Jeff Mathis didn’t have a hit Saturday afternoon, and he has only 10 in his past 61 at-bats. His average is .143.
But the defense-first catcher found himself in the middle of the Rangers’ offensive output.
Mathis walked in his first plate-appearance, knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly during the Texas Rangers’ four-run fourth, and walked and scored a run in the sixth.
His only official at-bat ended with a flyball to the warning track in center field.
The Rangers knew what they were getting when they signed Mathis to a two-year deal, and no one is complaining about his contributions.
The same goes for the pitcher Mathis was catching Saturday.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-2 victory.
Through 12 starts, Lance Lynn has given the Texas Rangers the following:
▪ 74 innings
▪ 77 strikeouts
▪ Eight quality starts
▪ An 8-4 record in his starts
That will do.
The right-hander allowed two runs Saturday in 6 1/3 innings and finished with seven strikeouts. He logged 102 pitches, clearing the century mark for the 10th time.
His high this season is 120 pitches May 21.
“He swears he can go 150,” manager Chris Woodward said.
What Lynn is doing has been enough.
He and Mike Minor are the two surest things in the Rangers’ rotation, the two starters who routinely keep the game close or keep the Rangers ahead.
Woodward knows that the bullpen will have a lighter workload when those two start. He knows that they will do something that should catch the eye of very pitcher on staff.
For Lynn, one of his biggest contributions has been showing pitchers they must be adaptable. Lynn has been stubborn in the past about his fastball usage, to the point where teams start looking for it.
He has had to throw more off-speed pitches, a change he started to make after his worst start of the season last month at Oakland. The A’s got him for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, and third baseman Matt Chapman told Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley that he was sitting fastball when he connected for a homer off Lynn.
The scouting report said that Lynn threw almost exclusively fastballs.
It doesn’t say that anymore.
“He’s helping out in so many ways, I think in ways that even he doesn’t understand,” Woodward said. “Early on, he got expose early on throwing too many [fastballs]. His willingness to dial that back down to eventually get back to where he can establish it again was big for our other guys. Yes, he wants to pitch with his fastball, but he’s learned to use his other weapons as well.”
2. Woodard has maintained throughout this rash of openers that Adrian Sampson would some day start a game again. That day, Woodward said, is Sunday.
The manager wants to see what Sampson looks like in the first inning again. Maybe he has found something as a primary pitcher, because he’s been much better as a primary pitcher the past three games than he has been starting games.
He has won his past three outings, all after an opener handled at least the first inning, and posted a 2.87 ERA. But he is 0-2 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts.
This rates as taking a chance.
“I’m OK with the way their lineup sets up,” Woodward said. “I want to see what it looks like when he starts, and I thought the was the team to do it.”
The opener/Sampson combo has become a reliable part of the rotation, behind Minor and Lynn. Ariel Jurado is looking like a potential solution in the rotation. Drew Smyly took a step backward Wednesday, though in a Rangers victory.
All a starter has to do is give the offense a chance to do its thing. That’s what Jurado did Friday, allowing two runs in six innings before the offense came alive in the sixth with six runs.
Even Smyly, in his start to open the last road trip, allowed three runs in six innings in a 4-3 victory at Anaheim. An opener worked ahead of him Wednesday, and it’s safe to say he didn’t like it.
As some start to get excited about the Rangers being around .500 and in the early hunt for a wild-card birth, their hopes will be pinned to the rotation. Minor and Lynn are doing just fine. The Rangers will only go as far as the other three spots will take them.
The Rangers will look Sunday to see if Sampson can go it alone or if he needs an opener.
3. Hunter Pence was selected by the media as the Rangers’ Player of the Month for May after he batted .299 with eight homers, 26 RBIs (tied for the league lead) and a league-best .678 slugging percentage.
Those numbers could make him the American League Player of the Month, but they didn’t make him unanimous choice as May’s top Ranger.
Right-hander Jesse Chavez caught some voters’ attention.
He didn’t allow a run in 17 1/3 innings, a stark improvement from an April in which he posted an 8.79 ERA and a 2.023 WHIP. Opponents batted .359 against him then, but only .183 in May.
Chavez has served as the opener as well as covering multiple innings late in games. He finally logged enough innings to find his arm slot and get command of the cutter than served him so well last season.
He will also turn 36 later this season and is in his 12th MLB season. The Rangers wanted another experienced arm for their bullpen, and that’s why David Carpenter was called up Friday from Triple A Nashville.
Carpenter is not a prospect. He’s a reclamation project, soon to be 34, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015 because of injuries. He doesn’t have nearly the same service time as Chavez or Shawn Kelley, but he has more than Jeffrey Springs, Kyle Dowdy and almost every other reliever at Triple A.
Carpenter has revitalized his career after an off-season working at Driveline Baseball in Seattle. His velocity is up, and his slider was an effective pitch as he became the closer at Nashville.
He also posted some solid numbers, a 1.76 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and a .192 opponents average.
As Rangers Reaction noted a week ago, changes in the bullpen needed to be made. The Rangers have made a couple. They might not amount to much, but there is no harm in trying something new.
Even if the pitcher is a used model.