Texas Rangers: Jon Gray has come up big out of the bullpen during the World Series

Jon Gray had an up-and-down season as a starter for the Rangers. After being activated from the IL for the ALCS and beyond, Gray has gone on to provide two crucial relief appearances. The Rangers are now up 2-1 in the series and likely wouldn't be without his performances out of the bullpen.
Oct 30, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jon Gray (22) pitches in the fifth
Oct 30, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jon Gray (22) pitches in the fifth / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gray signed with the Texas Rangers in December of 2021 as part of a massive off-season that also saw the Rangers lock up Corey Seager and Marcus Semien long-term. At the time, he became the Rangers clear number one starter and pitched pretty well in his first season in a Rangers uniform, accumulating a 3.59 ERA during the 2022 season. He saw himself bumped down in the rotation this year after the acquisitions of Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi. He had starts where he looked dominant and others where he was hit very hard in the regular season, resulting in a 4.12 ERA. Then, after his September 25th start against the Angels, he was placed on the 15-day IL with lower forearm tightness and did not see action through either the Wild Card series or the ALDS.

Jon Gray has dominated in his World Series appearances

Gray was activated again prior to the ALCS and saw action, providing one inning of relief in Game 3 allowing an earned run on two hits while striking out one and walking one. But Jon Gray in the World Series seems to have fully shaken off the rust from his IL stint and is pitching like the best version of himself. In Game 1, Gray came on in relief of Cody Bradford with two outs in the 7th and proceeded to strike out four batters in one and two-thirds innings pitched, allowing just one hit.

Last night in Game 3, Max Scherzer was on the bump for the Rangers and had provided three shutout innings before leaving the game with lower back tightness when trying to go back out for the fourth inning. Gray came in for the fourth and provided three huge innings through the middle of the game. He struck out three more batters and gave up only one hit in a very similar stat line to Game 1. Most importantly, he allowed zero runs over those three innings and left the game with the Rangers' three-run lead still intact.

Gray is at his best when he is locating his fastball and his slider. He has done that particularly well through his two relief appearances this World Series. In Game 1, three of his four strikeouts were on sliders breaking away from right-handed hitters located on the outer half of the plate. The fourth was a fastball on the outer half of the plate to left-handed Alek Thomas. In Game 3, he got another strikeout on a low slider on the outside part of the plate breaking away from the right-handed Gabriel Moreno. He did a good job moving his fastball around as well, striking out the other two batters with fastballs in. One was at the letters and the other at the belt. Gray has also benefited from some increased velocity in his World Series appearances. Per his Baseball Savant page, he is averaging 96 mph on his fastball and 87 mph on his slider this season. Gray has touched 97 mph on his fastball and as high as 91 mph on his slider through his Game 1 and Game 3 appearances.

As a lifetime starter, Jon Gray has thrived in his role as a relief pitcher in these playoffs. His two World Series outings, particularly last night's, have given the Rangers some depth out of the bullpen to help them reach the high-leverage arms that Bruce Bochy has come to trust this postseason. The Rangers are likely going to need some more quality innings from Gray to win this series, especially if Max Scherzer is unable to go again.

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