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Thoughts on a 8-1 Rangers win

Rangers 8, A’s 1

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 8, A’s 1

  • Nice way to close out the homestand, don’t you think?
  • Martin Perez started off great, struggled late, but ended up not allowing any runs in 5.1 IP. Perhaps most significantly, Perez generated 11 swinging strikes out of 92 pitches, ultimately striking out 6, walking 3 and allowing 6 hits.
  • When Perez was climbing up the prospect ranks, it was his changeup that was considered his best pitch, the weapon that made him so exciting to prospect-philes. His change was largely absent in the second half of 2015 and in 2016, as he returned from Tommy John surgery, and without the change, Perez lacked a swing-and-miss pitch to put batters away with. Today, we saw Perez use the changeup effectively, and saw him get the whiffs he needs to be more than a back-end starter.
  • Perez got into trouble in the 6th, when with one out, he gave up a single to Trevor Plouffe, and then left a pitch up and out over the plate that Mark Canha smoked to left center for a double. The Rangers were up just 3-0 at the time, which meant the tying run was coming up, and in this key situation, Jeff Banister turned to Jose Leclerc. A surprising move, though with Tony Barnette having pitched yesterday, Alex Claudio likely unavailable, and Keone Kela in AAA, the options Banister had were scant. Leclerc made Banister look brilliant, fanning Josh Phegley on three straight offspeed pitches low and away, and then getting pinch hitter Matt Joyce to fly out to right field.
  • I will say that the Joyce fly out was looked well struck off the bat, and Joyce dropped the bat and started trotting like he thought it was gone. I was sure it was a tie game at first. But the ball died at the warning track, dropping into Nomar Mazara’s glove, and we could all unclench.
  • With Kela in AAA and Jake Diekman on the disabled list, the bullpen needs someone who can miss bats in the middle innings, and so Leclerc has an opportunity early in the year to seize a permanent role. Leclerc’s arm is terrific, but his control has never been good, and his major league future has always depended on the improvement he could show with his control and command. In the first week, he’s looking good in that regard.
  • The final three innings were largely uneventful, with Jeremy Jeffress throwing a 1-2-3 7th, Matt Bush allowing a run on a wild pitch while also striking out three batters in the 8th, and Sam Dyson throwing a scoreless ninth, giving up a one out walk but then inducing a GIDP from Ryon Healy to end the game. This got Dyson back on the horse in a win, and hopefully, is an indicator that he’s back on track.
  • As for the offense, this was the Joey Gallo show today. In the second inning, A’s starter Sean Manaea had retired the first five hitters of the game before allowing a bloop single to Ryan Rua. Robinson Chirinos followed up with a single, bringing Joey Gallo to the plate. The lefty-on-lefty matchup seemed coming into the game to be worrisome for Gallo, but Manaea challenged Joey with his first pitch, and Gallo made him pay, depositing the ball into the right field stands for a two out, three run home run that gave the Rangers the only margin they would end up needing.
  • Gallo wasn’t done, the bottom of the sixth, after Joyce’s near-miss, Manaea started off the inning by hitting Nomar Mazara square in the helmet. Mike Napoli struck out, but Rougned Odor hit a smash that Healy couldn’t handle, putting runners on first and third. A Rua walk loaded the bases and led Oakland to replace Manaea with Frankie Montas, who promptly walked Chirinos to make it 4-0. That brought up Gallo.
  • Montas versus Gallo is power versus power, with Montas being able to dial it up to triple digits, and if you remember Gallo’s struggles last year, he had issues with high hard stuff. Montas got up 0-2 quickly, and I was sitting there thinking, at least make him work, foul off a couple of pitches, don’t just fan on three pitches. Phegley positioned himself to receive the pitch up in the zone, and I had flashbacks to 2016 (and late 2015), when teams would destroy Gallo by just pumping fastballs up and in, knowing he wouldn’t catch up with them.
  • And that’s what Montas did, challenging Gallo with an 0-2 fastball up, and Gallo lined it into right field for a 2 run single. And as big as the 3 run home run off of a lefty was, that single may have been a bigger indicator of how improved Gallo is. He got into an 0-2 hole, Montas threw the pitch that the book on Gallo says you throw on 0-2, and he made Montas pay. He stayed within himself and delivered. And if Gallo can keep doing that, he’s going to be a big part of the Rangers going forward.
  • The final two runs of the game came in the 8th, when a Rua single was followed up by a Chirinos home run. Texas had the opportunity to make it even more of a blowout that inning, loading the bases with two outs, but Napoli struck out to end the inning, and leave the Rangers’ run differential on the season at 0.
  • Solid end to a disappointing opening homestand, with encouraging performances by Perez and Gallo. This may be Gallo’s final game as a Ranger for a while, as Adrian Beltre could be activated for Tuesday’s game. If it is, its a terrific game to end his temporary stint in the bigs to start the year on, and a terrific game to build off of.