By Mark Miller
What started as a strong week ended on two down notes for the Texas Rangers but with a cumulative positive result.
After winning its first four games, the team lost its final two yet added to its lead in the American League West division to 2.5 games over the Oakland A’s. The Rangers also increased their cushion in the Wild Card race, now 4.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the second Wild Card spot with 32 games remaining.
Since trailing Oakland by six games on July 29, the Rangers have picked up 9.5 games thanks to a 19-6 record. One big reason has been an improved offense that has averaged more than six runs per game.
That offense was on display in the opener of a home series with the Houston Astros. Thanks to an 11-run third inning, the Rangers won 16-5. They won 4-2 and 5-4 for a sweep that gave them a 14-2 season record over the Astros in Houston’s first year in the American League West. Adrian Beltre’s two-run home run provided the winning margin in the middle game and a walk-off sacrifice fly by Elvis Andrus won the finale.
Texas, which had just four home runs in the previous 10 games, hit five in Friday’s 11-5 triumph over the White Sox in Chicago. It was the ninth-straight road win for the Rangers. That streak ended when they could only score two runs each Saturday and Sunday while the White Sox plated three and five, respectively.
The trip to Chicago was a homecoming for many Rangers since catcher A.J. Pierzynski, outfielder Alex Rios and relief pitchers Neil Cotts and Jason Frasor had previously played for the White Sox. Catcher Geovany Soto, utility infielder Jeff Baker, and starting pitcher Matt Garza formerly were members of the Chicago Cubs.
The White Sox displayed a video tribute to Pierzynski who helped them win the 2005 World Series as part of eight years with them. Fans as U.S. Cellular Field gave him three standing ovations.
“It was hard keeping my emotions in check,” Pierzynski told mlb.com. “Even Alex was like ‘wow that was pretty cool. I tip my hat and thank the White Sox organization, from the video people to the front office, to everyone involved for that. I have nothing but respect and admiration for everyone here and it just continues to grow every time I’m here.”
Mariners, Twins on the horizon
Though they no longer have the best road record in baseball, the Rangers still top the American League and can move past the Los Angeles Dodgers overall with success Monday through Wednesday in Seattle. Texas then returns home for a short three-game homestand against the Minnesota Twins.
Seattle enters the week with a 59-70 record after being swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Rangers hold a 9-7 season-series edge over the Mariners with this the final time they meet in 2013. Seattle won two of three in Arlington in mid-August.
Texas and Minnesota split four games in Minneapolis in April with the Rangers taking the first two and the Twins the final pair. Ironically, the winning pitchers for Texas – Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm – are not on the team now.
The Twins have struggled of late, losing seven of their past 10 games to drop to a 57-72 record. One reason may be the absence of All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, who was on the 7-day disabled list with concussion-like symptoms. He’s expected back this week after hitting .324 with 11 home runs and 47 runs batted in.
First baseman Justin Morneau leads Minnesota with 15 HRs and 72 RBI. Starting pitchers Samuel Deduno and Kevin Correia each have eight wins each while closer Glen Perkins has 30 saves in 33 tries.
8/26 @Mariners 9:10 p.m.
8/27 @Mariners 9:10 p.m.
8/28 @Mariners 2:40 p.m.
8/30 Twins 7:05 p.m.
8/31 Twins 7:05 p.m.
9/1 Twins 2:05 p.m.