Perez buoys Ranger staff

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013

perez2

By Dic Humphrey

Texas lost two of three in Oakland this week to throw the A’s and Rangers into a flat footed atop the American League West.  Before the series began, the worst pitching matchup for Texas was game two, with Texas throwing rookie Martin Perez against Bartolo Colon, who is always tough on the Rangers.  Improbably, the Tuesday game turned into the lone Ranger win as the Rangers’ top two pitchers – Derek Holland on Monday and Yu Darvish on Wednesday did not pitch well.  Holland was knocked out in the fifth inning in game one, while Darvish was gone after pitching to two batters in the sixth in game three, who walked and hit a home run.

The outings by Holland and Darvish are extremely disappointing.  This is a tight pennant race.  Every game matters now, and games against your chief competitors essentially count double as a win is not only a win, but also a loss for your opponent.  Holland and Darvish have been the two top starters on the team this year, and it’s disappointing that they did not rise to the challenge in the heat of the race.

Darvish especially is of concern.  Certainly, his statistics are gaudy.  His 12 wins lead the Rangers.  He leads both Major Leagues in strikeouts and has struck out 10 or more batters 11 times this year and 19 times since the start of 2012, both of which lead the majors.  His ERA is in the top 10 in the Majors.  Three times he has taken a no-hitter past the fifth inning, including his first start of the season when he was one out away from a perfect game.  However, his mounting walk totals are troubling.  He walked a season high six Wednesday.  Also his penchant for surrendering home runs is troublesome.  He’s allowed 24, 10 more than all of last year.

Undoubtedly he is frustrated with his win total.  A big problem is run support.  If the Rangers had scored just four runs in each of his starts, less than their season average, his record would be 18-4.  The bottom line though is that after Wednesday’s loss, the Rangers are 14-13 in his 27 starts.  They are just 6-12 in his last 18 starts, so the problems apparently are accelerating.

Perez’s performance was all that stood between an Athletics’ sweep.  He won for the sixth consecutive start, and now has a 9-3 record.  He gave up a run in the first inning Tuesday, but settled down to turn in six more shutout innings.  He has thrust himself into consideration for the American League’s rookie of the year, and if the playoffs were to start tomorrow, he would for sure be part of the playoff shortened starting rotation.

“He’s maturing right before our eyes,” said manager Ron Washington after Tuesday’s game.

The rotation is set up to send the same three pitchers out to face Oakland next weekend when the A’s return to Arlington, though that is not cast in stone.

The Rangers and Athletics had 23 games remaining after this week’s series.  Oakland has 11 home games and 12 road games, while Texas has 13 home games and 10 road games.  The strength of schedule though favors Oakland.  They play just three games against teams with a winning record, the series with the Rangers over the weekend of September 13, 14  and 15.  Texas on the other hand plays 13 games against teams with winning records.

If the Rangers don’t win the division, they likely will claim one of the Wild Card slots.  After the Oakland series, they were in first place for the Wild Card, 2.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay and five games ahead of New York.  Being a Wild Card has less import now that there are two.  It really means that a team gets to play one game to join three others in the playoffs as we knew them two years ago.  Having the best record among the non-division winners didn’t do much good for the Rangers last year.  They got to host Baltimore, the non-divisional winner with the second best record, but lost that play-in game.  However, if the Rangers do end up with one of the Wild Card playoff spots, they will be just a win away from being in the playoffs proper.

At this point, it’s all hands on deck.  Texas has added 11 players since the end of August when the rosters expanded, giving them an active roster of 36 players.  There is no shortage of arms in the bullpen and plenty of position players to pinch hit and pinch run.  Player subs can be made more frequently and earlier in games, as there is no fear of running out of players.

This week’s off day allows the Rangers to at least push back the fifth starter this time around.  Texas is in Anaheim this weekend to complete this six game road trip, their last trip in the regular season to the Pacific Time zone.  Matt Garza opens against the Angels, and Holland comes back to pitch Saturday.  Sunday’s starter is listed as TBA, but could be Perez.  The team returns home Monday for the last inter-league games of the year against Pittsburgh, a team that has all but locked up a playoff spot in the National League.

It promises to be a pennant race to the end of the season, perhaps even to the last day like last year.  Unlike 2012 when Texas and Oakland played each other seven times over the final 10 days, these two teams do not face each other in the last two weeks of the season.  The Rangers need to not only win, but hope that whichever team is playing Oakland wins too.

Notes: Wednesday’s 11-4 loss ended a streak of 31 consecutive games in which the Rangers had allowed their opponents five or fewer runs.  That’s the longest such streak in the American League since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973. … Rookie pitchers have won 23 games for Texas so far this year. … Tuesday’s win was Ron Washington’s 600th as the Rangers’ manager. … Texas is 18-21 in day games.  There are six more out of the 23 remaining games including two with Oakland.

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