Mike Minor’s 200th strikeout of the season for the MLB Texas Rangers came with some controversy Thursday.
With one out in the ninth inning and Minor a strikeout away from reaching the mark for the first time in his career, the left-hander got the MLB Boston Red Sox’s Chris Owings to pop up a 1-2 pitch into foul territory. Minor, catcher Jose Trevino and first baseman Ronald Guzman converged on the ball, but Guzman let it drop in front of him, allowing Owings’ at-bat to continue.
Minor struck him out on the next pitch for his ninth strikeout of the game and 200th of his season.
“We were yelling, telling [Guzman] to drop it because there’s going to be two strikes,” Minor said. “He dropped it, and then he looked at me like, ‘What? Why?’ And then everybody started booing or whatever. I had to thank him for that, because [the fans] didn’t understand.”
“Everybody was yelling. … I heard a lot of ‘Drop it!’ So I had to drop it,” Guzman said.
It was Minor’s 126th pitch of the afternoon, and Rangers manager Chris Woodward then took him out for Jose Leclerc, who got the final out of a 7-5 Rangers home victory.
“I didn’t love the idea that we dropped the popup at the end,” Woodward said. “But on the other side of that, they swung at three pitches in a row in the eighth inning down by two. If they have any beef with that, obviously I’m pretty sure [Red Sox manager Alex] Cora did, they chose to not try and win the game as well. They were trying to keep him from striking a guy out.”
Asked what he was thinking when Guzman let the popup drop in, Woodward said: “He better strike [Owings] out.”
“I would have taken him out [if he didn't],” Woodward said. “It was borderline crossing the line.”
Asked about the play, Cora — who remained in the Boston dugout for several minutes after the game, staring out toward the field — didn’t comment on it specifically, only saying: “I’m just happy our guys are playing the right way.”
The 126 pitches are the most Minor has thrown in a single game in his career and are tied for third-most in a game this season in the majors.
Minor (14-10) struck out six of his first 11 batters. He got another in the fifth but didn’t get his eighth until Sam Travis ended the seventh on Minor’s 117th pitch, which matched his career high.
When Minor walked the batter before Travis, Woodward took a step out of the dugout toward the mound before getting waved back by the 31-year-old.
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa will sit out the final four games of the regular season to rest his ailing back, but the team is hopeful he will be ready for Game 1 of the American League Division Series next week.
Correa saw a doctor in Los Angeles on Thursday and nothing serious was found with his back, manager AJ Hinch said before Thursday night’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
Correa was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game in Seattle after a long flight from Houston. He was expected to be ready for Wednesday but was unable to play.
The Astros already had said MLB Correa wouldn’t play in Thursday’s series opener because of a late arrival to Los Angeles.
Correa has battled injuries all season, missing two months after a rib was fractured during a massage and then about a month with back discomfort. With the latter, he returned from the 10-day injured list Sept. 17.
He is hitting .279 with 21 home runs for the AL West champs. Houston entered Thursday 2½ games ahead of the New York Yankees for the best record in the AL.
“I told him that I couldn’t give him too many pitches,” Woodward said. “From a number standpoint, I know it’s just a number [200 strikeouts], but it’s a big deal. This guy has been our best pitcher all year. … All year he’s just been unbelievable. I felt I owed it to him.”
Boston went 1-2-3 in the eighth on three pitches, two groundouts and a popout. So Minor came back out for the ninth. Sandy Leon flied out before the Owings at-bat.
“It’s just an accomplishment that I was looking at this past offseason of wanting to improve on this year,” Minor said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.