Texas Rangers: Houston Astros
But the time for worrying about results starts next week. That's when it matters. And Saunders' spring training performance since joining the Rangers -- 16 earned runs on 24 hits in 12 2/3 innings in "A" games or exhibitions (including Saturday) this spring -- isn't something pleasurable to stare at on paper.
No doubt, some of the runs given up Saturday were ridiculous. Jesus Guzman's home run would have been a routine fly ball to right in Arlington, but with the short wall in San Antonio, there was no chance. But George Springer's straightaway center shot was a good one and the Astros got some other hard-hit balls off Saunders. His line in the finale of Big League Weekend against the Houston Astros: 4 1/3 inning pitched, eight hits, seven earned runs, two walks, sevens strikeouts.
Saunders, who took a bouncer off the back of his left knee in the first inning but stayed in, said he is over the "dead-arm" stuff that plagued him in his last start and added that he's "100 percent" and ready to go. The knee was bruised and Saunders, knowing he had to throw a bunch of pitches (he ended up at 87) wasn't coming out so close to the season.
The younger Ryan, the Houston Astros' president of business operations, has worked with Hall of Famer and dad Nolan Ryan at various points in his life -- starting out in the banking world after graduating from TCU, helping to run Ryan's minor league operation and now, as members of the Astros' front office.
"It's exciting for me," Reid Ryan said Tuesday night, taking a brief break from a sports forum in Dallas. "We have a good, working relationship and it's a lot of fun. He's going to be an asset for us to use. I've been picking his brain since I went into business coming out of TCU and he's been a tremendous resource for me."
Reid said his father, who turned 67 at the end of last month, was ready to give up working daily in baseball but still wanted to be around the game. His role will be to help Reid, owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow when they need him.
Ryan will not have an office and will get the chance to roam around to various parts of the organization's operations.
"The thing that's unique about my dad is you combine the rancher's mentality, which is about patience and watching things mature over a period of time, with the baseball and it's somebody that's full of common sense and sees the nuances of life and the game," Ryan said.
Reid says he believes his dad can't get the Astros or Rangers "out of his system."
"He's invested in baseball in Texas," Reid said. "My dad loves the state of Texas and loves baseball and has been a family man all his life. It's a chance to put all of that into one."
Reid already has a list of things he thinks his father can help the club handle, including the draft, helping the team with public relations and sponsorship deals, weighing in on the issues with the club's TV deal and visiting some of the minor league clubs. He expects Nolan to be at spring training at some point and to attend most of the home games.
"I have talked to Nolan," Crane told the Chronicle on Thursday. "We haven’t really discussed anything about him joining the team yet. But that certainly could be a possibility down the road. It depends what Nolan wants. ... As far as an offer of us talking about a position, we haven’t done that."
Ryan's joining the Astros could certainly make some sense with his history in the organization and with one of his sons there. But Ryan indicated last month when he announced his resignation from the Rangers that he wanted to take some time away and wasn't sure what he wanted to do.
Ryan is also mulling a run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, as he confirmed to ESPN Dallas earlier this month.
Last year's pair of games between the Rangers and San Diego Padres drew over 75,000 fans. The event is put on by Ryan-Sanders Baseball, whose managing partner, Nolan Ryan, recently resigned as the Rangers' CEO.
“The Rangers are very happy to be returning to San Antonio and Big League Weekend in 2014,” said Rangers GM and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. “Ryan-Sanders Baseball put on a first-class event in 2013 and did an amazing job in converting the Alamodome into a major league baseball facility."
Last year's baseball event was the first in the 20-year history of the Alamodome.
When the 2013 season began, it was time for the baseball world to see what Yu Darvish had learned after his first year in the big leagues. He came over from Japan with plenty of fanfare as his every move was chronicled in 2012. And after making some adjustments and learning from his mistakes in the first part of the year, Darvish finished with a flourish. He was one of the top pitchers in the game in the final two months of 2012 and went into the offseason with some momentum.
His first start of the 2013 season was in Houston against the Astros in the second game of the year for Rangers. And right away, it was clear Darvish had all of his pitches working. His fastball was electric and his slider, a pitch that Nolan Ryan said is Darvish's best and one of the best in the game, was flummoxing Astros' batters. But Darvish could throw whatever he wanted. He had the slow curve and the harder curve. He changed speeds. And he got plenty of swings and misses.
