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Rangers ride opener strategy to sweep of Seattle

Chavez, Sampson team up to stymie Mariners; Mazara stars with bat, glove
@Sullivan_Ranger
May 22, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers reliever Jesse Chavez isn’t a big fan of the opener concept, but he has twice handled the role nicely. Adrian Sampson, who is technically part of their starting rotation, is making a bid for Reliever of the Year. Right now, it’s all working the way manager Chris

ARLINGTON -- Rangers reliever Jesse Chavez isn’t a big fan of the opener concept, but he has twice handled the role nicely. Adrian Sampson, who is technically part of their starting rotation, is making a bid for Reliever of the Year.

Right now, it’s all working the way manager Chris Woodward had hoped as the combination of Chavez and Sampson helped the Rangers complete a three-game sweep of the Mariners with a 2-1 victory Wednesday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Texas has now won four straight and seven of its last eight games to move one game over .500 for the first time since April 28.

Box score

“I always talk about process, but the bottom line is it comes down to winning games,” Woodward said. “Everything we do is to win games, so we are starting to put the pieces together and guys are starting to believe. There is a lot of character in that ballclub. They do believe. Whether people outside believe, we don’t care. We may not finish .500, but our guys are investing in things that will help us win games.”

Right now, the opener strategy is one of those things. Chavez has been on a roll as of late, and Woodward wanted him to shut down the Mariners’ offense right away and give the Rangers a chance to take the lead.

That’s what happened. Chavez set Seattle down in order in the first and Nomar Mazara put Texas ahead with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning. Chavez got two outs in the second before turning it over to Sampson.

“As I’ve said before, I’m a big believer in the momentum of games,” Woodward said. “If we can somehow take that momentum away from them by having somebody at the beginning of the game to stop them, and allow us to possibly get the momentum, the rest of the game could be in our hands. It’s not always going to work out -- they’re not always going to go scoreless -- but I feel like it’s the best opportunity for some of our guys to just navigate through a game."

Chavez, who had a scoreless inning against the Astros in his first appearance as an opener May 11, has not allowed a run in his last 11 1/3 innings over eight appearances.

“I treat it the same way as any other [appearance],” Chavez said. “I’m going to get everything ready in the bullpen the way I normally would. If I know I’m coming in a [particular] situation, I know what I need to do to get that guy out. It takes time to understand that part and it takes time to execute that part.”

Sampson went 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one run to earn his second straight victory. He allowed four hits, struck out five and now has a 1.48 ERA in six relief appearances.

“I don’t know, but I like the results, so if we got to keep doing it, we'll keep doing it,” Sampson said about coming in behind the opener. “If not, then I'll just continue going out there with the same mentality. As long as we get wins, everyone's happy.”

Ariel Jurado took over and delivered a scoreless eighth, then Shawn Kelley closed it out in the ninth for his second save since coming off the injured list Tuesday.

The defense was excellent the entire afternoon. Mazara made a terrific running catch near the wall on Daniel Vogelbach’s deep drive to start the fourth. One batter later, third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera made a backhanded grab of Edwin Encarnacion’s one-hop smash.

Second baseman Rougned Odor had a couple of tough plays, including turning an inning-ending double play in the seventh after J.P. Crawford’s single drove in the Mariners’ only run. Woodward said the biggest play may have been center fielder Danny Santana, in a 2-1 game, running down Shed Long’s deep fly ball to left-center to open the eighth.

“We are really working hard on our defense,” Mazara said. “We are showing up early to take ground balls or fly balls, and you can see the work is showing up.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.