The Texas Rangers got a sterling effort out of Adrian Sampson in a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals today and they didn’t even need an opener to shepherd him through that harrowing first inning.
No, indeed, Sampson just looked like a good starting pitcher having the line of his life as he went seven innings and allowed only a solo home run off the bat of Jorge Soler to mar his ledger.
Sampson walked none and struck out a career-high 11 Royals to earn his first big league win as a traditional starter after picking up a few victories hurling as a primary pitcher following an opener over his last several appearances.
Before today, Sampson had never struck out more than six batters in any one appearance and that was a mark he’d only reached twice in 20 outings. The Royals aren’t even terribly easy to strikeout, coming into the game K-ing in just 22.7 % of their PAs, which is sixth fewest in the AL.
Besides Sampson, the story of the game probably came down to what happened in the fifth inning. The Royals were able to small ball their way into a bases loaded, nobody out opportunity against Sampson in the top of the inning but he buckled down and got the next three Royals in order — including strikeouts of Adalberto Mondesi and Alex Gordon — to end the threat in a precarious 1-0 game.
In the bottom of the inning, the Rangers threatened to pad their lead with a rally that began with a Shin-Soo Choo single and a Danny Santana double to put two runners in scoring position against a nearly as stingy starter in Brad Keller for KC. Texas was in danger of following suit and blowing their chance to give Sampson some breathing room following an Elvis Andrus infield popup but Keller uncorked a wild pitch which scored Choo and Nomar Mazara followed with a run-scoring single.
The very next Royals hitter in the top of the sixth was Soler and he popped his solo shot but it just shows that even as dominant as Sampson ended up being, the fifth inning Houdini act proved to be a difference maker until Texas put the game to bed with a couple of insurance runs in the eighth.
With the win, the Rangers are three games above .500 for the first time since they started a road trip in Oakland back in late April.
Player of the Game: Sampson started his career by pitching in 16 games — including his first nine appearances this season — without ever being named the winning pitcher in a big league baseball game. In his last four appearances, dating back to May 17, he’s gone 4-0.
Up Next: The Rangers have Monday off before starting a series against the Orioles at home between on Tuesday evening. LHP Drew Smyly is listed as the starter for Texas in the opener against RHP Dylan Bundy for Baltimore. Tuesday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm CT.