Texas Rangers: Jason Frasor

Rapid Reaction: Astros 8, Rangers 4

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Presented with two early leads, Yu Darvish could hold neither.

The Texas Rangers' All-Star pitcher yielded 10 hits and six earned runs, a season-worst in both areas, in an 8-4 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday night before 31,161 at Globe Life Park.

Texas trailed 6-4 when Darvish departed after six innings. Houston completed a sweep of the three-game series and caught the Rangers in the American League West standings.

The free fall continues for Texas, losers of four in a row and 18 of 21.

A few observations:

Not Yu's night: It was not the kind of boost from their ace the Rangers needed with things crumbling around them.

Darvish didn't help himself with a wild pitch that cost him a run in the second inning. He was slow covering first, allowing George Springer to leg out an infield hit in the third, but pitched out of that mistake with a strikeout and a double play.

Darvish struck out the side in the fourth by featuring a sub-80 mph breaking ball. But in the fifth, Robbie Grossman timed one and tied the score with a solo home run just inside the right field foul pole.

The real damage was inflicted by Astros catcher Carlos Corporan when he found the left-field foul line with a two-run double in the sixth to break a 4-4 deadlock. Shin-Soo Choo made a diving attempt at a catch but came up empty.

Oh Danny boy: On the bright side, Daniel Robertson came up with his biggest hit in his two months with the Rangers, grounding a bases-loaded double past Houston third baseman Matt Dominguez to key a three-run second inning for a 4-2 Texas lead.

Bullpen woes: Troubles of late continued for Rangers reliever Jason Frasor. Springer tagged him for a two-run home run in the seventh. That made it four straight appearances for Frasor to permit runs.

Lucky 13: Adrian Beltre wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning RBI single. In his last 14 chances with runners in scoring position, Beltre has nine hits.

Better start: Alex Rios doubled in the first inning and scored the game's first run. The 1-0 lead was the Rangers' first in 28 innings going back to Saturday's 5-3 win over the Mets. Rios was robbed of extra bases in the third inning when Springer crashed into the center-field wall while hauling in Rios' 400-foot drive.

Blinded by the light: The setting sun factored in two Houston runs in the second inning. Choo was slow to locate Enrique Hernandez's catchable drive that hit near the warning track. It went for an RBI triple. Hernandez raced home on a wild pitch for a 2-1 Houston lead.

Fast learner: Jake Smolinski was rewarded for his two hits in his first Rangers start on Tuesday with an elevation to the fifth spot. He didn't disappoint, lining singles to left, right and center in his first three plate appearance, giving him a streak of five consecutive hits. Maybe promotions from Frisco to Round Rock to Arlington over a two-week period are inspirational.

Up next: The Rangers open a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels at 7:05 p.m. CT on Thursday with Colby Lewis (6-5, 5.51 ERA) facing off against Hector Santiago (0-7, 4.50 ERA) at Globe Life Park on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Twins 4

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers snapped an eight-game losing streak -- their longest in nine seasons -- with a very welcomed 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 38,111 Friday night at Globe Life Park.

Nick Tepesch limited the Twins to three hits in 7 1/3 shutout innings and Adrian Beltre staked the Rangers to a lead they would not relinquish with a two-run home run in the first inning. The win was the first for the Rangers (36-43) since outscoring the Oakland Athletics 14-8 on June 16.

Texas took a 5-0 lead into the ninth, but nothing comes easy for the Rangers. The Twins scored four and had the tying run at third with one out when Joakim Soria wiggled out of it with a strikeout and a ground ball.

A few observations:

Streak-breaker: Responsibility for breaking a long losing streak first has to go to the starting pitcher, and Tepesch (3-3) delivered. In addition to limiting the Twins to only three singles, he walked two and hit a batter. Of his 106 pitches, 67 were strikes.

In preparing the Globe Life Park infield minutes before the first pitch, grounds crew head man Dennis Klein made sure to give the dirt area in front of home plate a heavy soaking. Tepesch showed it to be a wise move, inducing 12 ground ball outs.

