When the Texas Rangers announced that they would be experimenting with a tandem system for the backend of their rotation to mitigate innings after an unprecedented 2020 season, they had to figure a game like today was the best case scenario for such an exercise.
With a precarious bullpen already battered in the first two games of the season, the Rangers needed Jordan Lyles and his handcuff partner Wes Benjamin to step up this afternoon against the Kansas City Royals if they wanted to avoid getting swept to begin the 2021 campaign.
It worked. In fact, Lyles on a 75-ish pitch limit was able to convert his limited time on the mound into 5 2⁄3 innings of two-run ball as he efficiently carved up a red hot Royals lineup with only a two-run Salvador Perez home run in the sixth inning blemishing his afternoon.
Lyles had stated that he was disappointed that he wasn’t getting a chance to work as a traditional starter when the decision was made, but he actually ended up having the most successful outing by a Rangers starter in this series with a final line of 5 1⁄3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks.
While Lyles was on the mound, the Rangers had staked him to a six-run lead. In similar situations as the games from Thursday and Saturday, the Rangers would have been looking toward the soft underbelly of the bullpen to drag them to the finish line. Instead, Lyles’ piggyback Benjamin came in and pitched 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings with just one hit allowed and three strikeouts.
After Isiah Kiner-Falefa padded the lead with a solo home run late, the Rangers turned to Ian Kennedy for the final frame with enough of a cushion to not have to sweat things out. Kennedy promptly came in and gave up a run but there weren’t enough outs left in KC’s pocket to complete another rally.
Playing keepaway from the relief corps worked wonders and, just like that, on Easter Sunday, the Rangers have risen to the occasion for their first win of the season.
Player of the Game: I wasn’t big on the Nate Lowe trade simply because giving the Tampa Bay Rays under-the-radar prospects for a Mitch Moreland-upside first baseman doesn’t sound like a wise decision, but, if Lowe can keep hitting well — which was Texas’ expectation when they made the move — I’ll have to microwave some crow and start dining.
Today Lowe went 2-for-4 and had the biggest hit of the contest. With the game scoreless in the top of the third, Lowe took a two-out, two-on Brady Singer pitch out to the Kauffman fountains to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead that they would build upon and never relinquish.
Overall, Lowe has driven in nine runs in the team’s first three games which is — incredibly — a franchise record.
Up Next: The Rangers have their dubious full capacity home opener tomorrow afternoon as they welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to Arlington. RHP Mike Foltynewicz gets the start for Texas while Toronto will turn to LHP Steven Matz.
Monday’s first pitch from The Shed is scheduled for 3:05 pm CT.