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Monday newsletter time: Rangers escape Kansas City with rare comeback victory

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Victories like the one the Rangers pulled out Sunday afternoon in the rain and mist at Kauffman Stadium don’t come along very often.

The Rangers trailed by two entering the eighth inning and by one entering the ninth, yet they came away with a 3-2 triumph in 10 innings.

In their historic 2023 season, which ended with the first World Series title in club history, the Rangers had two wins in 65 games in which they entered the ninth inning trailing. The first game was Aug. 28 at the Mets, and the second was Game 1 of the World Series.

They collected their first of 2024 in eight tries when Jonah Heim sneaked a one-out homer inside the right-field foul line to tie the game in the ninth and when Leody Taveras scored on a Nathaniel Lowe single in the 10th. David Robertson nailed down his first save of the season.

“Great game, great game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “These guys fought and had some big hits there at the end. But you have to look at the mound.”

Kansas City scored twice in seven solid innings by Jon Gray, and Kirby Yates, pitching for the first time in a week, tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win.

With the Rangers seeking something to get their season on track, not that it has ever been derailed, this win could do that. It gave the Rangers their third straight series win, moved them three games above .500 and kept them just a half-game out of first place in the American League West.

“We’re up and down offensively, but the pitching’s been pretty consistent,” Bochy said. “That’s how you take series.”

The Rangers headed to the Bay Area after the game for a four-game series against the upstart A’s, who are 17-18 and in third place in the division. The series features a scheduled doubleheader Wednesday in which Jack Leiter could make his second MLB start.

Gray again

Let’s go ahead and table that Gray-to-the-bullpen talk. The way he’s pitching, it’s hard to imagine him going to the bullpen even when all the starting pitchers are healthy.

Gray continued to pitch on the attack Sunday, filling the strike zone and not walking a batter for the second straight start. He walked only one the start before that. A starter who is in the zone will give up hits, but they won’t be as damaging without anyone on base.

He didn’t have a good start in the opener and had so-so results in his first few starts, and when he came out of the bullpen in emergency duty April 20 and was fantastic, talk of him going to the bullpen started. Yates and Robertson seem to have stabilized the bullpen, and Gray has only gotten better.

Interestingly, he thinks the bullpen stint might have helped him over his past three starts. He reached his best fastball velocities of the season and was on the attack, and it has carried over.

With all the injuries in the rotation, Gray isn’t going anywhere. He probably won’t have a 2.50 ERA all season long, but that current figure speaks to how well he can pitch and that he can be one of the Rangers’ five best starters when everyone is ready to go.

Injury news

Nathan Eovaldi has a groin strain that the Rangers are hoping isn’t a sports hernia. To that end, he is traveling to New York to see a specialist, who the team hopes will rule out the worst-case scenario.

While Eovaldi seemed to have no apparent issues after he left Thursday’s start early, including when he addressed the media afterward, the Rangers saw a noticeable grimace after the fateful pitch. He underwent an MRI on Friday.

Wyatt Langford had an MRI on Sunday after straining his hamstring Saturday, and Bochy said that the Rangers will be placing him on the injured list today. His absence will likely open the door to more playing time for Travis Jankowski while also creating a chance for a player from the minor leagues.

Catcher Sam Huff and outfielder Dustin Harris, on the 40-man roster, were not in the Triple A Round Rock lineup Sunday. Huff could take over Langford’s duties at designated hitter while the Rangers get by with four outfielders.

One more: Max Scherzer still hasn’t been cleared for a rehab start because of the lingering thumb/forearm issue. Round Rock and Double A Frisco are home this week, so he could end up with either team if he gets the go-ahead.

 

ICYMI …

The Rangers are playing well, though their 19-16 record doesn’t necessarily show it. It sure beats 12-22, which is where the Astros are sitting. That’s tied for last place in the West with Ron Washington’s Angels. Rangers Today, meanwhile, has been providing first-place coverage of the organization. Our latest content proves the point, in case you missed it.

The Sunday Read: Reasons for inconsistency

Friday on the Farm: Top players in April

T.R’s Memoirs: Boys of Arlington, Pete Incaviglia Part 1

T.R’s Memoirs: Boys of Arlington, Pete Incaviglia Part 2

Rangers Today Baseball Podcast YouTube channel

Doggy video!

Even the TSA grumps love dogs. 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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