Martin Perez and Michael Kirkman were teammates in Spokane in 2008 and in Frisco in 2009 but never pitched on the same night.
They were also teammates in Round Rock in 2011, with Kirkman appearing out of the bullpen in three different Perez starts. Yoshinori Tateyama was in Round Rock last year, too, but had been gone for nearly two months when Perez arrived in July.
The three were together in Round Rock for most of the first two months of 2012, but in none of Perez’s 15 starts or Tateyama’s 16 relief appearances or Kirkman’s 15 games pitched did all three see action.
Last night, in Arlington, in front of more than 46,000, they all worked, and no other Rangers pitchers did. They combined on an impressive six-hitter in which Perez – the Jerry West of the Newberg Report email banner – yielded two runs, fanning five and walking one in 5.1 innings, and Tateyama (1.1 innings) and Kirkman (2.1 innings) held Oakland hitless and gave the rest of the pen a welcome night off. Texas won, 7-2, getting to 50 wins before any other team in baseball, clinching a season-high seventh straight series win, and extending its division lead to a season-high 6.5 games, an advantage the club held at the end of April and near the end of May and now at the end of June.
Yes, it was the A’s against whom the Rangers’ 10th starter and 10th reliever to appear and 12th reliever to appear (not counting Craig Gentry) did all the mound work in a solid win, but Oakland had scored 4.9 runs in its eight games against Texas going into Saturday night – and has won more games against the Angels this year (five) than it’s lost (four).
Like the night before, when Gentry was the hitting star and Tanner Scheppers earned a save, Texas relied on a number of players who entered the season on the periphery of a consensus World Series contender, some more out of necessity than others. This club, the best in baseball, has gotten legitimate contributions at some level from young players like Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm, Brandon Snyder, Leonys Martin, and, lately, Scheppers and Perez.
Ross is going nowhere this summer, but the other pitchers on that list, not to mention Tateyama, are looking at tickets back to the farm once Colby Lewis and Derek Holland return to the rotation and Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe return to the bullpen, which also seems likely to be where Neftali Feliz lands. Either Snyder or Martin stands to be optioned once the Rangers add a bat this month, with the other possibly joining him in Round Rock when Mitch Moreland returns sometime in August, though Martin in particular has a chance to change those plans.
They could all be back in September, when expanded rosters provide the opportunity to ease pitching and outfield workloads going into October.
The Rangers will keep playing after number 162 in Oakland on October 3rd. They won’t have to stay on their current 103-win pace.
The Angels went 17-9 in June. It was their best month since June 2010.
And Los Angeles lost ground to the Rangers.
Staring (as reader Ben Carter points out) at a schedule that, coming out of the All-Star Break, will include 20 of 23 against the Yankees, Tigers, Rays, Rangers, and White Sox.
The lead on the Angels is now 6.5 games. The lead on the Red Sox and Rays, who are chasing the Angels and Orioles for the two Wild Card spots, is 8.5 games.
The two-time AL pennant winners are going back to the tournament.
They’ll be healthier in the second half than they’ve been in a baseball-best first half, and they’ll be strengthened a month from now, possibly helped in that regard by the timeliness of the runs that Chad Bell and Hanser Alberto and Wilmer Font and Christian Villanueva and Luis Sardinas are on, and maybe even Fabio Castillo and Ryan Rodebaugh and Drew Robinson and Chris McGuiness and Carlos Pimentel and Kyle Hendricks and Jimmy Reyes and Kellin Deglan and Abel De Los Santos and Jose Monegro.
Promotions for Cody Buckel and Nick Tepesch have started with a little adversity but that won’t dissuade other teams, and don’t discount the flashes of big league readiness we’ve seen from Perez and Grimm and Scheppers and what that could mean.
Rest assured that the new positions that Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt are getting looks at are not showcase maneuvers. Rougned Odor (suddenly getting some work at shortstop) and Matt West are far from untouchable, but it just feels like, all things considered, they’re going nowhere right now. And the rules say that teams aren’t even allowed to ask about Joey Gallo (.346/.585/.962 through 41 plate appearances, more than half of which have resulted in extra-base hits  or walks ) for about 350 days, and it’s a pretty good bet they shouldn’t bother then, either.
Righthander C.J. Edwards is off-limits until mid-August, but that’s not going to matter, either. His stock is rising as quickly as it is for Chris Kemp, the former Rangers farmhand who was converted from Class A first baseman to area scout and whose C.V. now includes Edwards in last year’s 48th round.
Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) says Jon Daniels “isn’t messing around” and the Rangers are scouting both Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels, while Peter Gammons (MLB.com) quotes a club official to say Texas won’t be in on Greinke, should the Brewers elect to move him. Give some thought as to which report (if either) really moves the needle on what we know the Rangers have cooking.
What we do know is they have something cooking. They always do.
In the meantime, there’s tonight. We’re familiar with the Yu Darvish struggles, relatively speaking, when he sees a club for the second time (6.18 ERA, as opposed to 2.49 in first looks). Tonight we see who out-adjusts the other in Darvish’s first time to see an opponent a third time, as Texas attempts to sweep a series it’s already won, before getting Monday off – a day on which we could learn about a new crop of international free agents signed by the club – and then heading to Chicago for a chance to match a franchise-record eighth-straight series win.
Then Texas returns to Arlington for a three-game set with the Twins, starting with a Friday night game whose starter is, for the moment, unannounced.
Like Justin Grimm before him, Martin Perez has probably earned a second shot that night, and even though it might not go as well as things went last night, it might, simultaneously solidifying other clubs’ interest in the mercurial young lefthander and emboldening the Rangers’ resistance to the opportunity to trade him.
In what has already been another super-compelling season in Texas, in some ways more so than the last two at this point on the schedule, we enter what annually is perhaps the most fascinating month of the regular season. Chances are the Rangers won’t have another month with over twice as many wins as losses, but there’s also a real possibility that the club will get significantly stronger over the next 30 days, both on the health front and in the trade market, where the population of sellers is presently light but will soon proliferate with clubs that, regardless of system needs, are naturally going to put the Rangers on a short list of teams that can help them improve their own long-term outlooks, in exchange for making the best team in baseball even better, immediately.