Eovaldi deals, but Venable's managerial debut doesn't go to plan

June 4th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- The theme of this Rangers' season has been the next man up mentality, with an injury epidemic flooding the clubhouse, affecting the pitching staff and position players.

On Monday, there was a different type of next man up. Associate manager Will Venable found out on Sunday night that he would be the acting manager for the Rangers' series-opening matchup with the Tigers the following day.

Rangers skipper Bruce Bochy could not manage the game due to a "scheduled personal matter," so Venable, the associate manager, stepped up to the metaphorical plate.

So, how was Venable's first game as acting manager? Pretty easy to guess his response as the Rangers fell, 2-1, to the Tigers at Globe Life Field, opening the three-game set:

"Not good," he said with a chuckle following the loss. "It was a tough one. The guys were battling out there, and we just ran up against a catcher that put some good swings on it, and we just had a couple of missed opportunities offensively."

Even as the Rangers came off a series win in Miami this weekend, Venable inherited the same struggles that Bochy has had for the last month.

allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings in his second start off the injured list following a groin injury. Marcus Semien led off the game with a solo homer, his fourth leadoff bomb of the season and 10th overall. Corey Seager extended his hit streak to 16 games.

But the Rangers were ultimately done in by a pair of solo homers hit by Tigers catcher and nine-hole man Jake Rogers. This is the third time an opposing catcher has had multiple homers in one game against the Rangers. Rogers joins Oakland's Shea Langeliers and Atlanta's Travis d'Arnaud to carry their team to a win over Texas.

"That's a tough fluke," Venable said. "I don't know how to explain it. I wish it didn't happen."

"I was thinking about that too when we were walking in," Eovaldi added. "With Langeliers and [d'Arnaud] and Rogers now, it's tough. It's one of those situations where we can't let those guys beat us up right there. I felt like I had a few more options, a few better options, pitch-wise, that I could have gone with right there in that situation, and I ended up hanging the curveball, and he was able to get enough of it to hit it out. Regardless of who it is in the lineup, you got to make sure that you're executing those pitches."

The pitching staff's work was, for the most part, phenomenal. The Rangers even outhit the Tigers (8-4).

But while the two homers carried Detroit. Texas got the one solo homer, but the offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, despite putting the pressure on one of the American League's best in Tarik Skubal.

"I thought the guys did a good job," Venable said. "We had some opportunities there and just weren't able to get that extra hit or that one more hit to push a couple across. Hats off to Skubal. I mean, that guy's been doing it all year and it's as tough of a matchup as there is. I thought the guys did a good job. We were just a knock or two short there."

Despite the loss and an early exit after 71 pitches, it was another step forward for Eovaldi. He has allowed one or no runs in three of his last four starts, dating to before his IL stint. During that time, he's posted a 1-0 record with a 1.80 ERA.

He threw 55 of his 71 pitches for strikes, good for a 77.5 strike percentage. It is the third-highest strike percentage of Eovaldi's career (min. 70 pitches), trailing just two starts with the Red Sox: June 24, 2021, vs. the Yankees (82.0%) and April 25, 2022, at the Blue Jays (77.8%).

More than anything, Eovaldi looks healthy, too.

His velocity was up nearly across the board on every pitch but a lone slider, and he's moving down the mound better than ever.

"When I was hurt, I had time to do a deep dive on my mechanics and figure out what was going on," Eovaldi said. "I feel like I was able to make some mechanical adjustments. It's hard to explain. There's a feeling like when something's right, it's like, 'Oh, I've been missing that feeling.' Then you kind of take it from there. I felt like I was able to find two things that felt really good and I've been able to add that to the mechanics. Now it's just fine-tuning that right? Everything's good. I'm good."