PHOENIX -- Spencer Howard had a two-inning limit in his return to action against the D-backs on Tuesday night, having been on the COVID-19-related injured list since Aug. 27.
Howard retired all six batters he faced on 23 pitches in the Rangers’ 3-1 win at Chase Field. His last outing had been on Aug. 19, when he allowed five runs in two innings against the Mariners. He was one of seven Texas players to go on the COVID-19 IL shortly after.
Howard said his mechanics weren’t affected by the IL stint and that everything felt in sync during the outing, despite having not pitched in 19 days.
“I think, for me, it was just [not getting] repetitions in games,” Howard said. “So I think it did affect me, but not too much in either way. I was feeling really good mechanically right before I got sent to the IL, and so I was really excited to have my next outing. For that to get pushed back was kind of a bummer. But I'm just happy to be here now and hoping to ride out the rest of the season.”
Before the IL stint, Howard had been working with pitching coaches Brendan Sagara and Doug Mathis on how to maintain his stuff multiple times through an opposing batting order. Manager Chris Woodward said Howard is in a good place with his delivery and mechanics to do that going forward.
“That's probably the next test, to see if you can sustain that,” Woodward said. “He's pretty excited, just the way he felt, the way his body was moving and the way the ball was coming out of his hand. Like I said, it was going in the direction he was hoping it was going and he got a lot of weak contact.”
Right-hander Jordan Lyles, typically part of the Rangers’ rotation, followed Howard. Manager Chris Woodward said before the game that it would be perfect if Lyles went the distance to complete the contest. He did exactly that, tossing seven innings of one-run ball to earn the win.
Following the game, Woodward said he was kind of joking when he said that, but he’s happy it worked out that way. Lyles’ outing was the longest relief win by a Texas pitcher since Dave Rajsich allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings against the Royals on Aug. 28, 1980.
Lyles allowed a run shortly after entering in the third, but then he settled in and cruised for the rest of the night.
“That first inning, I came in and I had no idea where the ball was going -- east, west, north, south, I was just throwing stuff up there,” Lyles said. “Then the next one, I was able to control everything and settle down in the dugout, and then come back out for the second and then treat it like a new outing. We had a couple quick, efficient innings in there.”
All three of the Rangers’ runs came against D-backs starter Zac Gallen in the fourth. DJ Peters tied the game at 1 with an RBI single, then Jason Martin put Texas on top with a two-run single.
Woodward said he felt like it was a “gritty” win.
“I think we had a hard time winning games like today early on in the season,” Woodward said. “And now, we're starting to find a way to win some of these games. The pitching is there and any time we score, we feel like we're going to put a zero up. We made some really good defensive plays, too. Just overall a good, clean win."