Texas Rangers

Rangers Reaction: 'Electric stuff' for six innings. Here's why that's key for Minor, Rangers.

Joey Gallo, who grew up in sunny Las Vegas, wasn't very keen on the cold temperatures Saturday night.
Joey Gallo, who grew up in sunny Las Vegas, wasn't very keen on the cold temperatures Saturday night. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The annual Bark at the Park was held Saturday night, so not every living thing in the stands was cold.

Texas Rangers first-base coach Steve Buechele popped out of the clubhouse during the pregame parade around the warning track and took a look at the hounds. Former pitching coach Mike Maddux never missed one and once even cleaned up after a dog did its business.

Players' wives are always the judges, and Mike Minor's wife had the duty of selecting the winner. Her husband had the duty of shutting down the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was a big night for the Minors.

Here's some Rangers Reaction from a 5-1 victory.

1. All throughout the spring and even over the first two weeks of the season, every time Minor's pitching was discussed, the term "electric stuff" inevitably came up.

Manager Jeff Banister used it. Minor's teammates used it. There was one conversation among club officials that Minor's stuff might be the best in the rotation, even better than Cole Hamels' stuff.

Hamels has been fairly electric himself in his first two starts, striking out 18. He goes for a third time Sunday. But Minor has 12 K's through two starts and on Saturday was both getting swings and misses and freezing hitters for third strikes.

Minor is also more of a veteran than some realize. He has pitched in the majors five seasons. Yes, the most recent was as a reliever and he missed the two before that, but he didn't forget how to pitch. He just wasn't able to pitch.

He pitched Saturday, making a big adjustment early on when he went away from his fastball and relied on his off-speed pitches. He said the cool weather was a factor in being unable to get a feel for his heater, but he didn't have any problem throwing his change-up and slider.

Minor got a key double play in the first inning after walking two of the first three hitters. That started a streak off 11 straight outs.

"It could have been a really ugly inning," Minor said. "The defense made some good plays behind me."

Concerns remain about his durability after not starting an MLB game since 2014. But he got through six innings, something only Bartolo Colon had accomplished in the Rangers' first nine games.

Minor admitted there was significance behind going six, and not just because he gave the bullpen a bit of a breather.

He didn't tighten up between innings.

He maintained his velocity and his stuff.

All positives.

"Pitch count, innings, the up-downs right there," said Minor, who has thrown 93 pitches in his two 2018 starts. "It was a big feat. At the time I wasn't thinking about it. My mom and dad texted me. They'd heard some stuff on the radio, about getting a win tonight, the first one starting since 2014. I guess I don't really think about it until hit happens. I felt pretty good."

If he can clear the durability issues with that "electric stuff," the Rangers will have another dependable starter.

2. Just when the Rangers' offense was getting a bad rap, somewhat undeserved because of the four Houston Astros aces they faced to start the season, look at the hitters the past three games.

Granted, games of 6, 5 and 5 runs aren't reminiscent of the '27 Yankees, but that's good enough to win most games. Not all, as the Rangers scored five Friday and lost by three, but most.

On top of that, the Rangers have put up a big inning in each game. Saturday marked the their third straight with a four-run inning, and they have done it differently than they did last season by actually working themselves into favorable counts, taking walks and stringing hits together.

That was a focus in spring training.

"We talked about that and really worked hard on that in spring training," Banister said. "The Houston series was a bit challenging. The Oakland series we did a much better job with that ... our approach of continue to stay focused in on putting the ball in play hard, working the count, taking walks when we get them and stay out of chase zones."

Joey Gallo's two-run double in the fifth jump-started the four-run rally. He walked in his first two plate appearances in his first game batting fifth after batting second the first nine games, and the double was on a 2-1 pitch from Marcus Stroman.

Banister said before the game that part of the decision was to move Gallo back to a spot in the lineup where he is more comfortable, but Gallo batting second doesn't work as well with Shin-Soo Choo batting leadoff as Delino DeShields.

The theory goes that DeShields, who broke his left hamate bone in the second game of the season, would put more pressure on defenses because of his ability to steal bases. He would force foes to shift less against Gallo and to throw Gallo for fastballs to cut down on DeShields' steals.

Gallo might go back to the second spot once DeShields is healthy. He says that will before the end of the month.

Whatever got into Gallo helped the Rangers heat up on a cold night.

3. How cold was it at Globe Life Park? It was cold, but it has been colder.

The temperature at first pitch was 42 degrees, which ranks as the third-coldest in Globe Life Park history. The coldest — 38 degrees — came exactly 11 years ago. No. 2 was 39 degrees on April 10, 2013.

Looking at the Rangers' defensive players, outside of Minor and catcher Juan Centeno, you would have thought it was 24 degrees.

At one point, each of the seven others wore a ski mask as protection from the elements. One of them was Rougned Odor, who, naturally, wore short sleeves (insert eye roll here).

Ryan Rua, who grew up near Cleveland (not Cleveland, Texas), was a holdout but eventually he caved to peer pressure. But the other six aren't from Ohio but rather warm-weather locales. Two were from Venezuela, two were from Las Vegas, one was from Curacao and another was from the Dominican Republic.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus was bundled up, as usual. His disdain for chilly weather, which for him is anything under 85, is well-known, and he's not ashamed of the ski mask.

"It was awesome," he said. "No one likes the cold, except for the pitchers."

Choo said that, without a doubt, he has played in colder temperatures. He played in snow in Cleveland but said the coldest he has ever been during a game was in Chicago in late September.

Cool temps, drizzle and wind, he said, "felt like someone was cutting my face."

That sounds bloody cold.

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