Rangers Notes: Texas Rides Hot Bats to Sweep over A’s

Carlos Beltran vs Athletics 8-16-16

Carlos Beltran singled on the first pitch he saw Tuesday from John Axford, driving in two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the tenth.

The Rangers maintained their steady push toward the playoffs this week with a three-game sweep against Oakland at Globe Life Park, increasing their lead in the A.L. West to 7.0 games over Seattle and 10.5 games over Houston.

A different Texas hitter was the hero each night, and Adrian Beltre got the party started with his fifth-inning grand slam off southpaw Ross Detwiler as part of a 5-2 victory on Monday.

Beltre’s slam – the 10th of his career – turned around what had been a 2-1 deficit and gave Texas its first lead of the ballgame. Martin Perez tossed seven strong innings to earn the win and established a club record in the process.

Perez induced his 32nd double play of the season when he got Brett Eibner to ground into a twin killing in the top of the fourth, passing the mark of 31 that was set by C.J. Wilson in 2011.

Tuesday’s contest was a wild back-and-forth affair that saw Carlos Beltran deliver the signature moment of his brief Rangers career. The nine-time All-Star went 4-for-5 in the game and knotted the score at 4-4 with his tenth-inning RBI single off A’s reliever John Axford.

Beltran drove in Robinson Chirinos and Delino DeShields with his clutch hit, and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski then issued an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre to load the bases.

After the free pass, Rzepczynski drilled Rougned Odor on the right arm with his very next pitch, pushing Ian Desmond across the plate with the winning run. Keone Kela (who had given up two runs in the top of the tenth) earned the victory as Texas celebrated its fifth walk-off win of the year.

On Wednesday, Yu Darvish permitted a pair of solo homers in his seven innings of work but otherwise worked around trouble, striking out nine Oakland batters while the Rangers built a solid lead against Sean Manaea.

Jonathan Lucroy tagged Manaea for a solo home run that just cleared the left-field wall in the fourth, and Desmond gave Texas its first lead with a two-run single the following inning.

Desmond and Lucroy provided more sparks in the bottom of the seventh, with the latter shooting a bases-loaded double into right field to plate two runs after the former had laced an RBI single the opposite way.

Jake Diekman and Matt Bush each threw a shutout frame in relief of Darvish as the Rangers sealed the sweep with a 6-2 victory.

Texas had dropped two out of three to Detroit before the Oakland series, taking Friday’s opener behind two long balls from Lucroy, 8-5, before being shut out by finals of 2-0 and 7-0 over the weekend.

Broken Arm Sends Choo Back to DL

Less than two weeks after returning from his third stint on the disabled list, Shin-Soo Choo suffered a fractured forearm Monday when he was hit by a pitch from former teammate Ross Detwiler.

Choo’s latest injury forced yet another trip to the 15-day DL, but this one is likely to cost him the rest of the season as well.

Outfielder Ryan Rua was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to take the active roster spot of Choo, who underwent a procedure Wednesday in which a plate was inserted into his left forearm near the wrist.

Also on Wednesday, swingman Nick Martinez re-joined the big-league club when starter Lucas Harrell was put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin.

Holland, Lewis Progressing toward Return

The Rangers’ rotation could soon welcome back its two longest-tenured members, with left-hander Derek Holland and righty Colby Lewis both making strides in their recovery from injuries.

Holland hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 20 because of left shoulder inflammation, but he has completed three rehab outings for Round Rock and is expected to start at Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Lewis, on the DL since June 21 with a torn muscle in his throwing shoulder, is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session this weekend in Tampa Bay, and he could be cleared for a rehab assignment soon after that.

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Rangers Notes: Emotional Fielder Forced to call it a Career

Prince Fielder News Conference

Designated hitter Prince Fielder (right) thanked his teammates, his family and the three organizations he played for during a press conference Wednesday.

Texas slugger Prince Fielder announced Wednesday that his playing career had come to an end, a stunning development even after it was revealed that he needed neck surgery and would miss the rest of this season.

Fielder, 32, was joined by his two sons and agent Scott Boras during a heartfelt press conference at Globe Life Park. All of his Texas teammates and coaches were gathered in the audience as he thanked the Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers – the three teams he played for across his 12 years in the majors.

Speaking into the microphone through muffled tears, he also recognized his wife and children for their support as he suffered one medical setback after another over the past three seasons.

The six-time All-Star had his first year in Texas (2014) cut short when he underwent cervical fusion surgery on his neck. He rebounded last season and helped fuel the Rangers’ return to the playoffs, but recent discomfort in his neck and left arm indicated a recurring issue.

“It’s emotional, I believe, for the entire baseball community,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “He’s our teammate. He’s as important to our organization [as] the guys that are on the field right now.”

In 89 games this year, Fielder connected for just 24 extra-base hits while posting the lowest batting average (.212), slugging percentage (.334) and OPS (.626) of his career. He was placed on the disabled list Jul. 20 with herniated discs in his neck, and news broke a week later that he needed another operation.

Following his second spinal fusion procedure, doctors told Fielder he was not medically fit to play big-league baseball any more.

“I just want to thank my teammates and the coaching staff. I’m really going to miss those guys,” he said Wednesday. “To not be able to play is going to be tough.”

The fun-loving Fielder, still sporting a large neck brace while recovering from the surgery, spoke from the heart in subdued tones before taking questions from the media. He said he will remain with the club as the Rangers continue their push toward the postseason.

“They’ve got work to do, I’ve got some cheerleading to do,” he said. “And hopefully win the World Series and pop the champagne.”

The son of former All-Star first baseman Cecil Fielder, Prince has belted 319 home runs in his career – the exact same number his father hit across his 13 years in the majors.

Texas Takes Three of Four from Rockies

Back on the diamond, the Rangers produced a five-game winning streak against the Astros and Rockies before dropping Thursday afternoon’s finale to Colorado, helping the club maintain a comfortable division lead over Seattle (7.0 games) and Houston (9.0).

Texas took the final two contests of a weekend series at Minute Maid Park, then began a home-and-home series versus the Rockies with a wild 4-3 comeback victory Monday at Coors Field.

Cole Hamels delivered a quality start, but he left on the short end of a slim deficit as the Rangers failed to muster much offense against Colorado’s Tyler Anderson.

Facing closer Carlos Estevez in the ninth, Texas put two men aboard via a single and a walk. Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar then executed a double steal to put runners on second and third for Elvis Andrus.

The Texas shortstop lined a game-tying single into center field before Mitch Moreland greeted southpaw Boone Logan with a go-ahead double down the right-field line, and Jake Diekman tossed a scoreless bottom of the ninth to earn his third save of the year.

On Tuesday, the Rangers erased a four-run deficit by scoring once in the seventh off Tyler Chatwood and four times in the eighth against reliever Scott Oberg. Rougned Odor then put the icing on a 7-5 victory with his RBI double off Jordan Lyles in the top of the ninth.

The two teams returned to Arlington for a pair of games at Globe Life Park, beginning with a 5-4 Texas win following Fielder’s press conference Wednesday.

Jonathan Lucroy socked a solo homer off Jorge De La Rosa to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, only to watch Colorado climb ahead with three runs against Diekman and Keone Kela in the eighth.

An error by first baseman Mark Reynolds opened the door for a timely Texas rally in the bottom of the frame, and Adam Ottavino served up a go-ahead single to Adrian Beltre with the bases loaded and two outs.

The back-and-forth theme continued Thursday afternoon in a searing series finale, a 12-9 Rockies victory that featured temperatures well over 100 degrees and a five-run Colorado outburst versus a weary Rangers bullpen in the top of the eighth inning.

Choo Returns from Third DL Stint

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was activated from the 15-day disabled list last Thursday after missing two weeks due to lower back inflammation, and left-hander Dario Alvarez was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock by Texas to clear a spot on the active roster.

Choo’s most recent trip to the disabled list was his third of the season. He missed time earlier this year with a strained calf and strained hamstring.

Fellow outfielder Ryan Rua was optioned to Round Rock this week when Drew Stubbs returned from a summer-long stint on the disabled list, where he had been nursing a sprained left toe since May 23.

Minor-league infielder Kyle Kubitza was designated for assignment in order to make room for Stubbs on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.

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Currently Reading: The Dixon Cornbelt League

'The Dixon Cornbelt League' by W.P. Kinsella

The Dixon Cornbelt League by W.P. Kinsella – This collection of offbeat baseball tales by Kinsella is replete with the type of fantasy-based situations readers have come to expect from the author of Shoeless Joe. Some of the characters introduced here are a reincarnated Roberto Clemente, a shortstop who turns into a wolf and a love-struck pitcher looking for a second chance.

