Texas Rangers: Mike Maddux

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Considering where Texas Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch is in his young career, Sunday afternoon's outing against the Los Angeles Angels was a positive step in his development.

Tepesch didn't get the win, but he pitched until the eighth inning, allowing just two runs on six hits in 91 pitches. He left down 2-0 and frustrated that he started the eighth by walking Mike Trout.

The fact Tepesch is more relaxed now, something manager Ron Washington said is good in his development, gives the Rangers more confidence that they can depend on him the next two months of the season.

"I've got a better plan in what I want to do even before when I step up on the mound versus waiting to see the suggestions from the catcher," said Tepesch, who has allowed fewer than three runs in his past four outings. "Most of the time, we're right on the same page anyways, so it's not even thinking about."

Tepesch battled through major trouble in the second and fourth innings.

In the second, he allowed four consecutive hits, along with a groundout, to give up two runs. With runners at second and third and two outs, Tepesch retired Trout on a bouncer to third to end the inning.

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is proud of his little brother.

He's got good reason to be.

Maddux's younger brother, Greg Maddux, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, New York. Mike Maddux missed the three-game series against the Oakland Athletics so he could support a man with 355 career victories, four Cy Young Awards and 18 Gold Gloves.

"One man's career comes to a crescendo," Mike Maddux said before heading East. "It is the ultimate pat on the back for a job well done. You make a minor league team, go to the big leagues and make that team. This is the ultimate team to make. He is on a new team, the highest honor you can get."

Greg Maddux is a special assistant to the Rangers, and he makes appearances numerous times during the year to help young pitchers, including Yu Darvish.

"A great guy -- very kind and great at golf," Darvish said with a smile.

Mikolas looks to build: Right-hander Miles Mikolas is scheduled to start Sunday night against the Athletics and lefty Scott Kazmir. In Mikolas' previous start, Monday at New York, he was fantastic and allowed just two runs on four hits in 7⅓ innings in the 4-2 victory over the Yankees. Mikolas, who will make his first career start against the A's, made just 17 starts at the minor league level; Sunday's would be his fifth in the big leagues. One of the things Mikolas is attempting to do is build on what happened in Yankee Stadium.

"Just try to repeat the things that I did in that game to be successful," Mikolas said. "Locate fastball down and away when they need to be there, and execute pitches and stick with the game plan."

Lack of home-run power at The Globe: The Rangers have hit 72 home runs this season, second-fewest in the American League and 27th in baseball. The AL average is 94. Texas lost Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland to injuries and has not replaced that power in the lineup. One would believe the Rangers would at least hit plenty of homers in their own ballpark, it just hasn't been the case. The Rangers have hit 32 at Globe Life Park, while their pitchers have given up 104 total and 51 at home.

"You like to see balls hit out the ballpark on your side," manager Ron Washington said. "It's not necessary -- we just got to string stuff together. [The Athletics] definitely have guys that have the potential to swing the bat and hit it out the ballpark. They’ve shown that all year."

Oakland hit four home runs Saturday night. The Rangers have hit two home runs in the past eight games.

Slumping Perez vows to keep working

May, 10, 2014
May 10
Martin PerezTim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports"I'm the same guy" who was 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, said Martin Perez, now 4-3 with a 4.38.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Only 17 days ago, Texas Rangers left-hander Martin Perez sported a 4-0 record, a 1.42 ERA and was coming off back-to-back complete-game shutouts.

Three starts later, following Saturday’s 8-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox, Perez’s record has dropped to 4-3 and the ERA has climbed to 4.38.

“I’m the same guy," said Perez in the clubhouse afterward. “I’m still working hard every day, that’s how you learn. I know there are going to be good days and bad days. I can work with that."

The Red Sox crowded nine hits, four walks and a hit batsman into 3.2 innings against Perez, his shortest outing in eight starts. It was the major-league-high sixth time a Rangers starter has failed to complete four innings -- and the fourth time in the past 12 games.

Boston put up solo runs in the second and third innings, the latter marker coming on a solo home run by David Ortiz. Perez followed the homer with a walk of Mike Napoli, but then got the next three in order.

