Jon Gray made his longest start of the 2022 season, going six innings as he and the Texas Rangers faced the Houston Astros on Saturday night in Houston.
Gray, in his second start since coming off the injured list, gave up six hits, two runs, both earned, and two walks while striking out four. He didn’t strike out as many hitters as he did against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday — he fanned eight — but his pitches looked sharper.
Gray continued a couple of trends for the Rangers on Saturday — quality pitching and giving up first-inning runs.
The Rangers entered Saturday’s game with a 3.10 team ERA, dropping it from 6.09 in their last 24 games. In the last 26 games, the Rangers had held opponents to a .211 batting average since April 22, which is the lowest opponent batting average in the Majors. The team’s ERA is the fourth-lowest.
Gray, meanwhile, gave up a first-inning run, which means that of his 16 runs allowed so far this season, 10 of them have come in the first inning. He gave up three runs against the Angels on Monday.
The Astros cashed in on a leadoff hit and walk, followed later by an RBI single by Yordan Alvarez.
From there, Gray was effective, stranding five Astros and holding the Astros to 1-of-10 with runners in scoring position.
The second run he gave up, in the fifth inning, was a bit of a fluke.
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Astros catcher Jason Castro doubled to lead off the inning, which was followed by Jeremy Peña’s fly out to left. Then, Jose Siri grounded out to Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, and that allowed Castro to advance to third.
Then, a Gray wild pitch allowed Castro to score, but just barely. Gray’s pitch caromed off the backstop and quickly made it back to Rangers catcher Jonah Heim, and he was nearly able to apply the tag.
Gray evaded trouble in the sixth, working around a leadoff triple to keep the Astros from scoring a third run. But he left the game in the seventh in line for the loss.
Gray signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason, making him the team’s prized free-agent pitching signing.
Gray’s return on Monday came after he suffered a blister and a low-grade left knee strain, which limited him to two starts in April — against Toronto on April 9 and against Seattle on April 19. Gray went 0-1 in those two starts and pitched nine combined innings.
Taylor Hearn will make the start on Sunday for Texas.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard