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Thursday newsletter time: Josh Smith continues to deliver as Rangers win

(Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Not even a month ago there was some question about Josh Smith making the Rangers’ Opening Day roster.

They had just picked up former Reds top prospect Jose Barrero on a waiver claim, and the talented infielder was out of minor-league options. As the Rangers eyed preserving their depth, it wasn’t out of the question to think that Smith could be optioned if the Rangers wanted to make certain they didn’t lose Barrero by putting him on the opening roster.

Smith made it, Barrero cleared waivers and the Rangers couldn’t be happier with how it’s all played out.

Smith has been one of the Rangers’ best players the past two weeks in relief of Josh Jung, who is out with a broken right forearm. Smith came through yet again Wednesday as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, delivering the go-ahead RBI double in a 5-4 victory over the Tigers.

His clutch hit came after Detroit rallied for three runs in the seventh and eighth innings to erase a 4-1 deficit. The Rangers took advantage of some shaky glove work by Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson ahead of Smith’s big hit.

“I was trying to be aggressive,” Smith said. “The two guys in front of me did a good job getting on.”

The hit extended Smith’s hitting streak to career-best six games and gave him 10 RBIs. He has batted second and fifth in the lineup of late as manager Bruce Bochy tries to ride the hottest hitters in a lineup that hasn’t been all that hot.

But the offense did just enough Wednesday against Tigers ace Tarik Skubal over 6 1/3 innings and then former Rangers pitcher Shelby Miller in the ninth. The Rangers took advantage of three Tigers errors, which is what a good offense does.

Adolis Garcia drove in two runs, including one on a sixth-inning double that hit off the top of the fence in right-center field.

Yates again

Right-hander Kirby Yates saved the day for the Rangers’ bullpen, though he didn’t get a save. He earned the win after getting the final four outs of the game.

The veteran remains firmly entrenched in the closer’s role, though firmly entrenched is relative. Jose Leclerc likely would have pitched a 10th inning had neither team scored in the ninth.

Those watching saw why Yates became the top closer in the game in 2019. The Tigers couldn’t touch his split-fingered fastball, which was widely considered one of the best in the game five years ago.

You won’t hear any argument from Detroit hitters.

Something to chew on this afternoon: The appearances by Yates and David Robertson spanned multiple innings. If a save opportunity presents itself, Leclerc might be the choice.

Leiter debut ahead

Take a long lunch today or maybe just work a half-day. Watching the MLB debut of right-hander Jack Leiter is a worthy excuse.

The Rangers are dropping the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft into the rotation as a spot starter in an effort to give the rest of the rotation a breather toward the end of the club’s stretch of games on 17 straight days. Michael Lorenzen was supposed to be the sixth starter, but he was needed Monday as Cody Bradford (back) hit the injured list.

The Leiter move will require some roster maneuvering. He needs a spot on the 40-man roster and the active roster, so there could be some tense moments for a few players currently on the 40.

As for expectations, the Rangers expect Leiter to keep them in the game. These Tigers don’t boast the most potent offense, and Comerica Park plays pretty big this time of year. The Tigers also swing and miss a lot, and Leiter posted 25 strikeouts and three walks in his first three starts at Triple A Round Rock.

He’ll probably be amped up, and no one can blame him. A good sign will be if he makes it through the first inning unscathed and efficiently.

This is the first big-league step for Leiter, coming later than most wanted and expected. Every player has his own developmental path and doesn’t arrive until he’s ready (David Clyde aside).

The Rangers believe Leiter is ready.

ICYMI …

Rangers Today has had a heckuva week, and it’s only Thursday. The good news is that we’re going to finish strong with a T.R.’s Memoirs later today and with another great podcast episode Friday. There will also be Leiter news after today’s ballgame. Good news or bad, the Rangers always keep things interesting. See what I mean with our latest content, in case you missed it.

Jack Leiter to debut

Cole Winn debuts

Elbow experts needed

Knockout punch

He’s no Angel

Blockage

Doggy video!

Me, when the waiter says they don’t have Coke Zero. 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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