ST. PETERSBURG -- Like any well-oiled machine, the Rangers function best when each part works in tandem for the greater good. Though they’ve traveled different routes in each of the past six games, the end result has been the same. It was again in Friday’s series opener at Tropicana Field, as Texas topped the Rays, 5-0, to extend its win streak.
Rangers starter Lance Lynn benefitted from an early lead provided by his teammates’ heads-up baserunning, timely hits and selective approach at the plate. Free to be aggressive in his own approach with a 3-0 advantage on the scoreboard, Lynn was nonetheless content to work quietly and efficiently en route to his 10th win of the season.
“I’m not surprised,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “His sinker was on point today -- it was moving a ton. … He had movement on it, which was getting a ton of ground balls.
“That’s as good as we’ve seen from him, for sure.”
As a result, Lynn’s line was nothing short of exceptional: a season-high eight innings, with three hits allowed, one walk and 10 strikeouts. He threw 112 pitches, 73 for strikes. After rekindling success with his fastball at the start of June, Lynn leaned on it heavily again on Friday, throwing it 88 times.
The big righty’s victory marked the seventh consecutive season in which he has won at least 10 games, and made it 12 consecutive starts of at least six frames. Each landmark is a nod to the 32-year-old’s consistency.
The last Rangers pitchers to head into the All-Star break with 10 or more wins were Yu Darvish (10) and Matt Harrison (11) in 2012.
Lynn’s outing also added power to an already ferocious Rangers rotation of late: Texas starters now have worked at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer in five consecutive games. It’s just the third streak of that length in club history, along with the 2011 club (six games, July 10-19), and the 1986 team (five games, Sept. 17-22).
A fight to keep the streak alive, combined with the intra-team competition it encourages, Lynn said, only stokes the Rangers’ competitive fire.
“You don’t want to be the weak link, because guys won’t let you live that down,” he said. “Which is good, because it gets you coming to the ballpark and working hard every day to be as best as you can.”
So much has gone well for the Rangers lately that it would be easy to take the current hot streak for granted. A season-high six-game win streak, two consecutive series wins and 10 victories in its past 14 games has moved the team into a tie with the Rays for the American League’s top Wild Card spot. While playoff baseball is still half a season away, Lynn set an example on Friday he hopes his team will follow moving forward.
When he walked off the mound after the eighth, Lynn had all but secured the win. No one would’ve blamed him if he’d tipped his cap and headed for the showers. But though he ultimately lost an argument to close out the game, Lynn still made it known where he stood on the matter: There’s always more to be done.
“If it was my choice, I would have finished it,” said Lynn, when asked if he had any gas left in the tank for the ninth. “I always campaign for it.”
After singling to lead off the ninth inning, Rougned Odor left with what the club said was a left hamstring cramp. He was replaced by pinch-runner Danny Santana as a precaution, and Woodward said he didn’t expect the discomfort to keep his second baseman from action.
“He passed all the tests,” Woodward said. “But we won’t really know until he shows up [Saturday]. We’ll see if there’s any kind of soreness there. If anything, it’s a very, very, very mild strain, but I don’t think so.”