The Texas Rangers' bats were able to carry over some momentum from their walk-off win on Sunday, defeating the Los Angeles Angels by a score of 6-4 in their first American League West game of the season.
Adolis García got the Rangers started with a solo home run to the opposite field in the third inning. The Texas lineup threatened a couple of times in the early innings, but couldn't capitalize with runners in scoring position.
But the dam broke in the sixth inning. The Rangers batted around, suffocating the Angels' pitching and defense. Texas scored five runs while going station to station throughout the frame.
Joey Gallo led off the inning with his MLB-best 16th walk of the season. Nate Lowe, Nick Solak, and Willie Calhoun followed with three straight singles, pushing two runs across. Jose Trevino added another run with a sacrifice fly. Adolis García reached on an error, but Solak scored on the play. Finally, Brock Holt drove in the fifth run of the inning with an RBI single.
It was an inning of relief for the Rangers, who have been struggling to manufacture runs in recent days.
"These guys have been working hard," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "We've had good dialogue everyday. The thing that struck me in that inning looking back was a really good walk by Joey to start the inning, and then it was three opposite field hits. [It showed] these guys weren't trying to do too much."
Some aggressive baserunning helped was well. Nick Solak went first-to-third on Calhoun's single to left field. Then Calhoun tagged and advanced to third base on Trevino's sacrifice fly, which kept the pressure on the Angels pitching and defense.
"This is what we talk about when we talk about applying pressure," Woodward said. "Put the pressure on that defense. Make them make plays. ... Those are the little things that we discuss all the time. That's how we strung together that inning. It wasn't a grand slam or a three-run homer. It was using the whole field and really running the bases well."
Rangers starter Kohei Arihara continued a fabulous stretch by Texas starting pitching, shutting down the Angels' powerful lineup for 5 2/3 innings. He improved to 2-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.21. Chris Woodward wanted to keep Arihara on a 75-80 pitch count since he was pitching on four days rest for the second time in a row, which is a much different workload than what he was accustomed to in Japan.
"He made getting them out looking pretty easy," Woodward said. "I didn't want to push it. He had a good outing. The last thing I wanted was for [Shohei] Ohtani to come up and hit a homer or something crazy to happen where his outing didn't look as good. He basically dominated all game today."
One of the matchups to watch in Monday night's game was Arihara pitching against his former Japanese teammate Shohei Ohtani. Arihara got the better of him in two at-bats, forcing Ohtani into a 3-6-3 double play in the first inning. It appeared Ohtani won the second at-bat as Ohtani drilled one to center field, following with a modest bat flip. But Adolis García made a sensational catch at the wall.
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It may or may not have gone over the wall, but it didn't take away from a great play made by a guy who's injected life into the Rangers' lineup.
"I'm proud of him, man. He's doing his thing," Woodward said of García. "He hit a homer and then maybe robbed a homer. It's cool. He's running down balls in center field like he's played there his whole life. He's a special player and brings a lot to the table."
Arihara left with a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning just before Ohtani's third at-bat of the night. Brett Martin came in and struck out Ohtani to end the inning. It looked like the bullpen was going to pick up where Arihara left off, but the Halos weren't done.
The Angels answered with a big inning of their own, knocking Martin out of the game after only one out. Kyle Cody relieved Martin, but the Angels hit three straight singles off of him immediately. The inning was on the verge of a terrible collapse as 41-year-old Albert Pujols and Jose Iglesias pulled off a double steal, then a wild pitch allowed Pujols to score from third base. But Cody bore down and struck out Luis Rengifo then forced David Fletcher to fly out to tightrope out of the inning.
Joely Rodríguez found retribution from his rough first outing with a perfect eighth inning. He struck out Ohtani and Mike Trout, then got Upton to ground out weakly.
"That was the game," Woodward said. "They had as much momentum you can have in a game after being down 6-0, scoring four, now you have your 2-3-4 who are pretty good according to big league standards. Coming in and punching out the two best, then getting Upton to ground out. It was good to see Joely have that outing."
Closer Ian Kennedy got into a little bit of trouble in the ninth inning, but ultimately slammed the door to earn his fourth save and secure the win for the Rangers, who are now just one game under .500 with a record of 8-9.
The Rangers will send Jordan Lyles (1-0, 4.70 ERA) to the mound for Tuesday's game. He will square off with Angels' two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani (0-0, 1.93 ERA).
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