“It looked like he found something in the third inning,’’ said manager Ron Washington. “He couldn’t keep it going.’’

The Red Sox broke it open with four runs in the fourth and the bullpen was needed to get the final out.

“He didn’t have the breaking ball to keep them off the fastball,’’ said Washington. “I felt like he’d continue to fight. The guy is a fighter.’’

Perez needed 86 pitches to register 11 outs.

“Too many pitches in a couple of innings," he said.

Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux made three mound visits to try to get Perez on track.

Washington said the visits were designed to slow down Perez’s mind and let him concentrate on the execution of the pitch.

“It’s tough for him and tough for everybody,’’ said catcher Robinson Chirinos, a friend of Perez. “We’ll see what we can do for him so next time he can do better. I know we will see him pitching like he was a few weeks ago.’’

Chirinos said teams are laying off Perez pitches that break down too low to be called strikes.

“Teams were swinging at those same pitches and hitting into double plays. Now they are taking them,’’ Chirinos said. “He made a lot of great pitches that weren’t hit hard, but found holes.’’

  • Maddux was ejected in the eighth inning. Washington said the ejection was for questioning balls and strikes.
  • Leonys Martin singled in the ninth to extend his home hitting streak to 12 games.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Rangers 3

May, 10, 2014
May 10

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Boston Red Sox built an early six-run lead for Jon Lester and the veteran left-hander made it stand up for an 8-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night before the second Globe Life Park sellout crowd of the season.

Six of Lester’s eight strikeouts came on called third strikes, and three ended innings with a Ranger in scoring position.

The loss stopped a two-game Texas winning streak and evened the series with the Red Sox at one win apiece. A few observations:

Off target: The strike zone at times was an elusive target for Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. He issued four walks and hit a batter in a start that was over after 3 2/3 innings. In all, Perez faced 23 Red Sox hitters; 14 reached base, and six scored. Perez’s pitches consistently dropped below the strike zone, even though the raw numbers -- 52 strikes in 86 pitches -- might not seem alarming. In Perez’s defense, a good number of the nine hits he allowed were soft, including a two-run, looping fourth-inning single by Shane Victorino with the Texas infield playing on the infield grass.

Making tracks: The long legs of Alex Rios seemed to need only a couple of strides to complete the final 90 feet of his fourth-inning RBI triple. Rios slid into third well ahead of the relay throw.

Bullpen strength: Down 6-0 when summoned in the fourth, the Rangers bullpen held the line with hitless work from Shawn Tolleson and Aaron Poreda. Third reliever Justin Germano, just up from Round Rock, was touched for two runs in his two-inning debut.

Hot bat: Elvis Andrus extended his hitting streak to seven games with an RBI double in the left-center gap in the fifth. It was the second double in two nights for the Texas shortstop, and he added a single in the eighth. Andrus' batting average has climbed more than 30 points in his streak.

Caught stealing: Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos spoiled two Red Sox stolen base attempts with strong throws. He shot down David Ross in the second and Dustin Pedroia in the sixth. Chirinos has thrown out seven of 17 base stealers.

Good things must end: The Rangers pitchers’ scoreless streak ended at 23 innings on Victorino’s single to center field with the bases loaded and two out in the second inning. The shutout streak began in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to Colorado.

Laser throw: The word is out about the strong throwing arm of Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin. Fewer baserunners are challenging him. Jackie Bradley Jr. saw the danger of running on Martin firsthand when he was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a two-out single by Victorino in the second inning.

Challenge denied: The Rangers unsuccessfully challenged an out call at first base on Adrian Beltre in the eighth inning that completed a double play.

Heave-ho: Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux was tossed in the eighth inning by first-base umpire Vic Carapazza.

Up next: About 6,000 reserved-seat tickets remain for Sunday’s 2:05 p.m. series finale matching left-hander Robbie Ross (1-3, 4.74 ERA) and right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.72 ERA) on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

Three weeks in, banged-up Rangers thriving

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
DALLAS -- April was supposed to be about surviving, not thriving. With a packed disabled list and a crowded training room, the Texas Rangers simply wanted to cobble together enough wins to hang around in a banged-up AL West.

Well, they’re doing a lot more than hanging around. The Rangers can head to Pike Place Market or the Space Needle on Thursday’s day off in Seattle knowing they are on top of not only the AL West, but the American League as a whole.

The Rangers are 14-8. Honestly, I think they’d have taken 14 wins for the month and been thrilled. Yet they’ve done it in the first 22 games of the season.

It’s a tribute to their super subs, the pitching staff and their character. They’ve become a resilient bunch, and with the arms making things difficult on opposing offenses, they’ve managed to score just enough runs -- at just the right time -- to win close games.

And take note: Reinforcements are coming this weekend.

Adrian Beltre, out for the past two weeks with a mild quad strain, returns Friday. Shin-Soo Choo will be evaluated, but could also see some action if he’s ready. Matt Harrison is scheduled to start Sunday, his first outing on a big league mound since last April.

Barring more injuries, there’s no reason to think this team can’t assimilate the rest of the returning players and perform at an even higher level.

This team currently has 11 players on the disabled list. I won’t go through all the names, but many of them are big ones. The Rangers swept Oakland with Michael Choice leading off the final two games with Choo’s sprained ankle keeping him off the field. They did it with Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy in the infield, two guys who were supposed to be competing for a utility infield spot and instead are getting meaningful time with Jurickson Profar out until June. They’ve vaulted to the top of the division with Kevin Kouzmanoff punishing opposing pitchers and playing solid third base the past two weeks with Beltre out.

Yet that hodgepodge lineup has 94 runs in 22 games, a very respectable 4.27 average per game. Texas is tied for third in the league in runs scored and leads the AL in batting average.

And then there’s the pitching staff, which has a staggering six shutouts so far this season. Think about that. The Rangers have held the opponent without a run in more than a quarter of the games played so far.

Without Derek Holland or Matt Harrison the first three weeks, the starting rotation has still managed to put up a 3.45 ERA, top-five in the league. The Rangers have two complete-game shutouts, both by Martin Perez, who has emerged as this team’s clear No. 2 pitcher. Texas came into Wednesday second to only the Angels in innings pitched by its starters.

It took about 10 days for the relievers to settle into their roles, but they’re clearly comfortable now. Joakim Soria won’t light up a radar gun or have fans cheering many strikeouts, but he finds ways to get the final three outs of the game. Alexi Ogando seems to have found his form. Jason Frasor is a steady, veteran presence in the seventh inning. Neal Cotts is pitching better. Manager Ron Washington, pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins have done a good job of figuring out what they have and how to deploy it.

Put it all together and this team is playing confident baseball, no matter who’s on the mound, at the plate or in the field.

(Read full post)

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 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.

Yu Darvish closer to returning to rotation

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish threw an 86-pitch bullpen session at Globe Life Park on Tuesday and is getting closer to making his first start of the 2014 season.

When that occurs is still undecided, but Darvish can’t come off the disabled list until Saturday. Starting Sunday in Tampa Bay or Monday in Boston seems quite possible, though the club isn’t giving any timetables. They will discuss a plan after seeing how Darvish recovers from the bullpen session Wednesday, but both manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels indicated Monday that Darvish didn’t necessarily need a rehab start before getting back in the rotation.

“We did the assimilation of probably four innings of work, getting up and down,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “All pitches were good. He looked very good, feels healthy. But we’ll know more tomorrow (Wednesday) and see how he recovers from that. So the next step would be to wait until tomorrow. He’s on the right track.”

Darvish, 27, hasn’t thrown to hitters since March 16 in Arizona. But the club and Darvish feel that physically he’s ready without needing any kind of rehab start in the minor leagues. Darvish’s neck stiffened up late in spring and he was scratched from his scheduled Opening Day start. He began throwing again Saturday with some pitches off flat ground and then threw a short bullpen Sunday and the longer one Tuesday.

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The Texas Rangers announced plans for Opening Day ceremonies March 31, which include Hall of Famer Greg Maddux throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Greg's brother, Mike Maddux, will catch the first pitch.

