One team in the major leagues can relate somewhat to the Texas Rangers’ injury woes, and it’s the mighty New York Yankees.
Their starting pitcher Monday night in the opener of a four-game series in the Bronx was Shane Greene. Their scheduled starter for Tuesday is Chase Whitley. On Wednesday, David Phelps will start, and Brandon McCarthy gets the finale.
That’s the same McCarthy who was once, and still might be, considered as the centerpiece of the worst trade in general manager Jon Daniels’ tenure, though many now have taken aim at Prince Fielder. That’s the same McCarthy who lost 10 games this season with Arizona yet was still desirable to the injury-plagued Yankees.
Just like the Rangers, the Yankees are down to only one healthy member from their projected Opening Day rotation.
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But there they were at Yankee Stadium, three games over .500, the result of a bullpen that has remained intact and some deep pockets providing veteran depth to help soften the injury blows to the lineup earlier in the season.
The Rangers, meanwhile, were at their lowest point in terms of wins and losses since 2003, in part because of the lack of depth that has led them to plug former reliever Miles Mikolas into the rotation and has them searching for answers in their bullpen.
Of all the fill-ins, the Rangers think they might have something with Mikolas. He certainly pitched like it Monday, especially in the fifth inning against Derek Jeter.
Mikolas allowed only two runs on four hits in 7 1/3 innings in his fourth career start, and the offense delivered three times in the sixth inning with two outs en route to a 4-2 victory.
The Rangers won for only the third time this month, but the common theme has been quality starting pitching. Three quality starts. Three wins.
“Mikolas did a great job for us,” manager Ron Washington said. “We certainly needed it.”
The biggest moment of the game came with one out in the fifth inning. The Yankees had the bases loaded after two singles and a walk ahead of Jeter, who quickly bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The moment, a crowd of 45,278 standing for the Yankees’ soon-to-be-retired hero in anticipation of a hit that would break open the game, wasn’t lost on Mikolas.
“I feel like that was the turning point of the game,” he said. “I was able to get a fastball in, and that was all she wrote.
“It makes me as a pitcher want to complete a little bit harder. It really got me excited and helped me focus in a little bit and gave me a second wind.”
Jeter was the first of eight straight batters retired by Mikolas, seven after the Rangers had given him the lead in the sixth. Moments after getting the cushion, he retired Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson on seven pitches — all fastballs.
Neal Cotts finished off the eighth after Mikolas got leadoff man Zelous Wheeler, and Joakim Soria retired former Rangers farmhand Yangervis Solarte with two on and two out in the ninth to preserve Mikolas’ first win since Aug. 21, 2012.
“I’ve got to keep that going every start,” said Mikolas, who threw 105 pitches.
That’s what Washington is looking for from all the young players. The offense showed in the sixth what it can do, but now needs to repeat it more than once a week.
The Rangers were trailing 2-1 in the sixth when Jake Smolinski collected a two-out single. Jim Adduci, who was playing for the first time since April, walked ahead of Geovany Soto.
The catcher dropped a single into left field to tie the game, and the left-handed-hitting Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo followed with singles off lefty reliever Matt Thornton to cap the three-run inning.
Choo snapped an 0-for-22 skid with a third-inning double and went 2 for 5. Smolinski, Soto and Odor each collected two hits.
“Those are the kinds of things we’re looking for consistently,” Washington said. “We’ve seen glimpses. I’m through with glimpses. It’s about consistency and showing up to the park each day and showing you can be a threat.”
There’s no telling what Tuesday will bring, though it seems unlikely that Soto (groin) or Smolinski (foot) will be in the lineup. There’s no telling what Mikolas will bring Saturday against Oakland.
But the Rangers think they have something in the reliever-turned-starter. He showed more than a glimpse of it Monday night.