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Rangers Notes: Texas Adds Beltran & Lucroy in Deadline Deals

Jonathan Lucroy

Two-time National League All-Star Jonathan Lucroy wields a powerful bat and is recognized as one of the best defensive catchers in the game.

Jon Daniels and the Texas front office were able to add a pair of All-Star bats to the lineup before Monday afternoon’s trading deadline, giving up some talented prospects but hanging onto three of the organization’s best young players (Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar).

The first of two deals to be announced was a trade that sent right-handed pitchers Nick Green, Erik Swanson and Dillon Tate to the Yankees in exchange for veteran switch-hitter Carlos Beltran, who could see time in the outfield and at DH down the stretch.

Tate was the Rangers’ top pick in the 2015 amateur draft and posted mediocre results in his limited minor-league action, going 3-3 with a 4.62 ERA over 23 appearances (22 starts) between High-A Hickory and Low-A Spokane.

Not long after news of the Beltran deal broke, word came that Texas would be the ultimate destination for Milwaukee backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who just one day earlier had invoked his limited no-trade clause to veto a deal that would have sent him to Cleveland.

Outfielder Lewis Brinson and right-hander Luis Ortiz – each, like Tate, a former first-round draft selection – were sent to the Brewers in the Lucroy trade, as was a player to be named later. The Rangers also received late-inning reliever Jeremy Jeffress in the deal.

A two-time All-Star in Milwaukee, the 30-year-old Lucroy is expected to take the reins behind the plate for Texas while Robinson Chirinos will shift to a backup role. Both Bryan Holaday and Bobby Wilson were designated for assignment Monday in a roster crunch.

In addition, infielder Joey Gallo was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to create an active roster spot for Beltran, and designated hitter Prince Fielder was moved from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man squad.

While Beltran will be a free agent at the end of the season, Lucroy’s contract includes a team option for 2017, an option Texas will certainly pick up should he provide any kind of production from the catcher position.

“You’re talking about a two-way, All-Star catcher, [one of the] top handful of guys in the game,” Daniels said of Lucroy. “Really hard position to find, especially finding a guy that can also hit in the middle of your order … Just such a good fit for us.”

In a less-heralded trade last week, the Rangers acquired right-hander Lucas Harrell and left-hander Dario Alvarez from Atlanta in exchange for minor-league second baseman Travis Demeritte.

Texas Sweeps Past World Champs

The ballclub bounced back from a mid-summer malaise – at least for the time being – with a four-game sweep over the World Series champion Royals, a matchup that drew more than 150,000 fans to Arlington between Thursday and Sunday.

In the opener, Mitch Moreland hit a pair of solo home runs off Yordano Ventura to lead Texas to a 3-2 victory, backing an eight-inning, 12-strikeout performance from Cole Hamels.

Rougned Odor grabbed the baton from Moreland and belted two long balls of his own Friday, also collecting a double in the Rangers’ 8-3 win to finish the game with 10 total bases.

Moreland played the role of hero again on Saturday versus Kansas City, snapping a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run against right-hander Brooks Pounders, and his two-run shot Sunday afternoon provided the difference in a 5-3 victory at Globe Life Park.

Texas had dropped two out of three to the last-place Athletics at Oakland Coliseum earlier last week.

Young Inducted as 20th Member of Hall

Seven-time All-Star Michael Young became the 20th member of the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame in a ceremony prior to Saturday’s win over the Royals, joining Buddy Bell and Toby Harrah as the only infielders to be enshrined.

“I want to thank everyone who helped me play this great game,” he said during an on-field induction ceremony. “Baseball is the greatest game in the world. It provides the opportunity to risk, to fail, to succeed, to get pulled down, get back up and stand on your own.”

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Rangers Notes: Choo, Fielder Again Lost to Injuries

Prince Fielder 2B vs Angels 4-30-16

Prince Fielder may be out for the year with a herniated disc in his neck, an injury similar to the one he suffered in 2014.

The Rangers hold the distinction of limping both into and out of the All-Star break this season, dropping five consecutive series at one point before taking two out of three last weekend against the Kansas City Royals.

The team’s main area of concern has shifted away from the playing field, however, as it was announced Wednesday that two of the highest-salaried players on the roster – outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and DH Prince Fielder – were headed to the disabled list.

While Choo is expected to return soon from lower back inflammation, Fielder has a herniated disc in his neck and could require season-ending surgery. Both players missed significant time due to injuries during the disastrous 2014 campaign for Texas.

