SAN DIEGO -- The Rangers came one inning short of sweeping their first team since late July, but ninth-inning heroics from the Padres spoiled Texas' chances, as the Rangers ended their nine-game road trip with a 7-3 defeat Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.With Texas up 3-2 in the bottom of
SAN DIEGO -- The Rangers came one inning short of sweeping their first team since late July, but ninth-inning heroics from the Padres spoiled Texas' chances, as the Rangers ended their nine-game road trip with a 7-3 defeat Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.
With Texas up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, and trusty closer Jose Leclerc unavailable, the Rangers turned to rookie Jeffrey Springs to finish the game out. Springs has only been in the big leagues for a little less than two months, but the young left-hander had already built a solid reputation as a dependable go-to arm as both an opener and reliever. He entered Sunday's game with a 1.82 ERA in 13 appearances and hadn't allowed an earned run since Aug. 20.
But Springs' hopes for a sweet shutdown inning and his first career save turned sour. After retiring lead-off hitter Eric Hosmer on a ground out, Springs gave up a broken-bat single to Franmil Reyes. Freddy Galvis then lined a double just over the grasp of left-fielder Joey Gallo to score Reyes and tie the game at 3.
Springs responded by inducing a fly out from Manuel Margot, but then issued back-to-back walks to pinch-hitter A.J. Ellis and Cory Spangenberg. That loaded the bases for rookie Francisco Mejia, who uncorked the first pitch he saw from Springs for a walk-off grand slam.
"It didn't end the way we wanted to," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "However I felt like Springs went out there as a guy who's been throwing the ball extremely well for us in a situation where Leclerc and [Connor Sadzeck] weren't able to come in."
Banister chalked it up to growing pains for the 25-year-old, and said regardless of the outcome, he was still pleased with how Springs handled the inning.
"Things unraveled a little bit with the walks, but you know what, I have to hand it to him," Banister added. "The guy's never been out there in that situation, I put him in that situation, and I thought that he showed a lot of grit throughout the course of that inning."
The Rangers are not short of selections in the bullpen, especially since rosters expanded. But their go-to guys as of late -- Leclerc and Sadzeck -- were unavailable, and another dependable arm, Alex Claudio had already pitched and was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
"We weren't going to use Leclerc three days in a row with the volume of pitches," Banister said. "Sadzeck went two days in a row, we weren't going to use him. It was more maintaining the elephant in the pitch situation for those guys."
The walk-off blow spoiled another quality start from Mike Minor, who is the only Ranger guaranteed a starting job in next year's rotation. Although the Rangers have been monitoring his pitch counts lately, Minor was still able to pitch at least six innings for the sixth time in his last eight starts. He held the Padres to two earned runs and four hits, and struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings.
"He continued to impress, the way he threw the baseball today," Banister said. "Much more efficient with all of his pitches today. The life on the fastball was better but the changeup-slider combo was pretty lethal."
Minor began his campaign as a starter this season after signing with Texas, after not pitching in a starting role in nearly four years. He had served as a reliever for Kansas City in 2017 -- logging 77 2/3 innings -- after missing two seasons while he recovered from shoulder surgery. Before this season, his last role as a starting pitcher came with the Atlanta Braves in 2014 and because of that, the Rangers have limited his innings this year.
"Early on we had the back-and-forth of me wanting to pitch more and them wanting to hold me back a little," Minor said. "But for the long run, especially this year and how the season's been going, it's probably that they had the best interest for me and the team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Chaos on the basepaths: The Rangers had ample opportunity to score, but ran themselves out of their biggest potential rally in the sixth inning. Gallo led off the inning with a double and broke for third on Isiah Kiner-Falefa's chopper to first. Hosmer fielded the play and fired to third baseman William Myers, who trapped Gallo in a pickle with shortstop Javy Guerra. Gallo was eventually tagged out at third, and Myers fired the ball back to Hosmer, covering second, who tagged Kiner-Falefa out for the double play.
Ronald Guzman doubled in the next at-bat, which could've been a key offensive play if the Rangers had managed to keep a baserunner. Instead, Robinson Chirinos drove in Guzman with an RBI single, but Chirinos was thrown out at second trying to advance and the inning ended.
"We've made some mistakes here lately, we've got to make better decisions," Banister said. "We can't give up multiple outs on the bases. I like for our guys to be aggressive, but we've got to be smart also.
"That's the challenge for us," he added. "You can't make those mistakes on the bases, you can't give up those outs there. We're in a situation where we have to be better running the bases there. We had some opportunities to try and get some more runs, but we came up empty. We have to capitalize in those situations."
Solo Power: Willie Calhoun and Jurickson Profar propelled some offense early for Texas, with both accounting for solo home runs.
One inning after Hunter Renfroe's solo shot fell just out of robbing reach for Calhoun, Calhoun responded with a homer of his own. Calhoun sent a 2-0 pitch from Padres' starter Jacob Nix in the second inning 417 feet with an exit velocity of 106 mph for his second home run of the year.
Profar followed up the third inning with a leadoff solo shot of his own, which travelled 406 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph.
Adrian Sampson will kick off the homestand as the Rangers return to Arlington for the final time this season to face the Rays. Sampson is making his second career start for Texas, after splitting time in Triple-A Round Rock as both a starter and reliever. Sampson fared well in his first start, allowing one earned run and two hits over five innings against the Angels. He'll face off against Tampa Bay's Tyler Glasnow. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.
Katie Woo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.