Texas Rangers

Rangers come back to climb above .500. How much higher can they climb on next homestand?

Rangers’ Woodward on series win over KC

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward talks about the team winning a series in Kansas City.
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Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward talks about the team winning a series in Kansas City.

The Texas Rangers had to excuse assistant coach Jayce Tingler on Tuesday if he wasn’t as sharp as he normally is when throwing batting practice.

He had something else on his mind, the EF-4 tornado that was swirling toward his family near the Kansas City airport.

All ended up well, as the family went to the basement and the storm veered five to 10 miles away. The only disruption at the Tingler residence, aside from some serious rain, was debris from the twister that might have come from as far as 35 miles away.

It was a helpless feeling, which those who travel for a living have felt to some degree. The good news is that the road trip is over, and it was the Rangers’ first non-losing trip of the season.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-7 victory over Seattle Mariners.

1. Maybe somewhere in professional baseball, like in Low A, there is a worse defensive team than the Mariners, but it’s hard to fathom. They actually had three E-1s, two one on play, in the same inning.

Domingo Santana has usurped Josh Willingham as the worst left fielder Rangers Reaction has ever seen, not that Nomar Mazara is complaining.

His towering flyball to left field with two outs in the ninth inning carried quite a bit, but Santana should have made the catch. He didn’t, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with another double to bring in the go-ahead run.

Cabrera opened the road trip with one RBI away from Globe Life Park but collected five in the past six games. He can hit on the road.

“Who said I can’t?” Cabrera said.

The first two Mariners reached in the ninth against Shawn Kelley, and one-time Rangers killer Kyle Seager batted with one out and the tying run at second base. But Seager bounced to Logan Forsythe at first, who triggered a 3-6-1 double play to end the game.

That made a winner out of Jesse Chavez, who, for all of the talk about how much he dislikes the opener concept, has put together a terrific month out of relief work. A starter much of his career, he prepared as a reliever in spring training and didn’t get enough work to get where he needed to be.

That’s why his April was so bumpy.

“Basically trying to get built to last year, and sometimes it takes time,” Chavez said. “I didn’t have enough reps in spring training. It’s just taken time to get back.”

The big hit of the game for the Rangers came in the eighth inning, when Shin-Soo Choo brought in two two-out runs with a pinch-hit single.

It helped the Rangers return home for 11-game homestand at 27-26. The first two opponents are the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, which would have been pretty scary in the early ‘80s.

The Rangers have a chance to open some breathing room between them and .500 before the four-game Oakland A’s series June 7-9.

“We’re playing teams we feel like we match up again, but we have to get it done,” manager Chris Woodward said. “If we take those teams for granted, or any team, they’ll beat our butts.”

2. The opener concept works for the Rangers when it’s Adrian Sampson’s turn to pitch. It doesn’t work for them when it’s Drew Smyly’s turn.

“It’s not my preference,” he said. “You’ve just got to go do it.”

The left-hander couldn’t hold the 3-0 lead he inherited in the second inning after Jose Leclerc tossed a scoreless first. Smyly surrendered seven runs in five innings three of them came in his final inning, the sixth, just as Chavez started to warm up.

The Rangers were up 5-4 to start the inning.

It’s worth noting that the Rangers were down only 2-1 on May 11 entering the sixth inning at Houston, where Chavez was used as the opener ahead of Smyly. The Astros scored four in the sixth as Smyly tired and after Alex Bregman hit a grand slam off Kyle Dowdy.

The same thing that bit the Astros at Houston looks to have gotten them again Wednesday. They needed a trusty reliever as Smyly wore down, but they didn’t have as many available with Leclerc used up and Kyle Bird optioned before the game.

Smyly had to get them to the seventh.

It’s also worth noting that Smyly had his best start of the season Friday at Anaheim without an opener. He allowed three runs in six innings to win for the first time since 2016.

Woodward said before the game that he was torn about using an opener but said he did so because he thought the Mariners would stack their lineup with right-handers at the top.

They didn’t, and Tim Beckham was sitting in the seven hole when he floated a two-run homer in a three-run fourth. Mitch Haniger was batting second, which Woodward anticipated, when he hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

Of course, none of this would be up for discussion had Smyly pitched better. He acknowledged that he wasn’t has sharp as last week and that he was regularly behind in the count.

“I was making it hard on myself,” Smyly said.

The hitters and bullpen bailed him out.

3. The news Wednesday from the minor leagues was substantial. The dominant relief duo of Demarcus Evans and Joe Barlow have been promoted to Double A Frisco from High A Down East.

Each throws hard and has largely been unhittable the past season and a half. They have some control issues, but the Carolina League was no longer proving to be much of a challenge.

Getting a promotion from Frisco to Triple A Nashville was Peter Fairbanks, who also throws gas and is one step closer to the major leagues.

All three are eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the season, along with yet another hard-throwing reliever at Double A, Emmanuel Clase. Also eligible is righty starter Tyler Phillips (Frisco), center fielder Leody Taveras (Down East) and infielder Anderson Tejeda (Down East).

A case can be made that each of the six would be lost in the Rule 5 if not added to the 40-man roster.

The Rangers will have some serious decision-making ahead, and some of it could come before the season is finished. The Rangers need relievers. The Rangers are still rebuilding. The Rangers have a history of promoting young relievers over multiple levels.

Don’t be surprised to see a couple of them in the second half.

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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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