Rangers' patience a detriment to Orioles in Game 2

Texas records 11 walks, including an AL/NL postseason-record five from Corey Seager

October 9th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- The Rangers just walked all over the Orioles.

Giving this Rangers lineup free baserunners is dangerous, but giving them 11 is inviting an avalanche. The Orioles brought it on themselves Sunday night in Baltimore, losing 11-8, and head to Texas down 2-0 in the ALDS, already facing a must-win Game 3.

This played right into one of the Rangers’ greatest strengths. This Texas lineup has given opposing pitchers nightmares all season with its power, but this group’s ability to work walks and keep the line moving is what’s allowed it to avoid the peaks and valleys so many slugging teams fall into.

When patience meets power, it’s lethal. Grayson Rodriguez and the Orioles’ bullpen just learned that the hard way.

“That’s a good offense. They’ve been a really good offense all year, but we also walked 11 of them,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “You’re not doing yourself any favors by putting that much traffic out there.”

Corey Seager accounted for a whopping five of the Rangers’ 11 walks himself, the first time in AL/NL postseason history a player has walked five times in a game and just the 10th time in postseason history a team has combined for this many. When Seager walked in the third inning, right after a Marcus Semien walk, it set the stage for Mitch Garver’s grand slam to break the game wide open.

“We’ve talked about it all year, that hitting is contagious,” Seager said. “We’re just trying to pass the baton and have good at-bats.”

Mission accomplished, and when the Rangers pair this approach with Nathan Eovaldi starting Game 3, they have to love their chances back home at Globe Life Field.

Fast facts: Powerful patience

  • The Rangers’ chase rate is 25.5% as a team, the lowest in MLB.
  • As a team, the Rangers swing at 69.4% of pitches that are inside the zone, so not only is this group selective, it attacks hittable pitches.
  • Garver’s chase rate (17.4%) ranks in the 98th percentile of MLB hitters. Garver started his grand-slam at-bat in an 0-1 count, but watched three straight balls before launching his blast in a 3-1 count.

What makes this all so surprising is that walks haven’t been a fatal flaw for the Orioles’ pitchers. Instead, they’d been a strength this season.

Baltimore pitchers ranked sixth in MLB with 2.93 walks per nine innings this season. Rodriguez’s walk rate for the season was 3.1 BB/9, which isn’t unmanageable, and he’d been trending in a better direction since returning to the O’s in July. The Orioles’ pitching staff can bear its share of the blame here, but the Rangers’ lineup created these walks just as much as they had them handed to them.

“Corey, with five walks, you take it,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s getting on base and that’s what you’re trying to do, put guys on base and put pressure on them. The guys did a great job of that. There were long at-bats and we got their starter out of there. Just a terrific job throughout the order.”

The Orioles’ order figured things out, too, their late surge making this game closer than anyone expected it to be after the Rangers’ early surge. They out-hit Texas, 14-11, and hit two home runs, but without all of those free baserunners, it simply didn’t add up to as many runs.

“It’s always the same with us. Get something to hit,” Semien told Ken Rosenthal following the game. “We have a great lineup. We just need to stay within ourselves, stay within the strike zone. Make the pitcher work. He’s a guy we’ve seen, saw him in his debut, saw him here. We made some adjustments.”

That past matchup Semien mentions is key.

On May 26, the Rangers tagged Rodriguez for eight earned runs over just 3 1/3 innings, his final start before being optioned back to Triple-A. They saw him well then and they saw him well Sunday, when the stakes were a hundred times higher.

“It’s a good lineup. They’ve got good hitters all the way down,” Rodriguez said. “They’ve just been very good at situational hitting. They did a good job of taking the ball to the opposite field today and just working good counts.”

Now the Rangers have their blueprint and the Orioles know which landmines they need to look out for. As this shifts back to Texas, it’s the mighty Rangers’ patience as much as their pop that could launch them into the ALCS.