The Texas Rangers kicked off a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics by the bay with a 4-0 win. The story was not the offense, or the lack of a crowd. The story was all about Nathan Eovaldi. He was the last starting pitcher the Rangers added in the offseason, but he has been the best signing from a busy offseason.
Eovaldi is the unquestioned leader of this starting rotation. He spent spring training gathering up the pitchers as a group to watch bullpens. He is there to answer questions from young pitchers and veterans alike. After Jon Gray's last start he mentioned talking to Eovaldi about his mechanics and getting some tips that helped him out. He said this after his last start, via the Dallas News.
"I've never been good with that stuff. I can be all over the place on what I'm trying to do. But he's (Eovaldi) on top of it. It's so nice to be able to lean on guys. It's a huge help."- Jon Gray
Gray is not the only one with a story like that. He has been a leader for this staff both off the field and lately with his performances on the field. That continued against the A's. It would have been easy for Texas to sleepwalk through this game, and the announced attendance last night was 2,949. It was a cavernous stadium that had little to no energy from the fans in the stands. I am not blaming the A's fans for the attendance issues. John Fisher, the A's owner, has abandoned Oakland and fled for Las Vegas in search of the riches of sin city.
Eovaldi made sure to supply the energy for the Rangers. He sliced and diced through the A's lineup. He kept the game scoreless through the fourth and had five strikeouts and had only given up two hits at that point. The Rangers then scored a run in the fifth off a Leody Taveras RBI single. They added two runs in the sixth. The first run came off a Marcus Semien home run and the second run came on a wild pitch that scored Robbie Grossman from third. The Rangers led 3-0 after six and Eovaldi took over from there.
Eovaldi had five strikeouts after four. In the last 4-2/3 innings pitched, he struck out seven more batters. He had everything working last night. Eovaldi came within one out of his second shuout in his last three starts. He gave up a double to Esteury Ruiz and then walked Ryan Noda. Bochy at that point removed him from the game with 113 pitches. His final line was 8 2/3 innings, a career-high 12 strikeouts, and only walked one batter. He lowered his ERA under 3 to 2.70.
It was Eovaldi's third straight start to pick up a win. It was his third straight eight-plus inning scoreless start, and it pushed his scoreless inning streak now to 28 2/3 innings. I think Jared Sandler summed up his statistical run the best last night when he pointed out this mark that Eovaldi has reached in his last three starts.
I join many other Rangers' fans when I say that I did not fully appreciate how good this signing actually was. When deGrom signed I was hyped all that night and into the weekend. When Eovaldi signed I was at Disney World and I looked at it and was happy, but I moved on with my day. I think the Rangers may have one of the best number two pitchers in the league. He has stepped up in deGrom's absence and become the alpha dog of this rotation over the last three weeks.
In 2010 Cliff Lee was the Rangers best pitcher, but the most iconic performance in that run came from Colby Lewis in game six of the American League Championship series against the Yankees. Lewis was never the ace, but he came through every time the Rangers needed a victory in that 2010-2011 stretch. Eovaldi is not the ace of the staff, but I trust that he will give it everything he has when he is on the mound and be able to pitch deep into a game to get a win.
Eovaldi picked up his fifth win of the season and Will Smith got the final out for his seventh save of the season. The Rangers improved to 23-14. They still have three more games in this series. Tonight is the last night game, the last late-night start Rangers fans on this trip.
Friday's Rangers game
The pitching matchup will be Martin Perez against Ken Waldichuk on Friday night. Perez will be looking to have more success than the did last week against the Angels. The start against the Angels ended a 36-start stretch of pitching five innings or more. That streak goes back to early April 2022. He pitched four innings against the Angels and then started the streak with his next start. The streak was bookended by starts against Los Angeles. He is looking to start a new streak tonight much like he did in April 2022 with a start in Oakland. Funny how history works out.
Game time is once again tonight at 8:40 p.m. and it will be broadcast locally by Bally Sports Southwest.