OAKLAND -- Rangers starter Mike Minor is having an excellent season, but it would have been much better if not for the Athletics.
The A's knocked Minor around for the second straight start and third time this season, scoring six runs off him in five innings on their way to an 8-0 victory on Friday night at the Coliseum. The Rangers have now lost six straight, their second-longest losing streak of the season.
“I couldn’t throw the ball where I wanted to,” Minor said. “I don’t know what the stats are, but when you can’t throw the ball where you want to or throw an offspeed pitch for strikes, it makes it pretty tough.”
Minor is 0-3 with a 9.56 ERA in three starts against the Athletics, his most losses against any team this season. He allowed four runs in six innings on April 22 in Oakland, and seven runs in five innings last Saturday in Arlington.
“You look at the games that he’s pitched, and we’re really the only team that has beaten him up a little bit the last two times out,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “He bullies you inside. He’s got a great changeup and a breaking ball that he can throw in any count. His numbers are very indicative of the way he’s pitched, and he pitches in [a] tough ballpark for pitchers. We’ve been fortunate enough to score some runs off him the last couple of times out.”
Minor was frustrated after the last start because he thought the A's were hitting some decent pitches. He said afterward that he needed to switch some things up for this latest start -- it didn’t seem to help.
“I tried to,” Minor said. “But I couldn’t throw a changeup, which is my best pitch, for a strike when I wanted to. My slider and curveball weren’t really there. I threw a lot of fastballs and missed a couple of times, and they hit it. Just got to make some adjustments and be better.”
Minor allowed six hits, two home runs, walked four and struck out three. He is now at 199 2/3 innings with one start to go. That means reaching his avowed goal of 200 should be achieved next Thursday against the Red Sox.
Reaching 200 strikeouts will be a bit trickier. Minor has 191 on the season. He has struck out nine or more in five of 31 starts, including a season high of 13 against the Mariners on April 27. Minor will also be aiming for a career-high 14th win in that final start against Boston.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Minor possibly could be fatigued coming down to the end of the season. Though he said that could help Minor next season as he continues to build up the necessary durability for starting. Minor missed all of 2015-16 because of shoulder surgery and was used as a reliever in '17 before the Rangers turned him back into a starter.
“This will help him for next year, getting through these starts, understanding how to pitch to quality teams when he is a little fatigued,” Woodward said. “I think it’s important, some of the stamina things he is going through. Guys need to build physical and mental stamina to get through these tough times. He’s got one more start, hopefully he can navigate through that.”
Minor threw 157 innings last year. The Rangers used him carefully after the three-year layoff from starting and let him loose this season. Minor said he feels fine physically at this point of the season.
“Just kind of searching lately with the mechanical stuff,” Minor said. “I think about last year and where I was at compared to this year, and I’ve already surpassed that. So I put my foot in the right direction and hopefully next year is a little longer season.”
The Rangers did nothing offensively on Friday night. Athletics starter Mike Fiers dominated the Rangers with eight scoreless innings to keep his team two games ahead of the Indians and the Rays for the first American League Wild Card spot. He allowed two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five.
Fiers also faced the minimum of 24 batters in his outing. Shin-Soo Choo led off the first with a single, but Elvis Andrus followed that by grounding into a double play. Delino DeShields had a one-out single in the third, but was picked off by Fiers. This performance came after Fiers left last Saturday’s start against the Rangers with nerve irritation in his right arm. He faced just eight hitters before departing.