By Mark Miller
Despite a wide range of play and individual and team statistics, the Texas Rangers collectively fared better than worse in six road games last week.
After losing in Chicago and Milwaukee, they won their next four including a three-game sweep of the Astros in Houston. That left the Rangers at a season-high 11 games over the .500 mark with the best record in the major leagues at 24-13.
The most recent road to that spot was filled with ups and downs. On the positive side, the team hit 12 home runs and had four games with at least nine hits. Derek Holland stopped the two-game losing streak with a strong performance in Milwaukee. Yu Darvish gave up three home runs but little else in securing another win at Houston. And closer Joe Nathan successfully saved all three of his chances.
But the team also committed six errors, relievers Jason Frasor, Derek Lowe, Michael Kirkman and Joseph Ortiz struggled and starters Jason Grimm and Nick Tepesch had mixed outings. Fortunately Tepesch saved his best for the Astros giving up just one run and four hits while striking out eight in six innings for the sweep against a Houston team with just a 10-28 record.
“No matter who we’re playing, we’re trying to win,” third baseman Adrian Beltre told mlb.com Sunday. “The Astros may not be playing the best ball, but they got guys over there who want to win. We had to come here and produce and we did. It’s always nice to sweep, whether it’s the Astros, Angels or Oakland. It’s not easy just because it’s the Astros.”
Beltre was solid with two home runs, seven runs batted in and a .308 average for the week. That was just fourth-best among regulars as shortstop Elvis Andrus hit .385, first baseman Mitch Moreland .333, and outfielder David Murphy .316. Moreland and Murphy each had two homers as did outfielder Nelson Cruz. Even little-used infielder Leury Garcia had three hits Sunday while fellow reserve Jeff Baker had three hits for the week.
“Garcia was the one guy I didn’t expect to have a big day today because he hasn’t been in there very much,” Texas manager Ron Washington said Sunday. “But he went up there and had a good game. That’s what you like to see from your extra guys.”
First A’s, then Tigers this week
The Rangers conclude their four-city, 10-game road trip in Oakland before returning home Thursday for a weekend-series against the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.
The defending American League West division winning Athletics have struggled of late, losing six of their seven games to fall six games behind the Rangers at 19-20. Oakland has had its troubles both on mound (4.38 earned run average) and the plate (.242 average).
Starting pitchers Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Bartolo Colon each have three wins and closer Grant Balfour has saved all six of his chances. Offensive bright spots have included second baseman Adam Rosales (.313 average since coming off the disabled list), shortstop Jed Lowrie (.310) and third baseman Josh Donaldson (.300, 5 HR, 25 RBI).
The Tigers have picked up where they left off with a 20-15 record, tied with the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the American League Central. Detroit leads the majors in hitting with a .284 average led by 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrerra, who tops the majors with a .379 average and 40 RBI. Newcomer Torii Hunter is batting .336 and Prince Fielder has nine homers and 33 RBI.
The Tigers are tied for the fifth-best pitching ERA at 3.45 primarily because of their starters. Leading the way is two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (1.93, 4-3 record) followed by Anibal Sanchez (1.97, 3-3), Doug Fister (3.14, 4-1) and Max Scherzer (3.61, 5-0).
5/13 @Athletics 9:05 p.m.
5/14 @Athletics 9:05 p.m.
5/15 @Athletics 2:35 p.m.
5/16 Tigers 7:05 p.m.
5/17 Tigers 7:05 p.m.
5/18 Tigers 7:05 p.m.
5/19 Tigers 7:05 p.m.