The movie Bourne Identity came out in 2002 and it is a movie about a spy that is afflicted with amnesia and spends the whole movie trying to find his identity. It is an action-packed movie that spawned four additional movies. The Rangers have spent these first 10 games of the season trying to figure out what their identity is.
Baseball teams develop identities in the marathon which is the regular season. Some teams rely on raw power, some are more contact-oriented, some are speed demons, and some teams will rely on being able to work counts. The best teams though are able to combine these identities and win in multiple different ways.
Here is what I think the Rangers offensive identity is at this point in the season and how it played out last night. They are a team that forces the action by stealing bases, taking extra bases, and running hard out of the box. They also want to be a team that drives up pitch counts. Finally, they are trying to be a team that will get timely hits. Each of these aspects was on display last night.
On the bases Jankowski stole another base. He now has a steal in consecutive games. Bubba Thompson did not have a steal last night, but he did get another double last night. He had a soft bloop over the infield that he turned into a double. Corey Seager demonstrated the taking extra base approach when he tried to score from first on a Nathaniel Lowe double. He was thrown out, but he forced the Royals to execute a proper relay to throw him out.
When the Rangers do this they score runs. A station-to-station approach as they had last week increases the difficulty in scoring runs and puts more pressure on hitters to come through. A speed oriented approach puts more pressure on the defense to make the routine plays and as we saw last night. Semien got on base when Bobby Witt Jr booted a ball trying to hurry it over to first base. That led to the Rangers putting two runs on the board that inning.
The second leg of this approach is working counts. This has been seen in wins and losses this season. The Rangers are working to be patient at the plate and swing at their pitch. Last night it led to five walks. They also saw 169 pitches on the night from the Royals staff, which worked out to four pitches per plate appearance. Their willingness to take a walk and work a count played a massive role in the seven-run sixth inning.
The sixth inning got started with walks by Robbie Grossman and Jonah Heim. Those walks directly led to RBI hits from Jankowski and Thompson that pushed the lead to 7-1. Then Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe drew walks and that led to this hit by Adolis Garcia.
That pushed the lead to 11-1 and that was a goodnight for the Royals. Four walks in the sixth inning. Each of those led to runs being put on the board. This takes me to the last leg of the offensive identity as it exists today.
The last leg is timely hits. The Rangers started the season by dominating in hits with runners in scoring position(RISP) category. They were 12-21 in the first two games. That lagged last week against the Orioles and the first two games against the Cubs. Bochy inserted Jankowski and Thompson on Sunday and in the last two games the RISP number is 9-27. Which is still not great and is much better than it was last week. One example of that last night was Nathaniel Lowe's double below.
Lowe came through with runners on base and put a run on the board to increase the lead from 2 to 3-1. It could have been 4-1, but Seager came up just short. It is these types of hits with runners in scoring position that the Rangers will need. The best teams have the ability and personnel to come through in these key situations.
There is a caveat that we are now just 10 games into the season. Things will change, players will get hurt, and the identity will evolve as we go throughout this season. Last night was an example of how this team can be successful. Andrew Heaney was dominating the Royals lineup with 10 strikeouts in his five innings, the lineup put 11 runs on the board, and the bullpen only gave up one run in their four innings. It revolved around the speed and patience of the lineup combined with the dominance of the pitching staff.
Jonah Heim and Corey Seager hit their first home runs of the season last night.
Seager also faced a outfield shift last night in the fifth inning and grounded into the shift and was thrown out by Nate Eaton in short right field. According to Jayson Stark it was the first time someone had been thrown out at first 9-3 so far this season.
Dane Dunning still has not given up a run on the season as he threw the last two innings last night. He is now up to 9.1 scoreless innings this season.
Mitch Garver was placed on the IL prior to the game with a mild knee sprain. Sandy Leon was called up and to make room on the 40-man roster Spencer Howard was put on the 60-day IL.
Preview of Tonight's Game
The Rangers and Royals will play again tonight at 7:05pm. It will be Jacob deGrom going up against former Ranger Jordan Lyles. deGrom is coming off a dominant outing against the Orioles. He pitched six innings, had 11 strikeouts, and only gave up one run as he was able to get his first win of the season. He will be making his third start of the season all at Globe Life Field.
Jordan Lyles is 0-2 on the season. He lost his last start against the Blue Jays when he gave up five runs in 5.2 innings. He did have nine strikeouts to zero walks in that start. He gave up runs though in four of the first five innings he pitched.
He did go up against Texas last season when he was with the Orioles on August 2nd. He pitched into the seventh inning, gave up one run, and had seven strikeouts to one walk. It was an outing that caused Rangers fans to say where was this when he was pitching for Texas.
The Rangers will be looking to continue their two game winning streak and build on their AL West lead tonight. Game time is 7:05pm and it will be aired on Bally Sports Southwest.