Darvish just kept rolling through the Houston lineup. He had 14 strikeouts, setting a career-high. And 12 of those came on that devastating slider. He struck out the side twice (in the second and fourth innings). Until the ninth, the only stressful moment came in the eighth inning, when Darvish ended up in a full count against Chris Carter (only his fourth of the game). After Carter fouled off three pitches, he struck out.
In the ninth, with everybody around baseball watching -- and Darvish trending on Twitter, of course -- Jason Castro grounded out to short and Carlos Corporan bounced out to second. That brought up Marwin Gonzalez, the No. 9 hitter, with history on the line. Darvish was one out from becoming the 24th pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game. He was also one out away from throwing the second perfect game in Rangers, 19 years after Kenny Rogers did it at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
But Gonzalez hit a first-pitch fastball through Darvish's legs and into center field to break up the perfect game and no-hitter. Darvish, who threw 111 pitches, was immediately removed since it was his first start of the season and the Rangers didn't want to tax his arm. So Darvish ended up with a one-hitter in a 7-0 Rangers win.
Darvish was disappointed after the game, but still happy with the effort.
"I went as far as I could go, and that was satisfying," Darvish said through interpreter Kenji Nimura.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after the game that Darvish threw seven different pitches and showed great command. And Pierzynski thought he was going to catch another perfect game. He also caught Philip Humber's perfect game with the Chicago White Sox in 2012.
"You get to that point, and you think it's going to happen," Pierzynski said. "It just wasn't meant to be."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers finished off a sweep of the Houston Astros on Wednesday night with a 7-3 victory and they needed it, because the teams they are chasing in the American League wild-card race keep on winning.
The Rangers completed their season series with the Houston Astros with a 17-2 record, their most wins in a single season against an opponent in franchise history.
AL wild card: The Rangers have won three straight games but haven't picked up any ground on Tampa Bay or Cleveland. The Rays stayed two ahead of the Rangers with an 8-3 win at New York and the Indians beat the White Sox 7-2 to stay one game up on Texas.
Must-have inning: The Rangers trailed 3-1 before they erupted for five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Both Tampa Bay and Cleveland had comfortable leads in their games at the time. The Rangers loaded the bases after two were out. Jeff Baker had a single, Mitch Moreland had a walk and Craig Gentry was hit by a pitch. Leonys Martin then cleared the bases with a clutch line drive double into right field that got past L.J. Hoes to the wall. Ian Kinsler and Alex Rios later had RBI singles to extend the Rangers' lead to 6-3.
Laird homers for Astros: Brandon Laird -- Former Ranger Gerald Laird's brother -- flashed his power with a two-run home run to straightaway center field in the top of the fourth as Houston took a 3-1 lead. Martin got back to the wall and made a leaping effort but the ball eluded his glove and went over the fence for Laird's fifth home run.
Perez gets quality start: Rookie Martin Perez delivered a quality start despite giving up the lead in the top of the fourth. He went seven innings and gave up three runs and six hits. Perez won his 10th game of the season as he joined Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza as double-digit winners this season.
Kinsler goes deep: Ian Kinsler added to the Rangers' lead with a solo shot to left field with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, giving Texas a 7-3 lead. It was Kinsler's first home run at Rangers Ballpark since July 3. He had four home runs on the road before finally going deep in Arlington.
Gentry reaches 20: Gentry stole his 20th base in the third inning, extending his career high. The Rangers have four players with 20 or more steals this season; the others are Elvis Andrus with 41, Rios with 40 (26 for the White Sox before he arrived in Texas) and Martin with 34.
Up next: The Rangers play their final four games of the regular season at home against the rival Los Angeles Angels. Even with the Halos eliminated, it will be an intense series. The Rangers will call on right-hander Garza (10-6, 3.90 ERA) against Angels right-hander Jerome Williams (9-10, 4.55) in the opener on Thursday night. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.
