When Chris Gimenez handled Yu Darvish last week for the first time, all he wanted to do was make the right-hander feel comfortable and get him through his innings.
The catcher called his career-high four hits “an afterthought.”
He described his big hit Monday at Target Field as “lucky.”
That may be, and the Texas Rangers are probably getting lucky in their first four games with Gimenez in the lineup.
But he has provided production at a position that was in decent hands when Robinson Chirinos played, but in a sinkhole when J.P. Arencibia caught.
Gimenez came through again against Minnesota, putting the game out of reach with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning as the Rangers won 7-2 for their third straight victory and climbed back above .500 for the first time since May 12.
The Rangers had to make the Gimenez-for-Arencibia swap, just as they needed to add Rougned Odor to shore up production at second base.
If another position or a spot on the pitching staff becomes a wasteland, Rangers officials will have to pull on the Hazmat suits again and clean it out. They’re in survival mode, and they can’t afford to carry players who can’t carry their weight.
“That’s what you have to do,” manager Ron Washington said. “You have to be aware of what you do have and help those guys believe that they can be a part of what we’re trying to do, and that’s win ballgames.
“So far, both of them have. You mention Gimenez and Odor. Since they’ve been up here, just trying to get them relaxed and get them to understand that they can play and just let their talents play.”
Gimenez is 7 for 14 in his past three games after an 0-fer in his Rangers’ debut. That’s one hit shy of Arencibia’s total in 60 at-bats, and Gimenez is two shy of the six RBIs that Arencibia mustered before he was optioned to Triple A Round Rock last week.
Four games is a supremely small sample size, but Pete Rose would bet his lifetime supply of Grecian Formula that Gimenez collects more than one hit in his next 43 at-bats and remains more productive than Arencibia.
Gimenez would bet as much, too, even though he will continue to split time with Chirinos.
Gimenez came to the Rangers with a career .199 batting average, but much of that futility came when he was a younger player. Now a wiser hitter at age 31, Gimenez believes he can hold his own.
“I know my career average has been terrible, I guess you could say,” said Gimenez, who will catch Darvish again Tuesday. “But I don’t feel that is a good representation of how I am as a hitter. I like to think I’m a little bit better hitter at this point in my career.”
Elvis Andrus delivered the biggest hit of the game, also a two-out, two-run double, in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie. He had been in an 0-for-29 skid with runners in scoring position, but has a hit in his past three chances.
Michael Choice also collected a two-out RBI double, which scored Gimenez in the second inning after his infield single and a throwing error by Kevin Correia allowed Alex Rios to score the Rangers’ first run.
The Rangers were up 4-2 when Andrus, who had three hits, started the eighth with a single and stole second. After Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre flied out, the Twins chose to walk the hot-hitting Rios to face Gimenez.
“I completely understand it,” Gimenez said. “But you always take that a little bit personally.”
He spoiled the move with a hooking liner down the left-field line that just stayed fair to score both runners, and Gimenez then scored on a Leonys Martin single as he avoided the tag at home from Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki.
The Rangers scored six times with two outs.
“It says that the concentration level is where it should be, and we just need to keep it up,” Washington said.
Nick Tepesch (2-0) allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings, making a nice recovery after allowing runs in the first and second innings. The biggest moment for him was a pickoff for the first out of the Twins’ fifth to erase Aaron Hicks’ leadoff single.
Eduardo Escobar followed with a double, but the Twins didn’t score as Tepesch retired Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer to preserve the 4-2 lead.
“I thought it was huge,” Tepesch said. “I’m sure [Hicks] would have scored on that double.”
Gimenez has been huge since replacing Arencibia last week. Gimenez has only played four games, but the Rangers have again successfully altered a position where offense was lacking.
As they operate in survival mode after injuries to Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, the Rangers can’t stop making changes when needed.