By Mark Miller
Despite injuries to two key players, the Texas Rangers still won five of their seven games last week.
Though starting pitcher Alexi Ogando and second baseman/leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler were placed on the disabled list, the team succeeded because those left behind shined at Oakland and at home against the Detroit Tigers.
The offense scored at least six runs in all five victories while the pitching staff yielded just two runs on three occasions. Combined they helped the Rangers move to a 29-15 record, their best after 44 games in team history and tops in baseball in 2013.
“I really like the atmosphere they’ve created here, “said Jim Leyland, manager of the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers after losing three of four games, to mlb.com.” And they’ve got a really good team. They really have done a nice job over here with the whole program. They’ve been to the World Series, they’ve been the American League champs a couple times recently.”
The Rangers scored 10, 7 and 11 runs in their wins over Detroit, capping a week where their hitters prospered. Third baseman Adrian Beltre was the hottest batter with 13 hits in 29 at-bats for a .448 average with a home run and five runs batted in. Designated hitter Lance Berkman drove in seven runs while hitting .357, shortstop Elvis Andrus scored eight runs and batted .345 and first baseman Mitch Moreland had four homers and 10 RBI while batting .308.
Andrus spent the final three games against the Tigers replacing Kinsler at the top of the lineup. Left fielder David Murphy moved up to the No. 2 spot and hit a three-run homer Sunday night to help the Rangers to an 11-8 victory. Even catcher Geovany Soto had a three-run blast that knocked out two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in the series opener.
The day before, while pitching well in a win against the Oakland A’s, Ogando suffered tendinitis in his right bicep. He will be replaced Monday night by Josh Lindblom, recalled from Class AAA Round Rock where he was 4-0 with a 2.08 earned run average in his conversion from reliever to starter.
“I never expected to start in the big leagues, but to be able to get here and be here as a starter and go impact the game every five days is huge,” Lindblom told mlb.com. “I love the routine and I’m just excited to get out there and pitch.”
The Rangers expect to have catcher A.J. Pierzynski back Tuesday and Ogando and Kinsler back next week when they are eligible to return. Jurickson Profar was called up from Round Rock to share time with fellow rookie Leury Garcia while Kinsler mends.
Division games at home, road on tap
The Rangers hope to put more distance between themselves and their American League West rivals with six games within the division this week. They host Oakland for three games beginning Monday, then travel to Seattle for three more this weekend.
Texas leads the defending division champion A’s by 6.5 games and the improved Mariners by nine entering this week. Oakland comes to Texas fresh off a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals at home while Seattle lost three straight at Cleveland.
Second baseman Eric Sogard and third baseman Josh Donaldson were the hottest A’s last week with .455 and .429 averages, respectively. Oakland’s bullpen was solid, especially closer Grant Balfour, who yielded just one hit and earned two saves in three outings.
For Seattle, venerable outfielder Raul Ibanez had five homers and 11 RBI while batting .308 last week. Former Ranger Justin Smoak hit .375 to lead the Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma, whom Texas will face this weekend, gave up just two runs in seven innings last week.
5/20 Athletics 7:05 p.m.
5/21 Athletics 7:05 p.m.
5/22 Athletics 1:05 p.m.
5/24 @Mariners 9:10 p.m.
5/25 @Mariners 9:10 p.m.
5/26 @Mariners 3:10 p.m.