Here are Wednesday's starting lineups for the final game of the season between the Lone Star State's two major league teams:
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Alex Rios
3B Adrian Beltre
C A.J. Pierzynski
DH Jeff Baker
1B Mitch Moreland
LF Craig Gentry
CF Leonys Martin
P Martin Perez
SS Jonathan Villar
2B Jose Altuve
3B Matt Dominguez
1B Chris Carter
LF J.D. Martinez
DH Brandon Laird
RF L.J. Hoes
C Cody Clark
CF Brandon Barnes
P Dallas Keuchel
|Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Keuchel (6-9, 4.99 ERA): Keuchel is making his final start of the season. ... He is 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in his last six starts and has allowed 43 hits in 34 innings over that span. ... Keuchel did pitch well in his last start Thursday against Cleveland, allowing one run in seven innings. He had seven strikeouts and walked only one. ... Opponents are batting .299 against him. ... Keuchel is 0-5 with an 11.10 ERA in six career road starts. ... He allowed a run in five innings in his only start against the Rangers.
Hitters: Adrian Beltre is 4-for-12 with two doubles against Keuchel. Chris Carter is 4-for-8 with two home runs and three RBIs against Perez.
Darvish (13.9, 2.81): Darvish needs four outs Tuesday to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career. ... He ended his career-long four-game losing streak in his last start against Tampa Bay, lasting only five innings in an 8-2 victory over the Rays. ... Darvish matched a career high with six walks. ... Darvish is 1-4 with a 3.40 ERA for his last seven starts. ... He leads the majors with 260 strikeouts. ... Darvish makes his fifth start against the Astros. ... He is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA. ... Darvish has come within an out of a perfect game and five outs of a no-hitter against Houston this season.
Peacock (5-5, 5.24 ERA): Peacock allowed three earned runs and had five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in his last start Wednesday against Cincinnati. ... He is 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA for his last 10 appearances, including eight starts. ... He has 51 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. ... The Astros are 5-8 in his starts. ... He is 1-8 after an Astros' loss. ... Peacock has faced the Rangers once this season, allowing a run in six innings while getting a no-decision.
Hitters: A.J. Pierzynski is 1-for-3 with a home run against Peacock. Marc Krauss is 2-for-6 with two RBIs against Darvish. Matt Dominguez has two home runs in nine at-bats against the Rangers' pitcher.
Here is Monday's lineup:
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Alex Rios
3B Adrian Beltre
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
LF Craig Gentry
DH David Murphy
CF Leonys Martin
P Derek Holland
Holland (9-9, 3.48): Holland is winless in his last eight starts, but he pitched better against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, allowing two runs in six innings. He had 5 2/3 shutout innings before allowing a two-out, two-run home run to the Rays' Sean Rodriguez in the bottom of the sixth that tied the game 2-2. The Rays won 4-3 in 12 innings. ... Holland is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA in September. He has allowed 14 home runs in 15 starts since July 1. He leads the staff with 21 quality starts. He is 0-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season.
Lyles (7-8, 5.26): Lyles allowed seven runs in 3 1/3 innings in his last start Tuesday against Cincinnati. He doesn't miss many bats with 91 strikeouts in 138 2/3 innings. The Astros are 9-15 for his starts. Houston scores for him, averaging 5.78 runs of support per start. He is 7-10 after a Houston loss. Lyles is a very respectable 3-2 with a 3.61 ERA on the road. He has made one start against the Rangers this season, allowing eight runs and 11 hits in four innings.
Hitters: Adrian Beltre (6-for-15, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs) and David Murphy (4-for-6, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs) have raked against Lyles. Astros catcher Jason Castro is 4-for-6 with a home run against Holland.
Monday: LHP Derek Holland (9-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (7-8, 5.26), 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: RHP Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.81) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (5-5, 5.24), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: LHP Martin Perez (9-5, 3.54) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.99), 7:05 p.m.
Here's what to watch for in this final series between these in-state rivals:
Silver Boot: The Rangers retained the Silver Boot, given to the winner of the season series, back in August with a four-game sweep of the Astros in Houston. The Rangers are 14-2 against the Astros, with eight straight wins. The 14 wins are the second most ever by Texas against one opponent in a season. The Rangers beat Seattle 15 times in 2011. Texas has won 13 consecutive individual series against the Astros. The Rangers have never needed a sweep more than they do now. They've outscored Houston 104-64.
