Jeff Banister is a big believer in advanced metrics helping win ballgames, but the Texas Rangers manager also believes strongly in things like the answer-back, the shutdown inning, and the add-on run.
Those can’t be found on the back of a baseball card, and they are certainly fodder for those who don’t believe in such things as momentum helping to determine the outcome of a baseball game.
But Banister and the Rangers pointed to the offense’s two early answer-backs at the plate and three straight shutdown innings by Yovani Gallardo as keys to their 5-3 victory Sunday that completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Adrian Beltre and Ryan Strausborger hit solo homers, and four relievers combined on 32/3 scoreless innings as the Rangers won their seventh straight game at Globe Life Park and moved two games above .500 at 59-57.
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“Those are key,” Banister said. “We’re going to give up runs. It’s how we answer back, and once we answer back, we ask our guys to go out there and have a shutdown inning for us. Make pitches and play good defense beyond you. Those are huge.
“That’s essentially the formula for winning. We know that. It’s been stressed all year long, and we saw that today.”
Banister counted two answer-backs, three shutdowns and an add-on on his note sheet. After Tampa Bay scored once in the first, the Rangers scored twice on a Shin-Soo Choo double and a sacrifice fly by Beltre in their half of the inning.
The Rays got two more in the second, but the Rangers countered as Delino DeShields plated a run with a two-out single to center.
Gallardo didn’t necessarily settle down thereafter, but the Fort Worth resident didn’t allow any more runs over the next 31/3 innings. After deeming his slider ineffective, he and catcher Bobby Wilson decided to go with the curveball, which the right-hander used in the fifth to notch his two biggest outs.
The Rays were down 5-3 after the homers from Beltre in the third and Strausborger in the fourth, and had runners at first and second with one out. Gallardo threw a 3-2 curveball to Asdrubal Cabrera, who chased it for the strikeout, and struck out Desmond Jennings on a fastball to end the threat.
“I got out of jams whenever I needed to,” said Gallardo, who allowed 11 hits but improved to 9-9. “After we got the lead with those five runs, the important things was to shut them down, get zeroes up on the board and maintain that lead and hopefully get that win.”
Sam Freeman got the final two outs of the sixth, Keone Kela and Sam Dyson worked perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, and Shawn Tolleson pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his 23rd save.
Beltre’s 406th career homer, good for 51st all time, broke a 3-3 tie, and the first of Strausborger’s career was the add-on run Banister was seeking.
“Obviously, it’s awesome as far as the individual day I had,” said Strausborger, who had a career-high three hits. “But the biggest part is we completed the sweep and got some momentum going into the next series. That’s the biggest thing, getting those wins.”
The victory kept the Rangers four games behind the Houston Astros in the American League West and moved them one game out of the second wild-card spot after the Los Angeles Angels lost to Kansas City on Sunday night.
No one would admit to watching the scoreboard just yet, not with 46 games remaining, but the Rangers know they are playing well enough to hang around the playoff picture.
“We’ve been playing better baseball games in every phase of the game,” Beltre said. “We’re playing better defense, the pitching has been outstanding, the offense has been more consistent, and that’s what we’re looking for.
“That’s going to be key for us for the last push the last six weeks or so. We know we have the team to do it, and we believe we that we can be there in the playoffs. We’re trying to get there however we can.”
Answer-backs, shutdowns and add-ons are a big part of the winning formula.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760