The Rangers are headed home again. The last time they were coming off a road trip they were finishing an impressive three-game sweep in Tampa Bay.
Their 3-3 trip this time, including a split with the Mets at Citi Field, doesn’t inspire as much confidence as the sweep of the Rays but what did that mean anyway? The Rangers returned to Globe Life Park and went 3-7. Blah. Just when you thought they had some fight left in them for a wild card race they laid an egg. Or close to it, at least. There’s no getting around it now. With 49 games remaining in the season, including 27 at home, they need to start stacking wins together.
“Obviously, we’d like to be better than [3-3],” Manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ll see if we can’t capitalize on being at home.”
Banister and his players still believe they have what it takes, if even the odds are long and the wild card race is a messy field of eight teams with the Rangers near the bottom.
“It’s a simple game,” Banister said. “You minimize your mistakes. Get good starting pitching. Score more runs than the other team. There’s no magic to it but it starts obviously with the guy who goes out and starts the game for us.”
Martin Perez was that guy Wednesday. He pitched his best game of the season, holding the Mets to one run on three hits over eight innings in the Rangers’ 5-1 win.
Simple enough. If the Rangers can just rinse and repeat that for much of the final 49 games then everything will be rosy in Arlington.
If that happens, by the way, I hereby pledge to run down Nolan Ryan Expressway wearing pink yoga pants. Wait a second. I pledge to walk, not run.
Here’s the Rangers reaction:
1. Gallo gone again — Joey Gallo is growing up and it’s showing up. He homered in his third consecutive game Wednesday. It’s his 32nd homer this season. Only two players in the majors have more homers than Gallo (Giancarlo Stanton at 38 and Aaron Judge at 35).
“He’s just ripping the ball. He’s seeing the ball really well,” Adrian Beltre said. “He’s hitting the ball the other way, which is something he wanted to do more often. It has been really fun to watch and hopefully he can keep it going because basically he’s been the guy who’s carrying the offense right now.”
Gallo has seven homers in his last eight games and his 11 homers since the All-Star break are the most in the American League. He also has a career-high, eight-game hit streak. He tied his career-high with three walks on Wednesday batting fifth for the fourth time this season.
“ He looks comfortable now, like he belongs. The half a year he spent last year and this year helped him grow up a lot,” Beltre said.
Gallo was as happy about the walks as the home run.
“Just being able to take walks and make the pitcher work and not just going up there swinging like a wild man,” Gallo said. “It’s something I have to be good at because if I just go up there hacking they’re not going to throw strikes. If I can control the at-bat and make them come in the zone I’m going to be in a good shape.”
At the All-Star break, Gallo took stock of his first half and concentrated on staying back on the ball more. He tried emphasizing driving the ball where it was pitched instead of pulling most pitches to right field.
“Try to let the ball get a little deeper,” he said. “It’s a process. It just doesn’t happen over night but I’m starting to feel a lot better with it. Those pitches on the outer half I was missing early in the year I’m at least now getting the barrel to it, or at least fouling it off. That’s the approach I want to keep.”
It’s also about trusting his ability and instincts more, realizing he has a quick enough bat to drive the ball well a fraction of a second later as the ball approaches the plate.
“Now, when I’m getting to two strikes, I’m trying to keep my weight back and just throw my hands at it instinctively. Trusting my instincts and trusting my ability that I’ll be able to recognize whether it’s a pitch I can hit or not.”
That’s something Gallo has always been able to do but took some time in the majors.
“It was just about honing in and doing a better job of executing it in a game,” he said.
2. Beltre milestone update — Adrian Beltre added two more singled to his Hall of Fame resumé. He’s now 29th all-time with 3,008. He needs two to tie Wade Boggs for 28th and 12 hits from tying Rafael Palmeiro for 27th. Lou Brock is also within reach this season at 3,023. Rod Carew is 25th all-time with 3,053 hits, but Beltre probably will have to wait until 2018 to pass him. Other looming milestone markers for Beltre:
Doubles: 605 (Paul Waner is 13th with 606)
Home runs: 456 (Miguel Cabrera is 37th with 459)
Extra-base hits: 1,098 (Eddie Murray is 19th with 1,099)
Total bases: 5,055 (Lou Gehrig is 18th with 5,060)
RBIs: 1,614 (Chipper Jones is 31st with 1,623)
Games: 2,780 (Alex Rodriguez is 25th with 2,784)
3. Perez’s alteration — So what exactly did Martin Perez change about his delivery? Actually, it wasn’t a change in his delivery, specifically, but how he holds his glove before he starts his delivery. Perez said he noticed he was holding the ball in his glove down near his waist after his last start in which he allowed seven earned runs on nine hits. He said back in 2013 and ’14, and even in the minors, he held his glove closer to his chest before starting his delivery. It gave Perez a better tempo on the mound and helped his pitches be more deceptive to batters. Having good command down in the zone also helped.
“When I throw everything down and throw my sinker down and away I have good games,” he said. “I felt great. Last time I felt they knew what pitch was coming.”