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Rangers' run revival keyed by Kiner-Falefa

Lynn notches 4th victory; Leclerc tosses clean frame in 7th
@Sullivan_Ranger
May 5, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa gave the Rangers a much-needed jolt of offense from the catching position, starter Lance Lynn had to battle his way through six innings and Jose Leclerc made his first appearance since being taken out of the closer’s role. Those were high points for the Rangers in

ARLINGTON -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa gave the Rangers a much-needed jolt of offense from the catching position, starter Lance Lynn had to battle his way through six innings and Jose Leclerc made his first appearance since being taken out of the closer’s role.

Those were high points for the Rangers in snapping a three-game losing streak with an 8-5 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Here is the breakdown of the three most important components of the Rangers’ win:

The Catcher

Kiner-Falefa set a new career high with a four-RBI game after entering the night with just five on the season. He put the Rangers ahead with a three-run triple in the second off of Blue Jays starter Thomas Pannone, and drove in another run with an RBI groundout in the third.

“I think everybody is happy for that,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “They have seen the commitment and the time and effort he has put into the catching side. Obviously he works just as hard in the cage, but there is so much put on his plate for a younger player, the things we’re demanding from him. I’m excited he got some positive results with the bat because he can hit. It has been kind of wearing on him that he hasn’t contributed like he has wanted to from the offensive side.”

Rangers catchers -- Kiner-Falefa and Jeff Mathis -- entered the game with a combined .175 batting average, .223 slugging percentage and just seven RBIs in their first 30 games in 2019.

Box score

“It means a lot,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I've been putting a lot of work in with our hitting coaches, and to finally see it come into play; I've been making some adjustments, and just trying to get my timing right. So just finally seeing the ball drop just made me feel a lot better, especially since we got the W, and it gave us some breathing room with the pitching staff to move forward in the game, which always helps.”

The three-run triple was the first by a Rangers player since Nomar Mazara did so against the White Sox on July 1, 2017. It was also just the 37th by a Rangers player since the beginning of the 1974 season. There have been 162 grand slams by the Rangers over the same period.

The Starter

Lynn seemed to have a little trouble with the landscape of the mound and never did get on a good roll. But he got through six innings and picked up the win despite allowing five runs on eight hits and a season-high five walks.

“I had a little issue with it,” Lynn said about the mound. “We’re going to work on it. It was a little wet tonight, but other than that, we’re going to be all right.”

This was his first career victory against the Blue Jays. He was 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in five previous starts against them before Saturday night. Lynn is now 4-2 with a 5.75 ERA after seven starts for the Rangers.

“He battled,” Woodward said. “He had some difficulties, and there were some things that could have made it go sideways, but he competes. He is reliable. He just goes out and competes every time out. He’s one of those guys that you know what you are going to get every time out there.”

The Reliever

Leclerc replaced Lynn in the seventh, taking the mound for the first time since blowing a save against the Pirates last Sunday. Woodward wanted to use him in a less stressful situation, and found it on Saturday night with the Rangers leading 8-5.

Leclerc responded well against the Blue Jays’ 3-4-5 hitters. He retired Justin Smoak on a groundout to first and then struck out both Randal Grichuk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in his one inning of work.

“Awesome,” reliever Shawn Kelley said. “I went up to him and told him, ‘Man, that looked like you.’ I think he was able to breathe a little bit and slow down, and sometimes we care too much and try too hard. And that’s just in our nature. And it happens. I’ve seen it happen to almost every pitcher I’ve played with. It’s happened to me. It’s completely normal.”

Chris Martin pitched a scoreless eighth and Kelley closed it out in the ninth for his second save of the season. It was also the 17th save of his career. He and Martin will share closing duties for now.

“It’s all temporary,” Kelley said. “Jose is the guy. He’ll get right and get back in the role. We are just holding down the fort until then.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.