A key moment for Tepesch occurred in the fourth inning, and it didn’t involve a ground ball. Nursing a 2-0 lead, he slipped a third strike past Eduardo Escobar with two outs and the bases loaded, one of five punchouts for the 25-year-old.

On a roll: Beltre continued his torrid June, staking the Rangers to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a 381-foot, line-drive home run into the Texas bullpen. Beltre came into the game on a 9-for-14 streak over four games that saw his batting average climb 19 points to .325. An eighth-inning sacrifice fly gave him three RBIs for the night.

The home run was Beltre’s ninth, good for sole possession of the team lead -- one more than Michael Choice. All but one of Beltre’s home runs have come off right-handers.

A little D: The defensive play of the night came courtesy of second baseman Rougned Odor. The rookie speared a wicked one-hopper off the bat of Kendrys Morales in the second inning and almost made it look routine.

Relief is on the way: Needing to get only five outs thanks to Tepesch working into the eighth, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts proved they haven’t forgotten how to pitch with a late-inning lead, but a rusty Soria struggled in a nonsave situation in the ninth.

Let’s get it started: Shin-Soo Choo, returning to the leadoff spot for the first time in 18 games, responded with a superb night at the plate. Choo lined singles in his first two trips and drove in the Rangers’ fourth run by crashing a double off the left-field wall. Choo scored ahead of Beltre’s homer in the first to give Texas a quick 2-0 lead.

Coming along: Look for switch-hitting Luis Sardinas to get more playing time as he continues to impress at the plate. The rookie infielder came into Friday’s game batting .370 over his past 10 games. He lined an opposite-field RBI double in the fourth inning.

Up next: The Rangers and Twins tangle in the middle game of the three-game series at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday at Globe Life Park. Rangers ace Yu Darvish (7-4, 2.62 ERA) will go against Phil Hughes (8-3, 3.40 ERA) on ESPN 103.3 FM.

HOUSTON -- The Texas Rangers bullpen betrayed them.


Houston 5, Texas 4.

The bullpen blew its sixth save of the season; the Rangers had 10 blown saves all of last year.

Houston Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez singled to right-center to drive in centerfielder Dexter Fowler for the winner with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

The Rangers led 4-0 after five innings, in part, because Nick Tepesch’s strong start in his 2014 debut.

Tepesch allowed two hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out eight. He left in the sixth with one out and a runner on first.

Aaron Poreda, who had not allowed a run all season, relieved him and gave up a walk and three singles that allowed the Astros to pull within 4-2.

Houston’s George Springer tied the score at 4-4 with a two-run homer in the seventh off of Jason Frasor.

The Rangers have now dipped below .500, while losing their first series to Houston since June 24-26, 2008.

Tepesch started for Martin Perez, who was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. He will either try to rehab the injury or have surgery and miss the rest of the season.

Matt Harrison, another starter, left Tuesday’s game with back stiffness. He needs spinal fusion surgery to eliminate the discomfort. That would force him to miss the season. Or he can try to rehab the injury and pitch through the pain.

The Rangers gave Tepesch an early 1-0 lead on Alex Rios’ second-inning homer to left. Prince Fielder pushed the lead to 2-0 with an RBI single in the third and 4-0 with an RBI double to left in the fifth.

A few observations:

Slow trot: Rios' homer was his third dinger of the season and first since May 2, a span of 41 at-bats.

Streaking: Elvis Andrus singled to right-center, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. He has two 11-game hitting streaks this season.

Bringing them home: Fielder, who finished the first quarter of the season with three homers and 14 RBI, had his third two-hit game of the series. A single in the third drove in Andrus and a double to left in the fifth brought home Adrian Beltre.

Mowing them down: Tepesch retired consecutive batters from the third inning until one out into the sixth inning.

Intentional pass: Fielder received his league-leading 11th intentional walk this season in the seventh inning, after Beltre led off with a double to left. Rios popped out and pinch-hitter Michael Choice struck out.

Striking out the side : In the first inning, Tepesch struck out Jose Altuve and Springer on eight pitches. Then he allowed a single and a double, earning a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux. Afterward, he struck out Dominguez in an eight-pitch at-bat.