Astros' offense: The Astros have averaged four runs per game against the Rangers. That's not so bad considering they were almost no-hit twice by Darvish, not to mention having won only two games. Houston's offense starts with Jose Altuve, who has hit safely in 19 of his past 21 games. He is batting .374 with eight doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs during that span.
Andrus rolls on: If the Rangers earn a wild-card birth, shortstop Elvis Andrus will likely be right in the middle of things. Andrus is batting .340 over his past 23 games and broke an 0-for-10 slide with two singles Sunday. Andrus has a career-high 40 stolen bases, though he was caught Sunday trying to steal third base. He has played spectacular defense, making 14 errors in 552 total chances.
Home, not sweet home: The Rangers have one last chance to play well at home. The last homestand was a disaster, as they lost all six games to Pittsburgh and Oakland, which cost them the American League West and put them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The Rangers have 39 home wins. To put that in perspective, 18 teams have more home wins, including Philadelphia and Colorado, teams that have been out of the playoff race for weeks. The Rangers have the best road record in the majors at 45-36.
Bullpen power: The Rangers have three qualifying relievers with ERAs under 2.00 with seven games left in the regular season: Neal Cotts (1.04), Joe Nathan (1.51) and Tanner Scheppers (1.96). According to baseball-reference.com, there have been only two teams since 1900 do that: the 2002 Braves and the 2003 Dodgers. The Rangers and Braves can both accomplish that this season. The much-maligned Astros bullpen has been better of late with a 2.63 ERA in the past 13 games.
Elvis Andrus was mobbed by teammates Wednesday after his walk-off sacrifice fly. And well he should have: It gave the Rangers a three-game sweep of the Astros.
"It was tense," he said.
He used those three words to describe the moments leading up to shortstop Elvis Andrus delivering a sacrifice fly to left field to score Adam Rosales with one out in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Rangers a three-game sweep of Houston and a 2½-game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the American League West.
After Andrus' heroics, it was pandemonium, with a few Rangers players pulling their shortstop by the jersey through the infield as they celebrated another clutch victory in August. The Rangers have won 18 of their past 22 games.
Washington had the tense part correct. And in stressful times, it's good to have guys who have been in pressure situations before.
It took the relief work of former closers Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor to get out of bases-loaded jams in the seventh and eighth innings, and the cool calm of Andrus, who at 24 has played in two World Series for the Rangers.
Let's start with Andrus. He gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh when he executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score Craig Gentry. At the time, that insurance run looked like it would be enough to beat the 41-win Astros.
Andrus' ninth-inning heroics combined with the Athletics' loss mean Texas now holds a 2½-game advantage in the AL West standings.
The Rangers responded in the bottom of the ninth by loading the bases, forcing Astros reliever Chia-Jen Lo to throw strikes. He couldn't. Mitch Moreland led off the inning with a single, and Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin walked to fill the bases.
Andrus, who had missed a bunt earlier in the bottom of the fifth, had gained confidence for his ninth-inning at-bat by nearly hitting a home run that inning, flying out to the left-field fence. That helped him for his at-bat against Lo.
Of course, Washington could have gone with another squeeze, but with the advantage of having that planted in the Astros' minds, and a first-pitch ball, he let Andrus swing away with the Astros employing five infielders.
Andrus lofted a fly ball into not-too-deep left field, and pinch runner Rosales used his speed to easily beat a high throw home from Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman.
"I was trying to hit a fly ball," Andrus said. "It was a little easier today. I had two fly balls already. I was trying to stay below the ball and just put a good swing on it, especially with the way that we're playing in. I don't need to do much in that situation."
Andrus wouldn't have gotten his walk-off chance without Soria and Frasor.
Rangers starter Derek Holland looked like he was coasting to his third win at home this season with a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh. But a line drive from Jason Castro's bat that glanced off his left forearm seemed to rattle him.
He walked the next two batters he faced, loading the bases.
"It scared the crap out of me," Holland said of getting hit. "I had to calm myself down, I took deep breaths, but I couldn't do it and it cost me the win."
Soria came on with the bags full and got a double play. Even though the Astros scored to make it 3-2, the two outs were huge. After a walk, Soria got another ground ball to hold the lead.
The Rangers led 4-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth when Scheppers, fresh off a double-play ball, allowed two bloop hits, a walk and two wild pitches as the Astros cut the lead to 4-3.
