Texas Rangers

Jesse Chavez, Joey Gallo lead Texas Rangers over Detroit Tigers in series opener

Jesse Chavez made his first real start in two years and it went about as well as the Texas Rangers could have hoped.

The Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3 in their series opener at Comerica Park Tuesday night and Chavez was a big reason why.

Joey Gallo’s return to the lineup was another. Gallo was 1 for 4 with an RBI double and a walk in his first game since leaving a game June 1 with a left oblique strain.

Ronald Guzman was 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBIs.

Texas scored twice in the first after Shin-Soo Choo and Willie Calhoun started it off with singles and scored on Nomar Mazara’s single and Logan Forsythe’s sacrifice fly.

“Winning is the biggest thing, and to feel like I helped this team a little bit is pretty nice,” said Gallo, who walked in his first at-bat in the first inning on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Texas added single runs in the third, sixth and eighth innings.

But Chavez was more than enough to keep the Tigers at bay. He struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings and held Detroit to one unearned run on five hits and no walks. Four of his strikeouts were looking.

Chavez left after striking out the lead-off hitter in the seventh at 76 pitches, the most he’s thrown this season and the most he’s thrown since he made his last legitimate start July 30, 2017 for the Angels.

“He definitely exposed their weaknesses from a pitching standpoint,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of the Tigers’ penchant for swinging early in counts. “He let their aggressiveness kind of work against them. We knew that they’re young and they love to swing the bat so if you do make quality pitches early in counts you get them off the barrel a little bit and you get a lot of first-pitch outs. That’s kind of what we saw later on.”

Chavez has worked as the opener four times this season but Tuesday’s outing was the first time he was pitched as a starter in the rotation. The Rangers have struggled to find consistent arms after Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and, to a lesser degree, Adrian Sampson, while Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller have struggled to sustain any kind of success.

“It feels the same,” said Chavez, who improved to 3-2 with the win. “I just try to make every pitch like I did as a long man or a set-up guy, whatever you want to call it. You just try to get the guys in the dugout as quick as you can.”

Locke St. John made his major-league debut as Chavez’s replacement and retired both batters he faced in the seventh. Jose Leclerc walked two in a scoreless eighth.

Miller allowed a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to Ronny Rodriguez but eventually closed it out.

“I try to rely on location as much as I can,” said Chavez, who was on a pitch limit of about 85. “Some days I have it, some days I don’t. Today I did. After the first inning I was able to see how they were going to attack and what their approach was.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.