By Mark Miller
Their first three-game losing streak of 2013 not withstanding, the Texas Rangers still rallied last week to hold off their nearest foe.
The Rangers followed a 13-inning loss that ended the previous week by dropping both ends of Monday’s day-night double-header in Phoenix, then sat around while the follow-up game against the Diamondbacks was rained out. But they won the lone contest against Arizona, and took two of three against the slumping Kansas City Royals to finish the week at 3-3.
It was a good thing Texas ended the strange week positively since Oakland is on fire. Despite leading the American League with a 35-21 record, Texas is just two games ahead of the A’s in the AL West who have moved five games closer since May 16.
“We went 3-1 on this home stand with a rain out and maybe we didn’t play our best baseball but we did what we know which is try to play good baseball and it worked for us,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre had the best week with 10 hits in 21 at-bats (.476 average) and five runs batted in before sitting out Sunday with a strained left hamstring. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit .438 and drove in three.
On the mound, Derek Holland completed a strong May with a solid win, Nick Tepesch and Yu Darvish pitched well with no decisions and closer Joe Nathan returned to form after blowing his first save of the season in Seattle.
Staying the Course in May
Despite injuries to second baseman Ian Kinsler, Pierzynski and starting pitcher Alexi Ogando, Texas remained consistent throughout May with a 17-11 record after going 17-9 in April.
Five players hit at least .300 led by reserve Jeff Baker at .379. Beltre was the best of the regulars at .376 with six home runs and 23 runs batted in. Rookie Jurickson Profar filled in well for Kinsler with a .333 average. Rookie center fielder Leonys Martin also had a good month at .317 and first baseman Mitch Moreland batted .300 with a team-leading eight homers.
On the mound, Holland went 4-0 with a 2.31 earned run average while relievers Robbie Ross (no earned runs in 13 games), Tanner Scheppers (one in 12 appearances) and Nathan (eight saves in nine tries) also shined.
Red Sox, Blue Jays loom ahead
It’s back to the road this week as the Rangers make their only 2013 trips to Boston and Toronto.
Texas swept the Red Sox at home a month ago when Boston had the best record in the American League. The Red Sox still lead the AL East by three games with a 35-23 record after beating the second-place New York Yankees on Sunday night.
Boston has been bolstered of late by rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias who is hitting .434 in 16 games, most in place of the injured third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has been his usual steady self a .333 batting average. Designated hitter David Ortiz is at .333 while hitting 10 homers and driving in 36 runs in 39 games. Former Ranger Mike Napoli has nine homers and a team-leading 45 RBI.
The Rangers will miss Boston ace pitcher Clay Buchholz (8-0, 1.62 ERA) who won Sunday but will face former teammate Ryan Dempster (2-6, 4.45) on the opener Tuesday.
The Blue Jays may be the most disappointing team in 2013. After acquiring a wealth of talent, they were expected to challenge in the East but instead entered this week with a 24-33 record. Part of the problem has been injuries with new shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Josh Johnson missing considerable time. Reyes will not play against Texas but Johnson should pitch Sunday after returning Tuesday.
Holdovers like designated hitter Adam Lind (.323, 5, 14), right-fielder Jose Bautista (.268, 12, 29), third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (.265, 16, 47) and catcher J.P. Arencibia (.225, 12, 29) have been about as expected. But left-fielder Melky Cabrera has just two homers and 21 RBI, starting pitcher Mark Buehrle is 2-4 with a 5.42 ERA and 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey is 4-7, 5.18.
6/4 @Red Sox 6:10 p.m.
6/5 @Red Sox 6:10 p.m.
6/6 @Red Sox 6:10 p.m.
6/7 @Blue Jays 6:07 p.m.
6/8 @Blue Jays 12:07 p.m.
6/9 @Blue Jays 12:07 p.m.