Taveras, Duran pack a punch at the bottom of the order

June 19th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- When you see and  in the Rangers’ dugout, you’ll more often than not find them dancing. From pregame to postgame, the two young outfielders are full of energy.  

On Sunday, there was more than enough reason for the two to dance in celebration, as Taveras and Duran combined for seven hits -- including a two-run homer for Taveras -- from the eight- and nine-holes, propelling the Rangers to an 11-7 comeback victory over the Blue Jays at Globe Life Field.

“It’s a lot of fun [hitting behind Duran],” Taveras said. “I was talking to him, I told him, ‘Hey, you gotta get a hit or I’m not gonna get a hit.’ That's what happened last at-bat. It’s just a lot of fun. … I feel really good. And the team, I know we can do this. I know that things haven’t been going the best for us, but we know that we can keep going and do our best.”  

Taveras and Duran have become two of the most lethal 8-9 hitters in baseball, especially as they turn it over to the top of the lineup with Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

MLB Pipeline's No. 1 Rangers prospect entering 2017 and '18, Taveras struggled through parts of three big league seasons entering this year. Now, he is finally reaching his full potential. On Sunday, he went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning to go along with the two-run homer, as his slash line improved to .302/.357/.495. 

Taveras said that a lot of his recent success comes from simplifying everything he does at the plate and not overthinking. He’s learned to not do too much and just wait to drive his pitch.

“I'd have to really look and see why the nine-hole hitter is swinging better than he is,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I still think he's gonna get better, too. That’s how good I think he can be. There’s nothing he can't do, run, throw, switch-hitter, he’s good on both sides. It's good to see where he's at now.” 

Duran, a middle infielder turned utility man turned outfielder, recorded a career-high four hits against the Blue Jays, raising his season average to .309. The second-year player has already established career highs in hits (54), doubles (11) and runs scored (28) this season.

“With Leo, it’s like having another leadoff hitter before the top of the order comes up,” Bochy said. “And Duran, he's so dangerous out there. Now you get two guys that are setting the table for the heart of the order. That's what works for us, and that's why we've been scoring runs. It's good to see them do what they did today. That's what has to happen the rest of the season. We need everybody doing something to help us score runs.”

While a shaky start from right-hander  put Texas in a 6-0 hole going into the bottom of the third, the offense stormed back while the bullpen kept Toronto's bats at bay to set up the team's biggest comeback win of the season.

“I really felt like I was the only weak point in the team today,” Gray said. “But I'm so thankful we came away with a 'W.'”

It was an overall astonishing offensive performance by Texas after a tough week at the plate for MLB’s top run-scoring team. All nine Texas starters reached base via hit or walk at least once, and Josh Jung’s RBI single in the third inning snapped the club’s 0-for-23 skid with runners in scoring position. Taveras, Duran and Seager all logged multi-hit days.

In all, the Rangers erupted for 11 runs on 15 hits after scoring eight over their prior three games and averaging just 3.7 runs per game (26 total) over their previous seven contests.

While the series win over the Blue Jays was not enough to make it a winning homestand after the Rangers dropped a four-game set to the Angels, it was more than enough to maintain Texas' steady division lead with Los Angeles right on its heels.

“Just a great job by the club,” Bochy said. “I mean, they battled back. That's one of our better wins, I'll say since Opening Day [against the Phillies]. That's just a tremendous job they did. … We did a lot of good things today at the plate. The patience that they showed at the plate, they stuck with a game plan, and this was more of a club that we saw in the first six or seven weeks. “