single off the screws to center, plating Fielder.
Then Donnie Murphy, who made his third straight start at second base, lofted an RBI double in center field in front of the outstretched Grady Sizemore. It scored Alex Rios, who had one of six hits against Doubront in the inning.
Chirinos earned his second RBI of the inning, forcing a bases-loaded walk, which ended Doubront’s evening after just 2 2/3 innings.
Prince-ly performance: Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop wasn’t any more effective in slowing down the Rangers’ bats. They posted two more in the fourth, with Fielder picking up his second RBI in as many innings, shooting a single into right field.
Fielder, who posted an oh-fer Monday night, showed signs of life, making some solid contact while going 2-for-5.
After failing to get a hit in his previous 12 at-bats, Fielder sported a .143 batting average entering Tuesday’s action.
Beltre leaves: After being given a night off from playing the field by manager Ron Washington, Beltre left the game in the fifth inning, as pinch hitter Jim Adduci was announced in the press box.
Beltre, who hit fourth, but started as the designated hitter, was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI before being lifted.
Beltre also battled a left quad injury during spring training, suffered during a game on March 13.
Double trouble: The double play was Perez’s ally, as the Rangers lefty got Red Sox hitters to ground into five twin-killings, starting the game with one in each of the first three innings.
And although the Red Sox had their leadoff men reach safely in each of the first seven innings against Perez, he was able to counter with the double play in five of the first six innings.
Perez was forced from the game after 6 1/3 innings and 101 pitches (61 for strikes) as the Red Sox went on to plate three in the seventh, two coming via a two-run, wall-ball double by Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jason Frasor stopped Boston from any further damage, getting Jonny Gomes to strike out and throwing out Dustin Pedroia on a comebacker to the mound.
Perez was charged with four earned runs while striking out three and walking three.
Joakim Soria came on in a non-save situation in the ninth and allowed three runs, including two on a wall-scraping double to center by David Ortiz.
Some adventure for this Robinson: After making an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, Chirinos busted out while making his third start of the season behind the plate. Chirinos was 2-for-4 and reached base three times while driving in two and scoring two runs.
"It was what we needed," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He was just Yu Darvish today."
The Japanese phenom seemed as if he was on his way to breaking the strikeout record for a single game when he finished the second frame with five punchouts. He would go on to finish the 89-pitch outing with six strikeouts, but in doing so, he set the major league record by recording his 500th strikeout in 401 ⅔ innings when he fanned Wil Myers in the first.
The 27-year-old right-hander was masterful in his first start of the 2014 campaign, his first appearance since taking the mound in a March 16 Cactus League affair against the Chicago White Sox. Better yet, he matched zeroes with Rays starter Alex Cobb, who struck out six and walked one in seven scoreless innings.
"It has all come with good health and taking care of myself," said Darvish, who broke Kerry Wood's record of 500 strikeouts in 404 ⅔ innings. "It was not like I was 20 or 21 when I came here so it is tough to compare. But it has come through good health."
Nick Martinez allowed three runs over six innings in the Rangers' 5-4 loss. The two consecutive outings of solid pitching comes after no starter had lasted as many as six innings in the first four games of the season.
The righty, who allowed a hit in each inning, faced trouble once, in the fifth inning when he had two runners on base and one out. Calmly, though, he escaped the minor scuffle by forcing Myers into a fly out and striking out Ben Zobrist.
"He got ahead of the hitters with first-pitch strikes and he got some quick outs," Washington said. "That's a team over there that battles and fights and [Darvish] made the pitches when he had to."
With a plethora of pitches in his arsenal, Darvish used the slider effectively to keep the Rays at bay. Of his 89 pitches, 32 were sliders, 22 for strikes. Only two of his seven hits allowed were off the slider.
"He had a good game plan and he stuck with it," J.P. Arencibia said. "He pitched out of [the trouble in the fifth] and he executed when he needed. It's what you can expect from him."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's early, and yet the Texas Rangers already have a penchant for comebacks in 2014.
For the second consecutive game, the Rangers found a way to score the runs they needed in the ninth and took the series from the Philadelphia Phillies with a 4-3 win.
Some quick thoughts:
Comeback kids: Down two runs in the ninth, Adrian Beltre started the comeback with a single. Jim Adduci's pinch-hit single scored Beltre to make it a one-run game. Leonys Martin scored Mitch Moreland, who hit a double earlier in the inning, to tie the score. Then Shin-Soo Choo ended up delivering with a patient walk with the bases loaded to win the game. It was the Rangers' first walk=off walk since 1999.
Early chance goes awry: The Rangers had a terrific opportunity to score early runs and grab the lead on Wednesday and couldn't get the job done. Singles by Choo and Elvis Andrus and an errant throw by right fielder Marlon Byrd put them at second and third with no outs. The key at-bat was Prince Fielder's. He got the count to 3-2, then took a swing at a pitch out of the zone and struck out. Beltre's ground ball back to the mound wasn't fielded well by Kyle Kendrick, but Choo's hesitation got him caught in a rundown. Choo stayed in it long enough to allow both runners to move up, but with two outs, Alex Rios' ball to deep center was caught. Just like that, the Rangers got nothing.
