Texas Rangers

Mazara’s big night lifts Rangers to first win of 2017

Nomar Mazara discusses hot start

Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara says he learned to stay strict with his approach at the plate after struggling for a few months his rookie season (Video by Stefan Stevenson).
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Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara says he learned to stay strict with his approach at the plate after struggling for a few months his rookie season (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

A prevailing thought among media types and so-called baseball experts was that the Texas Rangers’ offense in 2017 was due for a step back.

Gone from the lineup that led the Rangers to a second straight American League West title were Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland and Carlos Beltran. Indeed, that trio provided a great deal of offense.

But the Rangers never thought of panicking. They knew they would have full seasons from Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy, plus they added Mike Napoli to the middle of the order.

Through the small sample size of four games, the Rangers’ offense looks to be just fine, and they could have Adrian Beltre back by Sunday.

The lineup had its finest game so far Friday, as Mazara launched a grand slam and drove in a career-high six runs as the Rangers won for the first time this season, 10-5 over the Oakland A’s.

We saw this last year when he does get locked in. ... It’s hard to get the ball by him and it’s hard to get him to chase anything out of the zone. It’s fun to watch.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister about Nomar Mazara

“Obviously, losing those guys, that put some voids in our offense,” manager Jeff Banister said. “However, with the guys that we got with Carlos coming back, the ability to get Napoli, Mazara, Odor, we’re going to get Beltre back, Andrus, this is an offense that is deep. We can score. We can put runs on the board in multiple ways. Yeah, there was no panic in that situation.”

Mazara went 3 for 5, Gomez doubled twice and scored three times, Choo collected two hits and drove in a run, and Rougned Odor connected for a two-run homer in a three-run first. Gomez jump-started the Rangers with a dazzling defensive play on the game’s second batter and then with a hustle double to lead off the Rangers’ first.

The Mazara grand slam, the first of his career, capped a five-run second that left the Rangers with an 8-0 lead. Mazara is one of MLB’s hottest hitters at the start of the season, batting .588 (10 for 17) with two homers and nine RBIs after making an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. He made his MLB debut a week into last season.

“We saw this last year when he does get locked in,” Banister said. “When he’s holding the back side and he’s using the entire field, it’s hard to get the ball by him and it’s hard to get him to chase anything out of the zone. It’s fun to watch.”

Oakland got as close as 8-4 against A.J. Griffin and had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth when the Rangers turned to Alex Claudio to save the day.

The left-hander induced a quick double-play grounder to end the threat and allowed only one hit and one walk in  3 2/3 innings for the win. His pitch to Marcus Semien, who hit 33 home runs last season, to end the fourth arguably was one of the game’s biggest plays.

“He has been special for us in so many situations,” Banister said. “When he can mix with the arm angle and the movement on everything, it’s comforting to know that a guy comes in and throw strikes and can get outs for you.”

The Rangers scored 14 runs in the season-opening three-game sweep to Cleveland against the Indians’ three best pitchers — Corey Kluber (five runs), Carlos Carrasco (two runs) and Danny Salazar (five runs) — and a deep bullpen.

With six home runs, the Rangers entered their off day as the MLB leader in homers.

They added to the total, and needed to as Griffin faltered in his 2017 debut.

He managed two perfect innings to start the game, though Gomez had to rescue him in the first with a leaping catch at the center-field wall that might have robbed Matt Joyce of a home run.

Joyce got even in the third, connecting for a three-run homer after Griffin walked and plunked the No. 8 and 9 hitters. Khris Davis started the fourth with a homer, and the A’s had the bases loaded four batters later.

Griffin had to exit — but likely was going to be removed anyway — after suffering minor abrasions to his knees and right hand while diving to keep an errant Mazara throw from bounding out of play.

Claudio cleaned up the mess, Tony Barnette worked a scoreless eighth, and Jose Leclerc was tagged for an unearned run in the ninth.

But the Rangers had plenty of offense, and have had plenty of offense all along. Mazara provided the punch in the Rangers’ first win of the season.

“I feel pretty good right now,” he said. “If I get my pitch right away that’s what I’m doing, I’m getting ready to hit and put a good swing on the ball early in the count if they throw it to me.”

Oakland

003

100

001

5

6

1

Texas

350

002

00x

10

11

1

Oakland AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

R.Davis cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.095

Joyce rf

4

1

2

3

0

0

.231

Healy dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.167

K.Davis lf

4

1

1

1

0

1

.375

Vogt c

4

1

1

0

0

0

.250

Lowrie 2b

2

0

0

0

2

0

.294

Plouffe 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.158

Alonso 1b

3

1

2

1

1

0

.357

Semien ss

3

1

0

0

0

0

.214

Totals 32

5

6

5

3

5

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Gomez cf

4

3

2

1

0

0

.214

Choo dh

4

1

2

1

1

1

.286

Mazara rf

5

2

3

6

0

0

.588

Napoli 1b

5

0

0

0

0

1

.067

Odor 2b

4

1

2

2

0

0

.375

Lucroy c

4

0

1

0

0

0

.167

Gallo 3b

3

1

0

0

1

0

.154

Andrus ss

4

1

1

0

0

1

.357

Profar lf

3

1

0

0

1

1

.000

Totals 36

10

11

10

3

4

E—Alcantara (1), Odor (1). LOB—Oakland 4, Texas 6. 2B—Alonso (1), Gomez 2 (2), Odor (1), Andrus (2). HR—Joyce (1), off Griffin; K.Davis (3), off Griffin; Odor (3), off Alcantara; Mazara (2), off Alcantara. RBIs—Joyce 3 (3), K.Davis (4), Alonso (3), Gomez (2), Choo (1), Mazara 6 (9), Odor 2 (6). Runners left in scoring position—Oakland 1 (Semien); Texas 1 (Napoli). RISP—Oakland 3 for 9; Texas 4 for 10. Runners moved up—Semien, Lowrie, Choo, Andrus. GIDP—Plouffe, Semien. DP—Texas 2 (Odor, Napoli), (Andrus, Odor, Napoli).

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Alcantara L, 0-1

2

4

8

8

2

1

58

36.00

Hahn

6

7

2

2

1

3

78

3.00

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Griffin

3 1/3

4

4

4

2

4

75

10.80

Claudio W, 1-0

3 2/3

1

0

0

1

0

42

0.00

Barnette

1

0

0

0

0

0

17

0.00

Leclerc

1

1

1

0

0

1

25

0.00

Inherited runners-scored—Claudio 3-0. HBP—Alcantara (Gomez), Griffin (Semien). WP—Leclerc. T—2:56. A—34,235 (48,114).

Rangers vs. A’s

7:05 p.m. Saturday, FSSW

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