Texas Rangers

Introducing the Strikeout Kings. They are more commonly known as the 2019 Texas Rangers

Defense key part of Allard’s outing in Rangers’ win

Texas Rangers rookie Kolby Allard allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, and thanked the fielders behind him.
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Texas Rangers rookie Kolby Allard allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, and thanked the fielders behind him.

Camden Yards opened in 1992, two years before Globe Life Park opened its doors, and the home of the Baltimore Orioles remains one of the gems of baseball.

The warehouse in right field is the main selling point, but it’s difficult to find much wrong here.

Other than the home team.

The Orioles aren’t very good, and there’s no doubt they are tanking. They should have the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year, a formula that worked out pretty well for the Houston Astros.

Coincidentally, or not, Orioles general manager Mike Elias came from the Astros.

But even the worst team in baseball is still going to win occasionally.

The Texas Rangers nearly found that out.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 3-1 victory.

Strikeout kings

The Rangers won’t be celebrating the MLB-first they reached in the opener against the Orioles -- the first team this season to reach 1,400 strikeouts.

No MLB team has struck out more often than the Rangers, who fanned six times to push their season total to 1,401. The 2017 team set the single-season team record for most strikeouts at 1,493.

These Rangers could eclipse that next week.

The MLB single-season record is 1,594, set last season by the Chicago White Sox.

That’s not out of reach with 20th games remaining.

“I don’t want to break the strikeout record. I just don’t,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We’ve had too much progress from an offensive standpoint to have that weighing on us.”

The Rangers are missing all these pitches without Joey Gallo, the most strikeout-prone player. His absence, though, might be contributing to the offense’s woes.

Hunter Pence and Nomar Mazara are also nursing injuries, robbing the Rangers of the middle of their batting order. Rookie infielder Nick Solak has been the cleanup hitter of late.

That worked out nicely Thursday as he hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to erase a 1-0 deficit.

But without their best run producers, the rest of the Rangers might be pressing.

“We don’t have, right now, three of our biggest threats in the lineup. That makes it tough,” Woodward said. “You see how important the middle of that lineup is to taking the stress load off everyone else, and everybody else is trying to do too much.

“It’s a learning process right now. We have to learn how to control the at-bat from pitch one but also with two strikes, collectively, say, ‘OK, let’s not strike out.’ We all have our own way of doing it, but there has to be something. I have to see some significant change and start pressuring pitchers more. The Yankees shortened up with two strikes, almost all of them. Those are things we have to do.”

Allard keeps competing

Kolby Allard wasn’t quite as good as Orioles counterpart John Means for much of the night, but his night ended up better with his fourth win in six starts since he was acquired July 30.

The left-hander allowed one run on eight hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, and again showed that the Rangers might have something for 2020 and beyond.

Allard did the things pitching coaches like to see, working quickly and throwing strikes. Allard gave up some hard contact, including three hits in the fourth inning, but he also benefited from good defense because of his tempo.

Defensive players are better when a pitcher works fast.

“I’m always going to go out there and attack the zone,” Allard said. “Keeping your defense in the game is important, and they did a great job of picking me up when I didn’t execute as well as I would have liked tonight.”

Emmanuel Clase finished off the seventh, Rafael Montero worked the eighth, and Jose Leclerc finished off the win, though not without some drama.

Allard can be fun to watch. He has a bounce in his step, he can be animated after pitches he doesn’t like, and quietly confident after pitches he does like.

After a two-out single in the fifth and his own throwing error to first base on a pick-off try, Allard make a pitch to Hanser Alberto that was popped up. Allard started moving immediately toward the dugout, knowing that he had gotten out of another scoreless inning.

And the Rangers have him under control potentially through 2024.

About that defense ...

Here’s are three plays made in the field that helped Allard helped him navigate around the 10 Orioles base runners he allowed:

First inning: Rougned Odor snared a line drive from Renato Nunez that was headed toward right field for an RBI single. Instead, it was the second out and kept Hanser Alberto at third base.

Fourth inning: The first two Orioles singled, and Allard’s second pitch to Jonathan Villar was in the dirt and squirted away from catcher Jose Trevino. The runner at second, Anthony Santander, took off for third, but Trevino quickly found the ball and fired to third for an easy out.

Fourth inning: Mark Trumbo was up two batters later, with runners again at first and second. The once fearsome power hitter smoke a one-hopper to third base, where Isiah Kiner-Falefa snagged the ball and started an inning-ending double play.

“I definitely wasn’t going to be where I was today without the guys behind me,” Solak said. “I’m glad we got the win.”

A former infielder, Woodward knows how vital it is for a pitcher to keep the game moving.

“He’s done that ever since we got him here,” Woodward said. “I think our guys appreciate that.”

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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.