3 takeaways from Rangers series win against Oakland

Apr 7, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara (30) is greeted by second baseman Rougned Odor (12) after his grand slam home run in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara (30) is greeted by second baseman Rougned Odor (12) after his grand slam home run in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Rangers win their first series of the season thanks in large part to the offense. With the bats in mid-season form and the pitching settling down, the Rangers are ready for their first road trip.

Texas Rangers fans can finally rejoice. After starting 0-3 for the first time since 2007, the Rangers won their first two games of the season, taking two of three against the Oakland Athletics.

With the opening series sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the review mirror, the Rangers can officially begin their campaign for a third consecutive American League West title.

While the Athletics may not be the toughest of opponents, they have been a thorn to the Rangers’ side over the past couple of seasons.

The Rangers went 47-29 against AL-West opponents last season, the second best record against division opponents in the American League. Despite the Rangers success, they only went 10-9 against the Athletics, their worst record against an AL-West team.

With their first win of the season and their first series win, let’s look at what went right this past weekend for the Rangers.

Three Takeaways

1. For Nomar Mazara, the future may be now

Nomar Mazara was one of the Rangers most highly touted prospects in years heading into the 2016 season. An approach at the plate that looks like a seasoned veterans and one of the smoothest left handed swings in baseball, Mazara is a future All-Star.

Perhaps, the future is now for Mazara. He’s off to a scorching hot start in 2017 which continued against Oakland. Mazara went 3-for-5 on Friday night with six RBI, two runs scored, including a grand slam.

When he failed to get a hit in the final two games of the series, he had quality at bats and made good solid contact. Both of his batted ball outs yesterday were hard hit, a line out to center field and a hard ground out to second base which required a diving effort by Jed Lowrie to stop.

Mazara’s hot start has him in the top-ten in almost every offensive category. He leads the league with nine RBI, his two home runs are tied for third, his .417 batting average is ninth best, and his .5 WAR is tied for second.

Of course, Mazara won’t keep up this pace for the remainder of the season. With an approach like his however, it’s not unrealistic to think Mazara may be one of the games best hitters this season.

2. Jose Leclerc is more than ready for the MLB

Jose Leclerc making the opening day roster was a surprise to most, even Leclerc. With Keone Kela starting the season at Triple-A Round Rock due to disciplinary reasons, Leclerc has an early opportunity to cement himself in the bullpen. And he’s off to a great start.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Leclerc has pitched 3.2 scoreless innings so far, only allowing one base-runner in the process. He dazzled in the spring, striking out 13 in 11.1 innings. Plus, he features a fastball that consistently reaches the upper 90’s.

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Leclerc pitched 1.2 innings against Oakland only allowing one hit and striking out two of the seven batters he faced. While his electric fastball is his attention getter, his devastating change-up is his out pitch.

So far this season Leclerc has thrown his changeup 37.9 percent of the time, sixth highest among relievers. His change-up has a 1.8 value, making it the second best change-up out of the bullpen in baseball, fifth including starters.

Leclerc is missing bats at a high rate so far. His 20.7 swinging strike percentage is eleventh best in baseball and best among Texas relievers. Most of his swings and misses comes from his chang-eup, which has only resulted in a 46.2 contact rate.

3. It’s going to be hard to send Joey Gallo down

Joey Gallo was not supposed to be on the opening day roster. However, an injured Adrian Beltre opened up third base for Gallo to take over until Beltre was healthy. Beltre should be back within the week and Joey Gallo has made a strong case to stay on the roster.

While his .200 average could use improvement, Gallo has showcased his power and patience in his  20 at-bats so far.

His 39.1 strikeout percentage is high by league standards, though he’s been a massive improvement compared to his two previous Major League stints. Gallo struck out 46.3 percent of the time in 2015 and 63.3 percent of the time in 2016.

Perhaps Gallo’s most impressive at-bat of the series was his two RBI single yesterday. With the bases loaded and one out, Gallo pulled an 0-2 fastball into right field driving in his fourth and fifth run of the day.

It’s important that Gallo gets consistent playing time, which is why he’ll more than likely be headed to Triple-A Round Rock when Beltre is healthy. However, there is options for Gallo if the Rangers want him to play everyday.

With Mike Napoli struggling mightily to start the season, Gallo could start at first base. Napoli would platoon with Shin-Soo Choo as the designated hitter.

Looking forward

The Rangers begin their first road trip on Tuesday night as they face off against the first place Angels. At 5-2 the Angels are currently one game up on the second place Houston Astros and 2.5 games up on the fourth place Texas Rangers.

The Angels hope to build on the momentum of an incredible seven run comeback in yesterday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers will hope to build on their first series win of the season.

Game One – Cole Hamels (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Tyler Skaggs (0-1, 8.44 ERA)

Game Two – A.J. Griffin (0-0, 10.80 ERA) vs. Jesse Chavez (1-0, 1.59 ERA)

Game Three – Yu Darvish (0-1, 3.65 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.86 ERA)