And that was before he lost command of the strike zone. Scheppers hit the next two Astros, including striking rookie catcher Max Stassi in the face, to force in the tying run.
"It's one of those pitches that got away," Scheppers said of the 96 mph fastball that glanced off Stassi's shoulder before hitting his face.
Fortunately, the inning and the game didn't get away from the Rangers. Veteran right-hander Frasor came in with the bases still loaded and struck out Brett Wallace to keep the score at 4-all.
That set up Andrus' heroics. And the Rangers survived yet again.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Elvis Andrus had a walk-off sacrifice fly to score Adam Rosales in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Texas Rangers to a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
What it means: The Rangers swept the three-game series, giving them an 18-4 record since July 29. Texas upped its lead to 2½ games in the American League West. The Rangers are 75-53 and are 21 games over .500 for the first time this season.
Eighth-inning disaster: Tanner Scheppers, who has been better of late, made a mess of the top of the eighth with the Rangers leading 4-2. He allowed a leadoff single to Robbie Grossman but then got L.J. Hoes to ground into a double play. Then came a single, walk, RBI single, hit batter and hit batter against Scheppers. There were also two wild pitches in the inning. Scheppers hit rookie catcher Max Stassi in the shoulder and jaw with the bases loaded to tie the game at 4-4. Stassi left the game with what appeared to be blood from his nose.
Frasor saves the day: Jason Frasor came in for the wild Scheppers and, with the bases loaded, struck out Brett Wallace to keep the game tied at 4-4.
Holland robbed again: Derek Holland has two wins in 13 starts at home this season. He left with another lead, this time 3-1. The Rangers have eight blown saves this season. Five of them have come in a Holland start. He allowed four hits and two runs in six innings.
Gentry goes deep: Left fielder Craig Gentry pounded his second home run of the season -- his first in 108 at-bats -- to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning. Gentry's home run to left-center field went 426 feet according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Rangers take lead: The Rangers took a 2-1 lead with two outs in the bottom of the third. Second baseman Ian Kinsler had a single to left field. Adrian Beltre followed with a single down the left field line, and when Astros left fielder Brandon Barnes bobbled the ball, Kinsler hustled around third and scored for a 2-1 lead.
Bedard gets wild: Astros starter Erik Bedard walked Gentry and Leonys Martin to start the bottom of the fifth. After Elvis Andrus flew out to deep left field, Kinsler had a line drive single to center field for a 3-1 lead. Bedard was lifted for reliever rookie David Martinez, who in his major league debut got Beltre to ground into a double play.
Gentry in the field too: Gentry made a nice running catch for the third out of the sixth inning with the tying runs on base and Astros No. 3 hitter Jose Altuve at the plate. Gentry went back in front of the wall and made a leaping catch to keep the score at 3-1.
Soria gets it done: Derek Holland started the seventh inning by giving up a single on a ball that skimmed his forearm off the bat of Jason Castro. Holland then walked Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez to load the bases with the Rangers still holding a 3-1 lead. Manager Ron Washington went to the bullpen for veteran reliever Joakim Soria, who held that lead. Soria got a double play ball from Stassi with Castro scoring to make it 3-2 Rangers. After walking left-handed pinch hitter Brett Wallace, Soria got Marwin Gonzalez to ground out weakly to third to end the inning.
Insurance run: The Rangers took advantage of an error by Gonzalez at shortstop to put Gentry on second base to start the bottom of the seventh. Texas got the run home with small ball as Leonys Martin bunted Gentry to third and he scored on Elvis Andrus' perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt for a 4-2 lead.
Up next: The Rangers have an off day Thursday, their third of the month. Then they open a three-game series at Chicago on Friday against the White Sox. The pitching matchups are: Friday, LHP Martin Perez (6-3, 3.48) versus LHP Chris Sale (9-11, 2.78); Saturday, RHP Yu Darvish versus LHP Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.27); Sunday, RHP Matt Garza (9-2, 3.81) versus LHP John Danks (3-10, 4.22).
Here is the lineup for Wednesday's game:
CF Leonys Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Adrian Beltre
C A.J. Pierzynski
RF Alex Rios
1B Jeff Baker
DH Jurickson Profar
LF Craig Gentry
P Derek Holland
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast 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.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast 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.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.