By Mark Miller
With a pitching staff that didn’t give up more than four runs in any game, it was primarily up to the offense to decide the fate of the Texas Rangers last week.
That was no problem at Seattle as the team scored 8, 4, and 12 runs respectively in sweeping the Mariners. But back home against the Minnesota Twins, it managed only two runs in each game, losing two of three.
Though the Rangers won four of six games overall, their lead in the American League West dipped to just one game over the Oakland Athletics. But their cushion to make the playoffs grew to 6.5 games over the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card race.
Texas manager Ron Washington had a hard time explaining his team’s offensive inconsistencies other than tipping his cap to what the Twins did to shut the Rangers down.
“In this series here you’ve got to explain it by the way the Minnesota Twins pitched,” he said. “They pitched well against us.
An August to Remember
By winning their final game of the month on Saturday, the Rangers set a record for most wins in August with 20. It was only the fourth month in team history with at least 20 wins. One major reason for the success was scoring 159 runs, the most in the majors. Stealing 38 bases, three behind Kansas City, also helped as did a 3.09 earned run average, fourth best overall and second to Kansas City in the American League.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre was the hottest hitter with a .381 average including five home runs and a team-leading 21 runs batted in. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski (.310, 4, 20), outfielder Craig Gentry (.308) and shortstop Elvis Andrus (.303) also had strong average months. First baseman Mitch Moreland led the team with six HRs.
On the mound, rookie left-hander Martin Perez had a 5-0 record and 3.06 earned run average. Closer Joe Nathan was 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA and saves in all six of his opportunities.
The Rangers’ 3.62 ERA for the season is their lowest through August since 1983.
California here they come
With the short home stand behind them, the Rangers are back on the road this week spending the entire time in the state of California. First up is a crucial three games at Oakland where Texas can either put some more space over the A’s or be in danger of losing their division lead. Then it’s on to Anaheim for three with the Angels.
Oakland swept the Tampa Bay Rays at home over the weekend to pull close to the Rangers. While this series doesn’t have the drama of last year’s season finale when the A’s won the division, any head-to-head matchups are important.
“Whoever we’re playing against we feel we need to beat them head to head,” said first baseman Mich Moreland. “It’s not just Oakland. But with the situation with them being right there and us being at the top, it’s going to be a big series. We’re going to have to out there and play our game.
“They’re scrappy. They’re never out of the game. They’re always trying to find ways to get something going and that’s what kind of keeps them in it. They grind out their games and their pitchers keep them right. It’s a tough team so we’re going to have to play our style.”
That style has netted the Rangers the best road record in baseball at 40-28 and at 44-16, the best numbers of any team within its division. Texas holds an 8-5 season series lead over Oakland and has won 10 of 12 games against the Angels including the last seven straight.
Los Angeles entered the week in a hot streak after sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Angels had won four straight and eight of their previous 10 through Sunday.
Texas bolstered its bench and bullpen for the stretch run by adding seven players Sunday. Designated hitter Lance Berkman and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Michael Kirkman and Nick Tepesch were reinstated from the disabled list while outfielder Jim Adducci, catcher Robinson Chirinos and pitcher Cory Burns were recalled from Class AAA Round Rock.
Adducci singled in his first major league at-bat and Feliz pitched well in 1.2 relief innings Sunday. It was the first time Feliz had pitched since May 18, 2002 after recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
9/2 @Athletics 3:07 p.m.
9/3 @Athletics 9:07 p.m.
9/4 @Athletics 2:37 p.m.
9/6 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
9/7 @Angels 8:05 p.m.
9/8 @Angels 2:35 p.m.