Rangers starter Lance Lynn, holding a one-run lead over the Rockies, struck out the side in the eighth inning, and when he walked off the field, manager Chris Woodward asked how he was feeling.
“I’m finishing it,” Lynn told Woodward.
Lynn was determined to finish because he had gone only five innings in his previous start, forcing the bullpen to pick him up for the final four.
“That’s not what I am about,” Lynn said.
Lynn had thrown 98 pitches through eight and the Rockies had their three best hitters -- Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado -- coming up in the ninth. Woodward also had closer Rafael Montero ready to go in the bullpen.
The manager sent his starter back out for the ninth, and Lynn set down the Rockies’ stars down in order to close out a 3-2 victory and just the third complete game of his career. The other two were in 2014.
“Prior experiences with him last year, just knowing how good he is late in the game and he knows it’s the push to the end,” Woodward said. “He’s got an ability to go to another gear when a lot of guys don’t, they fade off or get tired at the end. He can reach back and get more, and I knew he was capable of that. I just told him I didn’t want to risk injury.”
The victory was the Rangers’ sixth in seven games, and they are back to .500 (9-9) for the first time since the opening weekend of the season. They remain in second place behind Oakland in the American League West.
“We are just trying to come out and win games every single day,” said Nick Solak, who contributed a home run, two doubles, two runs scored and some nice defense in center field. “Lance is the most competitive guy I have ever taken the field with, so it’s a lot of fun. There is nobody more competitive when he takes the mound.”
Lynn allowed just two hits, both coming on the first two batters of the game when the Rockies scratched out their first run. The only other baserunners came in the sixth, when errors by catcher Jeff Mathis and shortstop Elvis Andrus led to the Rockies’ second run.
Lynn’s performance marked just the ninth time in Coors Field history that a pitcher has allowed two or fewer hits in a nine-inning complete game. The last opposing pitcher to do it was Kevin Millwood with the Giants on May 18, 2012. Lynn is now 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA in five starts on the season.
“He’s thrown the ball well all year against every opponent,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He was on again tonight. We just couldn’t solve him. Good stuff. He had his pitches working, he kept us off balance. He had enough velocity. He kept his velocity the whole game. So it was a well-pitched game by a veteran pitcher who’s pitched well this season, coming off a really good year last year."
Lynn normally relies on his four-seam fastball high in the zone and a cut fastball. But he went more with his two-seam sinker, and it produced 11 groundouts. He had as many as 10 just once last season. Lynn went with the sinker 15 percent of the time, up from his 11 percent average.
“They showed me early on they were going to try to get to my cutter and my four-seamer, so I started working in some sinkers, and it worked,” Lynn said. “Next thing you know, they weren’t on the four-seamers and the cutters. We were able to mix in curveballs later. You have to feel the flow of the game.”
Lynn has allowed four or fewer hits and two or fewer runs in all five of his starts this year. The last two-hit complete game by a Rangers pitcher was by Colby Lewis on June 16, 2016, against Oakland.
Lynn’s only other nine-inning complete game was on May 27, 2014, against the Yankees while pitching for the Cardinals. His only other complete game was an eight-inning loss to the Reds on Sept. 11, 2014. He had gone 133 starts without a complete game before Friday night.