Texas Rangers

Pence didn’t play on 5-2 road trip. Rangers hope he can make one last late-season impact

Minor sees 200 Ks, innings within reach as Rangers face the best

Texas Rangers ace Mike Minor had only three strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles, but he thinks he can reach 200 with three starts remaining.
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Texas Rangers ace Mike Minor had only three strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles, but he thinks he can reach 200 with three starts remaining.

Apparently, according to sources, the NFL season is under way.

Who knew?

The guy sitting in front of the press box at Camden Yards, that’s who.

He is an older guy, though not old. However, he’s old enough to still listen to games on the radio.

Every once in a while, he would stand up and signal touchdown or successful field goal or extra point for the Baltimore Ravens. He was pretty busy.

The big question is why he was at the finale of the four-game series between the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Maybe he feels sorry for the Orioles.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-4 victory and a four-game sweep.

Pence’s last act?

Hunter Pence did not play in any of the seven road games the Rangers just completed as he continues to deal with a sore back.

An injection of cortisone has helped some, but not enough to let him swing a bat or roam around the outfield. The expectation is he will play again this season, and manager Chris Woodward has no intention of shutting Pence down and letting prospects play in his spot.

Woodward wants Rangers players to witness Pence’s drive again.

“If he has a chance to play one game, he’s going to play one more time,” Woodward said. “I think it’s good for our guys to see that, just fighting to get back in the lineup. We want guys to still be able to play. We want guys to want to get back in there.”

The Rangers signed Pence based on his reputation as a role model for young player, and he gave them the bonus of becoming an All-Star. He has exceeded expectations in the clubhouse and on the field.

The Arlington native will be a free agent after the season. Woodward said months ago that he wants Pence on the Rangers’ roster as long as he’s manager.

That might not happen, though the Rangers will need a part-time right-handed outfield bat for 2020. If he doesn’t return, Pence has made a lasting impact.

Returning to the lineup would make another strong impression.

“We owe it to him. He’s done a lot for the team this year,” Woodward said. “He’s invaluable to our ballclub. I don’t know how that’s all going to play out. We’ve got a lot of roster decisions to make. But what he’s done for this team this year will be talked about for a long time.”

March to 200

Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are trying to log 200 innings apiece, and the Rangers will give them a chance to get to what these days is considered a pitching milestone.

Minor has been penciled in for three more starts this season, and needs to cover only 10 1/3 more innings. Lynn has four starts to go, the first of which is Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, and has 18 1/3 innings until 200.

Minor cleared 200 innings in 2013, logging 204 2/3 innings. Lynn has done it twice, but he had never picked up a 200-strikeout inning until this season. Minor wants to get there for the first time, too, but he barely made a dent in his total against the Orioles.

“I couldn’t strike anyone out, so that as difficult,” he said. “But I got my innings, we got the win, and I held them in check. It’s still within reach.”

He didn’t strikeout anyone the first four innings, and finished with only three. That leaves him 18 shy of 200, though his 183 Ks are a career-high.

Minor and Lynn will be given the chance to get to their desired destinations.

Best of the trip

Two players stood out with their performances on the road trip, which also included three games against the New York Yankees.

One should not come as a surprise. The other does.

Minor was the Rangers’ best pitcher. He tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Labor Day as the Rangers handed the Yankees their first shutout in 220 games. He wasn’t as good Sunday, allowing two runs in eight innings, but he did his best pitching in the sixth.

The Orioles put runners at first and third with no outs but didn’t score as Minor (13-8) retired the next three hitters on a strikeout, pop out and grounder.

“There was no swing and miss,” Minor said. “My stuff wasn’t that crisp, but I just had to grind through it.”

No hitter did more damage than Rougned Odor, who was hitting below .200 at the start of the trip but cleared the Mendoza Line by going 9 for 23 with three homers and five RBIs.

Based on recent history, that performance is a mirage. Most of the damage was done against the Orioles, so the Rangers would like to see Odor hit against the contenders coming on their scheduled.

He still has to sell the Rangers on his future, and his hefty contract will help him continue to get chances. He also has a tireless advocate in Woodward.

But facts are facts, and he was the Rangers best hitter the past seven games.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.