Texas Rangers

Calhoun part of Rangers’ big night at the plate. Sampson was the main beneficiary

Shin-Soo Choo gets a bear hug Friday after his two-run homer from Rougned Odor, who hit a three-run homer only a few batters earlier in the Rangers’ 7-3 win.
Shin-Soo Choo gets a bear hug Friday after his two-run homer from Rougned Odor, who hit a three-run homer only a few batters earlier in the Rangers’ 7-3 win. Special/ Richard W. Rodriguez

The MLB scheduling genie has provided Texas Rangers fans with a 3 p.m. Saturday start, so, naturally, it supposed to rain much of the morning and afternoon.

Curses!

The forecasts says it will start raining at some point when the when the after-hours bars stop serving and still be raining when Rangers Reaction fires up his new Orangetheory Fitness heart-rate monitor at 7:30.

It should still be wet when the Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals arrive at Globe Life Park in mid-morning, when lunch is served and when the scheduled first pitch arrives.

The good news is that it appears as if the rain will go away long enough for the second game of the three-game weekend series.

As for the opener, here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-3 victory.

1. Miles Mikolas was once a Rangers project, back in the atrocious 2014 season, and he must have had that 2014 vibe as he took the mound for the Cardinals.

An 18-game winner a year ago after two years as a start in Japan, Mikolas was eminently hittable in the second inning as the Rangers scored seven times and he recorded only one out.

Rougned Odor swatted a three-run homer, which might suggest that Mikolas was pitching as well as a Kansas City Royals position player, and Shin-Soo Choo launched a two-run homer.

The Rangers collected nine hits against Mikolas, including two in the second by Joey Gallo. Neither was a homer. In fact, one was a single (gasp!).

And that was pretty much it.

The Rangers had only two more hits as four Cardinals relievers struck out 13 and waled only one.

But the output kept the Rangers atop the majors in runs per game at 5.88. They’ve scored 29 the past three, including 16 on Thursday, and, not coincidentally, have a three-game winning streak after dropping five in a row.

The problem, which has been well documented, is that the rotation. Just as some can’t outwork a bad diet, it’s hard to out-hit dicey pitching.

2. Willie Calhoun had a hand in the offense’s big day, collecting a double against Mikolas and a single in the seventh for the Rangers’ first hit since Gallo’s second hit in the second.

Got that?

Calhoun continues to say all the right things to the media since he mishandled his demotion to Triple A Nashville two days before spring camp broke. His numbers in the minors confirm that he didn’t let the trip to the minors affect him the way it did after he was demoted early in the spring of 2017.

He even has lost five pounds since spring training, and he’s trying to make himself more valuable by attempting to play more positions. There hasn’t been a flyball to left field yet that has been a misadventure.

Calhoun looks like he belongs in the majors in an everyday role. Granted, it’s been only three games, but the Rangers are committed to playing him four out of five games as long as he’s with them.

He has minor-league options remaining, which means that he could be a victim of a numbers game when the Rangers reinstate Elvis Andrus from the injured list next weekend. They can also create a spot by scaling back to a seven-man bullpen.

So, Calhoun needs to make himself indispensable offensively, which he is on his way toward doing. He’s batting .500 (8 for 16) after three games. While that’s not sustainable, good at-bats and smart hitting can be.

But he might not be able to out-hit dicey pitching.

3. It’s been a long road for Adrian Sampson to get back to the major leagues, which he accomplished in September following a torn flexor tendon in 2016.

On Friday, he picked up his first career victory.

Sampson allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings after Jose Leclerc worked a scoreless first inning as the opener. That’s right, the closer into the foreseeable future is now an opener.

Sampson admitted that getting his first career win had been on his mind. He came close April 20, when he was lifted after 4 1/3 innings with a 6-2 lead, but it seemed as if it would happen eventually despite Sampson running hot and cold the past few weeks.

“It feels good,” he said. “It took me long enough.

“I’ve just been through a lot. Anytime you pitch and it’s been a while, it’s been on my mind. So, it’s good to get it out of the way.”

Sampson has been much better out of the bullpen, and, technically, he was a reliever Friday. He has a 1.89 ERA in 19 relief innings but a 7.66 ERA in 22 1/3 inning as a starter.

Manager Chris Woodward said that the Rangers will investigate, though Sampson dismissed the disparity as just a one of those things. With Shelby Miller headed to the bullpen and without many other options, Sampson is locked into the rotation.

But using the opener might be the right thing to do when he pitches.

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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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