ARLINGTON -- The Rangers really needed an All-Star pitcher to step up for them on Thursday afternoon. They had lost two straight to the Indians, their starters had been knocked out early and the day-game temperatures on Thursday were in the 90s with the heat index soaring well into triple digits.
Left-hander Mike Minor answered the call for the Rangers. He held the Indians to one run through eight innings, and Texas earned a split of the four-game series with a 4-2 victory at Globe Life Park.
“That’s desperately what we needed right there,” manager Chris Woodward said.
The Rangers scored two in the first and Minor took it from there. He allowed three hits, three walks and struck out four in raising his record to 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA. The outing comes as players across MLB get ready to vote on All-Star players this weekend. Though selections for pitchers will come later, Minor certainly has to be considered.
“Just I knew that it’d be nice to split with these guys,” Minor said. “We won the first game and lost the next two. To split here and kind of salvage a little bit, a day game, a hot one and our regular guys still played. I felt good about it just because some of those guys could have easily taken a day off.”
This marked the second time in three starts Minor has given Texas eight innings. Prior to that, he had gone no more than six innings in six straight starts while throwing at least 100 pitches in five of those games.
Minor wasn’t happy that inefficiency with his pitches was keeping him from going deeper into games. He has been able to change that with eight innings against Boston on June 10, 6 1/3 against the Reds on Saturday and this outing.
“I didn’t feel like I was that great today,” Minor said. “I feel like they took some early swings and got me through some innings. Defense played good behind me. We held it there for a little bit. We scored early, but it was close there for a little bit.”
Danny Santana started the Rangers’ rally in the first with a one-out double off Tribe starter Shane Bieber and scored on a triple by Elvis Andrus. With Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate, Bieber bounced a pitch that catcher Kevin Plawecki blocked and kept in front of him. But it rolled far enough away that Andrus could bolt home for a run.
“That was a great read,” Woodward said. “The ball shot back to the pitcher and once he saw the catcher go after it he realized there was no way the catcher could grab it and beat him back to home plate. That’s honestly something you can’t teach. There is no teaching, no preparation for getting that kind of read.”
The Indians’ only run off Minor came after the lefty retired the first two hitters in the sixth. Oscar Mercado grounded a base hit through the left side, Carlos Santana walked and Jordan Luplow lined a single to left to bring home the run. The runners moved up on the throw, but Minor escaped the inning with a 2-1 lead by getting Jose Ramirez on a liner to left
“He just finds a way to gets outs,” Woodward said. “Facing Ramirez with second and third ... and executes a pitch. He’s done that all year. He has no fear of executing pitches when he has to, and throwing strikes when he has to. It’s been really impressive to watch.”
Minor then retired the last six batters he faced before turning it over to the bullpen.
“He did a good job today, clearly,” Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “He threw tons of strikes, really just forced the issue of being ready from the first pitch of every at-bat. He did a good job of just getting us back on our heels early and often and their defense played a good game behind him, too. He had a couple innings that he went right through.”
The Rangers built a cushion in the eighth when Danny Santana and Andrus hit back-to-back home runs off reliever A.J. Cole. It’s the fourth time this season Texas has gone back-to-back, and it was Andrus’ first home run since May 12.
The Rangers needed the cushion because reliever Shawn Kelley gave up a leadoff home run in the ninth to Carlos Santana before closing it out for his ninth save.
“This was a big win for us,” Andrus said. “But we felt comfortable going in because we had Mike Minor on the mound. He’s our ace. He did a great job.”