Rangers Report: Justin Smoak makes his major league debut.
By Editorial Staff
The Rangers started a 3 game series against the Tigers at home tonight after ending their road trip with a 3-0 shutout of the Red Sox. After the game first baseman Chris Davis was optioned to Triple-A OKC and the Rangers called up Justin Smoak to make his Major League Debut. In the starting lineup he was penciled in tonight at first base batting 6th.
The Tigers sent out right handed starting pitcher Max Scherzer to face fellow right hander Rich Harden. Scherzer came from the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason in the 3 team trade which sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. In tonight’s game the Ranger had a 3-0 lead against him after the fourth inning. In the fifth inning the Tigers pushed two runs across before manager Ron Washington lifted Harden for reliever Dustin Nippert.
Then Nippert pitched a scoreless inning and 2/3 with two strikeouts and no walks. He was then lifted at the top of 7th for reliever Frank Francisco. Francisco started the season as the Rangers closer, but after the first few games due to ineffectiveness he his now a middle reliever. Francisco then got three outs to bring the Rangers up to bat at the bottom of the seventh.
At this point the Rangers have already used three different pitchers, but the Tigers sent Scherzer back out for the 7 inning. He recorded a 1-2-3 inning and headed to the dugout. He finished with 7 innings pitched, giving up 4 runs on five hits. He also strikeout seven only giving up 2 walks. Overall not a bad start, although after the seventh inning the Rangers were leading 4-2 and he was in line to take the loss.
The eighth inning was quick for both teams with Chris Ray replacing Francisco and Eddie Bonine replacing Scherzer. Ray worked a quick 1-2-3 top of the eight inning to give the ball to Bonine. Bonine faced only two batters, with Elvis Andrus grounding out and Michael Young working a walk.
With one out and one man on first the Tigers made a change and replaced Bonine with Fu- Te Ni. He then got Josh Hamilton to ground into a fielders choice with Young being out a second base. Ni now has two outs and Vladimir Guerrero steps up to the plate and works another walk, putting men on first and second before getting David Murphy to strike out swinging.
Since the score is 4-2 going into the ninth, it is considered a save opportunity, so the Rangers bring in Neftali Feliz to close the door and give the Rangers their second straight win. Feliz gets the first two outs before giving up a single to Austin Jackson. Jackson was also part of the Granderson trade coming from the Yankees. Johnny Damon, who essentially occupied the outfield position that Granderson assumed at the Yankees, then doubled on a fly ball to right field moving Jackson to third base.
Feliz then gives up a single to Magglio Ordonez which scores Jackson and Damon tying the game up at 4-4. Feliz now has a blown save and could possibly be in line to take the loss. He then got Miguel Cabrera to fly out brining the Rangers up to bat.
The last two ninth innings have been very different for the Rangers, although they have both resulted in a win. Last night when Chris Davis stepped up to the plate the start the ninth inning, the Rangers were leading 3-0 and he struck out swinging, essentially sealing his fate to Triple-A OKC. The Rangers had a three run lead, although they were in Fenway park, but the pressure shouldn’t have been as strong as it was tonight for his replacement Justin Smoak.
Tonight with the game tied at four, Smoak steps up to the plate and draws his second walk of the game putting a man on first. Catcher Matt Treanor then did a sacrifice bunt to move Smoak to send base. The Rangers then removed Smoak from the game for pinch runner Joaquin Aires. Ni who is still in the game then intentionally walks Ryan Garko which puts men on first and second. Nelson Cruz then takes a walk on a 4-1 count loading the bases. Then Elvis Andrus singles on a line drive to center scoring pinch runner Aires to win the game 5-4 giving the Rangers a two game winning streak.
The Rangers played small ball tonight and pulled a one run walk off win over the Tigers. This was the second walk off win of the season, with the first coming on opening day against the Blue Jays. In his Major League Debut Smoak went hit less in two at bats, although his walk at the start of the bottom of the ninth started the rally and eventually was the run that crossed home plate to win the game. Smoak also flashed his glove showing off his defense proving why he is the top rated Rangers position prospect. The Rangers are now on a two game winning streak with opening day starter Scott Feldman facing Dontrelle Willis at 7:05CST.