Thursday Newsletter time: Offense seizes the moment(s) to pull off sweep of Phillies
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ARLINGTON — To beat a good team and a great pitcher, the other team needs to take advantage of every opening.
Those can manifest from a fielding error, being aggressive on the bases, two-out hits, and making sure to get a runner home after a leadoff double.
Each of those elements pushed the Rangers to just enough offense Wednesday against National League Cy Young contender Zack Wheeler in a 4-2 victory over Philadelphia. The Rangers swept the two-game series against one of baseball’s hottest teams and won all four games this season against the Phillies.
“I was just proud of our offense today,” manager Chris Woodward said. “One thing we haven’t been good at is playing small ball when we get a guy to second with no outs. We had really quality at-bats to get some runs.”
The Rangers scored the game’s first two runs, which were unearned after an error on first baseman Rhys Hoskins. The Rangers had runners at first and and third with two outs in the second inning when Josh Smith took off for second. Brad Miller grounded a single into right-center, scoring Jonah Heim from third, and Smith came all the way around for a 2-0 lead.
Jon Gray yielded the only two runs against him in the third on a Kyle Schwarber homer, but Corey Seager opened the Rangers’ half with a double. He moved to second as Adolis Garcia grounded to second, and Seager scored on Kole Calhoun’s single to center for a 3-2 lead.
Garcia opened the fifth with a double and scored as Calhoun followed with a double to right-center. He was thrown out trying to leg out a triple, but the Rangers had a 4-2 lead that Gray and three relievers wouldn’t relinquish.
The Rangers have beaten Philadelphia nine straight times, dating to the season-opening series in 2014.
“We’re just playing better baseball,” said Gray, who struck out five in 5 2/3 innings. “We aren’t making the same mistakes we were earlier.”
Smith put to test
Woodward didn’t waste any time putting Smith in left field.
The manager said on Tuesday that it was a possibility, but the thought was Smith would work there for a few days before getting put to the test. He had to make a tough catch to end the seventh, making a long run to haul in a Schwarber flyball.
One day’s work was all Smith needed, Woodward said after consulting with outfield coach Tony Beasley.
“That just comes from the confidence of Beas,” Woodward said. “I watched him yesterday and talked with Beas a long time in the outfield. I said, ‘What you got? Do you trust him out there tomorrow?’ He was like, ‘Absolutely.'”
The only time Smith played left field was on the back fields in spring training. He played center field once a week this season with Triple A Round Rock. Ezequiel Duran, who has never played the outfield, is a candidate to see time in left after some more work.
Duran spent a lot of time working in left field during the lockout but did not play there in spring training.
With Smith in left field, Woodward put Duran at third and used Miller at designated hitter as Mitch Garver received a day off.
Last week seemed to crawl by. Well, this week is flying by, except for that game Wednesday. Thursday won’t be an off day here with a new episode of the Texas Rangers Baseball Podcast to be recorded and stories to be written. You guys can check out the latest podcast episode (with David Murphy) at the podcast YouTube channel. Subscribe to it. We’re slowly closing in on 1,000 subscribers, which is a big number for us. Do that and then catch up on the latest from Rangers Today in case you missed it.
T.R.’s Memoirs: Top three for all kinds of stuff
T.R.’s Memoirs: The late, great Galyn Wilkins
The Sunday Read: Decisions looming
Two off days in one week? Must be magic. Enjoy. See you Friday.
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Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the club going to do when Jung is ready to return? It’s a small sample size but it seems that both Smith & Duran can hold their own at 3rd. I mean it’s a great problem to have with too many young studs and only 1 (2 if you count LF) position open. September might get interesting if Jung is healthy and gets called up.
You’re right: It is one of those good problems to have. The Rangers will need a left fielder next season, and maybe they fill it with one of those three. If Nate Lowe doesn’t get much better, there would be an opportunity for Jung at first. Duran and Smith could become super utility players who get 4-5 starts a week at various positions. With Will Calhoun out of the way, the Rangers will have the DH spot to play with, assuming Mitch Garver’s arm ever gets healthy.
Jung won’t be playing defense until next season, so it won’t be a problem if he gets a September call-up. It’s also entirely possible that one of the three is traded.