The midpoint of the 2016 season arrived Friday night, and the following is true about the Texas Rangers:
Their 52 wins are the most in the major leagues and are the most in club history after 81 games.
Their 8 1/2 -game lead in the AL West is the largest division lead in the AL and is second in MLB.
They have three starting pitchers on the disabled list and an overworked group of key relievers.
They have an MLB-leading nine walk-off losses.
But they avoided a 10th and a third straight as Ian Desmond’s third hit of the game was a home run to start the 10th and Sam Dyson pitched around a leadoff single in the home half to beat Minnesota Twins 3-2.
With 81 games behind them, none better in the franchise’s previous 44 seasons, the Rangers are only looking ahead.
“It’s a marathon. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it. That’s the way I’ll look at it the rest of my career,” Desmond said. “It’s really not that important where you’re at at the [halfway mark]. There’s been some really good teams halfway through. We’re trying to keep our head down, work hard and get better. That’s the key.”
Martin Perez allowed two runs in seven innings, with the only blemish a two-run homer he allowed in the seventh inning. The Trevor Plouffe blast came only moments after Jurickson Profar had broken a scoreless game with a two-run pinch single.
Matt Bush (3-1) worked two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, and Dyson recorded two strikeouts and an easy grounder to second after Max Kepler started the 10th with a single.
Bush and Dyson were the pitchers who surrendered six runs in the ninth inning Wednesday in a 9-7 loss the New York Yankees, who followed that up Thursday with a 2-1 walk-off win on a ninth-inning passed ball.
“We had some good bounce-back performances today,” said Desmond, who hit his MLB-best fifth go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later. “There were just a lot of good things happening today. We’ve got a lot of good stuff going on. To not allow those two losses in New York to affect us was great.”
The Rangers’ offense sputtered against Ervin Santana for six innings, with their best chance against him coming in the first with runners at first and second with one out. Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder made decent contact but came up empty.
The only Rangers hitter to collect a hit the next six innings was Desmond, and he did it twice with a two-out single in the third and a one-out double in the sixth.
Profar broke the drought in the seventh as a pinch hitter for Bobby Wilson with the bases loaded and one out. Profar cracked a two-run single to center for the game’s first runs after Prince Fielder opened with a walk and Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland reached with one out on a walk and a single.
Perez was brilliant early and used double plays in three straight innings to take a shutout into the seventh. He retired the first 10 batters he faced on 34 pitches before back-to-back walks in the fourth. Those were wiped out when Perez got Brian Dozier to bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The Twins had their best threat in the fifth after consecutive singles to start the inning and a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out. The Twins tried a squeeze play, but Kurt Suzuki popped up the bunt and it turned into an easy threat-killing double play.
In the sixth, a one-out walk to Joe Mauer was erased when Miguel Sano hit into a double play.
Perez needed a double play after being given a 2-0 lead in the seventh and after a leadoff single by Dozier, but Plouffe followed with a homer into the flower box in right field to tie the score.
“I felt good,” said Perez, who threw 100 pitches. “I was trying to stay behind the ball every time and finish with my hand in front of my eyes. Just one pitch, a fastball was up and way and Plouffe hit a homer. But I thought I pitched well.”
Bush replaced Perez in the ninth and fell behind his first batter 3-0, but came back for a 1-2-3 eighth and pitched around a two-out single in the ninth. After Kepler singled off Dyson to open the 10th, Suzuki was twice unsuccessful at laying down a sacrifice bunt and struck out.
Byron Buxton also struck out, and Eduardo Nunez bounced to second as Dyson recorded his 17th save.
With it came the end of the first half of the Rangers’ season. They like where they are, but they aren’t satisfied.
“We’re not going to toast to halfway,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’re one game at a time.”
Rangers at Twins
1:10 p.m. Saturday, FSSW