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Minor masterpiece: Rangers' lefty quiets Jays

Veteran earns first win as starter since 2014
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- After two years on the mend and a transition year in the bullpen, the Rangers' Mike Minor resembled his old self Saturday night in a commanding six-inning start against the Blue Jays, allowing one earned run on two hits and striking out seven in Texas' 5-1 victory.

The Rangers continue to try to ease Minor back into a starting role after injuries derailed his career. Working on five days' rest Saturday, Minor looked more like the durable lefty who started 87 games and threw more than 500 innings over three seasons in Atlanta from 2012-14 before throwing 77 2/3 innings in 63 games as a reliever with the Royals last season.

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ARLINGTON -- After two years on the mend and a transition year in the bullpen, the Rangers' Mike Minor resembled his old self Saturday night in a commanding six-inning start against the Blue Jays, allowing one earned run on two hits and striking out seven in Texas' 5-1 victory.

The Rangers continue to try to ease Minor back into a starting role after injuries derailed his career. Working on five days' rest Saturday, Minor looked more like the durable lefty who started 87 games and threw more than 500 innings over three seasons in Atlanta from 2012-14 before throwing 77 2/3 innings in 63 games as a reliever with the Royals last season.

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Minor said he didn't realize immediately just how consequential Saturday's outing was, but looking back on his first win as a starter since Aug. 28, 2014, he acknowledged it was a significant milestone. Minor had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in May 2015 and didn't pitch at all in the Majors in '15 and '16.

"Pitch count, innings, the up/downs right there -- it was a big feat," said Minor, who threw 93 pitches (54 strikes). "I wasn't thinking about it until after the game, my mom and dad [were] texting me and heard some stuff on the radio about getting a win tonight, first one starting since 2014."

Tweet from @Rangers: .@MikeMinor36's night is done after a strong outing! pic.twitter.com/F4XUo01r0p

Minor became only the second Rangers starter in 10 games this season to pitch six full innings, joining Bartolo Colon, who also allowed one run in six innings in a no-decision in Oakland last week.

"He did an excellent job of using what he had feel for tonight: the changeup, the breaking ball, the cutter," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The fastball, I think he used in really good situations, but probably not the best of feel for it, so he stuck with what was working for him tonight, and it was pretty electric stuff."

The game-time temperature at Globe Life Park was 42 degrees -- 5.6 Celsius, for Toronto fans -- and in those unusual Texas conditions, Minor was unfazed. He allowed only a solo homer to outduel Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, whom the Rangers touched up for five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

"It was one of those games where you had to battle through it, with the weather kind of unexpected. But I made a lot of good pitches with my off-speed stuff and kept them off-balance all night," Minor said. "I couldn't locate the fastball, didn't have any feel for it. I think a lot of that was the weather, I didn't have a lot of grip tonight. But luckily I had some good feel and some good grip on the changeup and slider."

Texas capitalized on five walks and six hits off Stroman, culminating in a four-run fifth. Three of the five free passes Stroman issued wound up scoring. Joey Gallo walked twice, doubled, scored two runs and drove in two runs in his first game batting fifth this season.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rangers walk before they run: The Rangers' offense exploded for four runs in the fifth, beginning with back-to-back walks by Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor. Stroman balked the runners over, but got two outs before Gallo ripped a double down the right-field line to drive them both home.

Video: TOR@TEX: Gallo drives in two runs with a double

He scored when the next batter, Jurickson Profar, doubled in the same general vicinity down the line to chase Stroman. Profar, who had his first multi-hit game since July 5, 2017 and reached safely a season-high three times, scored on Juan Centeno's single to right.

Video: TOR@TEX: Centeno drives in a run with a single

"It's all about feeling comfortable, and I just go to the plate or to the field and try to do the things I've been working on. It's paying off early," Profar said.

Double play gets Minor back on track: Minor didn't get off to a good start, walking two of the first three batters he faced. He walked leadoff man Steve Pearce, got Josh Donaldson looking and then walked Justin Smoak before Yangervis Solarte hit a chopper to third base. Profar fielded it, quickly got it to second baseman Odor, who relayed to Gallo for the double play. Minor retired the next 11 batters in order.

Video: Jurickson Profar begins a 5-4-3 double play in the 1st inning

"It was big-time," Minor said. "It could have been a really ugly inning. The defense made some good plays behind me."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Not only did Saturday's game feature the third-coldest first-pitch temperature in Globe Life Park history at 42 degrees, it also was 32 degrees cooler than the previous night's first pitch. Forecasts call for it to warm back up to 57 by game time Sunday at 2:05 p.m. CT.

WHAT'S NEXT
In the series finale against the Blue Jays, Rangers lefty Cole Hamels will try to pick up where he left off last week in Oakland; he confounded the A's with 11 strikeouts in five innings. Hamels' first eight outs were strikeouts, but his pitch count ballooned to 94 and kept him from continuing into the sixth inning.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Rangers on Saturday.

Mike Minor