Up next The Rangers will play the first game of their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays with Yu Darvish (3-1, 2.33 ERA) facing Drew Hutchison (1–3, 4.37 ERA) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. CT start on ESPN's 103.3 FM and TXA 21.
HOUSTON -- Tanner Scheppers threw 25-30 pitches Tuesday afternoon, but he’s not sure when he’ll be ready to pitch for the Rangers.

Or what role he’ll have when he returns.

“I don’t think I have guarantees on this staff,” Scheppers said. “I don’t think I showed anything to prove me to be a guaranteed starter.

“I wasn't fully healthy when I was throwing. I was throwing through some stuff. Hopefully, they put that into the equations, but it’s out of my control.”

Scheppers is 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA this season. He’s allowed 27 hits in 18 and one-third innings with only 13 strikeouts and eight walks.

And he’s allowed four homers. He allowed six all of last season.

(Read full post)

Skipper trying to figure out bullpen depth

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
Sunday's ending in Seattle was a surprising way to end what was looking like a very solid road trip for the Texas Rangers. And in many ways it was still solid, sweeping the Oakland A's and finishing the six games tied with the A's for first.

But like so many things in life, it's how you finish and not how you start (ask the Dallas Stars this morning). The Rangers open a three-game series tonight with the A's. It's a good time to have Yu Darvish on the mound after the eighth-inning meltdown Sunday. Actually, Texas had two eighth-inning meltdowns in the series in Seattle, which cost them a chance to take the AL West lead all by themselves.

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezAlexi Ogando threw an awful pitch to Kyle Seager, who didn't miss it for the go-ahead three-run homer Sunday.
The great thing about baseball is that there are so many opportunities to make decisions that have ripple effects. While the discussion can be fun and the strategy intriguing, it's also a reminder of how difficult it is to be a big-league manager. One decision to pitch to a certain batter or put a particular pitcher in the game can decide things, both good and bad.

Manager Ron Washington (along with his coaching staff) was in that position late in Sunday's game. The Mariners had chipped away at the lead and Washington was hoping to give his winning bullpen pieces a day off. Up 5-0, that looked promising. It was 5-2 when Shawn Tolleson came in and it became a two-run game fairly quickly after that.

So do you go with Jason Frasor in the seventh inning when it's a two-run game? Washington said no. He explained afterward that other pitchers have to get outs in the bullpen. That it can't always come down to the same arms, who risked being overworked. The skipper is right, of course. And April is the time to find some of that out. He did that with Aaron Poreda on Saturday and it worked. But when the other arms don't get it done and a 5-0 lead dwindles, it's natural for criticism to follow.

(Read full post)

Stock Report: Bullpen up, offense down

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's Friday and that means we take stock of how various parts of the Texas Rangers have done over the past week.


Bullpen. After a shaky start to the season, the bullpen seems to have jelled into a cohesive group that has fairly defined roles. Alexi Ogando, who struggled in the spring so much that he lost his starting job and began the season poorly, has come around and is looking a little more like the guy who pitched so well in relief a few years ago. Jason Frasor brings a veteran presence. Joakim Soria has closing experience and even pitchers who the club is still figuring out -- such as Pedro Figueroa and Shawn Tolleson -- have improved in the past week. The group has some more confidence.

Kevin Kouzmanoff. So far, he's filled in very well for the injured Adrian Beltre, who can not return until April 25 thanks to a disabled list stint because of his strained left quad. Kouzmanoff has hit safely in every game he has played in a Rangers uniform and has shown a penchant for extra-base hits. Few can defend at third base like Beltre, but Kouzmanoff has done a solid job in the field.

Walk-offs. The Rangers have had four this season and two in this current homestand. Robinson Chirinos was the hero April 11 against Houston, a 1-0 win in 12 innings and Leonys Martin delivered an RBI single in the ninth Wednesday. Both walk-off wins in this homestand occurred in Yu Darvish starts.

Leonys Martin. He did it all during the Mariners series. He played solid defense, delivered a game-winning hit and has become a terrific bunter. The only thing he didn't do was yell loud enough (or low enough) for Shin-Soo Choo to hear him Wednesday on a pop fly to center. Martin is making a difference in the bottom of the order.



