On September 7, 2011, the Diamondbacks (behind Joe Saunders) beat the Rockies (behind Kevin Millwood), 5-3, with Rockies manager Jim Tracy, 14 games out and floundering, giving rookie Jordan Pacheco a second straight start at third base, at floundering veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff’s expense. The 30-year-old was hitting .227/.273/.337, and was three weeks away from what was looking like the end of a respectable six-year big league career.
That same September 7, 2011 night, Robbie Ross Jr. — who five weeks earlier was a Myrtle Beach Pelican, nearing the completion of his third pro season after being drafted out of a Kentucky high school — took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Frisco’s Texas League playoff game against San Antonio, striking out a career-best 12. He finished with one hit allowed over six frames.
It was the 71st minor league appearance for Ross. With the exception of one game (Myrtle Beach’s opener that season), every single one of Ross’s games pitched in his three pro seasons was a start.
That September 7, 2011 playoff gem was also Ross’s final minor league appearance.
And his final pro start, until two weeks ago.
In that last minor league start, Ross faced fellow 2008 Rangers draftee Joe Wieland, who had been traded to San Diego for Mike Adams.
In his last big league start, last night, Ross faced 2007 Rangers draftee Blake Beavan, who had been traded to Seattle for Cliff Lee.
And Ross, scattering five hits, walking nobody, and inducing 16 groundouts (most by an AL starter this year), led Texas and its slowly recovering rotation to its third shutout in five games.
And a league-leading four for the season (two Darvish starts, one Martin Perez start, Ross’s last night). In the last 100 years, only five teams have fired more shutouts in their first 14 games. None since 1990, the year between Ross’s birth and Perez’s birth.
It was one of the best wins of the young Rangers season, a 5-0 blanking in which Kouzmanoff (who seems like the quintessential Oakland A’s reclamation trophy) (then again, he’s already had a swim through Oakland) homered and doubled twice, driving in three, Prince Fielder destroyed a Beavan fastball for his first home run as a Ranger, and Kyle Seager failed to get five hits (or even one).
(Also, as Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Gil LeBreton correctly notes, Robinson Chirinos has now caught 25 consecutive scoreless innings.)
Texas has five wins at home. Last night’s was the first that wasn’t by a one-run margin.
Rangers Senior Special Assistant Don Welke, who played a large role in the drafting of Ross in 2008, likes to say that the lefthander has a “bigtime ticker.”
He may be laying permanent claim to a bigtime role.
While Kouzmanoff, out of the big leagues since 2011, may be laying claim himself to an important role on a contending team, as a suitable bat to give Adrian Beltre’s legs an occasional rest and to give the club a late-inning weapon on other nights.
Until Beltre returns, Kouzmanoff will have plenty of chances to contribute — in the middle third of a struggling lineup — while Ross will face the White Sox Sunday before getting the ball again a week from Friday in Seattle, when Beltre is eligible to return to the lineup. The Stars and Mavericks will be playing playoff games at that point. The Rangers will be getting healthier, we hope, not only with Beltre and Matt Harrison rejoining the club but also with Fielder’s bat turning back into Fielder’s bat.
The Rangers’ last 10 games:
L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W.