Everything was going so well Tuesday at Chase Field.
Texas Rangers higher-ups who made the trip for a field inspection were awfully cheery.
The offense, after taking the weekend off at Angel Stadium, scored four runs in the first two innings off Zack Greinke.
The starting pitcher was in command en route to a quality start.
The closer signed to a contract extension in spring training and pretty much dominant the first week of the season got the ninth inning with at two-run lead.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
1. Jose Leclerc didn’t make any excuses after allowing three runs and recording only one out in his first blown save since before he was made the Rangers’ closer last summer.
The final blow was a two-run homer by the light-hitting Jarrod Dyson, who is Babe Ruth against Leclerc.
Only five players have hit homers off Leclerc, including Rangers killers Khris Davis and George Springer. They have one, along with Yolmer Sanchez and Ronald Torreyes.
Dyson has two.
That’s what the Rangers were saying after watching Leclerc miss badly with his first pitch and leave two pitches up in the zone. The first was an RBI double to Eduardo Escobar, who scored two batters later on Dyson’s shot to right.
“You don’t see him get hit like that very often,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Hats off to them. They hit mistakes.”
He denied feeling any rust after not pitching in six days. The Rangers didn’t need him Thursday in their win, and he didn’t pitch in the ensuing three losses. Plus, the Rangers were off Monday.
Woodward said that they will revisit their usage of Leclerc the next time a long stretch with no games comes along.
Leclerc wasn’t having any of that.
“Everything was good,” he said. “My fastball was there and my changeup was there. They just could hit whatever I threw.”
Woodward had some concerns that the blown save might rattle Leclerc, a young closer who hasn’t had many failures the past 12 months. He entered Tuesday with a scoreless streak of 25 1/3 innings.
Leclerc, though, seemed rock solid talking to the media.
He knows all closers go through days like his Tuesday.
“I tried to do my best, but it’s still another day tomorrow,” Leclerc said. “You’re going to have those days. I just have to keep working. Come back tomorrow and do my things. No matter what happened last night, I just have to do it tomorrow.”
2. It’s pretty remarkable what quality starting pitching can do for a team.
He more than gave the Rangers a chance to win a game for the second straight outing. It was the first time in five years since he pitched seven innings and allowed no more than two runs in back-to-back starts, after dealing with a long injury drama with his shoulder, a season as a reliever and last season with a leash around his pitching arm.
Minor is now unrestricted, and not just physically. He no longer has the mental hurdle of knowing he was on a pitch count, and that’s just as significant.
““I was counting pitches. I knew where I was at. I was looking at the scoreboard. This year I haven’t looked one time,” Minor said. It feels good to go out there and not have that leash, and just pitch until he takes the ball out of my hand.”
Minor allowed two solo homers but needed only 99 pitches to work seven innings. He struck out five, including the final two batters he faced.
Woodward thought that Minor wanted to go back for the eighth, but instead he turned to Chris Martin.
“He used all of his pitches effectively and used both sides of the plate,” Woodward said. “When he has his changeup going like that, it makes it a lot easier for the rest of his pitches to work. He did a great job for us.”
3. The club brass who made the trip to Chase Field to inspect the Shaw Sports System synthetic turf were pretty pleased with what they were seeing.
The turf, they said, looks really good, like natural grass. It feels good, better sometimes than natural grass. The dirt warning track looks good against it.
They couldn’t find any negatives, which should be expected considering the money they are pouring into the turf for Globe Life Field and the hell they raised among the fans base.
At the very minimum, it’s better than the surfaces at Tampa Bay and Toronto.
For the Diamondbacks, the synthetic stuff is better than the natural stuff, which suffered in the summer. It was hard as a rock, painted in places because it was dying, and it was slippery.
For the Rangers, the Shaw turf will allow them to avoid any issues with growing grass or keeping Globe Life Field cool. The players, for the most part, are glad to trade cooler temperatures for playing on turf.
Both teams are going to see financial benefits from the turf as they bring in concerts and other events during the season while their teams are on the road.
Now that the Rangers have made the decision to go with the turf, it’s time to move on. Issues will come up that will be addressed, like the first cleat getting caught in the turf of the first day it’s 90 degrees in the ballpark with the roof closed.
But if an off-season tractor pull puts the Rangers over the top on a key free agent, maybe the decision will be worth it.