The victory marked the Rangers’ sixth in their last seven games. The club continues to play the role of spoiler against contending teams like Oakland, which fell to three games out of a spot in the AL Wild Card picture with the loss. Texas also finished its nine-game, three-city road trip 6-3.
“This trip, I think, we put more of an emphasis on coming in early and getting our work done and letting the game happen,” Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. “We are so caught up on results, we forgot the process of it. … If we do things that way, we have a better chance to compete.”
Hearn showed once again that he could give the Rangers length, tossing six innings and allowing three runs on five hits. He was pitching to contact and thriving during the first five innings. After allowing two hits to Josh Harrison and Starling Marte to start the game, Hearn put on a pitching clinic, retiring the next 11 hitters and 14 out of the next 15 he faced -- a lot of weak contact, the definition of "cruise control" as far as pitching is concerned.
A solo homer from Yan Gomes in the fifth ended that streak and surrendered Hearn’s first run of the ballgame. The left-hander was efficient early on without recording a strikeout, as his first didn't come until a fifth-inning punchout of Chad Pinder.
“Honestly, it’s my mentality. I’ve always tried to get ahead and stay ahead, not be a guy that is trying to chase strikeouts,” Hearn said. “These games matter more in the big leagues. You are trying to win games. That’s something I’ve always learned. I’ve learned throughout my career that I would rather have two strikeouts [and go deeper into a game] than [pitch] 3 2/3 with a lot of punchouts.
“I know at times, [the strikeouts] will come, but I think that is a testament to all the stuff that we’ve been working on to try to get teams off the fastball so I can really get early contact and get outs, like what I’ve been doing today.”
Manager Chris Woodward said an argument could be made that Hearn is the Rangers’ pitcher of the year for 2021. After Sunday's win, he improved his stat line to 6-4 with a 3.99 ERA in 39 appearances, eight of those as a starter. He began the season in the bullpen, but it seems safe to say his days as a reliever are over. He will begin next Spring Training as a starter.
“He looks like a legit, top-end big league starting pitcher. That's what he looks like to me,” Woodward said. “You talk to him, same thing. He is calm and in control every time. … He is arguably the biggest success on the year, the way I look at it.”
On Sunday, Hearn's outing ended after he finished the sixth following a mammoth two-run home run struck by Matt Olson. Woodward said Hearn could have gone at least two more innings, with his next start coming on four days’ rest.
The Rangers gave Hearn enough support on the offensive side of things, plating four runs by the fourth inning against Oakland right-hander James Kaprielian. Kiner-Falefa highlighted the scoring with a two-run single in the third inning.
“This is the sixth time we've faced Kaprielian [this season]," said Woodward. "I felt our swings were pretty good against him. … In previous games, we weren’t coming through with big hits. [Sunday], it was the grind of the at-bat. Kiner-Falefa had a really good at-bat. That kind of got us going right there.”