2 solo homers blemish otherwise strong start by Gray

April 4th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- For the first time in the Bruce Bochy era, the Rangers left Globe Life Field with a loss. After sweeping the Phillies to open the season, Texas fell, 2-0, in the series opener against the Orioles on Monday night as the high-powered offense was shut down all night long.

It was probably the best start by a Ranger so far this season, as the offense was the star of the show Opening Weekend. Right-hander allowed just four hits and two runs -- both solo homers by Gunnar Henderson and Jorge Mateo -- as he grinded through 6 1/3 innings against the Orioles. 

“He had good stuff tonight. Good fastball, he was on with the slider and changeup and mixed them up well,” Bochy said. “He got behind a couple of times. He adjusted well and, like I said, you’ll take that kind of pitching effort. Like you said, it's probably our best one, and it is ironic that this is the game we didn't win, but that’s baseball. We just had a tough time getting things going [offensively] out there.”

Gray said he felt better about the results than he did about the way he pitched as a whole, noting that he had been dealing with a slight illness over the weekend that affected him leading up to the start. 

“It's gotten a lot better today,” Gray said. “I felt pretty good, like good enough to go out there and pitch. I’ve just been kind of feeling a little down, a little low energy, but I felt like I could pitch, and I think I could have finished the seventh inning if I would have made some better decisions.”

The two solo homers were more mistakes by Gray than good at-bats by the hitters, Gray acknowledged. He felt like he didn’t follow the game plan whenever he fell behind on a hitter.

The first solo homer from Henderson was on 2-0 pitch, but Gray hung a four-seam fastball middle-middle, the perfect position for the rookie to knock it 408 feet into the right-field stands. The second was on a 3-2 count to Mateo, but Gray left another four-seamer on the outside corner for him to drill to the exact same area of the stands as Henderson, just 25 feet farther back. 

“I want to put a little more on a fastball, and today it just didn't really feel very good,” Gray said. “So it kind of ended up being a meatball in the middle of a plate. That's something to take note of and make sure it doesn't happen again.”

Gray called his start a “downer,” but still emphasized that it felt good to see the result keep the Rangers’ in the game for the most part. 

“I think it was a good starting point,” Gray said. “I wish that last inning would have been a little stronger, but I feel like I'm going to be in a good spot. … I just didn't feel very good today and tried to make the most out of it. I still feel like there were a handful of weak pitches that really cost us a couple of runs. So I’m just trying to forget about those and think about the good ones, but also remind myself that there's better things to be done.”

Gray may have made the two costly errors, but it was also the first time in the young season that the Rangers’ offense has looked off balance. 

Texas scored 29 runs in the season-opening series against the Phillies, including two games in which all nine batters reached base at least once. On Monday against Baltimore, the only offensive production came from a infield single and walk, both in the second inning. 

The Rangers looked to be in business with two on and one out, but after a Jonah Heim liner to Orioles starter Kyle Bradish’s foot knocked him out of the game with a foot contusion, the offense stalled. The Baltimore bullpen trio of Danny Coulombe, Tyler Wells and Félix Bautista combined to allow no hits, two baserunners -- an error and a hit-by-pitch -- and five strikeouts.

“That happens, and you have to adjust. It’s part of the game,” Bochy said of Bradish coming out early. “You have to give them credit, the bullpen came in and did a great job on us. We took too long figuring out [Wells], their long guy. The ‘pen just threw the ball very well. We just got shut down.”