Some of the details of the pregame festivities (from the club's release):


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* National anthem: On April 11, 1994, the Texas Rangers hosted the Milwaukee Brewers in the first regular-season game ever at The Ballpark in Arlington. The pregame ceremonies featured an unforgettable performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by Fort Worth resident and award-winning classical pianist, the late Van Cliburn.

Nearly 20 years later, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, under music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, will return to play the national anthem. The FWSO will once again perform on the field, as it did in 1994.

“It’s a great honor to celebrate this anniversary with the Texas Rangers and re-create that historic moment in memory of our dear friend Van Cliburn,” said FWSO President and CEO Amy Adkins in a release.

* Flag: A large United States flag will be unfurled in center field by soldiers from the U.S. Army Dallas Recruiting Battalion and airmen, soldiers, and marines from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. A large state of Texas flag will be unfurled on Greene’s Hill by members of the Dallas Recruiting Battalion. The colors will be presented by Company B of the Texas Rangers law enforcement division from Garland, Texas.

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A sharp Yu Darvish gets some run support

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
SURPRISE, Ariz. – It was only one spring training game, but Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish got to experience what early run support felt like Thursday.

Four hits in the second inning produced two runs, and even though Darvish pitched only two innings, he left with a 2-0 lead. It stretched to 4-0 -- thanks, in part, to a laser home run by Prince Fielder to right field -- before Tommy Hanson took the mound for the bottom of the third inning.

“I knew that our offense was going to help me this year, but this is only the first game of spring training,” Darvish said through interpreter Kenji Nimura. “I know that the opposing pitcher is still preparing, so I’m not too worried about it right now. I’m more concentrated on how I’m preparing for this spring training.”

Darvish, who gave up two hits (one on a broken bat) and had four strikeouts against the Kansas City Royals, averaged 4.81 runs of support in 2013. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander got more than 5 runs per start. Cy Young winner Max Scherzer got a whopping 6.80.

Darvish’s lack of run support was even more alarming was in close games. A total of 18 of Darvish’s 32 starts were decided by two runs or fewer. Darvish had a 2.53 ERA in those games, yet the Rangers scored just 2.3 runs per game in those 18 contests and hit .208. With runners in scoring position, Texas hit .165 with 33 strikeouts, 20 hits and no homers. Not surprisingly, Darvish went 6-12.

We’ve chronicled how much the Rangers struggled to score first in games last year. The offense also wasn’t one to score early as often as it would like. In Darvish’s 32 starts, the Rangers scored 11 runs in the first inning. They scored first when he was on the mound in 16 starts – exactly half. If they could improve on both numbers in 2014, it would give Darvish a chance to pitch with the lead right away, something every pitcher knows is a benefit.

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Encouraging outing for Colby Lewis

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis said he wasn't nervous Tuesday. Eager was the better word.

The 34-year-old veteran with a new hip wondered how he would feel throwing to hitters for the first time in a game-like situation. It was just one inning on a back field in Surprise in an intrasquad game, but for Lewis, it was a huge step forward as he attempts to complete a comeback that he hopes lands him in the starting rotation.

Colby Lewis
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said that he couldn't come up with enough good adjectives to describe Colby Lewis' outing in Surprise.
"That was like vintage Colby," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "I can't come up with enough good adjectives to talk about him."

There was plenty for Lewis and the Rangers to be encouraged about. He commanded his fastball well, mixed in some sliders that Maddux said had "bite," kept the ball down and his velocity was 87 to 89 mph. He never found that speed during rehab assignments in Double-A Frisco last season.

"I definitely feel like I probably have some more in there," Lewis said.

It sure looked like Lewis had a more fluid delivery. Maddux termed it "more drive" as he utilized his legs and completed his delivery -- getting on his "back side" as he's talked about. Lewis just went about his business, but there was a confidence there. He knew he was putting the ball where he wanted and getting a little more oomph on the ball than he was as he labored through rehab starts in 2013.

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Adrian Beltre
.326 17 67 66
HRA. Beltre 17
RBIA. Beltre 67
RA. Beltre 66
OPSA. Beltre .879
WY. Darvish 10
ERAY. Darvish 3.06
SOY. Darvish 182