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Wednesday newsletter time: Jon Gray great as Rangers pull away from Nationals

(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

 

ARLINGTON — The first play of the game Tuesday, the first very one, was a little tapper to the first-base side of the mound that C.J. Abrams barely beat for a single.

He quickly stole second base and scored three batters later on a two-strike pitch Jon Gray wishes he could have back.

That was the only pitch over eight sparkling innings that Gray wishes he could have back.

The right-hander delivered his finest start of the season and arguably the best by a Rangers starter in a 7-1 victory to open a three-game series with the Nationals.

The win ranks as one of the Rangers’ most complete W’s of the season, as the offense produced runs in a variety of ways and up and down the lineup. The Rangers are 16-14 after what constitutes the first month of the season, including the three March games.

Gray allowed only three hits, two of which never left the infield. He struck out only three, but he didn’t walk any hitters in an efficient 98-pitch outing. An impressive 72 of those pitches were strikes.

And that was the key: When he (or any pitcher) is in the strike zone with good stuff, good things are going to happen.

“We wanted to be in the zone early, and, obviously, not walk guys,” Gray said. “It was just being more comfortable being over the middle of the plate. … When you’re mixing like that, your room for error is so much larger.”

When Gray pitches like that, as he’s done many times in the past, he’s one of the Rangers’ best starters. When Gray pitches like that, the thought of sending him to the bullpen is preposterous.

Maybe this start is the beginning of him attacking hitters consistently again and being confident that his stuff will play. He might not always have the quality stuff he had Tuesday, but being in the zone and limiting walks is usually a good recipe for any pitcher.

“I’d rather give up a home run than walk a dude,” Gray said.

Dude, that’s pretty good.

So was the offense after beginning to solve MacKenzie Gore the second time through the batting order. The Rangers scored single runs from the fourth to the seventh inning and added a three-spot in the eighth to pull away.

Josh Smith and Leody Taveras connected for homers. Marcus Semien tripled, doubled and scored twice.

Adolis Garcia said after the game that he was OK after getting hit by a Gore pitch in the fleshy part of his right hand on the pinky side.

Scherzer reaction

Rangers fans remain deeply scarred even in the extended honeymoon after their team won the World Series.

Case in point is the online reaction to the news that Max Scherzer was scratched from his rehab start Monday because of thumb soreness. The right-hander explained that he shut it down after the thumb stuff “leaked” into his forearm, similar to what led to his late-season woes in 2023.

He, manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Chris Young, though, said the thumb thing is nothing major.

“Minor, minor setback,” Bochy said. “We’re talking about days, not weeks.”

The natural conclusion for many fans was to assume that Scherzer’s arm might need to be amputated.

Or at least surgically repaired.

In fairness, how many times have fans heard that said about a Rangers pitching injury, only for it to be something major?

Two or three hundred times.

One of the first rules from T.R. Sullivan’s School of Reporting is to never take a Rangers pitching injury lightly, so the beat writers are on alert.

But the prudent thing to do here is let this play out. Scherzer is one of the most candid players I can remember covering, and he didn’t seem to be BS-ing anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make his second rehab appearance until early next week, and I won’t be surprised if we don’t hear about this again the rest of the season after he’s cleared to resume.

And I won’t be surprised if his arm is amputated.

 

Trout out

Ron Washington brings his Angels to town May 17 for a three-game series, but he won’t have Mike Trout in the lineup.

The three-time American League MVP needs surgery for torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury he suffered Monday night during a 6-5 victory in which he played all nine innings. He said he felt some discomfort during the game and that the pain intensified overnight.

The 32-year-old is expected to return this season, possibly in June. Injuries have derailed Trout’s bid to be one of the best players ever, though he will still go down as an all-time great and will be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Trout has connected for 10 home runs and boasts a .541 slugging percentage. He also has swiped six bases, including one Monday night.

His injury is the latest blow to an Angels team that entered Monday 11-18 and with only two wins in their past 10 games. They have lost third baseman Anthony Rendon to yet another injury, though that not be a bad thing, and have seen players struggle across the board.

Washington’s first couple of months as Rangers manager were pretty dreadful, too. He recently implored Angels fans to keep coming to the ballpark because the Angels are going to start playing good baseball “once we grasp who we are.”

Doggy video!

Similar to my first and all subsequent burgers. 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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