Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister is a firm believer in letting players know where they stand, where they’re playing and where they’re hitting in the lineup.
As a former player he knows surprises aren’t typically a player’s friend.
But he also believes in doing what it takes to win. And it takes runs to win baseball games.
Runs were mostly hard to come by through the first eight games for the Rangers, including two shutouts.
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So Banister shook up his lineup for Tuesday’s game with the Los Angeles Angels, moving Rougned Odor to the leadoff spot, Mitch Moreland to No. 2 and dropping Leonys Martin and Shin-Soo Choo to the bottom half of the order.
Call it a coincidence or managerial genius, but something woke up the Rangers’ bats Tuesday night at Globe Life Park.
Texas pounded out 11 hits to beat the Angels 8-2 and snap a two-game losing streak.
It wasn’t just that the Rangers put runs on the board early and often, it was how they did it. For the first time in 2015, Banister’s brand of aggressive base running was on display as Odor, Martin and Andrus each stole second base, more than doubling the two steals for the team through the first eight games. Carlos Peguero nabbed another base on a wild pitch.
With the show of speed also came a show of power. Andrus and Robinson Chirinos both homered in the sixth to give Texas an 8-0 lead.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Nick Martinez worked around some early trouble and kept the Angels scoreless until an unearned run crossed the plate in the seventh. Martinez (2-0) hasn’t allowed an earned run in his first 14 innings. Against the Angels he allowed five hits, three walks and struck out one.
Martinez was on the mound the last time the Rangers erupted in a similar fashion, a 10-1 win at Oakland behind a season-high 12 hits on Thursday.
Before Tuesday’s game, the Rangers had the seventh-lowest on-base percentage in the American League at .274 and the fourth-lowest batting average, a sub-Mendoza line .199. That isn’t all on Martin, whose .162 on-base percentage after Monday’s game shined a glaring light on his struggles to get the offense going.
Hitting eighth on Tuesday, Martin walked in his first at-bat, something he had done just once in his first 37 plate appearances. He stole his first base of the season and later scored on Chirinos’ two-run double to left-center. Chirinos finished with a career-high five RBIs, including a three-run homer in the sixth.
Odor, in the leadoff spot for the first time, started the Rangers with a walk in the first and scored on Moreland’s single.
“Any time you get that first runner on you give yourself an opportunity to score in the first,” Banister said after the game. “Really a tremendous at-bat, a patient at-bat. We’ve talked about it all spring. Any time you implement some things and introduce some new ideas it does take a little bit of time.”
Odor and Moreland were not fazed by the move before the game.
“I really don’t pay much attention to [lineup changes],” Moreland said. “I try to go up there and keep it simple and try to get ready and try to get a good pitch. That’s my main goal. It doesn’t matter where I am in the lineup.”
Before the game, Banister insisted the lineup changes were temporary.
“Leonys is going to be our leadoff hitter,” Banister said, before alluding to the last major lineup change, the shuffle before Thursday’s outburst at Oakland that quickly quieted in subsequent games. “Then that same lineup sputtered a little bit. There was a little inconsistency, that structure. So more than anything else, we wanted to give it a different look tonight.”
He was hoping to spark something, and for one night, he did.
“There are times when you give the lineup a little different look. It tends to put a little spark in there, a little added energy,” he said. “We’ll see where the lineup takes us. I’m not into tinkering, but I am into, you know, not just sitting on something.”