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Thoughts on a 7-3 Rangers win

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Rangers 7, Royals 3

Texas Rangers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Rangers 7, Royals 3

  • The Rangers will not be winless in 2021.
  • The first win of the year was a good win — one characterized by solid pitching, good hitting, and the creation of warm fuzzies over the course of the game. Things seemed under control throughout.
  • Jordan Lyles, relegated to a tandem starter role rather than a full starter role after last season’s disaster, was very good in his 2021 debut. Chris Woodward had said his pitch limit would be 80 pitches, and I think the expectation was that he’d go 3 or 4 innings before giving way to Wes Benjamin. Instead, Lyles cruised through the first five innings well under his pitch count, keeping the Royals off the board and allowing just four baserunners on three hits and a Jonah Heim E-2 on a tapper in front of the plate.
  • Lyles started the sixth and allowed an infield single to Andrew Benintendi before striking out Carlos Santana. Salvador Perez then broke up the shutout, however, taking Lyles deep for a two run home run to center. Lyles struck out Jorge Soler for the second out, and then turned things over to Wes Benjamin, who struck out Michael Taylor for the final out.
  • I suspect the Rangers are generally not going to ask Lyles to go through the order more than twice, but between how he was pitching, the size of the lead, and the fact the bullpen has had a lot of use the first two games, Chris Woodward was comfortable letting Lyles start the third time through. The end line was 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 8 Ks, and 0 walks on 76 pitches.
  • One of Lyles’ offseason projects was to tighten up his curveball, trading off some of the depth of the break in exchange for making it look more like a fastball out of his hand. Statcast characterized most of his breaking balls as sliders, but whatever you want to call it, it worked today.
  • With Chris Woodward wanting to get Ian Kennedy into the game after not pitching the first two games, Wes Benjamin didn’t get a chance to close the game out, though he looked like he could have comfortably. Asked to get seven outs, Benjamin struck out three of the eight batters he faced, the lone batter reaching safely being Carlos Santana, who singled with two out in the eighth. Benjamin has dived into analytics and pitch design, and showed off a high spin four seamer that sat at 93-94 mph. His four seamer spin rate today would have put him in the top 5% of pitchers who had at least 100 four seamers in 2020, which allowed him to induce swings and misses at the top of the zone. He also mixed in both a slider and a curveball along with a couple of change ups. Wes Benjamin is a fascinating story to me, and I’m eager to see if he can maintain this success going forward.
  • The veteran Kennedy finished out the game for the Rangers, making his debut for the team with a ninth inning that saw a run cross the plate when a two out Hanser Alberto double scored Michael Taylor, who had singled and then went to second on catchers indifference. Kennedy struck out the side or struck out three, depending on your point of view, in finishing off the Royals.
  • The offense was seen as the Rangers’ biggest weakness coming into this season, but the bats performed again today. They got on the board in the third, when Isiah Kiner-Falefa reached on a one out HBP. A hustling David Dahl beat out the throw to first what looked like a potential inning-ending double play, and a Joey Gallo single to center put two on with two out for Nate Lowe. Lowe crushed a 3-1 Brady Singer slider to right center — Statcast recorded the distance as 465 feet — and it was 3-0 Texas.
  • Texas doubled the lead in the fourth inning. After a Ronald Guzman K, Brock Holt and Jonah Heim both walked. They then combined for a rather unexpected double steal on an 0-1 pitch to Leody Taveras. That pitch was a strike, putting Leody, who has struggled early on, in an 0-2 hole. With Singer not finding the strike zone, however, Leody elicited a walk, loading the bases for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who brought two runs home with a single. That chased Singer, who was replaced by Jake Brentz, and Dahl greeted Brentz with a medium deep fly to right center that scored Leody, making it 6-0.
  • IKF finished off the scoring with a 9th inning home run off of Wade Davis, and it still is remarkable to me that IKF hits home runs.
  • The top of the order did the heavy lifting today, with IKF having 3 hits and an HBP, and Gallo and Lowe each picking up 2 hits. The only other hit for the Rangers was by Jonah Heim. Nick Solak was 0 for 4 with 3 Ks, and Ronald Guzman was hitless in his first start of the year.
  • Ian Kennedy was the high Ranger in pitch velocity, topping out at 96.4 and registering seven pitches of at least 96.0 mph. Wes Benjamin topped out at 94.6 mph with a four seamer that had a 2557 spin rate, with six pitches registering at least 94.0 mph. Jordan Lyles, meanwhile, topped out at 94.7.
  • Nate Lowe’s home run had an exit velocity of 113.9 mph, the high mark for today’s game. Joey Gallo had singles at 111.4 and 110.3, as well as a groundout at 105.8. IKF’s homer was 101.9 off the bat, and he also had a 102.0 mph single. Brock Holt and Ronald Guzman, meanwhile, had groundouts at 100.5 and 101.3, respectively. David Dahl just barely missed the century club, with balls hit 98.6 and 99.9.
  • So the Rangers are off the schneid and head home on a high note. Tomorrow is the home opener. Let’s get hyped.