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Monday newsletter time: Rangers back where postseason road success began

(AP photo/John Raoux)

 

Next up for the Rangers: the road.

The last time they played away from Globe Life Field went really well, as they won the World Series at Chase Field in Phoenix by winning three straight games. They finished 11-0 in postseason road games en route to the championship.

None of that matters now in a new season, though maybe it does. After all, the Astros still can’t win at home. More on that later.

The Rangers return tonight to the site where they won the first two of the 11 straight in the 2023 playoffs. They headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday night for a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Right-hander Dane Dunning, left-hander Andrew Heaney and righty Nathan Eovaldi are scheduled to start for the Rangers.

The reigning world champs hit the road after a 9-5 loss to the Cubs in which Jose Leclerc couldn’t harness his control in a four-run ninth inning that broke a 5-5 tie. Wyatt Langford collected his first career triple and finished 4 for 12 (.333) with three RBIs in his first big-league series.

The Rangers played without Corey Seager, who was given the day off as he continues to build stamina after missing almost all of spring training while recovering from surgery for a sports hernia. Manager Bruce Bochy said that he isn’t going to grind Seager, or Josh Jung (left calf), into the ground early on.

Bochy also took that approach with Josh Sborz, Kirby Yates and David Robertson, who did not pitch in a close game Sunday. Otherwise, he might have gone to one of them in the ninth when it was apparent that Leclerc was struggling.

Instead, Jacob Latz was the choice after Leclerc walked in the go-ahead run, and the Cubs scored three more times.

A baseball season is brutally long. The Rangers have 159 more games to play. It’s not time yet to grind anyone into the ground.

Or to change up the ninth inning.

Gray struggles

The Cubs’ first five runs came against right-hander Jon Gray in his first start of the season and his first outing against big-league hitters since mid-March.

He also dealt with neck soreness last week that pushed him from Saturday to Sunday.

Gray allowed three runs in the first, all on a Christopher Morel homer, but came back with two scoreless innings. He couldn’t get out of the fourth, when he struggled with his control. Jose Ureña and Yerry Rodriguez did a nice job in their 2024 debuts to keep the game knotted into the ninth.

No one is harder on Gray than he is. He knows what he did isn’t good enough and will work to make sure he’s better next weekend against the Astros.

The Rangers needed him to be better. As everyone knows, they are short on starters, even with Michael Lorenzen coming back in a few weeks. The expectation is that Cody Bradford will be shifted to the bullpen, but he was pretty good Saturday night.

Max Scherzer will be back in May, maybe mid-May. That means another starter will have to go to the bullpen.

The Rangers will go with their best five starters. Gray should be one of them, but he needs to be better.

Around the West

Houston still can’t win at home.

The Astros swept by the Yankees in season-opening four-game series, managing to blow leads early and late. Their opening performance comes four months after the Rangers won all four American League Championship Series games at Minute Maid Park, including the final two after trailing 3-2 in the series.

A retooled bullpen let down the Astros , with newcomer Josh Hader taking the loss Sunday as the Astros were swept in a season-opening four-game series for the second time in club history and the first time since 1978.

In Seattle, the Mariners split their season-opening four-game series. As usual, their pitching was good. As usual, their offense was spotty.

The Angels managed to salvage the finale at Baltimore the day after new manager Ron Washington called a team meeting after two sloppy games to start the season. Whatever he said, and I’m sure it was solid gold, it worked.

The A’s are terrible, but even they managed to win a game at home.

ICYMI …

The first series of the season is history, and it’s all about winning series. A sweep would have been nice, but 2-1 is much better than the Astros. It was a big series, too, in terms of pomp and circumstance. A banner hangs in right field as of Opening Day, and the Rangers scored some pretty nice jewelry. Rangers Today had it all covered, in case you missed it.

The Sunday Read: Meet the team

Nice ring to it

Friday on the Farm: Roster breakdowns

Good news for Scherzer

Rangers Today Baseball Podcast with Eric Nadel (audio only)

Show stopper

Doggy video!

I feel you, pup. 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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