The Texas Rangers tried something different in their batting order on Tuesday in Kansas City. And, boy, did it work.
For the first time this season, Marcus Semien hit behind Corey Seager in the batting order, and the Rangers’ biggest talent acquisitions of last offseason powered the Rangers’ 8-3 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
After scoring just eight runs in their three games against Washington last weekend, the Rangers (36-37) have scored 18 runs against the Royals (26-47) in two games as they are now a game under .500 for the first time since June 1. A win on Wednesday would give the Rangers a series sweep and lift them back to .500 for the first time since May 31 when they were 24-24.
“We’ve slugged more (on the road),” Semien said. “That series at home, we didn’t do much on offense. (Rangers manager Chris Woodward) Woody’s point was to be aggressive.”
The Rangers put rookie third baseman Josh H. Smith at the top of the order for just the second time in his young career. But Rangers manager Chris Woodward put Seager in the No. 2 spot and Semien third.
“Yeah, we scored 10 on Monday and we change it up and we score eight tonight,” Semien said. “We’re all swing the bat well. We just want to put together good at-bats.”
Semien hit a three-run home run in the third inning to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead and finished 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBI. Seager, who was 2-for-17 in his previous four games, went 2-for-4 with one run and two RBI.
Combined the pair had five hits and drove in six runs, showing a glimpse of the potential the veterans have when they’re both clicking in the same game.
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It may be a short experiment. Woodward told Bally Sports Southwest after the game that moving Seager up was a chance to start the batting order with two left-handers (along with Smith) against Royals starter Jonathan Heasley (1-4), who struggles with left-handers. Heasley couldn't get out of the fourth inning, giving up nine hits and seven of the Rangers' eight runs.
The Rangers made other tweaks, including dropping Adolis García to No. 5 in the order and putting him at designated hitter, likely a move to make sure he's fresh for Wednesday’s getaway day game at 1:10 p.m. Meanwhile, García’s RBI single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 10 games, now a career high. He finished 2-for-4.
The Rangers started new acquisition Steven Duggar in center field, and he went 2-for-4 with a run while hitting ninth.
Smith reached base on a single in the third inning, which marked his 11st straight game to reach base since he was called up. That tied him with Nick Solak for the most consecutive games to reach base to start a Rangers career. Smith finished 1-for-3 with two runs.
Nathaniel Lowe had one hit and extended his road hitting streak to 11 games.
That was all the run support that Rangers starter Jon Gray (4-3) as he continued his terrific June. He went seven innings, giving up five hits, one run and two walks while striking out eight. He started the game by striking out the side in the bottom of the first inning. Gray was also the beneficiary of three double plays.
“He has that slider working, he’s throwing the ball hard and he kept them off-balance,” Semien said. “That’s why we got him.”
Gray won his third straight game and reached at least the fifth inning for the ninth straight start, dating back to May 16 against the Los Angeles Angels. He has chipped away at his ERA, too. His season-high ERA of 7.50 on May 3 is now just 3.89 after Tuesday’s win.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard