Fresh off a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays to finish off a successful homestand, the Texas Rangers took to the road to close out a memorable first half. Tied with the Angels and looking at Seattle closing in on them, the Rangers needed to have a good road trip.
Monday: Loss, 9-4 (45-36)
A day after his All-Star snub, Kevin Millwood took to the mound in Anaheim with a 2-0 lead and pitched a quick first. It would be the last easy inning of the night for the Rangers ace. The Angels got a two-out, three-run home run from Jeff Mathis on a hanging sinker and never looked back.
Taking advantage of three walks from Millwood, the Angels handed the Rangers ace his worst loss of the season.
Tuesday: Win, 8-5 (46-36)
The Rangers pushed Vicente Padilla back to Wednesday. This opened up an opportunity for Dustin Nippert to break into the rotation.
Despite lasting only 4.2 innings, Nippert kept the Rangers in the game allowing only three runs.
The story in this game came during the fifth inning, an inning that might go down as the biggest inning of the year. Trailing 3-0, John Lackey got Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler out on five pitches to begin the inning. Michael Young legged out an infield single and the Rangers offense exploded.
By the time the dust settled, the Rangers had strung together a series of two out hits, including a three-run bomb by Andruw Jones, to take a 6-3 lead. The bullpen took over from there and the Rangers grabbed the victory. Rookie Derek Holland earned the victory with some help from CJ Wilson and Jason Jennings.
Wednesday: W, 8-1 (47-36)
Fresh off a season changing, come-from-behind victory, the Rangers sent Vicente Padilla to the mound for another series win against the Angels. Andruw Jones hit three home runs to ignite the offense as the Rangers cruised to an 8-1 victory.
Vicente Padilla took care of the rest, allowing just one run. With the win, the Rangers improved to 7-2 against the Angels and took over first place by a single game.
Now if they could only avoid a stumble in Seattle…
Thursday: L, 3-1 (47-37)
There’s just something about reaching 12 games over .500 that the Rangers can’t seem to master. Matched up against Felix Hernandez, Rangers rookie Tommy Hunter more than held his own. Hunter matched King Felix zero-for-zero, walking three batters and scattering four hits over six innings.
The Rangers scored on a wild pitch in the sixth, temporarily putting Hunter in position for the win. The surging Mariners had other ideas.
With a runner on, CJ Wilson pitched around Ken Griffey Jr. Against the Mariners’ hottest hitter, Franklin Gutierrez, Wilson hung a sinker over the middle of the plate. Gutierrez sent the ball over the left-center field wall. A quick top of the ninth gave the Mariners the 3-1 victory.
Friday: W, 6-4 (48-37)
Having already passed his career-high in home runs, Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz has had a breakout season in 2009. Cruz’s season got a little better Friday afternoon when the slugger was notified he would replace the injured Torii Hunter on the All-Star team.
A three-run shot by Michael Young gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead in the third, a lead they would take into the eighth thanks to another good start by Scott Feldman.
With a runner on, the newest addition to the All-Star team came to the plate. As news began to spread that Nelson Cruz would also participate in the Home Run Derby, Cruz turned on a pitch and absolutely crushed a bomb in the upper deck in left field. The 430 ft. shot proved to be the difference in a 6-4 Rangers win.
Saturday: L, 4-1 (48-38)
Kevin Millwood, looking to rebound from his worst start of the season, matched the surprising Jarrod Washburn through six innings. After throwing 105 pitches, Millwood went out for the seventh with the game tied 1-1.
Millwood didn’t make it out of the inning after giving up a two-run home run to Rob Johnson. The Rangers were unable to make a comeback, dropping the game 4-1.
Sunday: L, 5-3 (48-39)
The Rangers closed out the first half of the season with a frustrating afternoon at Safeco Field.
Starter Dustin Nippert had another quick, but successful start, leaving the game in the fourth inning down 3-0. The Rangers let Nippert off the hook with a pair of home runs by Hank Blalock and Nelson Cruz in the sixth, tying the game at three.
The Rangers held the tie until the seventh inning, when a misplay by Elvis Andrus opened the door for a two-out rally. As they did the entire game, Seattle put together a rally against CJ Wilson. The Mariners connected with soft singles up the middle and just over the head of Andrus to take a 5-3 lead. The Rangers went quietly in the eighth and ninth innings, dropping three of four to the third-place Mariners.
All told, it was a mediocre road trip to finish the first half of the season. The Rangers begin the second half of the season at home against the Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on the 17th.
They will do so in the middle of a three-team race to the finish first in the American League West.