The trade that the Texas Rangers had made entering Sunday was front and center as they tried to go for a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
Lucas Harrell, judging by his first impression, looks like he will be a steady hand for the starting rotation as long as he is needed.
But the non-waiver trading period doesn’t end until Monday at 3 p.m., and as Harrell pitched on a steamy day at Globe Life Park, the rumor mill continued to churn out more Rangers talk.
This rumor has some legs.
Rangers brass spent their Sunday afternoon locked in talks with the Milwaukee Brewers for their All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, and a reliever. Both would come with contractual control, which is why Rangers top prospect Joey Gallo is a possible trade piece.
Meanwhile, Harrell allowed three runs in six innings, and Nomar Mazara and Mitch Moreland homered as the Rangers beat the Royals 5-3 to complete the sweep. The win, coupled with a Houston Astros loss, left the Rangers with a six-game lead in the American League West.
Harrell is just glad to be along for the ride.
I’m not a savior. I’m not anything like that. I’m just another guy out there trying to help the team win. The pressure I put on myself is just to go out there and help us win.
New Rangers pitcher Lucas Harrell
“I’m not a savior,” said Harrell, who was acquired Wednesday along with reliever Dario Alvarez from the Atlanta Braves. “I’m not anything like that. I’m just another guy out there trying to help the team win. The pressure I put on myself is just to go out there and help us win.”
Harrell did that throughout, but his best work might have been in the second inning. Staked to a 2-1 lead as Mazara’s two-run homer in the first trumped a solo shot by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon moved to third base with one out.
Harrell, though, got Drew Butera and Jarrod Dyson on grounders to strand Gordon, and Moreland connected for a two-run shot in the fourth for a 4-1 lead.
Moreland, the hero Saturday with a walk-off homer, has five homers in his past six games and is riding a six-game hitting streak. Nine of his past 17 hits have been for extra bases.
His blast down the right-field line came in handy as the Royals countered with two runs in the fifth, but Harrell came back to post a scoreless sixth.
“I came in and [pitching coach Doug] Brocail said, ‘You’re getting a little side to side and you left a couple of balls flat. That’s why you’re giving up a couple hits,’ ” Harrell said. “ So when I went out there between innings, I worked on that and had a quick sixth.”
Tony Barnette, Keone Kela and Sam Dyson worked a scoreless inning apiece to give the Rangers their seventh win in their past nine games ahead of an eight-game road trip to Baltimore, Houston and Colorado.
The Rangers are off Monday and are scheduled to head east shortly after the trade deadline passes.
Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a two-time All-Star who finished fourth in National League MVP voting in 2014. He has the third-highest Wins Above Replacement rating this season among all MLB catchers.
Lucroy and a reliever, possibly Tyler Thornburg or Jeremy Jeffress, could meet the Rangers at Camden Yards.
Lucroy was back on the market after turning down a trade to Cleveland, one of eight teams on his limited no-trade list. The All-Star rates as one of the game’s best catchers, with plus marks in throwing and pitch framing.
He wouldn’t be only a rental, either. He would return in 2017, assuming the Rangers were to exercise the $5.25 million club option. Thornburg and Jeffress, the Brewers’ closer, also come with contractual control.
A deal for only Lucroy likely wouldn’t cost the Rangers’ Gallo, who is only 1 for 14 since being called up Tuesday, based on what the Brewers agreed to take from Cleveland.
None of the four prospects the Indians planned to ship was rated among their top three prospects. Each was in the top 30.
Gallo didn’t play Sunday.
Harrell did, though, and his first impression — after the trade the Rangers have actually made this trading period — was a winning one.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t really give in,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He competes. All the things that we’d heard about or had seen in the past showed up today and gave him an opportunity to allow our offense to do some things for him.”
Rangers at Orioles
6:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW