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Rangers hope to have stabilized following series victory over Oakland

The Texas Rangers needed to make use of the series against the Oakland Athletics to get back in the playoff hunt and came away with a series victory.
Credit: AP
Marcus Semien runs the bases against the Twins during the 1st inning of a game on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Although the Texas Rangers lost the opener against the Oakland Athletics this weekend, and made the second game very close, a team searching for answers perhaps found a few as they won their second series in two weeks.

Even though it was against last place Oakland, which serves to not really relay much intel on where Texas is at competitively, this series was pivotal, if anything, just to remind the team of what it was like to win two important games in a row and to claim a series while they weren’t in first place.

The remaining 20 games in the season are going to test whether they still have what it takes to fully rebound and reclaim a playoff spot, or if they’ve just run out of steam. A series win against Oakland, with an exclamation point in the finale, could prove to be the stepping stone.

  • Game 140: Oakland 6, Texas 3 (W: Sweet, 1-0, L: Montgomery, 8-11, Sv: May, 19)
  • Game 141: Oakland 2, Texas 3 (W: Smith, 2-5, L: Erceg, 3-4, Sv: Chapman, 5)
  • Game 142: Oakland 4, Texas 9 (W: Heaney, 10-6, L: Medina, 3-9)

Three Up

Carter Arrives – A big league debut is usually a big deal. When it’s for a team fighting for their playoff lives in September and you’re immediately inserted into the lineup, it’s a huge deal. When you’re the No. 1 prospect in the organization, it’s an “all eyes on you” moment.

For Evan Carter, all rang true and the rookie handled it in style on Friday night. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 2nd inning, Carter led off the inning by swatting a fastball in on the hands into right field for his first Major League hit. Two batters later, he swiped his first Major League bag on a 3-2 strikeout of Corey Seager.

Despite striking out looking (on two close pitches) in his next two at-bats, Carter drew a walk in his final at-bat as he saw a total of 24 pitches on the night. Defensively, Carter handled every chance hit his way.

In the finale, Carter drove in his first Major League run on a sacrifice fly in a pivotal 6th inning for the Rangers. The No. 8 overall prospect in baseball looked like he belonged.

Semien sets a record – With an ambush on a first pitch sinking fastball in the finale, Marcus Semien sailed into the Rangers record books. Semien swatted his eighth game-starting leadoff home run of the season. The previous franchise record was seven, which was most recently attained by Shin-Soo Choo in 2017.

On the season, the Rangers’ second baseman, who received a Silver Slugger award as the Blue Jays’ second baseman in 2021, has 23 homers. His previous high was in 2021, as he hit 45 homers in that year. Semien won’t hit that mark this year, but he is well on his way to posting a career high in on-base percentage and could very likely set a full-season career low in strikeouts.

Relief from the starters turned relievers – After being designated as starters for the whole year, and, in fact, for most of their careers, changing track and becoming a relief pitcher can be tough. It’s potentially even tougher when the writing has been on the wall for a bit, as was the case with Martin Perez and now Andrew Heaney.

Texas has set its rotation for the rest of the year, with Nathan Eovaldi returning from the injured list and opting to go with Dane Dunning in the starter’s role.

Heaney made his first relief appearance of the year in the finale against Oakland and provided everything a good long relief pitcher should. Coming on for starter Jon Gray in the third inning, after Gray coughed up an early 3-0 lead, Heaney tossed 63 pitches, totaling 3 ⅔ innings of relief, allowing just four hits and one walk while adding to his team-lead in strikeouts with another six, giving him 141 on the year.

Perez, meanwhile, pitched in relief of Eovaldi in the middle game, throwing 46 pitches over 2 ⅔ innings of relief work, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out three and allowing nobody to cross the plate. With the bullpen an obvious weakness, getting meaningful and successful innings from Heaney and Perez could be critical down the stretch.

Three Down

Montgomery struggles again – While the bullpen didn’t give up more than one run in Jordan Montgomery’s start, the lefty didn’t do himself any favors. For the second start in a row, Montgomery allowed five or more runs – he surrendered six in his Sept. 2 start against the Twins – while cutting his outing short of six innings. The 30-year old twice could not hold leads that the offense handed him and recorded his 11th loss of the year. Overall in his start on Friday, the trade deadline acquisition allowed eight hits, two homers and a walk, and earned the loss despite striking out six.

Gray days – Entering the top of the 3rd with a 3-0 lead on Sunday, Jon Gray gave up a solo home run to Tyler Soderstrom to lead off the inning. That can be forgiven. The two walks that followed after two outs were recorded can hardly be excused, especially as they eventually tied the game and contributed to a blown lead.

A run-scoring double scored one of those runs and a single scored the other. Gray had given up the lead before being replaced by new reliever Heaney, one out away from finishing three innings. Ultimately Gray only threw 60 pitches and continued the club record for games without a starting pitcher win at 22.

Capitalizing on competition – The series very well could have – and arguably should have – been a sweep for the Rangers to gain an additional game on the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, each now ahead of them in the division.

On Friday night, both the Astros and Mariners lost, but Texas left a lot of runs on the table in the 6-3 loss. Oakland’s starting pitcher Paul Blackburn lasted just three innings and threw 90 pitches over that time frame. Texas, who loaded the bases three times in the first four innings, only registered two runs in those opening frames – and those came on a two-run homer by Corey Seager.

The Rangers could use another few weeks of the lightning that they exhibited in the 9-4 series finale win as they travel North of the Border for a four-game set against Toronto with Texas a half game out of a playoff spot and the Blue Jays ahead of them in the standings.

Do you think the Rangers have recovered in time to cling to their playoff hopes? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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