ARLINGTON, Texas — Despite the overall rousing success to the start of the season for the Texas Rangers, there have still been several instances of frustrating games and series that offered plenty of could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve moments.
This weekend, however, the Rangers did what they must do against a last place team – sweep them convincingly – to take another step in the right direction as the surprising American League West leaders.
Texas enjoyed a total team effort, but with the bats leading the way, it was very much a “signature” 2023 Texas Rangers series. Ultimately, the thrashing of the Colorado Rockies offered great insight into how seriously this Rangers team should be taken, especially since the trio of blowout wins happened without the top of the rotation present.
- Game 44: Colorado 2, Texas 7 (W: Perez, 5-1, L: Kauffmann, 0-1)
- Game 45: Colorado 5, Texas 11 (W: Gray, 4-1, L: Freeland, 4-5)
- Game 46: Colorado 3, Texas 13 (W: Heaney, 3-3, L: Seabold, 1-1)
Into and out of trouble
In back-to-back games this weekend, the Rangers’ starting pitchers wiggled their way out of early game-defining situations. On Saturday, Jon Gray found himself in an early hole in the first inning. After the first two hitters reached, former NL MVP Kris Bryant drew a walk to load the bases. Facing a bags packed, no out situation, Gray needed to buckle down.
Over the next twelve pitches, Gray retired the next three Rockies in order without allowing a run. Texas would go on to score four runs in the bottom of the 1st and then four more in the 2nd.
While Gray ended up going only five innings, he was able to leave with a 9-1 lead, holding Colorado to just one run on five hits while striking out six and walking two. The Rangers would go on to win the game thanks in no small part to Gray’s tested mettle.
The next afternoon, it was Andrew Heaney’s turn at this impromptu game of bases loaded, nobody out “Horse.” For the lefty Heaney, his turn came in the second inning when a bang-bang bunt single followed two baserunners. Heaney was able to record a strikeout and then induced a 1-2-3 double play to finish out the inning unscathed.
A half inning later, Texas led 5-0 on their way to the sweeping victory with Heaney picking up his third win of the season and lowering his ERA to 4.13 after tossing six innings and allowing just one unearned run.
Bullpen adventure, continued
No, the bullpen didn’t give up any leads, but one name in particular has been raising alarms for Bruce Bochy and the Rangers. Jonathan Hernandez, who finished April with a 3.00 ERA, has had a very rough May. Over eight appearances, Hernandez has only pitched 5 ⅔ innings and allowed nine runs in that time.
On Saturday, in an incredibly low-pressure situation, with Texas up 11-1, Hernandez came in to pitch the 8th. He was unable to make it out of the inning before John King had to come in and clean up his mess but not before the Rockies had scored three runs.
Nevertheless, as we’ve learned this season so far, when the offense does what it has been doing, this bullpen spiral doesn’t look quite as bad. What leading the league in runs scored does is allow wiggle room to try to let the bullpen work out its struggles.
An offense, by any other name, is just as powerful
Jared Sandler radio announcer would say it best when asking how many different ways can we describe what the Rangers offense has been doing on a daily basis. Indeed, the lineup continues to be impenetrable, from top to bottom.
On both Friday and Saturday, nearly every single player in the lineup either had a hit or contributed in a positive manner to the Texas victories. The two hitless players over those two days were the catchers – Jonah Heim on Friday and Sandy Leon on Saturday. Even then, Leon won the award for grittiest at-bats, seeing a total of 30 pitches over his 0-for-4 evening, averaging 7.5 pitches per at-bat.
Corey Seager, whose absence didn’t cause a black hole in the offense, and whose return is adding an additional level of terror for the rest of the league, has gone 7-for-16 since rejoining the lineup. The All-Star shortstop has driven in runs in every game he’s been in, and in the Colorado series, Seager drove in seven runs, falling a triple short of the cycle on Saturday before homering and driving in three on Sunday.
Ezequiel Duran, who earned his way into an everyday spot in the lineup during Seager’s rehab, cranked a massive home run on Saturday. On the season, Duran’s batting average (.308) is second on the team and he leads the Rangers with a .874 OPS.
MLB’s RBI leader Adolis Garcia, by launching another opposite field, two-run homer on Saturday is now on pace for 52 home runs and 177 runs batted in on the season. Leody Taveras, meanwhile, who hits near the bottom of the lineup every day is slashing .368/.431/.474 in May to solidify his spot as the team’s everyday centerfielder.
It’s all just in service of describing an offense which leads the majors in double-digit run games, five or more run innings, and runs scored at 297. The rebuilt pitching staff appeared to be the strength of the team on paper – and it has performed well – but it has been the offense that has taken the team to another level, and it shows no signs of slowing down after out-scoring Colorado 31-10 over the weekend.
Do you think the Rangers will be able to continue their pace as baseball’s most prolific offense? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.