Ross vs. lefties: One of the big questions going into the game was whether Robbie Ross could retire left-handed hitters consistently -- something he didn't do last year. He left a slider in the middle of the plate to Ryan Howard, who crushed it 411 feet to right-center for a two-run shot to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the third. And of his seven hits allowed, three of them came off the five left-handers that Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had in the lineup.
Decent debut: No, Ross didn't dominate the Phillies and he wasn't efficient, throwing 96 pitches in five innings. But Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted Ross to keep his team in the game. He did that; he just couldn't get any help from his offense. Ross pitched out of some jams and ended up with a career-high seven strikeouts. Ross had at least two men on base in every inning, yet limited the damage. All in all, not a bad first start.
Two-out RBI: Martin had a two-out RBI single to right in the seventh inning, scoring the Rangers' first run. It scored Moreland, who hit the third triple of his career, diving into third base ahead of the throw on a ball hit to the right-center gap.
Velocity up, control down: Pedro Figueroa's first four pitches on to Chase Utley were in the mid-to-high 90s. They also were all balls. But with one out and a runner at first, Howard smoked a Figueroa fastball right into the Fielder's glove for a double play.
Solid Seth: Rangers reliever Seth Rosin came in for the eighth and ninth and pitched well, allowing one hit and no runs in both frames. Rosin has tossed three scoreless frames so far this season.
More for Moreland: After a rough start to the season, Moreland found his stroke late in Wednesday's game. He had a triple in the seventh and a double in the ninth.
Up next: The Rangers are off on Thursday before heading to Florida for a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The pitching matchups:
Friday, 6:10 p.m. CT: LHP Joe Saunders vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CT: RHP Nick Martinez vs. LHP David Price
Sunday, 12:40 p.m. CT: RHP Yu Darvish vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Perhaps the biggest reason the Rangers stretched to a seventh year on Choo -- something they only did late in the negotiating process this past offseason -- was his ability to get on base. Choo seems to do it by any means possible.
If Choo didn’t get on base in the seventh and ninth innings, Adrian Beltre wouldn’t have had the chance to play hero.
His struggles against left-handed pitching in 2013 were well-chronicled, and the Phillies sent one lefty after another out there to face him on Monday with success. But on Tuesday, the strategy backfired. Choo got ahead 2-0 in the count off lefty Jacob Diekman and hit a 97 mph fastball to left to lead things off with the Rangers down by a run. A few batters later, Beltre delivered his two-out, opposite-field double to score Choo for the tying run.
Before Choo stepped in for his at-bat in the ninth, the Phillies inserted left-handed reliever Mario Hollands. Choo knew the scouting report and that Hollands was making his big league debut.
"In those situations, I feel comfortable," said Beltre, reeking of beer as part of the club's walk-off celebratory shower. "I feel comfortable because I believe that I can do it. I like the challenge."
He was in that position twice in Monday's 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Both times, Beltre delivered. It seemed like the 29,530 in attendance knew he would, too, standing in anticipation of a game-defining swat.
It's worth pointing out that neither opportunity would have happened without Shin-Soo Choo's ability to get on base. Choo was waiting at third base with two outs in the seventh when Beltre came up with the Texas Rangers down one. The cleanup hitter belted an 0-1 slider to right field to score the tying run.
After the bullpen did its job -- manager Ron Washington had his late-inning arms stacked the way he wanted in a close game with Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria pitching 3 ⅓ scoreless innings -- Beltre got another chance in the ninth.
With one out and two on, including Choo, of course, at second base, Beltre waited patiently while the Phillies changed pitchers, opting for righty B.J. Rosenberg. Beltre got a 1-1 two-seamer and drove it to right center, touching off a head-beating celebration. Beltre hates having his head touched. His teammates haven't cared since he got to Texas in 2011, so why should they change now?
No one in the big leagues was better in the "close and late" situations than Beltre last season. The "close and late" stat tracks how a batter performs in the seventh inning or later with his team ahead by a run, tied or with the tying run on base, at-bat or on deck. Beltre hit a whopping .416 (37-for-89) in those instances in 2013, with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.
"That's what he does; he just gets big hits for us," Washington said. "He's been playing the game long enough, I don't think there is anything that can happen on the ball field that he hasn't already experienced. He knows exactly what he's doing."
No wonder Prince Fielder was smiling when the game ended. Beltre is the guy who's protecting him.
Give Fielder credit for not trying to do too much in the ninth. The Rangers traded All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler -- who will not go down as a prophet after Tuesday's win ended any chance of his hopes for an 0-162 season from Texas -- to get Fielder and help their offensive production at critical junctures. But with Beltre behind him, Fielder knew he didn't have to do it by himself.
"You can only do it if you get a good pitch to do it on," Fielder said. "I don't want to swing at anything. I want to be selective."
Fielder never got the pitch he wanted, so he gladly took a walk and passed the opportunity to Beltre.
"He's an outstanding hitter," Fielder said. "That's what good teams do. It's not just one guy or two guys, it's the whole lineup. It's definitely exciting that he's behind me."
Not so exciting for opposing pitchers, however.
The Phillies discovered that on Tuesday. When it comes to the biggest at-bats in the close games, Beltre wants to take the swing. Even if it means he'll get his head rubbed.
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