Hitting with runners in scoring position. It has not been a strong suit for this team, though they were a bit better in those situations Thursday. Still, the team is 11-for-71 (.155) with runners in scoring position in the past eight games.

Offensive catchers. The Rangers aren't getting much offensive production from their catchers. J.P. Arencibia had two RBIs Thursday but neither came on hits. He's hitting .071 on the season and Chirinos is batting .160. That doesn't mean the catchers haven't played well in other facets, but as far as hitting goes, it has not been solid.

Defense. The Rangers lead the AL with 15 errors in 16 games. And in the Seattle series alone they had a few other mistakes that weren't scored errors (but perhaps could have been). This team still isn't as crisp as manager Ron Washington would like it with the gloves or their arms, though middle infielders Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy have done a good job filling in when out there.

Tanner Scheppers. Big innings have cost Scheppers in three of his four starts and it was a six-run third that ended his afternoon Thursday (the bullpen and offense bailed him out). We'll see if he gets another shot to start when it's his turn in the rotation Tuesday, but he's got to find a way to minimize damage.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Mariners 6

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was a strange day at Globe Life Park as neither starting pitcher could do much of anything. The Rangers had a 4-0 lead, lost it and then managed to snag the advantage back in the fifth and hang on for an 8-6 victory. Texas takes three out of four from the Mariners in the process and has won three straight games for the first time since the last week of the regular season in 2013, when they won seven straight to force Game 163. It's also the first time this season the Rangers have been two games above .500. Some thoughts:

Big inning hurts Scheppers (again): Tanner Scheppers couldn't get through the third inning Thursday. After talking about the need to minimize damage when a five-run inning hurt him in his last start, Scheppers wasn't able to do it. Staked to a 4-0 lead, he gave it all back in two swings -- consecutive home runs from Robinson Cano (his first with the Mariners this season) and Corey Hart. Scheppers ended up allowing six runs (two scored with Hector Noesi on the mound) on six hits in his outing with three walks and two strikeouts. He's allowed 20 runs this season and 17 of those have come in three big innings -- two six-run innings and a five-run inning.

First-inning runs: The Rangers came into Thursday's game with three first-inning runs all season. They scored three with two outs to give Scheppers the lead. After an Elvis Andrus double, Alex Rios struck out for the second out. The Mariners walked Prince Fielder intentionally to pitch to the red-hot Kevin Kouzmanoff. It didn't work. Kouzmanoff doubled to drive home the first run. Mitch Moreland then delivered a two-out, two-run single to center to make it 3-0.

Two-strike hits: All four runs scored in the first two innings by the Rangers came on two-strike counts. Texas came into the game batting .208 in those situations, good enough for third in the AL (two teams have .209 averages). The Rangers increased that average Thursday and did it early. The most impressive at-bat came from Kouzmanoff, who fell behind 0-2, worked it back to 2-2 and hit the eighth pitch for a double. The Rangers also had a two-strike bunt by Leonys Martin in the third that helped score a run when J.P. Arencibia grounded out to the left side of the infield, scoring Moreland.

Kouzmanoff hot: The Rangers' fill-in third baseman just continues to hit, increasing his streak of hitting safely to eight games (that's all that he's played in a Rangers uniform). Kouzmanoff hit doubles in his first two at-bats and has three multi-hit games since getting called up. The Mariners walked Fielder twice to pitch to Kouzmanoff. It didn't work in the first, but it did in the seventh.

Fielder can't cash in: The slugger got two chances with runners in scoring position Thursday and wasn't able to convert. The struggling slugger is now 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position this season. One of those chances came with the count already at two strikes. Rios, who has vowed to stay aggressive on the bases even with Fielder hitting behind him, stole second base and went to third on an errant throw by catcher John Buck.

Relief respect: The Rangers bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings Thursday and didn't allow a run. Hector Noesi gave up some hard hits, but both of the runs he gave up were inherited runners charged to Scheppers. Pedro Figueroa, Jason Frasor, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria got the job done.

