Mitch Moreland talks offensive outbursts
When Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister was asked to assess his club’s first month before Saturday’s game with the Los Angeles Angels, he hedged.
Banister politely asked to allow him sit through Saturday’s April finale before giving a State of the Rangers address, as if anything that could have happened at Globe Life Park on Saturday night would have massively altered his view.
Obviously we’ve got a better record. We’ve played better as a whole, better starting pitching, better defense.
Manager Jeff Banister on the Rangers’ 14-10 April
Turns out Saturday’s 7-2 win against the Angels exhibited everything that has gone right for the Rangers through the first month of the season. They finished the month atop the American League West at 14-10, a far cry from the miserable start a season ago.
“Obviously we’ve got a better record,” Banister said before Saturday’s game. “We’ve played better as a whole, better starting pitching, better defense. Our offense has obviously sparked up from time to time better than we did in the first month last year.”
The most obvious difference between the two is the health of the rotation. The Rangers’ starting pitching has been stellar through the first 24 games, including Derek Holland’s six shutout innings Saturday against the Angels, which increased the rotation’s club-record string of going at least five innings to 24 games to start the season. The previous Rangers high was 18 in 2012. The Rangers’ rotation is tied for the major league lead with 18 quality starts, including Holland’s four-hit, no-walk gem.
“It’s night and day. Everybody is healthy,” Holland said of the contrast between the two starts. “We’re still continuing to go out there and get better. We’re not satisfied as a team. I think we know what we’re capable of and we definitely want to continue to make those strides.”
We’re playing good baseball. The results are going our way right now. Pitching has been amazing, the bullpen has been amazing.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus
Rougned Odor, batting lea-off for the sixth game, doubled three times and scored the Rangers’ first run on Prince Fielder’s RBI double to the right-field corner in the first inning. In the third, the Rangers batted around as eight of the nine players in the lineup hit safely. Mitch Moreland’s three-run homer to right capped the six-run inning and gave Holland a 7-0 lead. It’s the kind of scoring in bunches the offense has been able to accomplish on multiple occasions throughout April.
“We’re playing good baseball,” said Elvis Andrus, who is hitting .329. “The results are going our way right now. Pitching has been amazing, the bullpen has been amazing. We’re playing great defense, I think that’s been the key so far.”
The defense has made only 10 errors through the first 24 games compared to 24 in the first 24 games in 2015.
“It’s something we take pride in, it’s something we work hard at, and I think you can tell night in, night out, there’s unbelievable plays being made every night and it’s fun when you can do that and turn hits into outs for your pitchers,” said Moreland, who made a nifty stop at first base on a scorched grounder down the line. “They’ve thrown the ball well. In all aspects of the game, we’ve really done well.”
The bullpen, the source of much hand-wringing after some struggles early in the season, has also put together a solid string of scoreless innings. Before the Angels scored twice in the ninth against Phil Klein, the bullpen had held opponents scoreless the previous 11 innings.
“It’s always better to start on the right foot than the wrong one,” said Andrus, who doubled for the fifth time. “When you have a good group of guys who are talented and they’re healthy, hopefully good things are going to happen on the field. That’s what has been happening for us so far. We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re playing hard every inning, every single pitch.”
Banister foresees even more from his offense, which ranks in the top five in the AL in runs scored, RBIs and batting average.
“We’ve seen stretches of it, what we need to continue to see is the day to day,” he said. “I think when you see those big guys in the middle of the lineup start heating up then you can really start putting your thumb on it and say our offense and this team are really starting to shape up to be where we thought they’d be coming out of spring training. 2016 will present its challenges along the way. It just so happened that in 2015 a lot of our challenges came early.”
Rangers vs. Angels
2:05 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KRLD/105.3 FM, ESPN/1540 AM (Sp.)
Rangers LHP Cole Hamels (3-0, 2.52 ERA) vs. Angels RHP Garrett Richards (1-3, 2.35)
A Tale of Two Starts
Here’ a look at how the Rangers started last season compared to 2016. The 2015 numbers include the first 21 games in March and April. The 2016 numbers include the first 24 games through Saturday: