Less than four days ago, the Texas Rangers were sitting on a 3-8 record, with the feeling their 2020 playoff hopes may already be close to an end. Projected to need to finish 32-17 to sneak into the postseason, the optimism in Arlington was dim. The offense had been dismal, the bullpen was surrendering runs at a deadly rate, and the execution to win close games was not there.
On Friday, the Rangers opened up a three game series at home with the Los Angeles Angels. In the top of the first inning, Mike Trout hit a two-run homer off Jordan Lyles to jumpstart the Angels to an early lead. That was the last time the Angels offense would look impressive for the remainder of the weekend. Texas stormed back, headlined by a three-run fourth inning and found a way to win game one by a score of 4-3. The bullpen threw 3.2 scoreless innings as Rafael Montero recorded his first career save.
The following night, Kolby Allard dominated with five scoreless innings, and powered by a Joey Gallo two-run homer, the Rangers won game two by a final of 2-0. The bullpen looked sharp again, throwing four more scoreless innings, and Montero picked up the save for the second consecutive night.
In the series finale on Sunday, the Rangers were confident looking for the sweep with workhorse and ace Lance Lynn taking the mound looking for his 100th career win. Texas jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and Lynn had another masterful start, throwing 4.2 scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run blast to Tommy La Stella in the fifth. Lynn would finish off the fifth, and the Rangers would go on to win 7-3, with Lynn earning his 100th career win and continuing to prove why he was given the Opening Day nod for the Rangers this year.
The Rangers were led offensively on Sunday by Nick Solak, who doubled twice while scoring three runs. Solak also hit a deep fly to right field that hit off Jo Adell’s glove and bounced over the fence. While it was initially ruled a home run, eventually it was scored as a four-base error. After the sweep of LA, the Rangers improved their record to 6-8, which is good enough for 2nd place in the AL West after the Houston Astros were swept by Oakland this weekend to fall to 6-9.
The real story for the Rangers this weekend was the dominance of the bullpen. After having an atrocious beginning to the season, the Ranger pen locked down one of the best offensive lineups in the American League the entire weekend. Throughout the series with the Angels, Texas’ bullpen tossed 11.2 innings with 18 strikeouts and a 0.77 ERA. On top of that, the real brilliance was in situations with runners on base. Texas relievers inherited seven runners this weekend, and allowed ZERO to score. After a start to 2020 that looked like the bullpen was what would hold the Rangers back from winning close games, this weekend was exactly the confidence boost they needed.
Starting pitching also went above and beyond once again for the Rangers, as they continue to solidify themselves as a top rotation in baseball. Lyles and Lynn both left the game in the lead and notched wins, but the only reason Allard was unable to do the same is because the Rangers were unable to get on the board until the inning after he was pulled for veteran Edinson Volquez.
In another bright spot for the Rangers, the bats of Todd Frazier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa have been strong assets over the past week. Both are hitting over .300 and sporting 5+ game hitting streaks. Many people were worried about the slow offensive start by Elvis Andrus, but he was able to put up a multi-hit game on Sunday that will hopefully jumpstart his bat moving forward. Remember, with the expanded playoffs in 2020, the first and second place teams in each division get an auto-bid into the postseason. With the sweep this weekend, the Rangers were able to move themselves from 2.5 games behind Houston to 0.5 games ahead of them. The Astros will start a three-game set with the Giants on Monday, while the Rangers have the Seattle Mariners coming to town for three. Texas will open that series up tonight against the 6-11 Mariners as Kyle Gibson will face off against Justin Dunn. The Rangers look to continue to shut down opposing offenses, and try to get back to .500 over the next few days.