Arms lead the way in season sweep of Phils

June 23rd, 2022

ARLINGTON -- One thing about the 2022 Rangers is that nothing ever lasts too long. No winning streak has been longer than four games, but no losing streak has extended past five, either.

After dropping the final two games of last weekend’s four-game series at Detroit, Texas did what it has been doing all along -- it bounced back.

With Wednesday's 4-2 win at Globe Life Field, the Rangers finished a perfect 4-0 against the Phillies in 2022, marking just the third time in franchise history the club has gone 4-0 or better against a single opponent in a season.

Here’s a look at the sweep and what the Rangers need to improve:

The good: Pitching as a whole
The Rangers' pitching has been a shocking bright spot this season, from the top of the rotation to the emergence of various bullpen pieces like Dennis Santana, Brock Burke and Matt Moore.

In the two-game sweep over the Phillies, the starting pitching set the tone. Martín Pérez and Jon Gray gave up just two runs combined, while the bullpen shut down Philadelphia to allow no runs across 6 1/3 innings of relief.

The lone flaw in Gray’s outing on Wednesday was a 1-0 changeup that Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber launched 427 feet over the center-field wall for a two-run homer.

“He was really good today,” manager Chris Woodward said of Gray. “Schwarber is as hot as can be. Gray actually didn't make a terrible pitch, he just left it a little over the plate. Outside of that, you saw the funky swings on some pretty good hitters on their side. Martín doing his job yesterday, and Jon obviously did a great job getting into the sixth inning. The bullpen guys came in and wiped people out. Moore and Santana have been doing that for a while now.”

Pérez and Gray have formed a top of the rotation that can compete with the best in the league. Pérez, who tossed six scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 7-0 win, has solidified himself as a top American League pitcher, while Gray has hit his stride after a rough start to the season. After 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday, Gray now has a 2.64 ERA across five June starts, lowering his season ERA to 4.18.

“It's been so much fun to watch more Martín,” Gray said. “He's been lights out all year. Watching him with his mix and seeing what he does with this stuff is really fun. It's like a game within a game within a game. I think we're throwing the ball better, and I think we have a healthy competition going. I’ve got a long way to go to catch him, but I'm still trying. I think it's going to benefit us a lot.”

The bad: Too many strikeouts
When you play as well as the Rangers have against the Phillies this season, it’s hard to pick out one thing that needs improvement. If you ask Woodward, they’re always looking to improve, regardless of how well the team plays during a particular series.

But in Wednesday's win in particular, Woodward emphasized that 14 strikeouts was far too many. While it is good that Texas overcame that particular stat, it’s not one the offense wants to repeat.

“When [Phillies starter Zack] Wheeler came out of the game, I felt our bats weren't quite as tight against the pitchers that came in,” Woodward said. “That's something that we always want to improve upon and just never take our foot off the gas. We've talked about that a lot. We're constantly trying to improve. We’ve got to keep pushing and our guys are pushing each other too.”

The Rangers did hand Wheeler his shortest start (4 1/3 innings) since April 17, when he pitched just three innings in his second outing of the season. All four Texas runs came against him.

The cool: Rookies display elite tools
Two rookies in Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran showed off their different tools in Wednesday’s win.

Smith, playing left field for the first time in his brief big league career, went from first to home on Brad Miller's two-run single. It was a good read and an aggressive send from third-base coach Tony Beasley. Smith turned on the wheels, reaching a sprint speed of 29 feet/second -- his second-fastest speed recorded this year.

Duran, the club’s No.4 prospect, has a 55-grade arm -- and that might be underselling it. On a chopper from Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm, Duran snagged the ball as it bounced off the bag and lasered a 93.3 mph throw to prevent an infield single.

It was the fourth-hardest infield throw by any Major Leaguer this season, behind only Oneil Cruz (96.7), Bobby Witt Jr. (94.4) and Sergio Alcántara (94.1). 

“It just shows you how talented they are,” Woodward said. “The way these guys defend, the way they impact the game. I think both of them have had really good at-bats since they've been here, but at the same time, the way they do everything else, they fit right in. They want to impact the game and they do.”