ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers hadn't played a game with the roof open at Globe Life Field since June 8. But on Saturday night, the Rangers made a game-time decision to open the roof for the final night game of the 2021 season.
While Mother Nature rewarded 27,362 fans with a gorgeous night in North Texas, the Rangers rewarded them with a 7-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians. It was the 60th win of the season for Texas, which is a minor consolation prize in a season filled with growing pains.
In what could be his last start with the Rangers, Jordan Lyles closed out an up-and-down season in fine fashion. Lyles kept the Indians at bay with seven solid innings, allowing just one run on two hits while walking one and striking out eight batters.
Lyles' season has not been exactly what he wanted in terms of numbers. Heading into play on Saturday, he has allowed the most homers in the Major Leagues and finished his campaign with a 5.15 ERA.
However, Lyles also finished the season with 180 innings, becoming the sixth American League pitcher to reach that mark. Despite the struggles from Lyles, he provided a very young team with valuable number of innings in the rotation and leadership in the clubhouse.
“It means a lot to all of us,” said manager Chris Woodward. “We've had some good dialogue, especially since we [traded Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy]. Those guys were not only two of our best pitchers, but our best leaders. And they provided a huge role in the clubhouse.
"I'm really proud of Jordan. He took that role on when there wasn’t a whole lot of help ... Jordan took that role and embraced it. He provided a lot of quality conversations and leadership throughout the clubhouse. Obviously, as his manager, I'm very appreciative of that.”
Lyles is set to become a free agent this winter. And while there is some young pitching internally to be excited about, the Rangers will need a veteran or two to eat innings once again. Chris Woodward, general manager Chris Young and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels have all talked about being "very active" in free agency, and there are some big names on the market this winter.
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In Chris Woodward's eyes, Lyles could be a candidate for an encore in 2022.
“He knows our guys really well," Woodward said. "He knows our team and he knows our expectations. Him and I became pretty close. I know the pitching coaches and him have become pretty close. He trusts those guys. He got a lot better. I think if we saw this version of him from the second half all year, his numbers would be really good. We'd be talking about him in a much different light, as far as numbers go.
"The fact that he took on a leadership role. He knows how much I value that, appreciate that, and almost expect that out of our older guys, especially with a bunch of young starters coming up. Some are already here. Some are on their way. But they're gonna need some help in learning the ropes of being a Major League starter for a whole year. So he absolutely does fit the criteria of what we need.”
Offensively, Willie Calhoun got the Rangers on the board early with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first inning. It's the first leadoff homer in the young history of Globe Life Field, as a Ranger or visiting player, regular season or postseason.
After tied the game in the third inning, Jonah Heim answered back in the fourth with a three-run shot to right field, giving Lyles all the run support he would need. The Rangers tacked on three more in the ninth, leading off the frame with three straight singles, then Charlie Culberson just missed a grand slam, settling for a two-run double.
The Rangers (60-101) and Indians (79-82) wrap up their 2021 schedules on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field. Dane Dunning (5-9, 4.32 ERA) will start for the Rangers, while Aaron Civale (11-5, 4.03 ERA) takes the ball for Cleveland's final game known as the Indians. They are changing their name to the Guardians in 2022.
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