Gallo's big fly, teammates' big inning lift Rangers
SAN DIEGO -- After a struggling through a road trip in California, the Rangers seemed to have found their groove in San Diego.
A two-out, five-run sixth inning propelled Texas to a 6-3 victory over the Padres Saturday night at Petco Park as the Rangers were able to take advantage of some rare blunders from San Diego's bullpen.
Joey Gallo got the Rangers on the board early, continuing his dominance against left-handed pitchers this season with a towering solo shot to right-center off southpaw Eric Lauer in the second inning. The blast marked Gallo's 37th big fly of the season and his 14th against left-handers, moving him into a tie with Christian Villanueva and Trevor Story for the second-most against lefties in baseball -- a pretty impressive feat given that Gallo is a left-handed hitter.
"I'm just trying to get a pitch in the zone and not miss it," Gallo said. "Obviously lefties throw to you differently than a righty would, but we face so many lefties with our lineup being lefty-heavy that you kind of have to be able to hit lefties if you want to play on our team, honestly. I've never really minded playing lefties, it kind of helps me out sometimes, actually."
"Joey has good confidence against pitchers whether they're right-handed or left-handed," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He doesn't give any ground, he stays in very well against the left-handers and if they make a pitch out over the plate, he seems to put really good swings on it."
The big fireworks came in the sixth inning though, when Robinson Chirinos' bases-clearing double ignited Texas' offense. Chirinos, batting in the eight hole, came to the plate with the bases loaded and sent Jose Castillo's fastball offering to the left-center-field gap for a three-run double. Pinch-hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed with a double of his own to score Chirinos, and Kiner-Falefa scored thanks to Shin-Soo Choo's RBI single a few at-bats later.
"That was huge, we needed that," Gallo said of Chirinos' big hit. "That one swing of the bat right there is a good feeling no matter what."
The offensive barrage was a key aspect that the Rangers had been sorely missing in the last week. The Rangers averaged just two runs per game in their last series against the Angels, but they're averaging five runs a game in their last two matchups against San Diego.
Openers paying off
The Rangers' use of an opener paid off for the second night in a row with Alex Claudio pitching a scoreless first inning before giving way to the primary pitcher, Ariel Jurado. Jurado maneuvered through four innings, but his lone blemish was a big one and came in the form of an Eric Hosmer three-run homer in the third inning.
Jurado would limit the damage around the big fly, though, as the Padres didn't score off him the rest of his outing. He finished the night allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts en route to earning the win.
"He struggled with the sinker tonight," Banister said. "It seemed like it took him a while to find a feel for it. He was able to use the change-up though to get himself back into some counts."
Claudio allowed a lead-off double to William Myers to start the night, but retired the side in order to strand Myers at second. In their four appearances, Rangers openers have yet to allow a first-inning run.
A man of all trades
One day after starting for the Rangers, Connor Sadzeck pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the hold. It's another benefit of the opener experiment, and one Banister was eager to test out.
"A big plus for tonight was Sadzeck being able to come back after starting the game last night for us," Banister said. "That's where you see the opener situation come into play. When you use a guy in the first, you have to make a decision. Do you take him out so he's still available for you?"
Sadzeck allowed a walk in the eighth, but finished the inning with back-to-back strikeouts. After pitching the day before, his velocity was still high and topped out at 97 mph.
"He's a power right-handed arm that can go into that situation and record the outs late in the game," Banister added. "That's a pretty special twist to the game right there."
Adrian Beltre followed up a two-double night Friday with another two-double night on Saturday. Those two doubles were career number 632 and 633 and with his second two-bagger of the night, Beltre surpassed David Ortiz to move into the 11th most doubles of all time.
Mike Minor will toe the mound for the Rangers on Sunday although the team will still be monitoring his pitch count and inning total. Minor has shined for the Rangers in the rotation this season and looks to be a lock in next year's as well. He's coming off a one-run, six-inning victory against the Angels last start and he's earned the win in six of his last seven starts. He'll face off against Padres rookie Jacob Nix at Petco Park, with first pitch set for 3:10 p.m. CT.