Small ball: Martin was asked to put down sacrifice bunts twice Thursday with runners at first and second. He converted both times, and Arencibia, behind him, hit ground balls to score a run in each frame. The bunt eliminated the chance at a double play and Arencibia did what he had to by hitting the ball on the ground. The average won't be helped, but the catcher did his job in those situations.

Up next: The Chicago White Sox come to town with LHP Martin Perez (2-0, 2.70 ERA) opposing RHP Felipe Paulino (0-1, 7.98 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and TXA21.

Extra Bases: Scheppers wants low damage

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One bad inning did in Tanner Scheppers on Saturday. He gave up all five of his runs in the fourth inning during a 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros.

Scheppers ended up going seven innings and collected a career-high six strikeouts with one walk. But that one inning cost him dearly.

"I want to go out there, attack with my fastball and go from there," Scheppers said. "I think at the end of the day, I've got to keep my faith in my ability, go out there and use my strengths, keep the ball on the ground and have the offense score some runs."

Scheppers wants to take the positives from his last outing and apply them, but the reliever-turned-starter knows he also has to get results. He's learning about making the adjustments from the bullpen to the rotation.

"Your mistakes are under a microscope," Scheppers said. "You make a mistake and they take advantage of it and it can hurt you. It's about minimizing those mistakes, keeping the game slow and focusing on each pitch."

Rangers manager Ron Washington sees a pitcher who is getting closer to putting it all together.

"He has to minimize the damage," Washington said of Scheppers' rough inning. "He's getting better. It's a learning experience for him. He's used to coming in, going one inning, rushing through it and leaving everything out there. Now he's going through a lineup three or four times.

"You expect an inning to get away. But if it gets away you hope it's two runs, not five."

Rios will stay aggressive: Outfielder Alex Rios said he's going to continue to be assertive on the bases, even with Prince Fielder hitting behind him. Rios was at first base Tuesday with Fielder up and tried to steal second and was thrown out, eliminating Fielder's chance to try to move him around the bases.

"I'm not going to quit being aggressive on the bases," Rios said. "I'm going to do what I can do to advance and make it easier for him with me in scoring position. I thought I had a good jump, but he had a good pitch to throw me out. I had a great chance, but it was a good throw."

The pitch was up and away, almost like a pitchout, and catcher Mike Zunino made a great throw. Zunino also got Elvis Andrus trying to steal.

"That Zunino kid can throw. I've read stuff about him and now I'm seeing it," Washington said. "Maybe we need to stop trying to run on him."

Bullpen improving: It was a rocky first nine games for the Rangers bullpen. Neal Cotts and Alexi Ogando struggled and the relievers as a group put up a 6.21 ERA in those first nine games. Opponents were hitting .288 against them. But things have improved dramatically since then.

In the six games of this homestand, the bullpen has a 0.60 ERA (one earned run in 15 innings) and opponents are hitting .208. Cotts has pitched better recently, and Ogando earned his first save since 2012 Sunday against Houston. And Pedro Figueroa came in and got a 1-2-3 eighth inning Wednesday, keeping it a two-run game before the Rangers were able to come back.

"What's expected of them is starting to fall in place a little better," Washington said. "The main guys are starting to put it together."

Washington has been pleased with Shawn Tolleson, who is one of the secondary pieces in the bullpen. Tolleson has allowed one run in his 5 2/3 innings of work and it came in his debut on Opening Day.

"I'm still feeling him out," Washington said. "When the bullpen is down, we'll need one of those guys in a big situation. As long as Cotts, [Jason] Frasor, Ogando and [Joakim] Soria are available, they'll get it. When they're not, he'll get a chance to fill in. My first impression has been favorable since spring training. He's got pitches. He's got a split, changeup, doesn't throw the ball down the middle of the plate and has an idea of what he's doing."

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Mariners 2

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

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.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
ARLINGTON, Texas -- That's 15 straight series wins over the Houston Astros for the Texas Rangers as they secure their second 1-0 win in the past three days. It was the first time in club history that Texas had two 1-0 wins in the same series and the first time for two 1-0 games in the same series since 1982 vs. Boston Red Sox. Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings and Alexi Ogando got the save in the ninth. Texas now has three shutout wins in the first 12 games of the season and they move to .500 on the season. Some quick thoughts:

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.

