The Texas Rangers are no doubt happy with their 7-4 homestand, no matter the sting of a 9-8 loss on Sunday in which they spotted the Oakland Athletics and 8-0 lead.
A big test looms, however, as they open a four-game series against the Red Sox in Boston on Monday. The defending World Series champions are a game behind the Rangers in the wild card standings. Sure, it’s only June, but these games count the same as ones in September.
Adrian Sampson’s complete game on Saturday night helped save the bullpen, not only for Sunday, but for the four games in Boston, Woodward said.
And with starter Drew Smyly only going three in Sunday’s loss, it proved even bigger. Shelby Miller was yanked after allowing three runs on three hits in the fourth inning, which could have depleted the bullpen. But right-hander Pete Fairbanks (see No. 4 below) pitched two perfect innings and Brett Martin followed with two perfect as well, before Jose Leclerc pitched the ninth.
Four thoughts from Sunday:
1. Speaking of Leclerc — Let’s tap the breaks on any talk of Leclerc returning to form. He allowed a run (a very important run) on two hits in the ninth which loomed large after the Rangers had scored three in the eighth and two more in the ninth to pull excruciatingly close to tying or winning the game. After four scoreless appearances, Leclerc has now been burned in past two outings, including allowing Oakland’s game-winning, two-run homer in the ninth on Friday.
2. Reprieve for Rougie — Rougned Odor went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two doubles. He has three RBIs in his previous 12 games combined. The last time had more than one RBI was May 20. The last time he had more than one hit was May 16. That was also the last time he had more than one extra-base hit in a game. He had two homers and five RBIs against the Royals in KC. In the 21 games between then and Sunday, he had four extra-base hits and 11 RBIs.
3. Straight theft — In the eighth, Odor stole home to pull Texas to within 8-6. It was the first straight steal of home for a Rangers player since Elvis Andrus did it in San Diego on Sept. 1, 2015
4. Fairbanks firing — Right-hander Peter Fairbanks made his MLB debut with a perfect fifth. He struck out the side. He also pitched a perfect sixth. He was throwing 97-98 mph for much of his 21 pitches, including 17 strikes. He’s the eighth Rangers pitcher to make his MLB debut this season and third in the past three games. That matches the most pre-September pitcher debuts (2014) in club history. Fairbanks has two Tommy John surgeries in his past.
“It’s [feels] pretty good. I don’t really know how else to describe it,” Fairbanks said of striking out the side in the fifth. “I kinda talk to myself a little bit … I was like ‘Well, you’ve got a chance to do it, so you might as well’. It’s a cool feeling, a cool experience to be able to have, a cool memory. But you gotta keep going from there; it’s just one outing.”