ARLINGTON, Texas — For the fifth time this season, and for the first time since June 29, the Texas Rangers have won three game in a row.
The Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Angels in Monday's series opener at Globe Life Field by a score of 4-1. While the Rangers only managed to rack up five hits, the team put together a stellar defensive performance, were opportunistic on the bases and worked tough at-bats.
"That was probably our best game all year," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "Honestly, that was fun to watch. I told a lot of the guys after the game that's kind of the vision you have for a winning ballclub. We made it look easy at times. But I felt like the way they played the game, there was a calmness about our guys."
The Rangers struck first on a passed ball by catcher Max Stassi in the second inning. After the Angels tied the game with an RBI groundout by Juan Lagares in the fourth inning, the Rangers pulled of a Little League double steal in the fifth inning. Isiah Kiner-Falefa broke for second base, and when Angels catcher Max Stassi fired a throw to the bag, Brock Holt sprinted home and beat the throw back to the plate.
Prior to the passed ball that scored the Rangers' first run of the ballgame, Curtis Terry finally broke through, recording his first big league hit after starting his career with a rough 0-for-20 stretch.
"It felt really good to get it out of the way," Terry chuckled. "I've been pressing for a little bit. ... When I first got it, I was like, 'Okay, good. I can do this. I can hit up here.' Then the rest of the game, I felt way more calm, my approach felt better, everything like that. That hit was leaving me with a little extra confidence, a little less stress, and slowing the game down too."
Terry was 2-for-3 on the night, but showed plenty of hustle on the bases as well. When Brock Holt drove in Jason Martin with a sacrifice fly to extend the Rangers' lead in the seventh inning, Terry — who is not known for his speed — tagged from first base and successfully made it to second, beating a close throw to the bag.
"I can't believe [Don Wakamatsu] wanted to pinch-run for him right there," Woodward laughed. "You could see the excitement he had when he got to second base. That's the key for me. He obviously understands the value of making that move there. He slid into second, beat it, and then gave a fist pump. He felt like it was a big deal, and it was."
The hustle play by Terry helped the Rangers put their fourth run up on the board with Kiner-Falefa driving him in with an RBI single. More importantly, the play is a true representation of the "scratch and claw" mentality that Woodward and his coaching staff have preached all year.
"It exemplifies exactly what we're talking about," Woodward said.
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Rangers pitching was sensational in the victory. Dane Dunning gave up the only run, but pitched five solid innings, earned his fifth win of the season and lowered his season ERA to 4.07.
While Dunning has wanted to go deeper into games, he understands why the Rangers have consistently had him on pitch counts and innings limits. The club doesn't want to risk injury with Dunning, who was coming off hardly any innings after missing nearly two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even so, there has been a ton of value in being able to take the ball every time his turn in the rotation comes up. Monday was Dunning's 20th start of the season, and despite the constant limit on him, he's been a stalwart in the Texas rotation.
"I didn't realize that was my 20th start," Dunning said. "This season's flown by so far. Even though we haven't had the greatest record, it's still been a lot of fun and a big learning experience for me. Ultimately, I want to be known as a person that's gonna take the mound every fifth day."
The bullpen followed with four perfect innings. Jimmy Herget, who was called up to help relieve a taxed bullpen, dominated the sixth and seventh innings. Joe Barlow mowed through the eighth inning, and Spencer Patton recorded his first big league save in the ninth inning.
With his strikeout of Jack Mayfield in the eighth inning, Barlow recorded his eighth straight strikeout, which is a new franchise record.
The Rangers (39-67) continue their four-game series with the Angels (52-54) on Tuesday night at Globe Life Field. Texas will send Jordan Lyles (5-7, 5.04 ERA) to the mound to face off against Angels' southpaw José Suarez (4-4, 3.45 ERA).
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