Rangers 6, Mariners 3
- With the A's losing to the Astros today (despite Houston doing their level best to blow a 4 run 9th inning lead), the Texas victory brings us back into a tie with
HoustonOakland in the A.L. West, and a tie for the best record in the A.L. The only teams with a better record than Texas in the majors are Atlanta and Milwaukee.
- The Rangers are 15-9 after 24 games. After 24 games last year, they were 16-8. They were 17-7 after 24 games in 2012. They were also 15-9 in 2011, and were 12-12 in 2010. Pretty remarkable that the team has had this success in the early going, giving all the injuries the team has been dealing with.
- I had mentally written this game off as a loss in the second inning. The first inning ended when Prince Fielder lined into a double play. Michael Saunders homered to lead off the first. The Rangers put runners on second and third in the top of the second, but couldn't push a run across, and then Kyle Seager led off the second inning with a homer. At that point, I figured, well, its Felix Hernandez going for Seattle, he's not going to give up much, and Colby Lewis clearly isn't sharp...this isn't a good matchup, so we're probably going to lose, and hopefully, with Matt Harrison going tomorrow, we can eke out a win and avoid being swept.
- And it looked like, in the bottom of the 4th inning, this was going to turn into a blowout. Felix had retired nine batters in a row through the top of the 4th, while in the bottom of the frame, the M's loaded up the bases with no one out with a pair of singles and a walk. Colby, who hadn't been sharp all game, seemed to be on the ropes, and the only question in my mind was when Nick Martinez would be called upon. A big inning seemed imminent, and I was just grateful that Oakland had lost earlier, and thus the Rangers wouldn't lose any ground today.
- But Colby fought back and came up big in the 4th. Mike Zunino hit a sac fly with the bases loaded to bring in a run, but then Brad Miller popped out and Saunders got called out on strikes, meaning that Colby had wiggled out of the bases loaded, no one out situation with just a single run crossing the plate.
- Conversely, in the top of the 5th, Felix found himself in the exact same situation...bases loaded, no one out after the Rangers got three straight singles. While Colby minimized the damage, however, Felix responded by walking Robinson Chirinos with the bases loaded to force in the first Ranger run of the game -- only the third time in his career (and first time since 2008) that Felix issued a walk with the bases loaded. A Michael Choice single and an Elvis Andrus sac fly brought two more runs home to tie the game, and gave the Rangers a chance for an even bigger inning with runners on the corners and one out, with Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre due up. Fielder and Beltre, however, couldn't get the ball out of the infield, so the Rangers stayed tied at 3.
- For the third time in three major league starts this year, Colby pitched into the sixth inning, and for the third time in three starts, he couldn't get out of the sixth. Ron Washington came out to the mound in the fifth, Robinson Cano on second and Kyle Seager up with two outs, and seemed prepared to lift Colby and bring in lefthander Aaron Poreda. But Colby seemingly talked Wash out of pulling him, and retired Seager to end the inning. However, when Colby walked Justin Smoak to start the sixth inning, Wash had seen enough, and pulled him at 91 pitches.
- It was another solid, but not spectacular, outing for Colby, whose final line was 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings, 2 homers allowed, 3 walks, and 6 Ks. Colby now has a 4.60 ERA on the season, and I suspect the Rangers would be perfectly fine with him going 5-6 innings each time out from now on, and allowing 3 runs. I said before he was activated that we should be happy if Colby is a quality back-end rotation member, with anything more than that being gravy. So far, Colby has pitched like a viable #4 or #5 starter, and while I'd be thrilled if he could somehow recapture what he had in 2010-12, if he can continue pitching like he has so far this year, he's going to be a valuable member of this pitching staff.
- With the M's lefty-heavy lineup, Wash turned to Aaron Poreda for two innings, then Neal Cotts for the first two batters of the 8th inning. Poreda performed solidly, while Cotts, brought in to protect a 4-3 lead a day after blowing a lead with a disaster inning, fanned Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. Alexi Ogando then completely overmatched Mike Zunino, getting him swinging and setting the stage for Joakim Soria to pick up a save with a 1-2-3 9th inning.
- The Rangers had seized the lead in the top of the 8th with a rally that started when lefty specialist Charlie Furbush hit Prince Fielder with a pitch. Furbush was pulled after that one batter in favor of Yoervis Medina, who gave up an Adrian Beltre single before inducing what looked like it might be a double play ball from Alex Rios. However, the roller was too slowly hit to turn two, so the Rangers ended up with runners on the corners and one out. Mitch Moreland lofted a fly ball to deep left field to bring Prince home, giving Texas the lead for the first time in the game. I had wondered whether Wash should send Luis Sardinas into the game to run for Prince, but that ended up being a non-issue.
- Texas tacked a couple of insurance runs on in the 9th inning, first with Leonys Martin scoring small-ball style, as he singled, was sac bunted to second, advanced to third on a ground out, then scored on a wild pitch that only got away about 15 feet from home plate. Elvis Andrus scored the second run when his double was followed up by a Prince Fielder line drive single, giving the Rangers their final 6-3 margin of victory.
- Every position player got at least one hit today, with Leonys and Beltre each getting a pair.
- Tomorrow is the rubber match, with Matt Harrison returning to the majors for the first time in over a year to face off against Brandon Maurer. Go Matty Ice!