Duran's homer helps break Texas' losing streak

June 28th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- stopped and stared as the ball flew off his bat, admiring his handiwork Tuesday night at Globe Life Field. The 24-year-old deserved to admire it a bit considering the battle he faced against Detroit reliever Brendan White.  

After going up 2-1 in the count in his eighth-inning plate appearance, Duran fouled off six pitches, before taking the 10th pitch he saw for a ball. Then fouled off one more before finally getting a sweeper near the middle of the zone that he could drive into the second deck of left-field stands.  

The solo shot broke open a tied game against the Tigers and propelled the Rangers to an 8-3 win over Detroit to even the four-game set in Arlington. 

“It was a little hard,” Duran said of the 12-pitch at-bat. “[I was thinking] keep fighting. Keep fighting, take a good pitch and hit it hard.”

And he did hit it hard. Duran’s home run, his 10th of the season, went a Statcast-projected 431 feet at a 107.8 mph exit velocity. He became the first Texas batter to homer on the 12th+ pitch of an at-bat since Adrián Beltré on July 19, 2011 against the Angels (12th pitch off Anaheim’s Michael Kohn). 

“Oh man, that was an impressive at-bat, wasn’t it?” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He fouled off some tough pitches, the fastballs and the breaking balls, and he got one he could hit there. He smoked it.” 

Duran’s tie-breaking homer was obviously the highlight, but the Rangers offense as a whole finally broke through after a rough week of close games without a big hit. Texas went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday night’s win after going 4-for-29 (.138) in those situations over the last three games (2 vs NYY, 1 vs DET).

The Rangers were scoreless through the first five innings against the Tigers before finally breaking it open with two key pinch-hit at-bats in the bottom of the sixth inning. 

With two on and two out in that frame, Detroit replaced right-handed starter Matt Manning with lefty Chasen Shreve. 

“They came in, like three batters before and said there's a lefty warming up, so righties be ready,” said third baseman Josh Jung, who was getting a scheduled rest day. “That’s what Will [Venable] said. He said 'If this guy comes in, you're hitting.' So I took 10 swings off the tee. And here we go.”

So Jung pinch-hit for left-handed batter Travis Jankowski and delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 2. It was the Rangers' first hit with runners in scoring position since Sunday against the Yankees. Two batters later, switch-hitter Leody Taveras -- also getting a scheduled rest day -- pinch-hit for lefty Josh Smith, and knocked an RBI single of his own to give Texas a one-run lead at the time.

According to Stathead, this was the first time a pair of Rangers pinch-hitters produced game-tying and go-ahead RBIs in the same inning since a 4-3 win on July 7, 2001 against San Diego, when pinch-hitters Andres Galarraga (game-tying) and Gabe Kapler (go-ahead) each collected RBI singles in the top of the 7th.

Bochy said the thought process was exactly as Jung explained it: “We had our right-handed bats on the bench and that was kind of the plan if they did make a change. I knew we had some left-handers in the back end of the order and those guys were ready to go. They were off today but that doesn't mean they're off off. Obviously they were ready to go. They’re both young guys. It's not an easy job to pinch in that situation.

“Those are our guys,” Bochy added of trusting two young players in that situation. “You look at what they've been doing, we had them ready. In that situation, it's not really a tough call, to be honest. … It's just part of the game. You sit those guys and they bring in a lefty to get their matchup. Every team probably does the same thing, to be honest. So it's nice to have those weapons on the bench, trust me.”

The Rangers scored three runs in that sixth inning and put up a five spot after Duran’s home run in the eighth inning, ultimately scoring more runs (8) than in the previous three games combined (5). Bochy emphasized that he hopes a win like Tuesday's will get the offense back into the groove it’s been in for most of the year and not the recent slump it’s endured. 

“You hope things loosen up a little bit,” Bochy said. “This is such a good group. We've shown how resilient we can be in a couple of tough losses there on the road. It's all about bouncing back. They came out and played well tonight. I just love the way they battled back, of course, Zeke with the big home run but I thought the ninth inning was big too.”