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Takeaways: Nate Lowe Becoming Vital Rangers Piece

After the Washington series, it's clear Adolis García isn't the only Rangers hitter excelling in June

The Texas Rangers lost their series with the Washington Nationals, losing two out of three games. Here are three takeaways from the series.

Don’t Forget about Nate

Adolis García is getting a lot of attention, as he should be. But the month of June has been pretty good to Nathaniel Lowe, too.

After Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Nats, Lowe has reached base in nine straight games and 18 of 23 games in June, and has a .333 batting average with five home runs in his last 16 . That moved his season batting average from .256 to .279, which is the highest batting average on the team among qualifiers. He has at least one RBI in a season-best five straight games. His seven home runs in June are tied for most on the club, the most for his career in any month and his 20 multi-hit games for the season are second-most on the club.

Lowe was the player named Rangers April Player of the Month after hitting .313 with a home run and nine RBI in 21 games, but slowed down in May.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward admitted on Saturday that he challenged both García and Lowe to be better this season. Both were entering their second full seasons of Major League Baseball. Woodward was looking for something more from Lowe.

“He’s carried us,” Woodward said. “He’s really stepped up his game.”

It’s not just hitting, either. The diving play Lowe made in the top of the first against Washington on Saturday probably prevented at least a double, which could have put the Nats in position to take an early lead. Yes, Lane Thomas came away with a single. But Juan Soto followed by grounding into a double play. That doesn’t happen if the ball gets by Lowe.

It’s still not clear if Lowe is the Rangers first baseman of the future. But he is certainly building a case that he’s clearly taken heed of Woodward’s challenge to get better.

Big Break on Saturday

It would appear that no one was aware of the rather obscure rule surrounding that screaming line drive that Washington’s Nelson Cruz hit down the third-base line late in Saturday’s game.

It became a critical point because Cruz’s drive, while it appeared to be heading foul, was barely touched by Rangers third baseman Josh H. Smith’s glove. You had to watch the replay to be sure. But it was clearly touched.

Nats manager Dave Martinez clearly saw it. Smith clearly knew it. So did Rangers manager Chris Woodward. But, the play wasn’t reviewed. Why?

It’s not reviewable because it was considered an "infield fair-foul" call.

Smith told reporters after Saturday’s game was that he was told by the third-base umpire that the ball was already in foul territory when he touched it.

“I think it’s where the ball is, so I don’t think it matters where I’m at — it matters where the ball is at,” Smith said. “I think the ball was in foul territory so let’s just go with that.”

Woodward admitted it was “good fortune” the play was called the way it was called. With umpires not able to review it, had the play been called fair, it would have changed the complexion of that inning, and perhaps the game.

“That’s first and second with nobody out at minimum,” Woodward said. “I can’t imagine something that late in the game, in a tie game, more important than that.”

Four-Man Rotation?

The demotion of Taylor Hearn to Triple-A was a bit of a surprise, especially after he threw four shutout innings in relief on Saturday. His demotion leaves the Rangers with a hole in the starting rotation. But it may not be something the Rangers have to address right away.

Glenn Otto’s start on Sunday means the Rangers have their rotation set for the trip to Kansas City — Martín Pérez (Monday), Jon Gray (Tuesday) and Dane Dunning (Wednesday). The Rangers have an off-day on Thursday, meaning Otto can start on Friday on his normal five days’ rest when the Rangers open the series with the New York Mets.

From there? This is where the off-day helps. The Rangers can start Pérez, Gray and Dunning on five days’ rest through July 4 in Baltimore. The Rangers would not need a fifth starter until July 5 to avoid starting Otto on four days’ rest.

The Rangers could call up a starter, like Hearn, or opt for a bullpen game on July 5. They Texas could start Otto on July 6 to end the Baltimore series and then use the off-day on July 7 to reset the rotation again for the homestand that begins July 8 against Minnesota.

That way, Pérez, Gray, Dunning and Otto remain on time until July 12 against Oakland.

The way things are set up, the Rangers have plenty of time to ponder options.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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