Texas Rangers: Silver Boot
The Rangers, who have made it back into a tie for the America League West lead, have a chance to push their way past Oakland in the standings by again dominating the Houston Astros in a four-game series that starts Friday at Minute Maid Park.
Texas has a pitching edge with Matt Garza, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Yu Darvish slated to pitch against the Astros, who enter the series with a 37-76 record.
Here's what to watch for in Houston:
|Richard Durrett believes that the Rangers are better than the A's and that the Nelson Cruz suspension is a major reason why.
Looking at lefties: Houston will throw a left-handed starter against the Rangers in three of the last four games. It starts Friday with Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.29 ERA). Bedard is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA against the Rangers this season. After right-hander Brad Peacock (1-4, 7.25) on Saturday, the Astros will send out lefties Dallas Keuchel (5-6, 4.96) on Sunday and Brett Olberholtzer (2-0, 2.53) on Monday. Keuchel has made one start against the Rangers this season, allowing two earned runs in five innings.
Battling Astros: Houston nearly won a three-game series from American League East-leader Boston this week. The Astros took the lead into the ninth inning of Wednesday's rubber game, only to have Boston's Stephen Drew hit a three-run home run off new Houston closer Josh Fields for a 7-5 win. The Astros had a lead in all three games. They led 5-0 and 7-3 on Tuesday night before the Red Sox rallied for a 15-10 win at Minute Maid Park.
Sinking bullpen: Houston's bullpen hasn't been the same since closer Jose Veras was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Fields' blown save Wednesday night was the fourth in five opportunities for the Astros' bullpen. Since trading Veras, Houston's relief corps have a 6.58 ERA while allowing five home runs and 19 walks in 26 innings. The Astros are 30-4 when leading entering the ninth inning. The Rangers are 57-1.
Owning the West: The Rangers have obliterated AL West opponents this season. Texas is an MLB-best 33-14 against its division rivals -- including 11 wins in the last 13 games vs. AL West opponents after a road sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers are in a stretch of 19 of 22 games against the division. They are 8-1 so far.
Three hours before today’s concluding game of the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros three-game series, Holland, 55, and his son, Rangers’ pitcher Derek Holland, played a game of catch on the outfield grass at Rangers Ballpark.
“It doesn’t get any better,’’ the elder Holland said. “I guess this is the first time I’ve played catch with him since he was in high school back in 2005. It’s hard to believe I’m here in the clubhouse with all these great players. It’s just crazy.’’
Dad also got a stint in the batting cage. “I can’t tell you the last time I swung a bat,’’ he said.
Derek Holland, currently on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder fatigue, seemed to enjoy it almost as much as his father, an electrician back home in Ohio: “It was great to be able to do it again. It was awesome.’’
* Rangers manager Ron Washington said it might be Tuesday before a decision is made on the starting pitcher for Friday’s opener of a three-game home series against the Colorado Rockies. Justin Grimm is a consideration, Washington said, following his successful major league debut in Saturday’s 8-3 win over Houston.
* Saturday’s win wrapped up the Silver Boot trophy for the sixth straight year. The trophy is awarded annually to the winner of the Lone Star Series. The Rangers have won eight of the last nine Lone Star Series and nine of 12 overall. “I’m glad we were able to do our part,’’ Washington said. “I just care about winning ball games. If the boot is included, great.’’ Texas has won four of five meetings with the Astros this season.
*The last two World Series were a bit of a problem, but the Rangers are faring well against National League teams in 2012. Including today’s game against Houston, the Rangers have seven interleague games remaining. Only the Yankees (9-2) own a better interleague record than the Rangers (8-3). The reason is pitching. Against National League teams, the Rangers have a 2.51 ERA.
*The Rangers scored five runs in a span of two pitches in Saturday’s 8-3 win over Houston, only the third time this season a team has scored the maximum of five runs on two consecutive pitches. It’s the second time this season Houston has been on the receiving end.
*Elvis Andrus’ sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning helped open the door to a five-run frame, a major-league leading 14th time the Rangers have scored five or more runs in an inning.
Washington said that he gave Andrus “one shot’’ to swing away before putting on the bunt.
* Brandon Snyder starts in right field for the Rangers and Nelson Cruz is in left for the first time this season as a starter. “In left field, the ball slices more and Snyder is more comfortable in right,’’ said Washington. “Cruz has no problem either way.’’ Snyder has one prior start in left and right.
* The Rangers are playing their 20th day game of the season today. Texas owns a 12-7 record in day games compared to 27-20 under the lights. The Rangers success in the day comes despite a lower batting average (.265-.287) and a higher ERA (3.79-3.57) in the daylight.
