Texas Rangers: Justin Maxwell
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers get back into divisional play this week with three-game series in Arlington against the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros.
The Rangers are 22-10 overall against the American League West for the best winning percentage against division opponents in the major leagues.
|Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company for his weekly visit to discuss the latest Rangers news, including Yu Darvish bringing back his fastball.
Here's what to look for this week:
Seattle's finest: The Rangers won't catch a break with the Mariners this time around in Arlington. They'll face Felix Hernandez for the first time at Rangers Ballpark this season -- they have beaten King Felix twice in Seattle this season. Hernandez is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 16 career starts in Arlington. Oddly, King Felix didn't pitch in any of the three series between the division rivals in Arlington last year. He was 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in 2011. All three of Seattle's starters are quality pitchers. Tuesday's starter, Joe Saunders, is 5-8 with a 4.98 ERA, but remember he beat the Rangers while pitching for Baltimore last season in the AL wild-card game, ending Texas' season. Thursday's starter for Seattle is Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3, 2.42), who beat the Rangers and countryman Yu Darvish back on April 12 in Seattle.
Ibanez is hot: Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez hit 10 home runs in June, second in the AL behind Chris Davis' 12 homers for the month. Ibanez tied his career high for a month set in Philadelphia in May 2009. Ibanez has four home runs in the last seven games. He's hit 17 home runs since May 10. Ibanez handed Rangers closer Joe Nathan his only blown save of the season on May 29, hitting a home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Mariners eventually won that game 4-3 in the 13th inning.
Smoak on a good run: Former Rangers first-round draft pick Justin Smoak has three home runs in 10 games since returning from the disabled list with a right oblique injury. He has nine hits in his last 34 at-bats with five RBIs and four walks.
Astros sliding again: The Astros were just swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels, a team they've actually played well against during this dismal season. Houston has lost seven of its last 10 games. The Astros are 30-52 on the season, on pace to lose 104 games. But they don't have the worst record in baseball. That distinction belongs to the Miami Marlins, who started Monday with a 29-51 record.
Maxwell out with concussion: The Astros placed outfielder Justin Maxwell on the seven-day disabled list Sunday with concussion-related symptoms after he tried to make a diving catch Tuesday. Maxwell has made a handful of spectacular plays against the Rangers this season playing in center field. Houston called up outfielder Jimmy Paredes from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Maxwell's place on the roster.
HOUSTON -- There wasn't a day-after celebration of Yu Darvish's near-miss perfect game Wednesday afternoon. Just more strikeouts -- a lot of them -- for Rangers pitchers.
Five Rangers took the ball against Houston and all of them drew off of Darvish's spectacular effort Tuesday night, adding to a record-breaking strikeout haul in the first three games of the season.
|The excitement of Yu Darvish's near-perfect game has Rangers fans brimming with hope. Play-by-play voice Steve Busby talks about Yu's outstanding effort.
Four relievers combined for five more strikeouts as the Rangers set the major league record for most strikeouts in the first three games of the season with 43. That was one more than the 1966 Cleveland Indians.
Darvish came within an out of a perfect game Tuesday night and a trip into the record books. Ogando, back in the rotation after a year in the bullpen, said that gave him a path to follow Wednesday.
"It was a spectacular game," Ogando said. "It really motivated me to pitch strong today."
Ogando gave up a double to the first hitter he faced, so he didn't threaten to have a night like Darvish's. The no-hit bid was out of the way. But it was the first of two crucial innings for Ogando. The Astros, who didn't score in the final 18 innings of the series, had their best opportunity to scratch out a run in the bottom of the first. Brett Wallace grounded out to second base, moving Jose Altuve to third with one out and setting up a chance to score if veteran Carlos Pena could put a ball in play.
Ogando got ahead of the free-swinging Pena with a slider, then reached back for a little extra on a fastball for a key strikeout. He fanned Chris Carter on three pitches to end the inning.
Ogando said he wasn't trying to get strikeouts in the inning. They just happened.
"I just focused on throwing quality pitches," Ogando said. "I managed to strike them out. I was able to execute my pitches and I had pretty good results."
Ogando needed a Ron Washington pep talk -- they type Washington has reserved for Derek Holland in the past -- to get through the third inning. Washington usually saves trips to the mound for pitching coach Mike Maddux unless he is making a change. But after No. 9 hitter Ronny Cedeno had a one-out single, moved to second on a walk and Wallace drew a two-out walk, Ogando had already made the inning worse.
Then when Ogando fell behind Pena with two straight balls, the manager felt like he needed to deliver a special message. Wallace and Pena had combined for 11 strikeouts in 16 at-bats before Ogando walked Wallace. Not tolerable.
