Mike Minor makes it look easy as Texas Rangers snap losing streak
The Texas Rangers’ offensive futility tour continues.
But as long as Mike Minor is on the mound, they still have a chance.
Minor did about all you could ask of a pitcher Sunday afternoon to help the Rangers snap a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
After the Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s sacrifice fly in the seventh, Minor shut the Brewers down in his next two frames.
Two of the Brewers’ four hits came in the seventh inning, including an infield hit with two outs, but Minor induced a harmless ground out to end the inning.
A lead-off double in the eighth by Hernan Perez didn’t faze Minor either. He struck out pinch-hitter Christian Yelich before retiring the top of the order with a ground out and fly out. Yelich is the second-leading hitter in the majors at .335, although he had missed the previous four games with a back injury.
Manager Chris Woodward called it Minor’s best start this season.
“I don’t think so,” Minor said. “I don’t know what it was. It was pretty good, though. Breaking balls weren’t very good, but I thought we did a good job of going in and out, and then the change of speeds with the changeup.”
Jose Leclerc pitched the ninth to earn the save. Minor struck out 11 and has won his past three starts to improve to 11-6.
It’s the eighth time Minor has struck out 10 or more and the fourth time he has done so this season. After walking the first batter, he retired the next 11 and 18 of the next 19. He leads the majors with six starts of eight innings or more, the most for a Texas pitcher since Yu Darvish had six in 2014, and the most for a Texas left-hander since Derek Holland had six in 2013.
Catcher Jeff Mathis agreed with Woodward.
“It’s definitely the best fastball command, the best fastball he’s had all year,” Mathis said. “He was mixing in the changeup, throwing the front door changeup really well. It was obviously a great performance.”
Four of the six games on this current road trip have been decided by one run. Texas has played in an American League-high 38 one-run games. They are 19-19 in those games.
The Rangers begin a three-game set Monday against the Blue Jays in Toronto to close out their nine-game trip.
The offense has struggled to push across runs, and that trend continued Sunday. They have scored 10 runs on 27 hits in their past 54 innings (six games) on this road trip. Minor has won twice on this trip with 1-0 scores. He beat the Cleveland Indians in the trip opener Monday.
The Rangers were held to four hits Sunday, which gives them six consecutive games with six or fewer hits for the first time since May 1972, their first year in Arlington.
It’s not as though they haven’t had chances to score. In fact, the Rangers had two on with one out in the first inning, but Calhoun flew out, and Rougned Odor struck out.
That extended the Rangers’ run of recent struggles with runners in scoring position to 0 for their last 23 before Kiner-Falefa finally snapped the stretch with his seventh-inning sac fly.
Brewers starter Jordan Lyles was just as impressive as Minor. He held the Rangers to one run on three hits in seven innings. He walked three, including Shin-Soo Choo twice and Calhoun to start the seventh. Calhoun’s walk snapped a string of 11 consecutive outs. Odor followed with a double off the glove of first baseman Yasmini Grandal to give the Rangers two runners in scoring position with no outs. Delino DeShields was caught looking on a slider for the first out.
Kiner-Falefa singled with one out in the second, but Jeff Mathis’ 94 mph line drive to third base ended the inning on a double play, as Kiner-Falefa had no time to get back to first base.
“He’s (Minor) had some amazing outings for us this year,” Woodward said. “That might be the top. I just felt he dominated from the beginning. You could tell he was locked in the way he was using both sides of the plate. He was on point the whole game. That’s as dominating as I’ve seen him this year.”