Rangers rack up extra-base hits, spoil Miley's O's debut
By Ryan Baillargeon and Todd Karpovich
BALTIMORE -- In a battle for who would leave Camden Yards with the best record in the American League, the Rangers flashed their offensive firepower by matching a season high with seven extra-base hits in a 5-3 win over the Orioles, avoiding a series sweep.
With the victory, Texas (63-46) won the season series with Baltimore (61-46) and holds the tiebreaker for home-field advantage over the American League East leaders in the postseason.
"It could play big later on," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We don't really pay attention to that right now. All we are engaged in is the game we are playing that night, and that's the only one that's important to us."
The Rangers built a four-run lead against Wade Miley, who was making his Orioles debut after pitching against Texas three times with Seattle this season. The first five hits off Miley all went for extra bases, including Jonathan Lucroy's first homer with the Rangers. Nine Texas hitters recorded a hit, and seven of them had at least one extra-base hit.
Miley allowed four runs in five innings, falling to 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA against the Rangers this year.
Rangers righty A.J. Griffin cruised through four scoreless innings, but the Orioles belted three solo shots off him in the next two frames to trim the deficit to a run. Though Griffin couldn't complete six innings for the ninth straight start, Texas' bullpen came on to shut out the Orioles over the final 3 1/3 innings. Rangers relievers induced two of the team's three double plays to help end the Orioles' threats in the final innings.
Jeremy Jeffress, who came over from the Brewers with Lucroy, threw a scoreless seventh inning in his Rangers debut. Sam Dyson picked up his 23rd save.
The Orioles hit seven solo homers in the series. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said it was a simple case of the Rangers' pitchers being effective keeping players off base.
"Griffin did a good job of not putting people on base," Showalter said. "That's probably the difference. I thought our guys pitched pretty well. Guys have so many different looks as starters, [Yu] Darvish, [Cole] Hamels, Griffin, it's an adjustment every night."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Extra, extra: The Rangers' offense was held to just three runs on two extra-base hits over the first two games of the series, but the lineup came alive in the series finale. In his return to the starting lineup, Shin-Soo Choo set the tone with a leadoff double -- the first of six Rangers doubles. Texas entered the day just 25th in the Majors with 163 doubles on the season.
"This is a lineup that we feel is capable of doing this kind of thing on any given night," Banister said. More >
First for Lucroy: A night after Carlos Beltran hit his first homer with the Rangers, Lucroy left the yard in his third game with Texas. The newly acquired catcher hammered a 2-2 slider over the fence in left field in his first at-bat to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. According to Statcast™, the homer left the bat at 106 mph and traveled an estimated 409 feet. It marked Lucroy's 14th home run this season, just the second time in his seven-year career he's reached that mark.
"I faced him enough when he was with Arizona, and had some success against him in the past," Lucroy said of Miley. "I knew that if he did try to throw a slider, he was going to try to throw it down and in and try to get me to chase it. But he left it up enough for me to put a good swing on it."
Tough plays prove costly: With one out in the sixth, Ian Desmond hit a soft grounder toward first base that Chris Davis could not handle because the ball was shielded by Choo, who had just singled. This allowed Delino DeShields to score from second.
"There's always hindsight with things, but that's one of the things you talk to your runners about," Showalter said. "You try to get in that position. He almost had to guess where the ball was."
One batter later, Beltran hit a blooper to shallow right that just bounced out of the glove of tracking second baseman Jonathan Schoop, allowing Choo to score the Rangers' fourth run. That tough inning also ended Miley's uneven performance.
"I thought it was competitive," Showalter said of the lefty's debut. "Plays we normally make we didn't make. The runner did a great job of shielding Chris on the one and some ground balls snuck through. But I liked what I saw." More >
Digging the long ball: After Mark Trumbo regained the Major League lead with his 31st homer, Pedro Alvarez followed with another towering solo shot that pulled Baltimore to within 4-2 in the fifth. It was 12th time, and second in this series, the Orioles hit back-to-back homers -- the most in the AL. An inning later, Hyun Soo Kim hit his first home run at Camden Yards and fourth of the year.
"We've always had a great offense, and it's hard to say I'm the one to judge [whether] the offense is going or not," Kim said. "We're really a good offensive team, and we'll pick it up and get going." More >
"On paper, that would mean something. But usually those things that everybody touts go away. It's usually about who's pitching for you and how he's pitching. There's always that potential, but I'm trying to figure out a way to get there. When we get off this trip, we'll have a lot more games at home than we will on the road." -- Showalter, on the importance of securing home-field advantage in the postseason
Alvarez kept the Orioles' hopes alive with two outs in the ninth by beating out a slow roller down the first-base line. The Rangers challenged that he was out at first, but after a 59-second review, the call on the field was confirmed. Matt Wieters flied out to end the game in the next at-bat.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Texas will look to build on its success against Houston on Friday in the series opener at 7:10 p.m. CT, with left-hander Martin Perez (7-7, 4.22 ERA) on the hill. The Rangers are 9-1 against the Astros, who sit 6 1/2 games behind them in the AL West. Perez has dominated the Astros in his career, going 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA in seven starts.
Orioles: Baltimore will try to get its 10-game road trip off to a good start Friday in Chicago (8:10 p.m. ET) with Yovani Gallardo (3-3, 5.70 ERA) on the mound. While the Orioles have been dominant at home, they are just 22-29 away from Camden Yards. That will likely have to improve if they want to remain atop the AL East, with Toronto and Boston on their heels. The Orioles split their four-game series with the White Sox in April.