Leclerc shows veteran mindset after tough loss

April 10th, 2019

PHOENIX -- Rangers closer stood in front of his locker less than 20 minutes after giving up a walk-off, two-run homer to D-backs pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson in a 5-4 loss on Tuesday night and said all of the right things.

No, the five-day layoff in between outings did not bother him. Yes, all of his pitches were working. He gave credit to the D-backs hitters and repeated that “tomorrow is another day” multiple times.

Leclerc refused to make excuses.

It was an uneven outing on the mound, but a veteran performance after the game. It showed the mindset that will serve him well in his career as a closer.

“It happens to everybody,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “That’s the biggest thing. Nobody has had their perfect save situations every year, year in and year out. Even the best closers in the game get beat, so it’s something we have to make sure it doesn’t turn into anything more than it is. It was a couple of bad pitches that they took advantage of.”

Leclerc started the season with 4 1/3 scoreless innings over four outings. Dating back to last season, he had converted his last 14 save attempts and had not allowed a run in 25 1/3 consecutive innings.

This Leclerc was different.

The Rangers led, 4-2, in the ninth when the right-hander entered the game. His first two pitches to Christian Walker were sliders way out of the strike zone, the first sign that he was not as sharp as usual. Walker eventually singled.

The next batter, Eduardo Escobar, took advantage of a fastball that caught too much of the plate for an RBI double to cut the Rangers' lead to one run. One out later, Dyson smashed a slider in the middle of the plate over the right-field wall to end the game.

“I tried to do my best, but it’s another day tomorrow and I’ll try to win,” Leclerc said. “My fastball was there, and my changeup was there. Everything was good. They just hit whatever I threw.”

Woodward acknowledged Leclerc’s layoff could have impacted the righty's performance.

“You would like to see it not go more than five [days],” Woodward said. “That’s something for us to learn. I talked to some of the other pitchers, and some of the guys don’t mind the layoff if they go five or six [days]. Some guys feel like they need to pitch. So, that’s something all of us have to keep an eye on so if that happens again, maybe we’ll get him in a game earlier.”

The inning spoiled a splendid night on the mound for Rangers starter Mike Minor, who pitched seven strong innings, and the offense, which had early success against D-backs starter Zack Greinke.

Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a double, and Rougned Odor followed with a bunt single. Elvis Andrus’ double drove in the Rangers’ first run, and Odor scored on a groundout by Nomar Mazara to push the Rangers ahead, 2-0.

The Rangers tacked on two more runs in the top of the second for a 4-0 lead. But that lead evaporated, culminating with Leclerc's tough showing.

“That’s a tough guy to try and put a good at-bat against,” Dyson said. “I just tried to pick me a good pitch over the middle of the plate and tried to do a little damage with it. I ended up getting a pitch I could handle and got lucky.”

The Rangers fell to 5-6 and are 1-4 on the road trip that concludes with Wednesday's two-game series finale at Chase Field.

“Today was a hard day, and we are going to have those days,” Leclerc said. “We’ll just keep working and keep doing what I’m doing.”