If you had asked me before the year what I would have realistically wanted to see from the 2019 season I would have told you, barring a miracle run to upend the Billy Joel concert with some October baseball, and after hoping to see the rise of core players like Joey Gallo, that I would have loved to watch games where guys like Willie Calhoun, Scott Heineman, Jose Trevino, and — even though I didn’t know it yet — Nick Solak were contributing and getting their shots to stake their claim in the next phase of the rebuild.
I’d want to see young arms like Brett Martin and Emmanuel Clase start to entrench themselves in the bullpen. And, hope against hope, with the history of this club as a stiff headwind, I’d love to see a starter like Brock Burke come up and shove against a big league lineup and give hope that the next window of contention would be subsidized with homegrown hurlers in the rotation.
Tonight, it all started to come together. Burke was as outstanding in his MLB debut as mostly anyone who has ever worn the uniform and took the mound in Arlington. Burke went six shutout innings, allowed four hits, walked a couple, and struck out four in a season-high 99 pitches. How’s this for legit: Mike Trout went 0-for-3 against Burke.
Solak, who like Burke came over in trades from the Tampa Bay Rays, hit the first homer of his career in the bottom of the fifth in his first day as a big leaguer after smacking a single in the first game of today’s doubleheader from hours ago. The blast gave Burke and the Rangers a lead and Burke’s battery mate Trevino hit a double and scored a run plated by another developmental win from this summer in Danny Santana.
Martin pitched an inning and a third of scoreless ball with a couple of strikeouts following Burke and, while Shawn Kelley and Jose Leclerc allowed runs in the eighth and ninth as Anaheim tied the game, Clase came in for a couple of scoreless innings and even got Trout looking on a wicked slider to make extra frames worth the trouble.
Of course, it would be Solak to finish things off in extras by hitting the ball hard off Albert Pujols at first with two outs as the ball ricocheted into the outfield with Delino DeShields in scoring position to give the Rangers the win.
The hope is that a lot of the players getting their feet wet in August and September action this summer will be there the next time the Rangers are in October and tonight was a positive glimpse at that process in action.
Player of the Game: How rare is it for a Texas starting pitcher to debut as strongly as Burke did tonight for the Rangers? The last time a pitcher went six or more shutout innings in his big league debut for the Rangers was Brian Sikorski in 2000 and Burke’s outing was just the fourth such showing in franchise history. The only bummer tonight was Burke wasn’t rewarded with the victory.
Up Next: Mike Minor will take the mound for the Rangers against LHP Patrick Sandoval for the Angels in the series finale with Texas going for a rare second half series win. First pitch on Wednesday from The Ballpark is scheduled for 6:05 pm CT.