No Dyson. No Bush. No Diekman. No Kela. No Scheppers. No idea what the bullpen will look like for the foreseeable future. (No, that's not a typo in the headline.)
The Rangers beat the Angels 8-3, and Jose Leclerc pitched 1⅔ innings of scoreless baseball to grab his first career save, and while this didn’t necessarily feel like the Rangers are out of the deep end of the pool, it was at least a good strong surge above the surface to get a couple of lungs full of air.
But you can’t save a lead that doesn’t exist, so before there was Leclerc, there was a strong outing by starter A.J. Griffin, and the rest of the boys in the road grays.
It started in the top of the first inning. Carlos Gomez, who swung and missed at an absurd nine pitches in Tuesday’s loss started the game by walking on four pitches. He didn’t score in the first inning, but after last night’s free-for-all, it was encouraging to see the leadoff hitter show some restraint. More on that later, but the scoring kicked off in the second inning: Mike Napoli led off with a home run to right-center field, and before you could even get the kids back to sleep after chanting NAP-O-LI in your living room, Elvis Andrus had done the same. It was two solo homers to none.
(Side note: Elvis needs his own chant. Someone get on this, and I don’t want the obvious “El-vis An-drus *clap, clap, clapclapclap*” either. That’s lazy and Elvis deserves better. Come up with something good and let’s make it stick.)
Anyway, the 2-run lead quickly dissipated: Griffin walked Andrelton Simmons, and Ben Revere doubled, then they scored on consecutive sacrifice flies. Then in the third, Mike Trout hit his 4,543,981st home run against the Rangers, if my estimation is correct. With the score 3-2, the surface of the pool seemed to be getting further away when Albert Pujols hit a ball that appeared headed for the seats. It did find the seats, just not the ones Pujols hoped for: it landed a few rows deep and about a foot foul. Pujols would ultimately fly out to the warning track in center field.
And then, just in time, it was the fifth inning and here was a boost from a rescue horse. Jonathan Lucroy walked, Andrus singled off the tip of second baseman Danny Espinosa’s glove, and Joey Gallo came to the plate. If you were writing the script, you’d make it go boom here, but real life opted for something more resembling a whooooOOOP!, as Gallo’s liner snuck inside the right field foul line and rolled all the way to the wall for a 2-run triple.
If we’re assigning sounds to hits, Jurickson Profar’s single was probably a CRIKE!; he smashed a ball that didn’t even have time to wave at first baseman C.J. Cron as it went past. Gallo scored, and it was 5-3. Texas added another in the 7th on–you were waiting for boom?–a Carlos Gomez home run! The patience paid off, and he got a pitch he could hit.
With the score 6-3, it was time to turn our attention to the harrowing task of getting the final nine outs.
First man up: Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress was Milwaukee’s closer last season before coming to the Rangers, but his ERA as of this morning was one of those bloated early-season double-digit numbers (10.13, to be precise). By the time he entered the game, it was already down to 6.75 (thanks to a scoring change changing a double to an error in the April 8th game).
Groundout, strikeout, groundout. 4.91
He would end the night at 4.50 after retiring Yunel Escobar to start the 8th inning. With the left-handed Kole Calhoun up next, Jeff Banister called on Alex Claudio, who had only allowed one hit thus far in the young season. Make it two: Calhoun doubled down the left-field line. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who had fueled the fire that melted the Rangers bullpen down just 24 hours before, were now up. Banister’s choices for right-handed relievers:
Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Sam Dyson Tanner Scheppers Tony Barnette, Nick Martinez, Mike Hauschild, and Jose Leclerc. Barnette is the de facto closer and had worked last night, Martinez is on emergency duty only, preparing to start on April 15th. Hauschild is the long man…
Time to see what the kid has.
Leclerc threw three pitches to Mike Trout. Trout swung and missed at all three of them.
Leclerc threw one pitch to Albert Pujols. Pujols hit a lazy fly ball to center field.
In the top of the ninth, the Rangers tacked on some insurance runs: Mazara beat the shift by avoiding it, and Napoli beat the shift by brute force. With two on, Rougned Odor added a two-run triple of his own to match Gallo’s. With the score 8-3, there was really no need to bring in Barnette, who might be needed tomorrow. Leclerc had earned the right to shut it down, and he did just that, working around a leadoff single by Simmons and retiring the side, finishing with a swinging strikeout of Danny Espinosa (the same Espinosa who had kick-started the 9th inning on Tuesday with a solo home run).
The Rangers play at 2:35 CST tomorrow (Today? Whatever. Thursday.) with a chance to take two of three from the first place Angels. Yu Darvish takes the mound, and he’ll face the 0-1 Ricky Nolasco.
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