By Mark Miller
Despite losing their final game last week in extra innings, the Texas Rangers played well enough before that to remain the best team in the American League and finish with the best 50-game record in their history.
The team split its six games, losing two to the Oakland A’s, then winning the finale and the first two in Seattle before dropping a 4-3 decision Sunday to the Mariners in 13 innings. That left Texas at 32-18, just behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in baseball and 4.5 games ahead of Oakland in the American League West.
Highlighting the week was the pitching of two unlikely players. First came the stellar Texas debut of 30-year-old right-hander Ross Wolf. Called up when Nick Tepesch was scratched with a blister, Wolf allowed just one run and three hits in five innings to help keep the A’s from a sweep. Then there was the outstanding work of veteran left-handed reliever Neil Cotts, called up Tuesday to bolster the bullpen. Cotts worked in four games, yielding no runs and three hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
The Rangers also received good starting pitching from Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Tepesch. Darvish yielded a run on five hits in a 1-0 loss to the A’s. Holland gave up no runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in Saturday’s win against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez. And Tepesch returned Sunday to give up just two runs and five hits in 5.2 innings but had no decision.
While the offense was sporadic, there was just enough to earn the three victories. First baseman Mitch Moreland was the only regular to hit at least .300 but he struck out 10 times and failed to drive in any runs. Right-fielder Nelson Cruz also struck out 10 times while designated hitter Lance Berkman whiffed on seven occasions. Meanwhile, left-fielder David Murphy drove home seven runs and rookie second baseman Jurickson Profar plated four including a home run.
Arizona is on their minds
The Rangers will spend the early part of the week playing back-to-back, two-game, home-and-home series with their new interleague prime rivals the Arizona Diamondbacks before hosting the Kansas City Royals this weekend.
Texas needed a new prime rival after the Houston Astros moved to the American League and the Texas teams will alternate prime rivals each year between Arizona and the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers won two of three games at home against Arizona last year and did the same in Phoenix in 2009.
This year’s Arizona trip is a day-night double-header Monday with rookie Martin Perez making his first 2013 start to be followed by Darvish. Former teammate Brandon McCarthy is slated to pitch Wednesday for the Diamondbacks in Arlington.
The Diamondbacks share the National League West lead with San Francisco at 28-22. One reason why has been the hitting of veteran third baseman Eric Chavez and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Chavez entered the week with a team-leading .333 average with seven home runs and 24 runs batted in while Goldschmidt was at .320, 12, 39.
Texas catches a break in missing left-handed starter Patrick Corbin, who is 8-0 with 1.71 earned run average. Closer Heath Bell has converted eight of 10 save chances.
Kansas City’s young Royals fared well until losing nine of the last 10 games to drop to a 21-26 record. Leading the Kansas City offense has been left fielder Alex Gordon at .335, 6, 30. Designated hitter Billy Butler has added five HRs and 30 RBI.
The Rangers will likely face Royals ace James Shields, the former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher. Though he has just a 2-5 record, his ERA is at 2.47. Jeremy Guthrie leads the Kansas City starters with five wins to go with a 3.92 ERA.
5/27 @Diamondbacks 2:40 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.
5/29 Diamondbacks 7:05 p.m.
5/30 Diamondbacks 1:05 p.m.
5/31 Royals 7:05 p.m.
6/1 Royals 3:05 p.m.
6/2 Royals 2:05 p.m.