* Up next: The Rangers fly to the West Coast for a brief three-game series with the San Diego Padres. Entering this afternoon’s road game against the Oakland Athletics, the Padres are 20 games below .500 (23-43) and have lost two straight following a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners earlier in the week.
He was 2-for-13 in that span.
He broke out of his slump Sunday.
Cruz finished with three hits, including a two-out two-run single as part of a five-run first inning.
"I think my approach has been good the last few games," Cruz said. "I'm seeing a lot of good pitches and wait for the right pitches."
Cruz also took off his batting gloves, something he does when he's struggling. He did it Saturday night, too.
"I don't know the last time I did it," Cruz said. "I felt the bat better."
Said Ron Washington on Cruz's day: "Did a lot for his confidence."
Here we go.
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Michael Young
LF David Murphy
RF Nelson Cruz
C Yorvit Torrealba
P Colby Lewis
2B Jose Altuve
SS Jed Lowrie
RF Brian Bogusevic
1B Carlos Lee
LF Travis Buck
3B Chris Johnson
CF Justin Maxwell
C Jason Castro
P Jordan Lyles
But he does have some worries.
Lewis, who starts Sunday afternoon's Silver Boot finale against the Houston Astros, has lost his last three games.
"Wins and losses don't really (duplicate) sometimes on how you pitch," Lewis said. "In 2010, I went though it. Sometimes when things are not going your way it seems it all comes in bunches. So it's like when I started the year with quality starts, everything happens in bunches. You want to eliminate the ones that are bad, that's it and try to get on a roll."
Lewis won three of his first five starts but now hasn't won a game since April 28.
In his last start, May 14, two throwing errors led to five unearned runs. In the previous start, May 10, he struck out 12 over seven innings, but gave up six earned runs.
"I threw the ball great (May 10), and then I beat myself the last start," Lewis said. "So it's not about any common denominator, like (Ron Washington) says, it's the way baseball go. I beat myself and they beat me with the homers in the previous start so nothing really too different."
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.
Adams said he went to an urgent care clinic Friday afternoon to get a X-ray and CAT Scan on his chest. Adams also got some blood work.
"Hard to recover right now," Adams said.
Adams didn't get to the ballpark Friday night until 30 minutes before first pitch. He was three hours early Saturday but wasn't sure if he could pitch.
With Adams out, it makes for some interesting decisions in the bullpen.
Closer Joe Nathan appears out for Saturday after pitching four consecutive days. He's never pitched in five consecutive days. Normally, Adams would take over the closer role, but with his status uncertain, it appears Koji Uehara might get some significant late-inning relief work.
Manager Ron Washington said he heard Uehara was hoping to get some late-inning work, but it hasn't happened given the success of how Washington uses the bullpen.
Alexi Ogando, Adams and Nathan are the late-inning specialists. But with Adams and Nathan out, Ogando might become the closer. Robbie Ross, who pitched 2 1/3 innings Friday night, could be available for one or maybe two batters Saturday.
HOUSTON --The Texas Rangers got a gutty and sloppy pitching effort from Neftali Feliz and some timely hitting to beat the Houston Astros, 4-1, in Game 1 of the Silver Boot series at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.
How it happened: It wasn't the best night for Feliz, but the Rangers bats helped him out early. Adrian Beltre drove in the first of his two runs with a sacrifice fly to center to bring in Ian Kinsler for the first run of the game in the third inning. Nelson Cruz added to the lead with an RBI single to center. In the fifth, the Rangers added one more run on an RBI double by Michael Young, who seems to have broken out of his slump with two hits and a walk. Beltre closed the deal with a solo shot to left field, that if not for that wall in left center, might have landed in Huntsville.
Long night for Feliz: Feliz was chastized by the manager, walked the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters and threw 84 pitches through four innings. When the Rangers starter's night was done, he had thrown 101 pitches in 4 2/3 innings and for a no-decision. Feliz battled trouble all night and couldn't control his fastball. he walked five, hit one batter and allowed just one run on three hits. He also struck out six. Feliz drew the ire of manager Ron Washington in the fourth inning when he walked pitcher Wandy Rodriguez with two outs. Washington jogged to the mound and after a one-sided conversation, headed back to the dugout. Feliz then struck out Jordan Schafer on three pitches. But Washington had seen enough to pull Feliz in the fifth after two more walks sandwiched around two outs. Rookie Robbie Ross retired Brian Bogusevic on a fielder's choice to end the inning. With Feliz out, Ross became the pitcher of record.
Young gets a hit: It's been a tough stretch for Young. He finished the Rangers' seven-game homestand with just four hits in 27 at-bats. He was hitless in his last 11 at-bats until a second-inning single to center ended the string. For the night, Young went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and an RBI. Before the game, Washington said Young will stay in the lineup and he felt his veteran utility man would break out of his slump. He was right and don't expect Young to sit tomorrow against a right-hander, Lucas Harrell, for Mitch Moreland.
