Leclerc misses chance to recapture closer role

July 29th, 2019

OAKLAND -- Rangers reliever was thrust into the closer’s role on Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. It wasn’t by design, especially since he had pitched the two previous days.

But was unavailable because of tightness in his lower back so Leclerc was called on for the third straight game to hold the Rangers’ one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He couldn’t do it.

Leclerc was trying for his first save since April 17, and the Athletics scored two runs off him for a 6-5 victory. The two teams ended up splitting the four-game series after the Rangers won the first two games and twice pulled off late-inning rallies to take a lead on Sunday afternoon.

led the Rangers’ assault with a three-hit game that included a double and a home run. He left the game in the ninth with a tight left calf after working a walk, but that is not considered serious according to manager Chris Woodward.

“You know what, there is so much positive that came out of today’s game,” Woodward said. “It was such a well-played game on our part. Fell behind, we had to face some really tough pitchers. We fought back the whole series. I am really proud of our guys. Just the fight, the never-ending quit, I’m really proud of our ballclub.”

Leclerc could have made it a complete triumph, and it was tough for Woodward to see him go through that. Leclerc would not have pitched on Saturday night if had not been thrown out of the game for hitting with a pitch in the eighth.

“It’s just unfair, when he is throwing three days in a row, to criticize him after he had that kind of outing,” Woodward said. “He gave everything he had. Everybody in that locker room understands. We were obviously limited going into the game. I gave him a big hug after the game. It’s very important for our guys to see that. All he wants to do is win. It hurts my heart to see it didn’t work out.”

Martin has been the Rangers’ closer lately. He said he has been dealing with back tightness for a long time, and it’s especially hard to get loose before day games. His absence had nothing to do with any potential trade rumors surrounding his name.

“He is always dealing with a sore back,” Woodward said. “He couldn’t go today, that’s the bottom line. It was tightening up on him. Not going to put him out there in that situation and risk injury. We just decided to stay away from him.”

Leclerc told the Rangers he was available. Prior to Sunday, he had a 1.96 ERA and an 0.87 WHIP and was averaging 12.76 strikeouts per nine innings in his past 19 outings.

“They asked me if I could throw and I said, ‘Yes,” Leclerc said. “I told them, ‘I’m not 100 percent, but I can pitch. I feel good.’ I can’t tell you I was 100 percent, but when I’m out there, I‘m doing the best I can whether I’ve pitched three or four days in a row.”

Woodward has been contemplating the possibility of moving Leclerc back into the closer’s role but had not earmarked Sunday as the day. Leclerc didn’t know he was pitching the ninth until they told him late in the game.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything,” Leclerc said. “I was just trying to do my work like I have been doing the last few weeks. I know I wasn’t good as a closer, but I wasn’t thinking about anything but just trying hard to get these guys out.”

started the rally with a leadoff single to left. Leclerc then got ahead 0-2 on and couldn’t put him away. Semien worked a 10-pitch walk, putting runners at first and second.

Leclerc was able to get on a fly to right. But singled through the middle, scoring Herrmann and sending Semien to third. was intentionally walked to load the bases. Leclerc then walked to force in the winning run.

“For me, I have to get three outs,” Leclerc said. “I have no excuses [even] if I’ve thrown 20 days in a row.”