- Woo-hoo! Back to .500!
- Nice win today, behind a very encouraging outing from Doug Fister. Fister was the first major league free agent to sign this offseason in all of MLB, and not only has he failed to generate enthusiasm from the Ranger fan base, he seemed, as time went on, to turn into the symbol of the Rangers’ uninspiring offseason. He was a guy who was good a half-decade ago, then was bad, and then was signed and given a rotation spot based on a couple of good months with Boston late last year.
- But Fister generated positive reviews in spring training, and had a good outing tonight, in which he looked like he did several years ago when he was awfully good. Sporting an upper-80s two seamer and an effective curve and changeup, Fister kept the Astros hitters off balance and gave Texas 5 innings of one run ball, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. He left more pitches in the middle of the plate than you would like, but if he pitches all year like he did today, this is one rotation spot Texas won’t have to worry about.
- Interestingly, Jeff Banister said after the game that he pulled Fister after five innings, despite Fister being at just 77 pitches, because it was the third time through the order. I haven’t heard Banister acknowledge the third time through the order issue before, and I’m curious to see if he keeps pitchers on a short leash after the first two times through this season.
- Chris Martin got into the game for the second straight day, pitched well, and ended up in a jam anyway. Jose Altuve started off the inning with the Astros down 3-1 and laced a ball to right field that Nomar Mazara appeared to catch, but which the umpires on the field ruled was short-hopped. Jeff Banister challenged, the replay looked like Mazara caught it, but the call on the field stood anyway. Martin fanned Carlos Correa for an out, then got Alex Bregman to hit a grounder up the middle. Elvis Andrus fielded the ball behind the bag and scooped to Rougned Odor at second, but the scoop took Odor off the bag. Rougie then compounded the error by making a ridiculously wild spin throw to first (when Bregman was already safe), sending the ball into the dugout and initially resulting in Altuve being sent all the way home. Banister challenged again, and while the replay determined Odor was off second base by a hair, it was also determined that Altuve wasn’t heading to third when Odor threw wildly, so instead of scoring, he was sent back to third, with Bregman at second.
- Rougned Odor, of course, is someone who makes things happen. This was one of those times when he made something bad happen, trying too hard to make a play when no play was available.
- Anyway...Martin then walked Marwin Gonzalez, despite ball two and ball three looking like strikes, loading the bases for Evan Gattis, and causing everyone to start experiencing anxiety sweats combined with umpire angst. Martin struck out Evan Gattis swinging, however, to get the second out, and then Alex Claudio entered the game and struck out pinch hitter J.D. Davis to end the inning and the threat.
- From that point on, the bullpen was on cruise control. Claudio pitched a scoreless, perfect seventh, Kevin Jepsen retired the side in order in the eighth, and Keone Kela allowed just a two out walk in shutting down the Astros in the ninth. It was an actual well pitched game against a terrific offense, something Rangers fans have not expected to see much of this season.
- As for the bats, they did some damage against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Joey Gallo singled in the first, only to be erased on a hard-hit GIDP off the bat of Elvis Andrus, but then in the second, Nomar Mazara hit a majestic home run. Mazara has been identified as both a player primed to break out in 2018, and a player the Rangers need to break out in 2018. He has struggled against lefties, hitting just one home run off a LHP in 2017, but he hit a homer in his first plate appearance against a lefty this season, and also drew a walk, which is nice to see.
- Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo combined to miss home runs by an aggregate six inches or so. Gallo smoked a two seamer in the seventh with a 116 mph exit velocity, and it was a laser beam that banged off the very top of the center field fence, bringing home Delino DeShields. Gallo ended up scoring later in the inning on an Elvis single. Choo, meanwhile, blasted a ball to deep left field in the eighth, but it also hit off the very top of the wall, registering as a double as well, as part of a 3 hit day for Choo.
- The bottom of the order didn’t have any hits, but Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor did each have sac flies in the fourth inning, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead at the time.
- All in all, a happy game, a joy to watch, and I’m glad Texas is back at .500.
Rangers 5, Astros 1