Rapid Reaction: Astros 6, Rangers 5 (10)

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12

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.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0 (12)

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have played four games in Arlington. They've won three of them in walk-off fashion. And Robinson Chirinos was the hero in the 12th inning. His single to right scored Kevin Kouzmanoff from second -- who got there by staying aggressive and getting to second on a ball in the dirt -- to give the Rangers a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.

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).

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 10, Red Sox 7

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8

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.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Phillies 3

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2

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

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Phillies 2

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre's walk-off single to right scored Shin-Soo Choo with the winning run as the Texas Rangers got their first victory of 2014, 3-2 over the Philadelphia Phillies. Some quick thoughts on the game:

Clutch: Beltre delivered in big moments twice on Monday, something he did with regularity last season. With two outs and a runner at third in the seventh, Beltre doubled the other way to score the tying run. Beltre was tops in the league last year with a .416 average in the "close and late" stat, which is how a batter fares when his team is leading by one, tied or has the tying run on base. He had two hits and two RBIs in those situations on Monday, including the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth.

Bullpen lineup: With a close game, manager Ron Washington lined up the bullpen the way he wanted to in the later stages. That was Jason Frasor to finish off the sixth and pitch the seventh, lefty Neal Cotts in the eighth and closer Joakim Soria in the ninth. They all did the job, allowing no runs on one hit with one walk and four strikeouts in 3 ⅓ innings.

Choo vs. lefty: The Phillies sent a steady diet of left-handed pitchers out against Choo on Monday and it worked. On Tuesday, they opted to take righty A.J. Burnett out and put lefty Jake Diekman in with Choo leading off the seventh and Choo punched a ground ball single to left. He ended up scoring on Beltre's two-out double to right. Choo had just a .215 average against lefties last season.

Perez solid: Martin Perez left with a deficit, but that doesn't change the fact that he pitched well overall in his first start of 2014. The lefty allowed two runs -- both in the sixth -- on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He was locked in a scoreless contest with Burnett until the sixth, when he allowed a leadoff double to Cesar Hernandez and then surrendered hits to three of the next five batters he faced. Perez's slider and changeup were excellent and he attacked the strike zone, something he talked about before the start.

Getting in replay flow: The Rangers challenged one play in the sixth inning on Tuesday and won it, getting the call overturned. You can read more about that here. But to me, what was more interesting was watching how the mechanics worked as the club decided whether or not to challenge. Earlier in the sixth, Washington showed how slowly he can walk to chat with an umpire so that Joey Prebynski could look at the replays. They showed the umpires got it right, so Washington looked in the dugout and got a sign from someone (likely bench coach Tim Bogar) not to challenge, and didn't. Later in the inning, walking slowly yet again, Washington got the go sign and the Rangers won the challenge. That's how you do it.

Missed opportunities: Prince Fielder came up with runners at first and second and no outs in the third inning and wasn't able to convert, popping up in foul territory near the Phillies' dugout. Beltre then hit into a fielder's choice and Alex Rios lined out to second base to end the frame. ... Fielder smoked a two-out double in the fifth -- the bat speed was extremely fast -- and Beltre hit a ball to one of the deepest parts of the stadium, but it was caught against the wall to end the frame.

Briefly: Former president George W. Bush was on hand, sitting in the owner's box. It was odd not seeing Nolan Ryan down there with him as the two have watched a fair number of games together at Globe Life Park since Bush left office. ... Catcher Robinson Chirinos, playing in his first game of the season, showed off his arm in the second, getting Jayson Nix trying to get to second base. It appeared to be a botched hit-and-run attempt, but Chirinos made a terrific throw that had Nix out by a lot.

Up next: LHP Robbie Ross is on the mound for the Rangers as they take on the Phillies and RHP Kyle Kendrick in the final game of a three-game series, which starts at 7:05 p.m. at Globe Life Park. Ross has been in the bullpen the past two seasons and now will get a shot to start for the first time since making six starts for Double-A Frisco in 2011. Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Rangers Rule 5 draft pick Russell Wilson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.



Colby Lewis
10 5.18 133 170
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182