Texas Rangers

Amid all the Rangers’ hits and runs, here’s how Shelby Miller took a step forward

Here’s something the Texas Rangers didn’t want to have happened Monday night: being forced to use Jose Leclerc in the ninth inning.

It’s not because Leclerc struggled last week. He seemed to clear that hurdle Sunday in the 8-7 victory over the Oakland A’s.

The Rangers were up seven runs in the eighth, but the Los Angeles Angels collected two in the eighth against left-hander Kyle Bird and loaded the bases against him with two outs in the ninth.

The tying run was on deck, which created a save situation.

In came Leclerc, who three three balls to Zack Cozart before getting the final out on a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Did Logan Forsythe keep his foot on first base after making the nice scoop? Apparently.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 12-7 victory.

1. The bats were relentless against for the Rangers, but Shelby Miller was resilient for them in a big spot.

The right-hander pitched into the fifth inning for the first time this season, which seemed highly unlikely after he allowed three runs in the first inning and another in the second.

But he worked scoreless innings in the third and fourth, which was a 1-2-3 inning on nine pitches after the Rangers had tied the game a 4-all in the third. That was the inning of the game for Rangers pitching, and it came only after Miller lobbied manager Chris Woodward to let him stay in the game.

In so doing, and in not buckling when a shutdown inning was needed, Miller showed something.

“After the third inning, I basically asked him how he was doing ... and we were considering not sending him back out,” Woodward said. “That meant a lot to me for him to go out of his way to say, ‘No, I’ve got another one.’ I need to see what those guys are made of in those situations.”

Miller retired Andrelton Simmons to start the fifth, but a walk to Albert Pujols brought Woodward out of the dugout with Miller at 87 pitches. There wasn’t much satisfaction from Miller afterward.

“I didn’t start great,” he said. “I felt like the stuff was there at times. It’s just little mistakes I need to hone in on a little bit more when I’m in the game and avoid those big innings.”

Long man Kyle Dowdy, working for the first time since April 4, finished off a scoreless fifth and worked a perfect sixth while the Rangers were scoring seven runs. He ran into some trouble in the seventh, but still collected his first MLB win.

Miller still hasn’t won a game since April 18, 2017. He didn’t solve all of his problems Monday, far from it, but he saw the outing, and the fourth inning, as something to build upon.

“I almost got pulled there,” Miller said. “He let me go back out, and at that point I was just attacking and trying not to nibble too much. It was definitely the best inning of the night for me.”

The Rangers sure hope he gets better. With their starting pitching depth depleted with the sudden retirement of Jason Hammel and the injury to Edinson Volquez, they don’t have many alternatives.

2. The more times the Rangers’ offense rallies, the more the hitters will believe in the data-driven changes they have been asked to make. It keeps happening for them, especially at Globe Life Park.

The Rangers, who trailed 3-0 after one and 4-1 in the third, hung 14 hits on the Angels and scored in a variety of ways.

They scored three times on infield grounders. They scored four times on three home runs. They also singled the Angels to death in the four-run fifth, though the first hit of the inning was a leadoff double by Andrus.

Joey Gallo grounded a two-strike single to left field. That’s like seeing Big Foot.

Six runs came with two outs. The game-winning bunt single Sunday by Delino DeShields also came with two outs.

Two-out runs, former manager Ron Washington used to say, are the hardest ones to get.

“Those runs are daggers,” Woodward said. “When you’re on the pitching side and you give up two-out hits and two-out runs, they kill you. The one thing we talk about a lot in our hitter’s meetings is just never giving in.”

The offense has kept the Rangers afloat many times this season when the pitching staff has struggled. It has been the opposite in many road games. It’s not a sustainable pace.

“I have full faith in our pitching,” Woodward said. “There are things to build on, and we’ve got to see what our pitching is capable of. I love watching these guys compete. That’s the one thing I stress the most.”

3. Danny Santana started as second base, where he has played only sparingly in his career, and made the defensive play of the game to start the eighth inning with a diving stab of a grounder in shallow right field.

He also made an impact with two hits in five at-bats, two runs and two stolen bases.

Before the game, he took grounders at first base.

He can switch hit.

Man, can he run, and just wait until he unleashes his arm if he gets a chance to play center field.

Santana admitted Saturday that he thought he deserved to make the Rangers’ Opening Day roster based on the spring he had. He had to wait 12 games before getting called up and could force the Rangers to keep him once Rougned Odor is ready to come off the injured list.

Santana is out of minor-league options, and after spring training and two MLB games, he appears to be someone the Rangers wouldn’t want to risk losing. He appears to be someone who can help them win games.

Miller, Drew Smyly and Adrian Sampson could give Santana’s chances of sticking in the majors a big boost if they can consistently provide length. The Rangers are carrying eight relievers because they haven’t been able to do that.

Santana would have utility as a fourth bench player with his speed and defensive versatility. As a switch hitter, he could be difficult to match up as a pinch hitter.

A decision is coming, probably sooner than later. Odor took grounders Monday at second base, though without having to move laterally all that much. Nevertheless, it looks as if his IL stay will indeed be a brief one.

Santana’s stay on the roster shouldn’t be a brief one as long as he continues to make an impact.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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