"I went out there and let him know he has one of the best defenses in baseball behind him," Washington said. "And if these guys are going to make a charge at him, let them make a charge at him swinging the bats."
Darvish threw one pitch -- a 93-mph fastball located where he wanted it -- and Pena rolled it over to second base for the third out. They say a trip to the mound is only successful if it brings positive results. This one worked.
Washington said he won't do it a lot, but ...
"Only when I feel like there is something that I need to say," Washington said. "I'm no miracle worker. I just felt like there was something I had to say."
Ogando went on to retire nine hitters in a row, holding the Astros at bay as the Rangers held onto a 1-0 lead. He turned the game over to the bullpen in the seventh inning.
With a runner on first base, Robbie Ross got a ground ball for the second out, moving Houston's Justin Maxwell up to second base. Washington played the matchup game, bringing in right-hander Tanner Scheppers to face Matt Dominguez. Scheppers threw a sinker and was able to induce a popup to second base.
It was the first big moment for the Rangers' new-look bullpen and the Ross-Scheppers combination. It made an impression on designated hitter Lance Berkman.
"Looks good to me," Berkman said. "We knew coming in that we had some guys who have terrific stuff, and you saw that. Even with Tanner coming in and he throws 96-mph sinkers; it was a good start for everybody."
Berkman had a clutch hit in the top of the eighth, ripping a double to the left-center field gap to score Elvis Andrus from first base for a 2-0 lead. The Rangers added two more runs in the inning for a 4-0 lead.
That meant Joe Nathan time -- after Michael Kirkman had two strikeouts in the bottom of the eighth -- and even though it wasn't a save situation, it was important to get the closer into the game after four days without pitching.
Nathan did OK, you might say, fanning all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to set the record and finish off a historic three days of strikeouts.
Not everyone can do what Darvish does, with his array of pitches, Nathan said. But with a tone-setter like the Japanese ace, it can start a trend. And sometimes the strikeouts come with it.
"When you see him do it, it's something he does on a regular basis, so you just don't want to think because he's doing it that everyone can do it," Nathan said. "This series we were able to take advantage of some aggressive (batters). More importantly, like we said, we're trying to get outs. If they're going to be aggressive, try and start them off with something other than a fastball. If we can get out of the zone to get them out, even better."
HOUSTON -- The strikeouts piled up for Texas Rangers starter Matt Harrison in the season opener as both pitchers dominated opposing hitters early on.
On an opening night where everything that went against the Rangers was surprising, it was Harrison who blinked first in the Rangers' 8-2 loss to the Astros in front of a sellout crowd and a national TV audience.
Harrison's first opening day start started with a blaze and slowly went downhill.
It started with one out in the fourth inning. Harrison got ahead of Astros first baseman Brett Wallace with with a cutter for a called strike and a curveball for a swinging strike. Wallace fouled off a cutter and then was able to reach a high fastball for a single up the middle. With two outs, Carlos Pena, who had fanned in his first at-bat, then beat a shift for another hit with the Rangers playing three infielders on the right side.
The inning got stranger from there as the Astros' No. 1 hero in this night, center fielder Justin Maxwell, lofted a fly ball into left field that appeared destined for David Murphy's glove. Only Murphy didn't get a chance to catch it because of Minute Maid's bandbox dimensions. He looked up as the baseball bounced off the scoreboard for a 314-foot triple to give Houston a 2-0 lead.
It was that kind of night for Harrison, who was great, then unlucky and then let walks get to him (more on that coming).
"It was just a matter of not executing the pitches, especially in the at-bats to Wallace and Pena," Harrison said. "They were being very aggressive, all the guys were. I felt if I just executed the pitches better, maybe farther down in the zone, I might have got some swings and misses or weaker contact. I just have to do a better job of executing pitches when I have to."
Walks and an error by right fielder Nelson Cruz put Harrison and the Rangers in a deeper hole. The Astros scored twice more in the fifth inning when Brandon Barnes, who had been way late on fastballs in the second inning, managed to walk with one out in the fifth. Ronny Cedeno, the Astros' No. 9 hitter, followed with a single to right that Cruz bobbled and then kicked away to allow Barnes to score. Jose Altuve followed with a single for a 4-0 lead.
Walks then did Harrison and the Rangers in after the offense had battled back -- his teammates pounded out all of six singles -- with two runs in the top of the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Harrison walked Maxwell with one out and after getting Jason Castro to fly out, fell behind Matt Dominguez and walked him, forcing manager Ron Washington to go to the bullpen.
"One hundred pitches was as far he could go," Washington said of Harrison.
