Texas Rangers

Rangers tagged a left-handed starter. Here’s why it was going to happen sooner than later

Minor has a theory for success vs. Mariners

Texas Rangers ace Mike Minor struck out 11 batters Monday, giving him 24 strikeouts in two starts this season against the Seattle Mariners.
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Texas Rangers ace Mike Minor struck out 11 batters Monday, giving him 24 strikeouts in two starts this season against the Seattle Mariners.

The Seattle Mariners put a safety cone and yellow caution tape around the third-deck seat where Daniel Vogelbach’s two-run homer landed Monday in the seventh inning.

A day later, the Texas Rangers still believed towering shot should have been a foul ball.

First baseman Ronald Guzman said he had a look at it and definitely saw it hook foul. The same goes for right-hander Edinson Volquez, who said there was no way the ball was fair.

A quick video replay upheld the call of home run, and Guzman said that MLB had a camera at the top of the foul pole. He seemed dubious.

Whatever. Fair or foul, it was pretty impressive.

A day later it was the Rangers’ turn to pour on the offense.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 11-4 victory that snapped a three-game losing streak.

1. With all the left-handed starters the Rangers had seen, at some point they were going to get comfortable with what they were seeing.

That point arrived Tuesday.

“I think it was the four lefties in a row,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I think it just gives us a bit of a comfort factor.”

The Rangers tagged Marco Gonzales eight runs (six earned) in four-plus innings, and the Rangers’ lefty hitters were heavily involved. Shin-Soo Choo opened with a single and later scored on an error after he and Hunter Pence pulled off a double steal of second and third (Pence scored, too).

Joey Gallo opened the fourth with a single — career single No. 100 — and Nomar Mazara followed with a homer to center. Even Rougned Odor had a double.

Four of the Rangers’ seven runs in the fifth were charged to Gonzales. Choo had the second hit of the inning, a sharp single to right.

The right-handed hitters fared well, too. Pence had a two-run double, the hit that ended Gonzales’ night.

Guzman, another lefty hitter, provided the capper for the big inning with a three-run homer off righty Brandon Brennan.

The Mariners are planning to start another lefty, Wade LeBlanc, on Wednesday in the series finale. He will be the fifth straight lefty to face the Rangers, and he could be in trouble if Tuesday is any indication.

For one game, at least, they solved their woes against lefties.

2. The beneficiary of most of the Rangers’ success against the lefty was Adrian Sampson, who had quite a cheering section in the stands as he won his third straight game and the third of his career.

They were loud, too.

“My mom, you mean?” said Sampson, who is from nearby Redmond.

Sampson allowed three runs in five-plus innings after Jesse Chavez tossed a perfect first inning as the opener. The Rangers have used an opener in Sampson’s past three starts, and they will use Jose Leclerc on Wednesday ahead of Drew Smyly.

Woodward continues to say that he won’t always use the opener when Sampson pitches, but at this point there’s no need to go away from that strategy. He has allowed five earned runs in his past 15 2/3 innings (2.87 ERA).

“I’d say it’s working for the team,” Sampson said. “We’ve got three in a row off it. I have a good routine out there in the bullpen, and I’m able to get warmed up. I feel comfortable doing it.”

Sampson started his outing with three scoreless innings and took an 11-0 lead into the fifth. The Mariners got him for two runs and another in the sixth, and he was lifted after Mallex Smith singled to start the season.

That was the eighth Mariners hit against Sampson, seven of which came after the Rangers went ahead 11-0. He was pitching to contact, as all pitchers with mammoth leads are supposed to do, but he wasn’t happy with how he was doing it.

“I’ve got to do a better job sticking to the same plan instead of shifting that a little bit instead of when the game’s uneven,” Sampson said.

Those final two innings shouldn’t take away from what was another positive outing for Sampson and the opener. It was also a meaningful game for Sampson to win in his hometown.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s special for me. It was a big day.”

3. Woodward took full advantage of the blowout to get two key players off their feet for a few innings and to use a few relievers who need innings.

Elvis Andrus was done after six innings, and Gallo batted in the seventh before getting pulled. Andrus had been hit by a pitch in the big fifth inning and tweaked a knee in the sixth when J.P. Crawford dived into second head-first and drove his helmet into Andrus.

Gallo has some wrist soreness, but the best course of action for Gallo as long as he is in center field is to give him rest whenever possible.

It was possible Tuesday, and Woodward said that he had already planned to give Gallo the day Wednesday.

“I think he’s fine,” Woodward said. “I think he hurt his wrist on one of his swings. Elvis was just to get him out and get him off his feet.”

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Springs allowed one run in two innings. That is a vast improvement over his last outing Sunday, when he faced for batters at Anaheim, failed to retire any of them, and saw them all score.

The Rangers gave the ninth inning to Shelby Miller, who is still being eased into pitching out of the bullpen. Woodward still believes that Miller will make a positive contribution to this season after losing his spot in the rotation.

He won’t be pitching only in blowouts, in other words. But a blowout every now and then can do a lot of good for a team.

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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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