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Thursday newsletter time: Rangers snap skid as Jon Gray keeps rolling

(Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports)

 

ARLINGTON β€” The Rangers won a game Wednesday night, their first win in a week.

They hit just enough, and the best relief arms brought the W home.

Those two facets, the lineup and the bullpen, were missing during the Rangers’ five-game losing streak.

Starting pitching, the Jack Leiter start notwithstanding, was there and has been there for a few weeks running.

Jon Gray has led the charge, and he delivered again in the 4-0 victory over the Guardians.

The right-hander allowed three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.08 with his fourth straight quality start. The quality of his stuff is nothing new, but his mental approach has changed.

“It’s being in the zone more, trusting your stuff,” Gray said. “Early on we weren’t doing that. We were kind of picking around the zone and getting behind and walking guys. Right now we have a mix, and they have no idea what’s coming.”

He’s letting his stuff play, throwing quality strikes that are missing bats rather than trying to miss bats on the fringes of the strike zone. The results are breeding confidence and helping him get out of tough situations the few times they arise.

The Guardians were threatening in the sixth after the Rangers had just taken a 2-0 lead. Cleveland had runners at the corners with one out and cleanup man Josh Naylor batting. Gray got him to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

“I think the best comes out of me when things are tough,” he said. “When I’m about to make a pitch, I feel like 99 percent of the time I’m going to get him out.”

It was only a month ago when Gray made an appearance out of the bullpen at Atlanta, dominated and had people talking about him becoming a high-leverage reliever. Now, it’s hard to imagine the rotation without him even when all the injured pitchers return.

“He was really good again tonight,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s been fun to watch this guy, how consistent he’s been.

“He’s kind of been the anchor.”

Mad Marcus

A rare display of negative emotion β€” i.e., anger β€” from Marcus Semien was spotted Tuesday night by those who were watching.

The All-Star second baseman struck out with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning after swinging at pitches just off the outside corner. He saw five pitches, all of them outside the zone, and took only one of them.

Semien threw down his bat and firmly planted his helmet into the dirt. He then crouched in disbelief.

“I felt frustrated because I’m not swinging at my pitches,” he said. “Tonight in a couple of at-bats I wasn’t swinging at my pitches.”

He atoned for it Wednesday, connecting for a two-out two-run homer in the fifth that snapped a scoreless tie. His eighth of the season followed a triple by Leody Taveras that extended the inning.

The Rangers have a .393 slugging percentage, which rates 12th in the majors but seventh in the American League. They led the AL last season and were third in baseball with a .452 slugging percentage.

“Slugging is always good for us,” Semien said. “Hitting with runners in scoring position, that’s always going to be up and down all year. That’s going to happen. We’re still pretty good overall when you look at us with runners in scoring position, but power is something we did really well last season.”

Nadel birthday concert

Tickets to the Eric Nadel Birthday Benefit concert tonight at the Kessler Theatre in Dallas sold out long ago, but those hoping to help the Grant Halliburton Foundation can still do so via the online auction.

Plenty of autographed baseball memorabilia is available, as are experiences with local media personalities. There are a couple of large-ticket trips up for grabs, too.

The auction ends at 9:05 tonight.

The 2023 event raised $100,000 toward mental health awareness, a cause that is near and dear to Nadel. He spoke about it last month on the Rangers Today Baseball Podcast.

Consider helping out here if you can.

ICYMI …

Win or lose, the Rangers are always making news. Much of it has been on the negative side the past week, with injuries, bullpen issues and the offense going AWOL. But there was some good news mixed in there, too. Oh, and thanks to those of you who took advantage of the Mother’s Day sale last week. They’ve seen what we’ve been up to. Here’s our latest content, in case you missed it.

Max Scherzer update

Wyatt Langford update

Rough start for Jack Leiter

All kinds of notes

Charlie Hough and his knuckleball

Doggy video!

Dogs are the best. Enjoy.

 

Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

 

Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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