Pence’s focus is on Rangers, not All-Star Game
The All-Star break has arrived, which is a good thing for the Texas Rangers.
They limped to the end of the first half of the MLB season, losing far more than they won over the final eight games, and need to recharge their minds and body for the second half.
Thanks to Rougned Odor’s three-run homer in the 11th inning Sunday, the Rangers go into the break on a high note.
The Rangers play seven of their first nine games after the break against the Houston Astros, so manager Chris Woodward left his players with some advice for their three-day break.
Don’t overdo it.
“I want everyone to relax and enjoy themselves,” Woodward said. “But let’s not have to recover from the break after the break.”
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Byron Buxton is one of the fastest players in baseball.
He was credited with a triple in the second inning on a ball into the left-field corner. The Rangers threw to try to get an out at home, which ensured Buxton’s safely reaching third, but he might have been headed there anyway.
Yeah, he’s fast, which makes what All-Star Joey Gallo did in the fourth inning even more impressive.
The Twins had the go-ahead run at third with one out, and Buxton had just swiped second, when Max Kepler lifted a flyball to center field. It wasn’t a drive to the warning track, but it was hit deep enough to get the runner at third, Jonathan Schoop, home.
Buxton thought it was deep enough for him to get to third.
Gallo, though, threw to third, and his one-hop seed and a quick tag by Asdrubal Cabrera just beat Buxton before Schoop touched the plate.
The Twins didn’t challenge the play, and the game remained tied. The throw also atoned for the fielding error Gallo made earlier in the inning that put the Twins in position to retake the lead.
“It was hit pretty deep, but I felt like I would give it a chance and whatever happens happens,” Gallo said “Nine times out of 10 it doesn’t happen. I know Buxton was running, but why not make the attempt.
“I give credit to Cabby for picking that ball and getting the tag down. That was amazing.”
Gallo, who also had a double, a bunt single, a walk and two runs scored, wiped clean an 0-for-4 game with three strikeouts Saturday and headed to his first All-Star Game on a high note.
Shin-Soo Choo stayed hot at the plate Sunday, but had to leave early after tweaking his left ankle in the eighth inning.
Choo headed into the All-Star break with a six-game hitting streak and knowing that he did all he could to prevent the Rangers from getting swept out of Target Field.
He had three hits Saturday and two hits and two walks Sunday to finish the series 6 for 11. He aggressively tagged at first on a flyball into the left-field corner in the first inning and later stole third base.
Choo’s first-half numbers weren’t as good as what he did last season en route to his first career All-Star Game. The hope is that his second half isn’t as bad as last season following his first career All-Star Game.
The hope is he’s OK to start the second half. He said afterward that he is.
Jose Leclerc was announced as the Rangers’ starting pitcher for Sunday even though he threw 30 pitches Saturday afternoon. The assumption was he would pitch only one inning.
The assumption was also that Joe Palumbo, recalled to pitch Sunday, would followed Leclerc.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
Leclerc tossed 1 2/3 innings, not just one, and was followed by Ariel Jurado, who was started Wednesday. He pitched 2 1/3 innings, benefiting from the Gallo throw, before Palumbo finally took over in the sixth.
Palumbo, who almost didn’t get out of the first inning June 19, tossed three scoreless innings to keep the Rangers in a 1-1 tie.
(Palumbo was optioned back to Triple A Nashville after the game.)
So, whatever it was the Rangers drew up Saturday night or Sunday morning, it worked.
“We talked about it beforehand, depending on where the score was,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I didn’t foresee throwing Palumbo in a tie game. If you have to, you have to.
“With Jurado available, I felt he and Leclerc could get through at least the first three maybe take a little heat off Palumbo. They ended up getting through the first four, which was great.”
Chris Martin was dominant in the eighth and ninth, continuing his recent surge. Closer Shawn Kelley pitched out of a jam in the 10th to give the Rangers another chance.
The win? A very big one.
“It was like a playoff setting, no tomorrow,” Woodward said. “Not a huge fan of using my closer, but we wanted to give us the best chance of winning.”
So long, first half ...
Raise your hand if before the season you thought you would be disappointed that the Rangers had 48 victories at the All-Star break
No hands in the air, I’m assuming, but there is some disappointment with the Rangers’ record based on how the first half ended.
Nevertheless, the Rangers have surged past preseason expectations and will take a 48-42 record into the second half. Some sports books in Las Vegas had the over/under for the Rangers’ win total as low as 70.5.
It’s possible that happens, though remotely, and the Rangers should have no problem clearing 70. They will win 8x games if they play .500 ball in the second half.
While the Rangers are a surprise, so are the performances of Hunter Pence, Gallo, Mike Minor and Danny Santana. The first three are All-Stars. The latter is pushing to unseat Rougned Odor at second base.
An argument can be make that Lance Lynn should have been an All-Star. Choo, last year’s All-Star, and Elvis Andrus have been solid. Nomar Mazara has picked up the pace the past month, and Willie Calhoun is on the big-league roster to stay.
Odor leads the group of Rangers who must improve in the second half. Seventy-five percent of the infield needs to be more productive.
The pitching staff has room to improve. It must if the Rangers are going to have any chance at a playoff spot, not to mention 84 wins.
Raise your hand if you thought that was possible at the start of the season.
Nothing, I’m assuming.