Fielder rebounded from his forgettable ’14 performance and was named A.L. Comeback Player of the Year last season after appearing in 158 games, batting .305 and collecting a career-high 187 hits, numbers more in line with the pre-injury totals he had posted with Milwaukee and Detroit.

In 89 games this year, Fielder has hit just .212 while watching his on-base plus slugging percentage plummet by more than 200 points (from .841 to .626). He has just one homer in the last month and hasn’t driven in a run since Jul. 8.

“I think some of the things we were seeing, the struggles for him to get the ball in the air [on the] pull side are very similar to the things we were seeing early in 2014,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

“He was trying to fight through this, but I don’t know exactly for how long … It’s reasonable to say that this definitely had an impact on his performance.”

Choo, meanwhile, missed much of the season’s first two months with a strained calf and then a strained hamstring, and he sat out three straight games to begin the second half while dealing with tightness in his lower back.

After going 0-for-6 in his six plate appearances against Los Angeles last week, Choo received an MRI and an anti-inflammatory injection. His current trip to the DL should not last more than the minimum 15 days.

Infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Delino DeShields were called up from Triple-A Round Rock to replace Fielder and Choo on the Rangers’ active roster.

Back on the diamond, Texas stumbled to two straight losses at Wrigley Field following the midsummer classic, managing a total of eight hits as Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel picked up victories for the Cubs.

Rangers lefty Cole Hamels delivered a much-needed quality start in the series finale, recording seven strikeouts and limiting Chicago to one unearned run en route to a 4-1 win over native Texan John Lackey.

The club then traveled to Anaheim for a three-game set versus the Angels, getting swept by finals of 9-5, 8-6 and 7-4 while watching what had been a double-digit lead in the American League West dwindle to 3.5 games over the second-place Astros.

Kyle Lohse and Martin Perez were both shelled in their starts for Texas – combining to allow 14 earned runs on 16 hits – and Los Angeles got wins from J.C. Ramirez, Tim Lincecum and Hector Santiago in the series.

Sliced Finger Sends Diekman to DL

Before the Rangers played their first game out of the All-Star break, reliever Jake Diekman was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Jul. 6) with a lacerated left index finger, an injury that occurred when he was reaching into his luggage for a broken beer mug.

Right-hander Keone Kela was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list and starter Derek Holland was transferred from the 15- to the 60-day DL in a pair of corresponding roster moves.

Diekman healed quickly enough to return last Friday while swingman Cesar Ramos was designated for assignment. The 29-year-old has shown no lingering effects of the freak injury, tossing a scoreless inning in each of his two outings versus Kansas City.

Former All-Star Yu Darvish was activated from the disabled list on Jul. 16 – more than a month after getting shut down due to discomfort in his neck and throwing shoulder – as right-hander Jose Leclerc was optioned to Round Rock.

Rangers Pick Up Duffy, Breslow

Utility infielder Matt Duffy was claimed off waivers from Houston over the weekend and assigned to Triple-A Round Rock, giving Texas some depth in case the club needs to use multiple pieces of its farm system for a trade deadline deal.

Duffy had been DFA’d by the Astros to clear an active roster spot for Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gourriel, who recently agreed to a five-year contract worth $47.5 million.

On Sunday, it was announced that the Rangers had agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran southpaw Craig Breslow. The 35-year-old pitched in 15 games this season for Miami before he was released by the Marlins earlier this month.

In addition, Texas acquired right-hander Scott Carroll from the White Sox last Wednesday in exchange for cash considerations and assigned him to Double-A.

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Rangers Notes: Ceremonial First Half Ends with Lopsided Defeats

Jurickson Profar (w Griffin-M. Kepler) vs Twins 7-10-16

Jurickson Profar looks on as Minnesota’s Max Kepler rounds the bases following his grand slam off A.J. Griffin Sunday in Arlington.

Although the Rangers hold a multi-game lead in the American League West at this season’s All-Star break, their grip on first place is looking tenuous as their pitching staff has turned in several poor performances of late while Houston has been improving its pace of play.

The team with the worst record in the American League – the Minnesota Twins – took three out of four games from Texas over the weekend at Globe Life Park, beginning with an ugly 10-1 pounding in Thursday’s opener.

Chi Chi Gonzalez gave up two earned runs in each of the first two innings as the Twins set the tone early, forcing Gonzalez to throw 124 pitches across less than five full frames. Swingman Cesar Ramos kept the game within reach by tossing two and two-thirds innings of shutout relief, but Minnesota poured on five more runs against Shawn Tolleson in the eighth.