Beltre on a tear: Third baseman Beltre has reached base in his last nine games. Friday night he went 2-for-3 with his eighth home run of the season, a blast to left center. Beltre is 12-for-46 during the last nine games with two doubles and two home runs. In the last 21 games, Beltre has six home runs, five doubles and 18 RBIs.
Joe Nathan gets the save: For the first time since 2009, closer Nathan pitched for a fourth consecutive game. Nathan, who picked up his ninth save, had uneventful ninth inning, including a strikeout to end the game. He has two saves in his last four outings and hasn't allowed a run since May 13. Sept. 13-16, Nathan went four consecutive games for the Minnesota Twins, registering three saves during that time.
Notes: Rangers fans were in full force at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. There was a "Let's Go Rangers" chant in the eighth inning. ... Rangers are now 136-131 all-time in interleague play. ... Rangers are 62-72 in NL parks. ... When Feliz pitches, the Rangers normally do well, they're 5-2 in his starts in 2012. ... Friday night was the Rangers' 14th series of the 2012 season which marked the 14th different opponent. When the Rangers begin a three-game set at Seattle on Monday, it will be the first time they've seen an opponent a second time. ... Yu Darvish will speak with reporters Saturday afternoon. ... With Mike Adams unavailable, Koji Uehara took his spot as the setup man in the eighth. He struck out one in a scoreless inning. ... Kinsler was knocked down by a pitch that sailed over his head in the ninth inning by reliever Rhiner Cruz. Kinsler flew out to deep left field and when he got back to the dugout, slammed his helmet into a cubbie hole. Cruz then hit the next batter, Elvis Andrus, who promptly stole second. ... Josh Hamilton, who had a 16-game hitting streak snapped Thursday afternoon, began a new one with a single in the third.
Next: Rangers-Astros play Game 2 of the Silver Boot series at Minute Maid Park. Derek Holland takes on Lucas Harrell at 6:15 p.m.
The Silver Boot series opens with Rangers righty Neftali Feliz facing Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez. A look at the matchup:
Feliz (3-1, 3.32): Feliz is 2-0 with three earned runs allowed in 12 innings in his last two starts, bouncing back after allowing season highs in walks (six) and runs (four) in a May 1 loss in Toronto. Feliz is holding opponents to a .188 batting average, the second lowest among American League starters. He has been especially tough against left-handed hitters, who are 11-for-72 (.153) against him. He is 0-1 with three saves and a 6.00 ERA in six relief appearances against the Astros, but five of those appearances were scoreless.
Rodriguez (3-3, 1.99): Rodriguez is sixth in the National League in ERA and tied for seventh in WHIP (0.99). Opponents are hitting only .205 against him, although Rodriguez has allowed 13 doubles. He has allowed one or no runs in five of his eight starts and is coming off one of his best starts of the season. Rodriguez struck out a season-high seven while allowing one run on three hits and a walk in eight innings against the Pirates but got a no-decision after the bullpen blew the save. He is 4-2 with a 5.13 in six career starts against the Rangers.
Hitters: Ian Kinsler has owned Rodriguez. Kinsler is 9-for-15 with three doubles, two homers and four RBIs against Rodriguez. David Murphy is 3-for-7 with a triple and a homer against the lefty. Yorvit Torrealba is 0-for-10 with three strikeouts against Rodriguez. … No Houston player has more than three at-bats against Feliz. The current Astros are 3-for-13 with five strikeouts against him, but all of the hits were for extra bases. Matt Downs is 1-for-2 with a two-run homer, Chris Johnson is 1-for-2 with a double and Carlos Lee is 1-for-2 with a double.
Sat. at Hou.: LHP Derek Holland (3-2, 3.78) vs. RHP Lucas Harrell (2-3, 4.40), 6:15 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540/FOX
Sun. at Hou.: RHP Colby Lewis (3-3, 3.63) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (0-0, 3.00), 1:05 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540/FSSW
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
2B Ian Kinsler
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Josh Hamilton
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Justin Smoak
C Max Ramirez
CF Julio Borbon
P Colby Lewis
CF Michael Bourn
2B Jeff Keppinger
1B Lance Berkman
DH Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
SS Geoff Blum
3B Chris Johnson
C Humberto Quintero
LF Jason Bourgeois
P Brian Moehler
Notes:Ron Washington said Scott Feldman will move up in the rotation and pitch Tuesday night's game against the Angels. ... The players were filling out their All-Star ballots, which were due today, and a World Cup bracket. ... Washington said his club is focused despite the team's ownership issues in court. "It's simple you only control yourself with something that you can control," Washington said. "They can't control that, their focus should be exactly on what they get paid to do on the field and they're doing a great job of that."
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.