Leody latest to show off in Texas' clutch OF

September 26th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- Neither the Rangers nor the Orioles could get a run on the board through the first six innings of Texas' 3-2 loss at Camden Yards on Saturday. In a scoreless game that held until the bottom of the seventh inning, it became almost more important to prevent runs as it was to score them.

A day after robbing the Orioles of two homers, the Rangers' outfield proved yet again how it has been the team’s biggest asset all season.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Orioles were close to striking first with runners on the corners and one out. Slugging rookie Ryan Mountcastle stepped into the batter’s box and smacked a fly ball to center field -- hoping for, at the very least, a sacrifice fly.

However, showcased his arm strength, making a throw to home that ended the inning with a double play to prevent the run from scoring.

“I wasn't even thinking about backing up home plate,” said starting pitcher Jordan Lyles -- who was charged with three runs, all in the seventh, over 6 2/3. “I didn't know [Taveras] was gonna be able to catch it to start with. That just shows how quick and fast and how [good] his instincts are.”

The throw, tracked at a Statcast-projected 95.1 mph, was the fourth-hardest outfield assist recorded by a Rangers player this season. It was also Taveras’ fifth-hardest throw of the year.

“I thought he had no chance,” said manager Chris Woodward. “I think if [Kelvin] Gutierrez slides in, he's probably safe. Just a great play on both sides to even get an opportunity for that play to even happen.”

By keeping the run off the board and ending what could have been a big inning, the Rangers had a chance to rally late. After Jose Trevino's solo home run got Texas on the board in the eighth, Nathaniel Lowe led off the ninth with his second homer in as many games to cut the O's lead to one. A two-out walk then provided the Rangers with the potential winning run at the plate in Taveras, but the rookie popped out to end the game.

As disappointing as the loss was, Taveras' play on Saturday and his home run-robbing catch on Friday reminded the Rangers skipper of how impressive this outfield has been all season.

“I can argue that we've had the best outfield defense in all of baseball,” Woodward said. “I don't know what the numbers say, but I’m just saying from the eye test every day, I haven't come across a better one.”

The numbers agree. Entering play on Saturday, the Rangers’ outfield has recorded 26 outs above average -- trailing just the Rays (28) for most in MLB. However, what is interesting about these numbers, is the fact the outfield has gotten even better in August and September.

Since trading away a Gold Glove right fielder, the Rangers shifted rookie to Joey Gallo’s former spot. The rest of the outfield is comprised of Taveras in center and playing left field on a regular basis for the first time in his career.

Since the Trade Deadline, Texas’ outfield has prevented the most runs in the Majors (13), compared with recording just 12 prior to the Deadline.

“I'm not going to undervalue what Joey [did],” said Woodward on the increase in production from the outfield. “In my opinion, [Gallo] and Adolis can arguably be the best right fielders that I've seen all year. I'm not saying we're better. Maybe it's because we put a more true center fielder in there in between them? With Taveras just being a more natural center fielder, he has made it look that way.”