OAKLAND -- The 2019 schedule came out on Wednesday, revealing that Texas will play the Cubs on Opening Day at Globe Life Park. Mike Minor has made himself the leading candidate to be the Rangers' starter for that game.Minor continued his late-season surge to the top of the Rangers' rotation
OAKLAND -- The 2019 schedule came out on Wednesday, revealing that Texas will play the Cubs on Opening Day at Globe Life Park. Mike Minor has made himself the leading candidate to be the Rangers' starter for that game.
Minor continued his late-season surge to the top of the Rangers' rotation by holding the Athletics scoreless over six innings in a 4-2 victory on Wednesday at the Coliseum. Texas has been monitoring Minor's workload all season, and he was pulled from this one after just 73 pitches, as he was scratched from his previous start because of back stiffness.
"Eleven days down, solid outing by Mike," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Felt like going back to the top of the lineup, turn it over to our guys in the bullpen. We felt comfortable about being able to maneuver through the last three innings with a four-run lead. Just one of those situations, he had some back stiffness and soreness, [and] coming off of it, [we] didn't feel like pushing the envelope into the seventh inning."
But Wednesday's performance was Minor's fourth straight win, sending him to 6-2 with a 3.23 ERA in his last 12 starts. He faced the minimum 18 batters, allowing just one hit and one walk, with both baserunners eliminated by double plays. He struck out four on the afternoon.
So what if Minor wasn't completely satisfied with it?
"I feel good about the zeros on the board, but I feel there is room for improvement," Minor said. "Today, I didn't throw a good breaking ball, my changeup was OK, fastball location was OK. Defense was working for me. I judge myself rather than the outcome. Walked a guy, couple guys 2-0, couldn't put guys away. There is room for improvement."
The Rangers knew that coming into this season. Minor was a starter for the Braves from 2011-14 before missing two years with a shoulder injury. The Royals used him as a reliever last year before Texas signed him with the promise of being able to start.
So far it has worked out well, and the next step will come next year, when the Rangers remove all the innings and pitch-count restrictions on him.
"For sure. … Obviously, as we move forward and we get up the innings and he proves to himself he is a solid starter in this league," Banister said. "I like the way he responded to the back situation. To be that sharp after being down 11 days, I thought it was outstanding work by Mike. There is a little bit of protection, but going into next year, he comes out of this year feeling good and strong, and we can move forward with no restrictions."
The Rangers' offense also came back after being shut out in consecutive contests. Shin-Soo Choo got it started by homering on the first pitch of the game, and Joey Gallo hit home run No. 33 in the fourth inning. Adrian Beltre added a pair of run-scoring singles, with all of the damage coming against Athletics starter Edwin Jackson.
"You're going to get shut out, but we kept fighting," Gallo said. "Nobody was too worried about it. Choo hitting the first pitch of the game for a home run, that gave us some confidence. Nobody was too concerned, we're going to hit. We know that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Closer Jose Leclerc, trying to protect a 4-2 lead, walked Matt Chapman to lead off the inning. With Khris Davis at the plate, Leclerc threw a wild pitch that moved Chapman all the way to third. Leclerc struck out Davis and retired Stephen Piscotty on a fly to right, but walked Matt Olson to keep the inning going. Chad Pinder was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. But the newly annointed Texas closer struck out Nick Martini to end the game.
"I just tried to stay focused and throw my pitches for strikes, but not so comfortable they could hit a home run," said Leclerc, who has not allowed a run in his last 11 innings.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Outfielders on both teams had trouble with the turf and it caused a scare for the Rangers in the bottom of the eighth, after Gallo had moved from center to left. The Rangers were leading, 4-2, but the Athletics had a runner at second with one out when Marcus Semien hit a high fly to left. Gallo had no trouble getting under the ball but lost his footing and slipped. He recovered just in time to make the catch.
"It was just slick," Gallo said. "The grass is thin and just muddy underneath. I tried to plant my foot and just slid. I was able to make the play, it was just a little more entertaining."
HE SAID IT
"He was pretty good. That fastball was popping out of his hand pretty good. His changeup was tough to pick up for most of us. Just kept us off the barrel with that. We hit a couple hard but just missed them. He was really sharp today." -- Athletics first baseman Olson, on Minor
Right-hander Andrew Hutchison makes his fourth start for the Rangers on Friday night when they open a three-game series with the Giants at 9:15 p.m. CT at AT&T Park. He is 1-1 with a 7.43 ERA in his first three starts after earning a win against the Angels in a 6-4 victory on Friday in Arlington. Hutchison will be opposed by right-hander Dereck Rodriguez, who is the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
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.