Derek Lowe came in and missed on a breaking ball to Rick Ankiel, who smacked a three-run home run to right field for a 7-2 Astros lead.
And Harrison's hopes for an opening day win were gone.
"They're a young, aggressive team," Washington said. "They played well tonight."
Harrison said he would spend Monday's off day with his family and try to put Sunday's start behind him.
"Just have to wipe it out of my mind and get ready for the next one," Harrison said.
HOUSTON -- The Astros scored six runs off Rangers starter Matt Harrison, five of them earned, in an 8-2 victory in Houston's American League debut at Minute Maid Park.
What it means: The Rangers lost for the first time in a season opener in five tries, the four previous wins coming at home. The Rangers have lost five straight road season openers, their last win coming against the Angels in Anaheim in 2003.
Berkman's debut: Lance Berkman was 2-for-4 in his first game as a Ranger against his old team of 11-plus years. Berkman had a single during the Rangers' two-run rally in the sixth inning that temporarily put them back in the game.
Power outage: The Rangers didn't produce an extra-base hit in their first game without Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli. Berkman came the closest with line drive into left-center, but Astros center fielder Justin Maxwell did a nice job of holding Berkman to a single.
Harrison up and down: Harrison matched a career high with nine strikeouts and at moments was dazzling in the season opener. But his command of the strike zone left him at times, leading to three walks, all of which came around to score. One came during Houston's two-run fifth inning and was aided by an error by right fielder Nelson Cruz. The others came after Harrison walked two and was replaced by Derek Lowe, who gave up a three-run homer.
The dropsies: First it was Cruz, then Ian Kinsler who couldn't hold onto the ball as the Astros scored twice in the fifth inning. Houston shortstop Ronny Cedeno lined a single to right field and Cruz bobbled the ball and then kicked it away, allowing Brandon Barnes to score all the way from first base. Kinsler dropped the relay throw, which gave Cedeno third base. Cedeno scored on Jose Altuve's single as the Astros took a 4-0 lead.
Lowe point: Ron Washington went to Lowe with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth and the Astros hanging on to a 4-2 lead. Astros manager Bo Porter countered the right-handed reliever with left-handed pinch hitter Rick Ankiel. Porter got the win as Ankiel ripped a 3-2 slider over the right field fence in his Astros debut against Lowe in his Rangers debut.
Tough opener for Martin: Leonys Martin was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first opening-day start. He also had a weak ground ball to third base. Martin's second strikeout came on a fastball that wasn't held onto by Astros catcher Jason Castro, but Martin started walking back to the dugout instead of running to first base.
Ortiz makes debut: Reliever Joe Ortiz made his major league debut and allowed a run in the eighth inning. He allowed a triple to Maxwell and an infield single to Matt Dominguez.
Up next: The Rangers are off Monday and will send Yu Darvish to the mound against Houston's Lucas Harrell at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.
With Michael Young at first and one out, Cruz hit a ball that was caught, then dropped by center fielder Justin Maxwell. The third base umpire, Tim McClelland ruled Maxwell dropped the ball.
It appeared Cruz and Young didn't know the ball was dropped in center field. The relay throw to the infield got a little crazy. Cruz passed Young between first and second base. So first baseman Carlos Lee tagged Cruz. Young was also tagged, but he stood on first base when it happened.
The ruling on the field was Cruz was out but Young was safe because he got back to the bag at first and didn't touch second base. The thinking is Young was OK because he was standing on a bag and Cruz wasn't.
Houston Astros officials called Elias Sports Bureau to determine if should Cruz get a hit. He was credited with one, his third of the day, but he was tagged out 3 unassisted.
It was Cruz's seventh three-hit game of the season.
Outfielder David Murphy hit a three-run inside-the-park home run in the third inning of Saturday night's 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros.
It was Murphy's first career inside-the-park homer and the 23rd in franchise history.
Murphy's shot eluded a diving right fielder, Justin Maxwell and the ball skipped to the wall. Center fielder Jordan Schafer also reached out for the ball and fell down, spraining an ankle on the play.
"I don't hit many of those, so I couldn't tell ya," said Murphy when asked when was the last time he hit one outside of the majors. "I saw both guys dive and after I saw it got past them, I was probably halfway between first and second and I knew I had a chance. I started running as fast as I could and I probably put it in overdrive a little too quickly because I ran out of gas in the end."
The homer gave the Rangers a commanding 4-0 lead which they would eventually lose.
The Texas Rangers left-handed starter lost a four-run lead, gave up a season-high three home runs and was taken out after just five innings.
