Make it ten in a row for Texas. Despite some noisy naysayers coming mostly from further down I-45, the Rangers were able to handle one of the better teams in the American League at their park on Friday night to keep their winning ways rolling.
After starting the season 13-20 and looking up at all but one team in the American League, the Rangers have rattled off ten straight victories for just the fourth time in team history. The turnaround has elevated Texas to a record of 23-20 and back in contention.
The assertion before this series against Detroit was the Rangers were supposed to beat the likes of San Diego, Oakland, and Philadelphia as a way to downplay the accomplishment but no team in baseball has won ten straight this season other than Texas presently. You play who they tell you to.
Tonight, those they told the Rangers to take on an above .500 Detroit Tigers team at Comerica Field where Detroit was 11-8 this season before tonight's contest. Nick Martinez (1-2) took the mound for Texas, a member of the pitching rotation ERA leaders of baseball.
Martinez is technically the No. 7 starter for Texas but he's shown how valuable depth for a rotation can be as the Rangers have lost Cole Hamels to injure and await the debut of Tyson Ross. Tonight, Martinez tossed five innings and allowed just one unearned run as he lowered his ERA on the year to 4.33.
Giving up just four hits and a walk over his five innings of work allowed Martinez to pick up his first win of the season as he's now given up three or fewer runs in four of his six starts.
Martinez was supported with early runs as Texas scored twice in the third inning and added another run in the fourth. With a few runs as cushion, Martinez was able to strike out four Tigers and win his 15th big league game.
Texas scored five total runs. They got on the board first in the third on a bases loaded walk drawn by Elvis Andrus and a run-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of Jonathan Lucroy. The Rangers had loaded the bases with just one out thanks to a single, walk, HBP sequence. That Texas was able to plate a couple of runs without the benefit of a hit is another hallmark of the current winning streak.
An inning later, Mike Napoli hit a solo home run to lead off the top of the fourth. The blast of Napoli's bat was his ninth of the year as the Party At Napoli's continues to rev up. Notably, the home run for Napoli came off lefty Daniel Norris (2-3). It was just the second home run Napoli has hit against a left-hander this season.
Up 3-0, the Rangers got a little sloppy with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Justin Upton doubled after Martinez got the first two outs. Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Elvis Andrus made an error on a force attempt at second base. The error loaded the bases and Andrew Romine hit a sharp single to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to plate Upton.
Martinez and the Rangers were able to wiggle out of the inning without further damage as Jose Iglesias grouned out to Ryan Rua at first base.
Joey Gallo decided that he didn't want to see the winning streak slip away, however, as he teed off on Norris for a two-run bomb to the top of the right field seats near the concourse. Gallo's 13th home run came in the top of the sixth with Rougned Odor on base which put Texas up 5-1.
The home run had to be especially gratifying for Gallo as he came into tonight's contest just 4-for-28 (.143) during the current winning streak. Gallo's blast was smacked at 115 MPH off the bat and measured at 439 feet from home plate.
According to MLB, Gallo's home run the hardest-hit in their Statcast era by a left-handed batter against a left-handed hitter.
The Tigers scored a run in the bottom of the sixth on a sac fly off reliever Tony Barnette to make it 5-2 but he was able to strike out Romine and Iglesias to minimize the damage. Keone Kela followed with two scoreless innings of relief as he struck out four Tigers hitters.
In the ninth, Matt Bush found himself in rare trouble as the Tigers rallied with two outs to score a run on an infield single/throwing error by Elvis Andrus. With two on and two out and up 5-3, Bush was able to get Alex Avila swinging for the final out and his fifth save of the season.
With the loss, the Tigers are now 20-20 on the year and trail the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central by one and a half games. The Rangers are 23-20 and trail the Houston Astros in the American League West by seven games.
The Rangers and Tigers will square off again on Saturday night with RHP Justin Verlander set to face A.J. Griffin. Griffin will look to improve to 5-0 on the young season for Texas. First pitch from Comerica Field is scheduled for 6:15 pm CT.
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