April upstarts Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks split a two-game series
Texas and Arizona entered a two-game series this week as two surprise April contenders. Texas is leading the AL West and the Diamondbacks are just behind the Dodgers in the race for NL West. It was an early test for these new contenders and both teams came out of the series with a win under very different circumstances.
The Rangers in game one worked counts, had timely hits, and were able to beat Zac Gallen. Gallen previously had been unscored upon in the month of April. Game two of the series included way too many walks, hard hits from the Diamondbacks lineup, and another bullpen implosion late. Both teams now leave this series with a win and a loss and go forward with things to improve upon. Lets recap how the Rangers won game one and what caused them to lose game two.
Game 1: Texas Wins 6-4
In neither of these games did the Rangers get good performances from their starters. On Tuesday night it was Jon Gray who started off the game by giving up four runs through the first three innings. He recovered from there though and pitched a scoreless fourth and fifth innings. He gave the offense room to try and make a comeback down 4-1.
Comeback they did. It was led by Ezequiel Duran, who was the star of the night. It started with a Duran single in the fifth that eventually led to RBI singles from Marcus Semien and Travis Jankowski to cut the deficit to 4-3. Then in the 6th Duran hit a two-run home run to deep left-center field to give the Rangers the lead 5-4. Duran finished the night 3-4, with two RBI's, and two runs scored. He finished the game with his batting average up to .328.
The bullpen had some stressful moments in trying to lock down this game. Will Smith shut the door with 1-1/3 innings of scoreless baseball. The Rangers won 6-4 and Smith picked up his fourth save of the season. Bochy announced that going forward Smith will get the majority of the save opportunities.
Game 2: Rangers lose 12-7
There were moments in the second game on Wednesday that it looked like the Rangers might be committing a crime by stealing this game. The Rangers went down early 6-2 behind two home runs from Christian Walker and a home run by Ketel Marte. Walks by Heaney added runs onto two of those home runs. Walker's three-run home run was preceded by two walks. Ketel Marte's two-run home run was preceded by a walk.
Andrew Heaney ended up pitching 4.2 innings and walked four batters, gave up three home runs, and gave up 6 runs. He left with the score 6-2.
This team once again put together a rally and was able to take the lead. They scored five runs in the fifth. The rally started with Leody Taveras hitting his first home run of the season. Then after that the Rangers just kept hitting. They put together three more hits and scored two more runs before Josh Jung stepped up with a runner on base and the score being 6-5.
Jung was named the AL Rookie of the Month for April on Wednesday. He validated that decision today not just with one home run, but with two home runs in this game. The second home run gave the Rangers a 7-6 lead. Jung now has eight home runs, and 24 RBI's on the season. He should be a clear favorite at this point for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
That lead would not last very long. Josh Sborz got through the sixth and held the lead. Then he was brought back for the seventh. The game unraveled from there. Sborz did not retire any of the three hitters he faced as he allowed Arizona to tie the game on two hits and a walk. Jose Leclerc was then brought in and it did not go well for him either.
Leclerc came in with two runners on and walked the first two batters on eight straight balls. That made the score 8-7. A sac fly made it 9-7. A two-run single by Dominic Fletcher made it 11-7. Then Ian Kennedy was brought in and he gave up an RBI Double to Geraldo Perdomo to make it 12-7. That was the game. Today, just continued what has been a recent struggle for Leclerc. He now has five walks in his last three appearances which total just 1.2 innings.
The Rangers could not mount a comeback after the six-run seventh inning. The bullpen is clearly an issue with not an easy solution internally. There is not a dynamic reliever pitching in Frisco or Round Rock that is going to magically solve all of the Rangers bullpen issues. I do think Bochy will have to really be thinking of how he is going to use Leclerc going forward. That might include being sure to always start him with a clean inning rather than bringing him in with runners on base.
The Rangers with the split will still remain in first place in the division. They will start a 10-game West Coast road trip with a record of 18-12. They will head west to play the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland A's. It is a chance to make a statement against your division rivals.
The Rangers did receive good news today. The team announced that they expect Corey Seager back in the lineup in the next 7-10 days. He could be back when this team heads to Oakland or be back in time for the series at home against the Braves.
Mitch Garver took another step in his rehab by taking batting practice before the first game of this series. He is still a few weeks away from returning from his sprained knee injury.
Dominic Leone exercised an opt out in his contract and is now a free agent. He had been pitching well for Round Rock and will now try and latch on with another team.
The next game is Friday night against the Angels and first pitch is at 8:38pm. The game will be televised locally by Bally Sports Southwest.