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Thoughts on an 11-7 Rangers win

Rangers 11, D-Backs 7

World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Rangers 11, D-Backs 7

  • Everyone celebrate with a Slurpee today.
  • This was a definite example of an archetype of a certain type of 2023 Texas Rangers game. Category, Put Up Crooked Numbers Early Then Sweat The Bullpen Late.
  • Five runs in the second inning, all with two outs. The Miguel Castro wild pitch that brought Josh Jung, who had doubled to lead off the inning, home broke the seal. Leody Taveras drawing a 3-2 walk and Travis Jankowski singling kept the inning alive. Marcus Semien and Corey Seager broke things open with a triple and a homer, respectively. And we were off to the races.
  • Five runs in the third inning, again all with two outs. Jung and Nathaniel Lowe one out singles set up Jonah Heim, who appeared to hit into an inning ending double play to first baseman Christian Walker. Walker — an excellent defender — bobbled the ball, eliminating the possibility of a double play, and then booted it, leaving bases loaded. After a Taveras K, we have a Jankowski double and a Semien home run, and all of the sudden, the Rangers have double digits and it is just the third inning.
  • This is very familiar to us who have watched this team all season long, these sorts of big innings that all of the sudden result in a big lead. It is a byproduct, I tend to think, of a lineup that is solid top to bottom, an offense that has goes who can continue to pass the baton and keep an inning going, preventing the opponents from being able to take advantage of a weak bottom of the order.
  • Ryne Nelson — the fifth Arizona pitcher of the game — was able to stop the bleeding and give the D-Backs bulk innings, handling most of the final six innings while giving up just one run, on a Jonah Heim home run. It would have been nice to force Arizona to burn more of their bullpen arms, especially given they needed four pitchers to get through three, but let’s not be greedy here.
  • Every Ranger starter got on base — six Rangers had hits, Leody Taveras and Mitch Garver each drew a walk, and Evan Carter got on via a momentarily scary HBP that had us worried about broken hand bones.
  • Andrew Heaney was tapped to be the starter in what we expected to be a bullpen game, figuring Heaney would go three or so before giving way to Dane Dunning. Heaney did more than that, though — he did a five and dive, qualifying for the W and allowing just one run.
  • Turning over a 10-1 lead to the Ranger bullpen with four innings to go, one would think it would be a stress-free remainder of the game. It was not, however, owing at least in part to some curious pitching decisions by Bruce Bochy and Mike Maddux.
  • Dane Dunning was brought in for the sixth, and I think we all expected that Dunning would pitch most of the rest of the way, maybe giving way in the ninth for someone else to finish things out. But no, Dunning was lifted after a shutout inning and just 16 pitches. Taking his place was Cody Bradford, who, despite being a starter/long reliever, also went just one shutout inning, throwing 13 pitches.
  • Perhaps the desire was to avoid overtaxing Dunning and Bradford, so they could be available in Game 5, or better rested for a potential Game 6 or Game 7. However, it seems like this is exactly the sort of situation where you want to use one of those guys — you have a comfortable lead and have several innings to go. You don’t have to worry about matchups and the like, you just let one of them eat innings.
  • Instead, Texas ended up using four pitchers over the final two innings. Brock Burke, newly activated to replace Max Scherzer, faced four batters, retired the first one, then allowed three straight singles. Burke out, Chris Stratton in. Stratton allowed one of Burke’s runs in on a sac fly, then gave up a Lourdes Gurriel homer to make it 11-5 before retiring Alek Thomas on a ground out.
  • So we get to the ninth, and one would figure Stratton would close things out. But no. For the third time in this series, Torey Lovullo summoned Pavin Smith to pinch hit, and for the third time Bruce Bochy summoned a lefty from the pen to face Smith — in this case, Will Smith. And for the third time, Lovullo replcaed Smith with a righthanded hitter, in this case, Jordan Lawlar.
  • I mean, we all knew Smith would be pulled once Smith came into the game, right? Why fool with the pitching change? Its 11-5. Let Stratton finish things out, rather than going to a lefty specialist who hasn’t been able to get righthanders out for the past three months.
  • Smith promptly walked Lawlar, just what you want from your veteran reliever in the ninth inning of a six run game, then allowed a single to Geraldo Perdomo. Smith then rebounded, striking out Ketel Marte and Corbin Carroll, but after that, Bochy had seen enough, and summoned Jose Leclerc to get the final out.
  • This was unfortunate. This was Leclerc’s 13th appearance in this postseason, tied for 3rd all time in appearances in a single postseason, and one behind the all time record. Having pitched in Game 3, and with Texas having a big lead in Game 4, one would have hoped Leclerc could have been avoided.
  • But no, the soft underbelly of the Rangers pen gave up runs, and Bochy chose to bring Leclerc into the game with Texas up 6, needing one out. Gabriel Moreno singled, Christian Walker popped out, and the game was over.
  • Leclerc threw just ten pitches, and I’m sure he would be available if needed in Game 5. He would also be pitching on a third straight day if he pitches in Game 5. That’s less than ideal.
  • Of course, now, I take a step back and realize I am being perturbed over the use of the bullpen and the possible diminution in performance of Leclerc in a possible Game 5, when we don’t know if he will even be needed, and when the Rangers are up 3-1 in the World Series.
  • So, perspective. Things are very good.
  • Andrew Heaney topped out at 93.8 mph. Dane Dunning maxed out at 94.1 mph with his sinker. Cody Bradford reached 92.0 mph. Brock Burke hit 95.7 mph with his fastball. Chris Stratton reached 93.6 mph. Will Smith’s fastball topped out at 93.6 mph. Jose Leclerc hit 96.6 mph with his fastball.
  • Corey Seager’s home run was 108.4 mph off the bat. Nathaneil Lowe had a 105.2 mph single. Marcus Semien had aa 103.9 mph ground out. Travis Jankowski had a 102.5 mph ground out. Josh Jung had a 102.2 mph double and a 101.9 mph fly out. Jonah Heim had a 100.4 mph ground out.
  • Nathan Eovaldi in Game 5. Let’s close this out.