Pitching buoys Rangers before Lowe's clutch hit

August 29th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Entering Monday night’s matchup against the Mets, the Rangers were 0-47 on the season when trailing after eight innings. In fact, the last time Texas had come back when trailing after the eighth inning was June 16, 2022, in Detroit.

For as good of a team as the Rangers have been this year, they’ve often struggled to come from behind countless times.

But now, Texas is 1-47 when trailing after eight innings thanks to a two-out, two-run single from in the top of the ninth inning, which propelled the Rangers to a 4-3 win to open the series at Citi Field amid a tight American League West race.

“That was as big of a hit as we’ve had this year,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “When you’re going through a rut like this, you need somebody to pick you up, and what a great job he did. And it wasn’t just him. The pitching did a great job, a lot of good things happened there [offensively], and Nate came through in a big way. Big team win.”

Even though he had the game-winning hit, Lowe made sure to point out that it was a complete team win. While the late offensive outburst was front and center, the Rangers' pitching quietly came up big in a must-win game after struggling for most of the last two weeks.

Texas starter Jon Gray struck out nine batters and gave up three runs on homers from Brandon Nimmo and DJ Stewart before turning it over to Martín Pérez and Jose Leclerc to shut down the Mets in the final three innings. 

“I felt like I was on the attack today, like we really came out throwing a lot of strikes,” Gray said. “I guess I'm not thrilled, but just a couple of mistakes [with the homers]. Other than that, again, we attacked really well. It was good.”

The Rangers didn’t have many relievers available after a 13-inning marathon in Minnesota on Sunday, so Bochy had to turn to two guys who have not been in these tight situations for much of the season.

Pérez spent much of the season in the rotation before transitioning into a long reliever after Texas added starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the Trade Deadline. Leclerc opened the season as one of the Rangers’ closer options before getting moved from that position after continuous struggles.

Both were demoted in a way, but they found a way to contribute in a big win on Monday as they combined to allow no hits and just one walk with four strikeouts. Pérez was awarded the win, and Leclerc the save.

“It's huge,” Gray said of Pérez. “We know what he's made of and to see him go out there and cover the rest again, it was awesome. He's just gonna get better. ... He’s that kind of guy. He's got the fire in him, and we're gonna need it. It's coming. I think everyone's gonna be a big part in what's gonna play.”

Leclerc said that while he was aware of the situation the bullpen was in with limited availability, he still wasn’t expecting to have to close out the game. There were some nerves -- as evidenced by a two-out walk to Francisco Alvarez -- and some excitement, but he was just happy to contribute when given another chance.

“I agree, it was big,” Bochy said. “He's been there, he's done that and to go out there and do it in a big game like this with a one-run lead, it’s a great job. He was really sharp. He's been getting some work, and he went out there and got it done. That's great to have another guy that can help us in those high-leverage situations.”

It’s been a long road trip for Texas. From a two-game sweep at the hands of the D-backs to a series loss in Minnesota, the Rangers didn’t feel like the same team that opened the month with an eight-game winning streak

It’s just one game, but it’s a start to getting back on track in a tight division race. 

“You're really hoping that this gets some momentum built up, and we start being the club that we were earlier,” Bochy said. “It's great for the team. They've been through a lot. Nobody likes to go through this. Trust me. They don't. And so it's been tough on these guys. To win one like this, it does so much for the club.”

“It's a tough time we've had, and it's hard to feel like yourself,” Gray added. “You feel like you’ve got to step on the pedal everywhere you go, but it's hard to be yourself in a time like this. I think a game like tonight could be the thing that gets us back into it, gets us back to feeling like ourselves, gets us that fighting mentality back.”