With his club trailing 9-0 in the top of the ninth, Rangers manager Jeff Banister turned to backup outfielder Jared Hoying to take over on the mound. Making his first pitching appearance since high school, Hoying retired the side around Kennys Vargas’ solo home run.

Texas took a back-and-forth affair Friday by a 6-5 final, although the club had to overcome a rare subpar outing from Cole Hamels to do so.

Hamels was given a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning when Rougned Odor collected an RBI triple off Kyle Gibson and scored on Prince Fielder’s single. Minnesota drew even with a pair of runs in the second, and the Rangers went back ahead on RBI singles from Shin-Soo Choo and Ian Desmond in the fourth.

One inning later, the Twins took their first lead of the ballgame when Miguel Sano slugged a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Hamels, who was soon replaced on the hill by Tony Barnette.

The Rangers then went in front for good by plating two runs against reliever Ryan Pressly in the bottom of the sixth. After Nomar Mazara led off with a double, Elvis Andrus tripled him home to tie the game at 6-6 and scored the go-ahead run on Bobby Wilson’s sac fly, and Sam Dyson earned the save with a perfect ninth inning.

Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse endured a forgettable Texas debut on Saturday, permitting six earned runs on nine hits across just five innings of work.

The Rangers tried to climb back into the game, but outfielder Eddie Rosario almost single-handedly put them away with four hits and four runs scored as the Twins cruised to an 8-6 victory.

Hoping to salvage a series split Sunday afternoon, Texas started righty A.J. Griffin – who had not been tagged with a loss in his first nine outings of the year – opposite southpaw (and former Oakland teammate) Tommy Milone.

Griffin kept the Twins off the board through the first three frames before allowing a solo homer to Kennys Vargas in the fourth. One inning later, Max Kepler put the game out of reach when he slugged a two-out grand slam into the Rangers bullpen, and Minnesota scored nine more times as part of a 15-5 rout.

Prior to their series loss to the Twins, the Rangers had dropped two out of three contests at Fenway Park in Boston. The Red Sox won by blowout finals of 12-5 and 11-6 around Texas’ 7-2 victory last Tuesday.

Texas Swaps Ciriaco for Pitching Help

The Rangers on Friday acquired left-hander Eric Jokisch from the Miami Marlins in exchange for versatile infielder Pedro Ciriaco, and Jokisch was assigned by Texas to Triple-A Round Rock.

Jokisch, 26, had been designated for assignment by Miami earlier in the week when the team needed an active roster spot for infielder Don Kelly.

In 18 relief appearances this season for Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins’ organization, Jokisch compiled a 2-0 record with a 2.64 earned run average across 30 and one-third innings pitched.

Also Friday, right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez was optioned to Round Rock while lefty reliever Alex Claudio was recalled. Kyle Lohse was called up after the game that night as Nick Martinez was sent down.

Rangers Lend a Hand in A.L. Win

Texas southpaw Cole Hamels struck out Chicago’s Kris Bryant during his shutout inning of work in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Petco Park, a 4-2 victory for the American League over the National League.

Hamels yielded a single and a double to put runners on second and third with two outs before he got Bryant to swing through a changeup and end the frame.

Outfielder Ian Desmond, meanwhile, was 0-for-1 at the plate – grounding into a force out versus Jon Lester – and handled two chances cleanly in center field.

Pomeranz No Longer a Trade Option

The Rangers were reported to have interest in Padres left-hander Drew Pomeranz, but any hope that he would join the Texas staff was dashed Thursday when Boston acquired the All-Star from San Diego.

With more than two weeks to go until the non-waiver trade deadline (which is delayed until Aug. 1 this year because Jul. 31 falls on a Sunday), the Rangers are expected to be in the market for starters, relievers or a front-line starting catcher.

The ever-churning rumor mill has linked Texas to pitchers Rich Hill, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Ervin Santana as well as backstop Jonathan Lucroy.

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Currently Reading: One for the Record

'One for the Record' by George Plimpton

One for the Record by George Plimpton – The late author was famous for his many forays into “participatory” journalism (especially those involving professional sports and athletes), but in this book he is content to play the role of observer as Hank Aaron pursues one of baseball’s most cherished records. Plimpton follows the unique experiences of Aaron, Al Downing, Tom House and television broadcaster Milo Hamilton as well as the many fans who hoped to catch a glimpse of the historic moment … and perhaps a precious artifact, too.

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