Youth carries the day for Rangers in 8-6 win
Chris Martin's right forearm was feeling much less crampy Tuesday, and he very wisely was playing Golden Tee in the clubhouse with his left arm to not risk anything.
He later played catch with his right arm the day after leaving his appearance because of a forearm cramp, and the Texas Rangers didn't report that anything was amiss.
The hope is that Martin will avoid the disabled list by resting until Thursday, when the Rangers return home to play the Boston Red Sox. If he does need 10 days, right-handers Matt Bush, Nick Gardewine and Connor Sadzeck are candidates to take that spot.
They could also be called up if Jake Diekman can't pitch after being struck above the left elbow and in the back by an eighth-inning line drive from Edwin Encarnacion. Diekman believes he will be fine, but the Rangers could be without Martin, him and two others who played central roles Tuesday.
One was bad. One was good.
Here's some Rangers Reaction from an 8-6 victory in 12 innings.
1. April was fairly miserable for the Rangers, who went 10-17. Add in the three March games, and they went 11-19 over their first 30 games.
The .370 April winning percentage was the second-lowest since 2009, topped only the club-record .333 mark in 2015. (Is record the right word there?) That season turned out pretty well for the Rangers.
It wasn't just injuries and inexperience that contributed to the 10-17 mark. The Rangers earned it through lousy starting pitching early, bullpen hiccups toward the end, and offensive inconsistency throughout.
General manager Jon Daniels acknowledges that the record is lousy and that some players underperformed. There were young replacement players who, as young players are apt to do, struggled from time to time.
But the thing that encourages Daniels most going forward is that those who have more to offer and the young players are going to get better as the season goes on and on.
Daniels might not have meant Tuesday night in the 12th inning, but he'll take it.
Joey Gallo, perhaps not hitting on all cylinders offensively as he transitions between left field and first base, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who still doesn't have 100 career at-bats, connected for back-to-back homers on consecutive pitches to send the Rangers to a harder-than-it-should-have-been victory.
Gallo leads the Rangers with nine homers and 21 RBIs, and Kiner-Falefa had his second four-hit game of the season. No one else on the team even has one.
They picked up Keone Kela, who blew a 6-2 lead in the ninth inning as he surrendered a game-tying grand slam to Michael Brantley with two outs on an 0-2 pitch. Alex Claudio also picked up Kela with three solid innings on only 31 pitches.
"What can you say about those young guys?" manager Jeff Banister said. "We're watching them grow up right in front of our eyes, really."
Kela is growing up, too. He actually asked if the media needed him, and then was delightful in honing up to his innings and where he went wrong. He missed badly with that 0-2 curveball.
"You get an 0-2 count in the ninth, put the damn ball in the dirt," Kela said.
But Gallo, 24, and Kiner-Falefa, 23, bailed out the 25-year-old closer. Claudio, 26, had his best outing of the season.
"That was a great win for us," Gallo said. "Even when that game got tied, we got back in an it was like, 'Alright, here we go. Let's keep doing what we're doing. We've got to score again and pick these guys up.'
"I thought we did an amazing job of that, just staying in the game. You've got to keep fighting and be professional. For a young team, it's pretty special what we're doing so far."
2. Another positive to close the month is that the rotation appeared to be shifting into gear. The starters had shaved nearly a run off their ERA over the 12 games before Tuesday, when Doug Fister gave the Rangers his best of the season.
Fister allowed two unearned runs in 6 2/3 innings. The runs, though, were unearned because of his throwing error. He was a pitch away from getting away with it, but Jason Kipnis got him for a two-run two-out double on an 0-2 pitch.
Fister liked the results, but also said his numbers might be a tad misleading. He credited the defense, including Gallo making a catch in left field like "he was catching a pass across the middle" to prevent a run in the third.
But Fister deserves more credit than he was willing to take. He pitched out of trouble, kept the ball mostly on the ground, and pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season on a night the bullpen was working short-handed.
"Overall, not a bad day," Fister said. "That's a full team effort right there, to say the least."
Matt Moore gets his turn Wednesday. He has a 3.00 ERA in his past 18 innings covering three starts and a one-inning relief appearance Sunday. Good starting pitching is contagious, as the starters don't want to be the one who lets the rotation down with a stinker.
"It is nice when you can rattle off 3, 4 or 5 in a row," Moore said. "The guys start to feed off each other. Sometimes hard starts to a season, it can take us a little longer to get out of it, but hopefully we can keep trending upward."
3. Two hitters who historically haven't hit well at all against left-handed pitchers are suddenly hitting lefties with regularity and hitting them hard.
Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara have consecutive games with extra-base hits against lefties in key situations. They put the Rangers in position two win Monday with back-to-back RBI doubles in the eighth, and on Tuesday they turned a 2-0 game into a 6-0 game in the seventh.
Profar outlasted Jeff Beliveau by fouling off five straight 3-2 pitches before doubling into the left-field corner to score two. Mazara followed with two-run homer to center field.
Profar and Mazara entered the game batting .375 and .303 against lefties after entering the season at .188 and .231 in their careers against them. Profar has a seven-game hit streak vs. lefties, and Mazara has two homers off lefties to double his career total.
"Profar, the 11-pitch at-bat prior to the Mazara home run, was incredible," Banister said.
Profar, now a wise old man at 25, is still a young player in terms of experience. His service clock says one thing, but two of those seasons he has amassed were spent on the disabled list, and this is his first extended stretch as an everyday player.
That is helping him find his rhythm at the plate and in the field, where a few throws have gotten away from him. But he works on his defense early whenever possible, and he has been able to apply the work he has put in on his right-handed swing.
"Playing every day, seeing pitches every day makes me comfortable at the plate," Profar said. "I'm just trying to help the team win."
He and Mazara have been doing a pretty good job of that in the first two games of this series.