Semien (4-for-5, 2 HRs) continues September tear in series win

September 10th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- Sometimes, it’s easy to take for granted, given that he’s only missed 11 games in the past six seasons. Sunday wasn’t one of those days.

Semien continued his September tear, smashing two solo home runs and going 4-for-5 with three runs to give the Rangers a 9-4 win and a much-needed series victory over the Athletics at Globe Life Field.

  • Games remaining: at TOR (4); at CLE (3); vs. BOS (3); vs. SEA (3); at LAA (3); at SEA (4)
  • Standings update: With the win, the Rangers are a half-game back of the Mariners for the final American League Wild Card slot and remain 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, who are in the second spot. Texas is 3 games behind Houston, which leads the AL West.

Texas, which heads to Toronto for a key four-game series starting on Monday, had lost five of its past six series, partly due to the absence of Josh Jung (fractured left thumb), Adolis García’s recent right patellar tendon strain and Jonah Heim’s struggles after returning from a left wrist injury.

It’s a team without some of its “big boys,” as manager Bruce Bochy called some of the missing pieces.

“You miss a lot of home runs when you take García and Jung out of the lineup,” Bochy said pregame Sunday. “I’ll be honest, Jonah’s not quite swinging like he was.”

But Semien, a two-time All-Star, has done more than his part as an everyday player and the Rangers’ leadoff hitter. He lined the first pitch he saw for a 108.1 mph home run to left field, and he drove another first pitch to left-center in the sixth for his second home run of the day.

Semien set a Rangers franchise record with eight leadoff home runs and collected his second multi-homer game in the past five days, after a 4-for-4, 2-HR performance on Wednesday.

“He doesn’t really have bad at-bats,” said Corey Seager, who hit his 30th HR of the year to go back to back with Semien in the sixth. “Even when he’s not at his best, he’s out there grinding and seeing pitches and just trying to move the lineup along.”

Combine no "bad at-bats” with Semien’s durability -- the second baseman is on track to lead the Majors in plate appearances for the fourth time in five years -- and you get a 5.0 WAR season per FanGraphs, entering Sunday, which was the 6th-highest in the AL.

His stretch to begin September (14-for-38, 1.192 OPS) has come as a result of improved plate discipline this year. Semien is striking out less (13.8% in 2023, compared to 18.4% for his career) and chasing fewer pitches out of the zone.

“[It’s] just experience,” Semien said. “Paying attention to what the league’s been doing and attention to each individual guy and how they attack certain right-handed hitters. I make sure I do my homework on every single guy.”

Semien's recent offensive outburst has come at a key time down the stretch, as the Rangers await possible returns. Jung will see a doctor on Thursday for his final tests before being cleared for live pitching. Bochy was cautiously optimistic García could return shortly after Jung when his 10 days on the injured list are up for the last week of the season.

But four crucial games against the Blue Jays without either All-Star still loom large. And Semien, facing another one of his former clubs in Toronto, will be ready in the leadoff spot and at second base amid a tight AL Wild Card race.

“He probably will play every game, knock on wood,” Bochy said. “It’s nice to have as a manager when you have guys like that that you can throw out there every day. … He’s just wiry, strong and just doesn’t wear down. He’s tireless.”