HOUSTON -- The Rangers’ series finale against the Astros on Wednesday night ended on a walk-off wild pitch from Texas reliever Jonathan Hernández that sent Houston to a 4-3 win in 10 innings. Despite a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of their intrastate rivals, the Rangers had to be pleased with a phenomenal pitching performance from rookie left-hander Cole Ragans earlier in the contest.
Ragans, the Rangers’ No. 13 prospect per MLB Pipeline, allowed no hits through three innings, working on a limited pitch count due to his recent activation from a stint on the 15-day injury list with a calf injury. The only blemish in his outing was a trio of walks, though he matched that with three strikeouts.
"He had a good feel for his changeup, he threw some really good changeups when he needed to finish," interim manager Tony Beasley said. "He was missing inside a lot with his fastball early but it felt like he got comfortable as he went and when he needed to land that changeup behind in the count, he was able to do it and to finish. So the swings on his changeup were not good swings at all. I was really pleased with how he attacked the zone with his fastball and he was able to finish. He did a nice job. He did walk the three guys, that's not ideal, but it didn't hurt him."
A solid outing against the Astros meant even more considering Ragans also faced them in his second Major League start last month, but that day he gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings as he struggled against Houston’s high-powered offense.
Wednesday’s follow-up outing was no doubt his best start since a one-run effort against the White Sox in his debut on Aug. 4.
"It’s 100% a step in the right direction," Ragans said postgame. "Obviously I’ve thrown against them in my other start and it didn’t go well. It definitely helps to go out [there]. ... It wasn’t a long outing, not a lot of pitches, but how it went I think it was a step in the right direction."
Ragans said it felt like the first time since his callup that everything really fell into place for him on the mound.
"I haven't felt that good before, it just felt like everything was syncing together, and the stuff was coming out good," Ragans said. "The fastball and changeup felt really good, and the cutter too. I only threw one curveball but it felt good. Everything felt really, really good."
Ragans echoed Beasley, saying that his changeup helped him get back in the count when he fell behind with his fastball command. He threw the changeup 18 times, getting five whiffs (swings-and-misses) on 10 swings.
The lefty's pitch limitation was also in part due to him far exceeding his previous single-season innings total in professional baseball. Ragans underwent back-to-back Tommy John surgeries in 2018-19, and didn’t even pitch a full Minor League season until after the COVID shutdown in '21.
He threw 94 2/3 innings between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock this year before his promotion to the Majors.
Despite the limits, which he understands is with his health in mind, Ragans noted that he wanted to go back out for at least another inning.
"100%, always," Ragans said. "It doesn’t matter, I always want to go back out. Obviously I want to go back out, and keep going, if I’m feeling good."