Texas needs much better from them in 2021 -- everybody realizes that -- and back-to-back starts at Minute Maid Park have given a glimmer of hope that both have a chance to finish the season moving in a positive direction.
Both have two starts left before they can claim that, but Lyles followed Gibson’s shutout by holding the Astros to two runs over seven innings Thursday. However, the Rangers' offense finished up a tough three days in Houston by scoring just one run for the third straight night in a 2-1 loss.
Manager Chris Woodward said Lyles came within one weak home run of his own 1-0 win over the Astros. Kyle Tucker’s two-run home run in the second accounted for the only runs off Lyles.
“I thought Jordan threw the ball well the last five innings of his last outing,” Woodward said. “The intent, the mentality, the effort behind it, everything seemed to be better, and he started it from the first inning today. He was in complete control.”
Lyles was 0-3 with an 8.62 ERA over his previous six outings before allowing three hits and a walk in the series finale.
“We were able to locate down and away much better today,” Lyles said. “I had a little better conviction on that pitch. Their swings were telling a lot about their approach. They were trying to get something in the zone early and get after it. I felt we were around the corners better today than previously this season, for sure.”
Lyles walked Alex Bregman to start the second. Tucker worked the count full, fouled off a slider and then lifted a fastball over the right-field fence. The ball wasn’t exactly crushed. The exit velocity was 92.8 mph, the projected distance was 364 feet and the expected batting average on that type of ball was a measly .100, according to Statcast.
“A home run that went two rows deep,” Woodward said. “If it was 10 feet to the right, left, we win 1-0, maybe. It’s a little frustrating because Jordan threw the ball well. I was hoping our offense would get something going at the end and just couldn’t do it.”
Lyles is now 1-5 with a 7.07 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in seven starts and three relief appearances on the season. Over the past four outings, he has a 4.97 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .206 off him in those four games. They hit .327 against him through his first six outings, during which he had a 9.25 ERA.
“This season is what it is,” Lyles said. “I had a rough start from the get-go. I think my last two outings have been decent, getting outs and making a pitch here and there ... a good move forward. Tonight we were able to get some quick outs. I don’t know how many more outings I’ve got, but hopefully we can attack -- only had one free base tonight -- continue that and go into this offseason with my chin high.”
The Rangers ended up losing two of three to the Astros. They failed to hit a home run in any of the games, the first time in history Texas has done that in a series of any length at Minute Maid Park.