Texas Rangers

Kiner-Falefa continues to wow as Rangers' ultimate injury replacement

Isiah Kiner-Falefa's 12th-inning solo home run Tuesday night capped his second four-hit game of the season. No other Rangers player has even one four-hit game.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa's 12th-inning solo home run Tuesday night capped his second four-hit game of the season. No other Rangers player has even one four-hit game.

Suffice it to say that Isiah Kiner-Falefa never saw a pitcher like Corey Kluber on his long journey through the Texas Rangers' farm system, or Justin Verlander for that matter.

But he saw Kluber on Wednesday, and, well, even the most veteran hitters in the Rangers' lineup didn't fare much better than Kiner-Falefa did as the Rangers were getting walloped by the Cleveland Indians, 12-4, at Progressive Field.

Verlander was even better last month when Kiner-Falefa and the Rangers faced him.

So far, though, those aces seem to be the only pitchers who have slowed Kiner-Falefa, the rookie initially recalled from Triple A Round Rock to replace second baseman Rougned Odor after he strained his left hamstring.

Joey Gallo and Isiah Kiner-Falefa connected for back-to-back homers in the 12th inning Tuesday as the Texas Rangers overcame a ninth-innkng meltdown to beat the Cleveland Indians.

Kiner-Falefa is now replacing his third player. He played a few games last month at Tampa Bay while Jurickson Profar dealt with the MLB concussion protocol and is now manning third while Adrian Beltre's strained left hamstring heals.

Kiner-Falefa isn't as irreplaceable as Beltre or Elvis Andrus or the 2016 Odor, but he continues to wow the Rangers as he gets more and more comfortable with being in the major leagues.

"I feel good. I feel good," Kiner-Falefa said. "I'm adjusting well. I'm just trying to take it all it and make my adjustments when I need to make them and understand every situation."

He took his lumps against Kluber, though not as badly as Matt Moore did against Indians hitters. Moore surrendered 10 runs in four inning, including nine in the first two frames, and the Rangers never had a chance against Kluber, the Coppell High grad who has won two Cy Young awards.

Kiner-Falefa, though, collected his second four-hit game of the season Tuesday night in the Rangers' 8-6 victory. The capper was a solo homer in the 12th on the first pitch after Joey Gallo went deep to break a 6-6 tie.

The first four-hit game of Kiner-Falefa's career came April 17 in just his fifth career start. He's now up to a robust 18 starts, all consecutively, and has media types and fans wondering how the Rangers can keep him in the lineup once all the injured infielders return.

How about moving Gallo back to first base and letting Kiner-Falefa give left field a go?

He has done it in the minors and shags out there during batting practice, but he has enough on his plate for now. He continues to catch bullpen sessions as part of his potential move to catcher.

"Do we think about it? Can he do it? Yes," manager Jeff Banister said. "Let's don't ever forget just how long it takes for these guys. They get to the big leagues, we get giddy, we get excited, let's enjoy what this kid is doing. Let's let him play."

Andrus, one of the infielders on the disabled list, continues to be impressed by Kiner-Falefa. It's not just the numbers he has posted — .294 average, two homers, seven RBIs entering Wednesday — but the way he has played.

He has been unflappable, smart, gritty — all those words teammates and managers like to attach to young players. More than 1,700 at-bats in the minor leagues are enabling him to be those things.

"He's comfortable," Andrus said. "When you're young, that's the hardest part, to make the transition from the minors leagues to the big leagues. He's playing with no fear. When you play with no fear, as soon as you face some guys and you have a couple games under your belt, that's where the confidence and the trust come along."

Kiner-Falefa trusts his approach at the plate and understands when to try to drive the ball. His homer Tuesday was his second of the season after hitting five last year at Double A Frisco. He didn't hit any in his first 1,219 career at-bats, spanning 331 games.

"My approach in the minors was to hit the ball at the pitcher's shins," the 23-year-old said.

Now, he's a hit in his first stint in the majors.

Indians 12, Rangers 4

Texas

011

000

110

4

8

0

Cleveland

451

000

02x

12

15

0

Texas<QM>

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

DeShields cf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.265

Choo dh

4

0

2

1

0

0

.252

Profar ss

4

0

0

0

0

2

.238

Mazara rf

3

1

1

1

1

0

.280

Nunez pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.150

Gallo lf

3

1

1

1

0

1

.225

Rua lf

1

0

0

0

0

1

.204

Kiner-Falefa 3b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.278

Guzman 1b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.212

Centeno c

3

1

1

1

0

0

.162

Robinson 2b

3

1

1

0

0

2

.182



Cleveland<QM>

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Davis cf

2

1

1

1

0

0

.196

Zimmer ph-cf

2

0

0

0

0

2

.222

Kipnis 2b

4

2

2

3

0

0

.198

Lindor ss

5

3

3

1

0

0

.264

Brantley lf

5

1

2

1

0

0

.333

Naquin rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.296

Encarnacion dh

5

3

3

6

0

0

.191

Alonso 1b

4

0

0

0

1

1

.214

Guyer rf-lf

4

1

1

0

0

0

.174

Perez c

3

0

0

0

1

1

.111

Gonzalez 3b

4

1

3

0

0

1

.333



LOB—Texas 3, Cleveland 6. 2B—Robinson (2), Kipnis (9), Brantley (6), Guyer (4), Gonzalez (1). 3B—Gonzalez (1). HR—Mazara (5), off Kluber; Centeno (1), off Kluber; Gallo (10), off Kluber; Encarnacion (7), off Moore; Kipnis (1), off Moore; Encarnacion (8), off Moore; Lindor (5), off Chavez; Encarnacion (9), off Chavez. RBIs—Choo (15), Mazara (17), Gallo (22), Centeno (3), Davis (1), Kipnis 3 (12), Lindor (12), Brantley (15), Encarnacion 6 (16). SF—Davis. Runners left in scoring position—Texas 2 (Mazara, Guzman); Cleveland 3 (Lindor 2, Guyer). RISP—Texas 1 for 5; Cleveland 7 for 15. Runners moved up—DeShields. GIDP—Profar, Centeno. DP—Cleveland 2 (Lindor, Kipnis, Alonso), (Kipnis, Lindor, Alonso).

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Moore, L 1-4

4

11

10

10

2

1

94

7.67

Gardewine

2

2

0

0

0

1

34

3.60

Chavez

2

2

2

2

0

3

31

6.00

Cleveland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Kluber, W 5-1

7

6

3

3

0

6

99

2.41

Otero

1

2

1

1

0

0

18

4.72

Taylor

1

0

0

0

1

1

17

0.00

HBP—Gardewine (Kipnis). PB—Centeno (1). Umpires—Home, Chris Segal; First, Mark Carlson; Second, Brian Knight; Third, Pat Hoberg. T—2:41. A—15,637 (35,225).

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