Gray brilliant (again), but bats quiet in shutout loss

Semien's 25-game hitting streak comes to an end

June 8th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- can’t remember a stretch in his MLB career when he’s felt this dialed in. He said he feels more comfortable and confident than ever, likely thanks to the trial and error he’s learned throughout his career.

That stretch continued Wednesday night at Globe Life Field, when the right-hander tossed the second complete game of his nine-year big league career, striking out a season-high 12 batters, to go the distance for the first time since 2016.

The only issue? The lone blemish was a solo homer from Alec Burleson, who connected with a slider outside of the zone and sent it over the right-field wall in the eighth inning, leaving Texas with a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals, ending the Rangers' 5-game win streak.

By failing to complete their second straight series sweep, the Rangers fell just short of an undefeated homestand, despite the best outing of Gray’s tenure in Texas.

“It was really the same thing he's been doing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He's thrown the ball great, hasn’t he? Just another great job tonight. Great stuff: one run, nine innings 12 strikeouts, really, he threw a beautiful game. We don't get shut down very often and they did tonight. We had a couple of chances. We just couldn't get that one hit. But Jon did his job. It's been fun to watch him and a tough loss for him, but still a great job.”

Gray’s outing is the first time a starter has thrown a nine-inning complete game and allowed just one run but was tagged with the loss since Rich Hill on Aug. 23, 2017. Gray also became the first Rangers pitcher to throw a complete game and lose since Cliff Lee on July 10, 2010.

And there's more: Gray also joined James Shields and Cy Young as the only three pitchers to throw nine innings, allow just one run, no walks with 12 or more strikeouts and finish with the loss.

“I thought we did a good job of attacking from the start,” Gray said. “We had a really good mix going today. It wasn't just the fastball and slider for the most part. We mixed in a lot of changeups and a few curveballs as well. We were using every part of the zone.” 

Gray said that while he didn’t want to harp on one pitch, it’s hard not to when it’s the difference in a close game like this. 

“[Burleson] is a really good hitter, especially down and away,” Gray said. “So that's something I wanted to stay away from. It was obviously supposed to be away, but man, I think if we get it out a little more, we're gonna have a flyout instead of a homer. It sucks to kind of like, fixate on one pitch, but you know, that's the one that really matters.”

More unfortunate than Gray’s lone mistake was the Rangers' offense going cold for the first time in weeks. 

Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning and cruised from there, combining with a trio of relievers to shut out Texas for just the fifth time this season and the first since May 15 against Atlanta. 

Texas mustered the same number of hits as St. Louis (4), the only difference was that one of the Cardinals’ knocks left the ballpark. The night also saw the end of Marcus Semien's 25-game hit streak, which was in a three-way tie for the longest in club history. 

“You give them credit sometimes,” Bochy said. “Their starting pitcher did a good job mixing it up, throwing a couple different breaking balls that they used a lot and he located well. He’s had a history of pitching really good games. They have a good bullpen. We just got shut down. It's going to happen occasionally. You hate to see it when you get an effort like that from Jon, but hey, it happens.”

The start continued maybe the most dominant six-game stretch of Gray’s career. 

Despite the loss, Gray has still posted a 5-1 record and 0.84 ERA (four earned runs in 43 innings) over his past six starts. During that span, he struck out 44 hitters, while walking just six. 

“I just feel really present in this moment,” Gray said of this stretch. 

“He’s just been so good,” Bochy said. “He’s commanding the fastball and the slider well, and the change, too. He’s got great stuff. He throwing 95-96 out there with a really good slider that's gotten a lot better. That’s been a difference-maker. The slider is a little bit tighter and he’s throwing quality strikes. What you see is what you get. You get a good pitcher with good command, and he’s tough out there."