ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Mike Minor finally got the 200th strikeout he wanted so badly, on a borderline pitch right after the Texas Rangers purposely let a foul pop drop in the ninth inning.
"It's just an accomplishment that I was looking at this past offseason of wanting to improve on this year," Minor said after the Rangers beat the Boston Red Sox 7-5 on Thursday to avoid a three-game sweep.
Minor (14-10) entered needing nine strikeouts to reach the season milestone and got off to a fast start by striking out six of the first 11 batters. He fanned another in the fifth but didn't get his eighth until Sam Travis ending the seventh on his 117th pitch, which matched Minor's career high.
The 31-year-old lefty had a 1-2-3 eighth with the Red Sox swinging at his only three pitches of the inning for outs, so he came back in the ninth and lobbed a knuckleball for a ball before Sandy León flied out. Chris Owings, who had tied the game at 5-all with a homer in the seventh, then popped up a 1-1 pitch. First baseman Ronald Guzmán was coming in to make the catch when he started to hear Minor.
"Everybody was yelling. ... I heard a lot of 'drop it!' So I had to drop it," Guzmán said.
"I didn't love the idea that we dropped a popup at the end, but on the other side of that, they swung at three pitches in a row in the eighth inning down by two," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said.
Woodward's next thought was that Minor better strike out Owings. And Minor got the milestone K on the next pitch when umpire C.B. Bucknor called strike three on a pitch that appeared to be up and maybe out of the zone.
"It was borderline, but I liked it," said Minor, who finished with 126 pitches to get to a career-high 208 1/3 innings.
Owings left the clubhouse without talking to the media, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora wouldn't directly address the dropped foul pop that extended Owings' at-bat.
"I'm just happy our guys are playing the game the right way," Cora said.
"If they have any beef with that ... they chose to not try to win the game as well," Woodward said. "They were trying to keep him from striking a guy out."
Willie Calhoun led off the Rangers seventh with his 21st homer to break a 5-5 tie, and Rougned Odor added his 29th homer later in the inning. Danny Santana's grand slam in the fifth had put Texas up 5-3.
When Minor walked the batter before Travis in the seventh, on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-90s and feeling hotter than that, Woodward took a step toward the mound. Minor waved him back to the dugout.
"I felt I owed it to him," Woodward said.
Minor, the seventh overall pick by Atlanta in the 2009 amateur draft, was a first-time All-Star this season, and was the Rangers opening day starter in only his second season back in a rotation since missing all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons because of surgery for a torn labrum in his shoulder. He was a full-time reliever with Kansas City in 2017 before turning down a $10 million player option with the Royals and signing a $28 million, three-year deal with Texas.
After the Rangers were cautious with him most of last season, with 22 of his starts coming on extended rest, Minor made 32 starts this year. He already had a career-high for innings before Thursday, with 200 strikeouts in reach.
"Last year there were some restrictions," Minor said. "This year Woody let me go. Hopefully it's a building block for next year going into the new stadium and have a better team on the field and see if we can get to the playoffs."
200-200 TIMES 2
Minor and RHP Lance Lynn because the only the second duo in Rangers history to both have 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in the same season. The last was Nolan Ryan and Bobby Witt in 1990. Lynn (201 innings, 236 strikeouts) is scheduled to start the season finale Sunday.
Boston finished 46-35 on the road but is just 37-41 at Fenway Park. ... Jackie Bradley Jr. also hit a solo homer for the Red Sox in the seventh. ... Elvis Andrus, already the Rangers career leader in stolen bases, got his 300th.
Red Sox: LF Andrew Benintendi fouled a pitch off his right calf in the fourth and was replaced by a pinch hitter the following inning. ... RF Mookie Betts missed his second game in a row since coming out of Tuesday's series opener after he jammed his left toe against the wall while playing defense. Cora said the 2018 AL MVP will play at home this weekend. ... LHP David Price had a cyst removed from his left wrist. Cora said everything went fine and that Price should be ready for a normal spring training.
Red Sox: LHP James Paxton (15-6) pitches for the Boston to open a season-ending three-game series at Fenway Park against Baltimore.
Rangers: The AL East champion New York Yankees are in town Friday night for the opener of a three-game series that is the last for Texas before the team moves across the street into a new stadium next season.