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Smyly solid in 1st start since '16; Rangers fall

@Sullivan_Ranger
April 2, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Drew Smyly returned to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2016, and Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos returned to Arlington for the first time since the Rangers let him go at the end of last season. Both were thrilled with the way things went on

ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Drew Smyly returned to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2016, and Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos returned to Arlington for the first time since the Rangers let him go at the end of last season.

Both were thrilled with the way things went on a Monday night when the Astros held on to hand the Rangers a 2-1 loss at Globe Life Park. Despite being on the losing side, Smyly was just happy his long ordeal was over and he was back on a big league mound.

“It felt great,” said Smyly, who allowed one run on four hits and two walks. “I've been waiting on that day a long time, so it felt good to be back on a Major League mound and compete and go out and try to help the team. I wish I could have lasted longer, but results weren't going to mean much to me today. Being back out there, it's been a long road recovering, and it was just a special moment to get back.”

This was Smyly’s first start since Sept. 26, 2016, when he was with the Rays after missing the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He lasted just three innings and threw 72 pitches before Adrian Sampson took over in the fourth.

Astros leadoff hitter George Springer welcomed Smyly back to the Majors with a home run to start the game. The blast came on the seventh pitch of the at-bat after Springer fouled off a 3-2 fastball to stay alive.

That was the main reason why Smyly lasted just three innings. The left-hander threw 58 pitches in the first two innings, and 10 of them were two-strike pitches that were fouled off by the Astros. The third inning was a little easier for Smyly as he needed just 14 pitches to put up a scoreless frame.

“I was basically just working with a fastball today,” Smyly said. “I couldn't get the feel for my curveball and offspeed [pitches], and that was putting me behind the 8-ball. I felt like, basically from the start of the game, they knew I wasn't throwing it for strikes. They were waiting on the fastball, and my fastball was good today. I just couldn't really finish off the hitters.”

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said he might have gone with Smyly longer if this were later in the season, but the rookie skipper didn’t want to push his starter in his first game back.

“Today, the pitch count was a little high -- a stressful first two innings,” Woodward said. “First time back in two years. He said he felt great, which is very encouraging moving forward. It's a good sign for him.”

Ronald Guzman’s third-inning home run tied the game for the Rangers, and Sampson delivered six strong innings to spare the rest of the bullpen. But the Astros forged ahead in the sixth on a leadoff double by Carlos Correa, who scored on a one-out double by Chirinos.

The Rangers managed just two hits off Astros starter Brad Peacock and relievers Ryan Pressly and Robert Osuna. Rougned Odor had an infield single to lead off the seven, but was cut down by Chirinos trying to steal.

“I didn't mind Rougie going right there, kind of forcing the issue,” Woodward said. “Chirinos has had trouble in the past throwing guys out, so we put the pressure on him and he made a perfect throw. That's a totally different inning if he doesn't make a perfect throw to second base.”

Chirinos threw out just three of 56 attempted base stealers while with the Rangers last year. But he might have had advance warning for this one.

“He told me, ‘Get ready. I'm stealing two bases today.’ I said, ‘All right, go ahead,’” Chirinos said. “I felt perfect, like I did everything I needed to do to throw him out. I was able to stay in line and make a good throw. I knew he was going to go. He told me before the game. I thought he was going to go early, but he waited three or four pitches.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.