ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Jon Gray cruised to open Saturday night’s game against the Astros, allowing just one baserunner -- a Kyle Tucker walk -- through two innings of work.
But the first hit he allowed was unfortunately a 109.3 mph line-drive comebacker from Yainer Diaz, right off his throwing arm. Gray immediately threw his glove to the ground and walked around the mound before meeting with trainer Matt Lucero, pitching coach Mike Maddux and manager Bruce Bochy.
He threw a few warm-up pitches before the group ultimately decided to proceed with caution and remove him from the game with a right forearm bruise. Bochy said postgame that the X-rays on Gray were negative and they don’t anticipate him missing a start, but his removal from the game definitely played a part in the Rangers’ 8-2 loss to the Astros.
“I thought my arm was broken,” Gray said postgame. “Because it sounded so bad and I didn't really see the ball much, it sounded like it was all bone. I just kind of just expected it to be broken, but it didn't turn out to be that bad, so I’m lucky.”
“I drink a lot of milk,” he jokingly added.
Gray said the comebacker hit him right below the elbow, and he felt the numbness soon after getting hit. He said he was still “a little sore” postgame, but the Rangers' staff doesn’t expect him to miss his next start, and he should be on the mound again in the next two or three days.
Everybody in the Rangers’ clubhouse breathed a sigh of relief after knowing Gray isn't expected to miss any time. The right-hander had been Texas' most consistent starter early in the season, having allowed four earned runs in 12 innings entering Saturday's matchup with Houston.
With the Rangers’ high-risk, high-reward rotation, and depth pieces Jake Odorizzi and Glenn Otto already on the injured list, the club couldn’t afford to lose Gray long term.
“I think we got a huge break,” Bochy said. “I don’t like to use that word, but the ball was hit 109 miles an hour and he took it flush. I was nervous, to be honest. I was surprised that he threw two or three pitches after. He said he didn't really feel any pain, but there's some numbness. It was too risky, and he had [to] come out.”
Lost in the chaos of the game, with Gray’s injury and a big five-run seventh inning from the Astros, was the brilliant relief outing from Rangers lefty Cole Ragans.
The second-year southpaw tossed four innings in relief of Gray, marking the longest relief appearance of his short big league career. He also became just the 10th player in the American League this season with a relief outing of four or more innings.
Ragans allowed a two-run double to Yordan Alvarez in the third inning and another run in the third on a sacrifice fly, but he was otherwise calm and confident against the Astros as he worked through a less-than-ideal situation.
The outing continued Ragans’ resurgence out of the bullpen this season. After spending his entire Minor League career as a starter, and making his MLB debut as a starter in 2021, he’s thriving in the Rangers’ bullpen. He’s only allowed two earned runs in six relief appearances (nine innings), both of which came on Saturday.
“Cole did a good job for us, gave us some much needed innings,” Bochy said. “We needed some work out of him and the last thing you want to do is tear up your bullpen. He did a really nice job getting us some length to the seventh inning.”
“My goal when I went out there was to go as far as I can, fill up the zone, try to get quick outs and just eat as many innings as I possibly can,” Ragans added. “Obviously it was early in the game. You don't want to burn your bullpen. We still have another game against them tomorrow, and it's not like we have an off-day or anything, so I just wanted to get outs as quick as I can and try to save the guys for tomorrow.”