He took the loss in a 6-5 victory for the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
It was Holland's first start since May 10, but he pitched one inning of relief Monday against Kansas City and had one bullpen session before the team arrived here.
So with all the rest, what happened?
"The first two innings, he was real sharp," manager Ron Washington said. "Then all of a sudden he couldn't get the ball to his arm side, which means he had to come to the middle of the plate or inside, and he didn't get there and those right-handed hitters just turned him around. When the first two innings started, I thought he was on his way to having a pretty good game, it just didn't turn out that way. He got the ball up and got into some wrong spots and those right-handed hitters didn't miss it."
Holland (3-3) allowed five runs, all earned, on five hits and two walks. He struck out six while throwing 100 pitches. In the first three innings, Holland struck out three and only allowed two hits, an infield single by Jed Lowrie and a home run to the No. 8 hitter Chris Snyder.
It unraveled in the fourth when he walked Justin Maxwell to start things and gave up a home run to cleanup hitter Carlos Lee to cut a 4-1 deficit to one. In the fifth, he gave up a two-out single to Jose Altuve and Maxwell hit what Washington called a "bomb" to left that gave the Astros a 5-4 lead.
Washington said his young starter has to finish the deal when given a lead.
"It's obvious I was supposed to put that away," Holland said. "But I couldn't get my fastball down and a couple of pitches got away and they hit them."
Holland said he didn't really know what was going on with his lack of command after the second inning.
"To be honest, I couldn't really tell you exactly what it was," he said. "I just know my fastball command went erratic all of a sudden. I couldn't locate down, everything was up. Just fell behind a lot so it made it predictable what to sit on, too."
HOUSTON -- The Texas Rangers blew an early four-run lead and had a rally fall just a run short in a 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
Lefty Derek Holland, in his first starting appearance in eight days, had a four-run lead, but gave up a season-high three home runs and took the loss. The Rangers' biggest highlight was a David Murphy inside-the-park home run in the third that drove in three runs to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead.
Holland loses lead: Holland last started May 10 at Baltimore. He then pitched one inning in relief May 14 and had a bullpen session a few days later. Holland said he wasn't working on anything specifically and the extended rest shouldn't bother him. He pitched well early until the middle innings. With a 4-1 lead, Holland walked Justin Maxwell to start the fourth inning. Carlos Lee hammered a fastball to left for a home run to cut the deficit to 4-3. In the fifth, Holland gave up a two-out single to Jose Altuve and Maxwell hit a homer off a belt-high pitch to left, giving the Astros a 5-4 lead. Holland left after five innings. He gave up five earned runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out six.
Late rally shut down: The Rangers cut a two-run deficit to one when Josh Hamilton drove in Elvis Andrus on a sacrifice fly to right in the seventh inning. The Rangers tried to get a rally going in the eighth. Michael Young and Brandon Snyder reached on singles to start the inning. Reliever Brandon Lyon was brought in to minimize the damage. He got Nelson Cruz to fly out to right and Mike Napoli hit into what was almost a 4-6-3 double play. Instead, Napoli was ruled out at first but Snyder was safe at second when shortstop Jed Lowrie came off the bag too early on the relay throw from second baseman Altuve. Pinch hitter Craig Gentry ended the inning with a flyout to center.
The bullpen: Closer Joe Nathan appeared to be unavailable after pitching four consecutive days for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010. Setup man Mike Adams was also unavailable because he's still recovering from a respiratory infection. It left manager Ron Washington to use Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara as the setup men. Robbie Ross was available for at least one hitter after pitching Friday night. Ogando appeared in the sixth inning, relieving Holland. He allowed one run on two hits in two innings of work. Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth. He's allowed just one run the last nine games.
Hamilton in homerless string: Hamilton hasn't hit a home run the last seven games, his longest drought of the season. No biggie. Hamilton still leads the majors with 18 home runs. Hamilton had a six-game stretch where he hit nine home runs. When his night was over, Hamilton was 0-3.
Murphy hits inside-the-park home run: Murphy's third-inning inside-the-park home run was the first of his career and the 23rd in franchise history. Murphy sent a shot to right-center field where right fielder Maxwell missed a diving catch. Murphy beat the throw home easily. It was Murphy's first inside-the-park homer of his career and first for the Rangers since Gentry did it Sept. 23, 2011.
Notes: The Rangers started the season 15-4 but since then have gone just 10-12, including a 8-10 mark in May. ... Because of pinch hitters, the Rangers moved Hamilton to right field in the ninth inning.
Next: The Rangers and Astros play the finale of the Silver Boot series at Minute Maid Park. Colby Lewis takes on Jordan Lyles at 1:05 p.m.
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.