Rangers Outlast Rays 4-3

Texas Rangers’ Jonah Heim fouls off a Tampa Bay Rays pitch during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. | Image by Scott Audette, AP

José Leclerc nailed down his sixth save of the season in the Rangers’ 4-3 win on Friday night in Tampa Bay, but he didn’t make it easy on himself.

Leclerc entered the game in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night, allowed a single, notched and out, and then walked Wander Franco on four straight pitches to place the tying run on second base for the Rays.

Leclerc – “Pico” to his teammates – is a 28-year-old righty reliever who had double-digit save totals in 2018 and ’19 for the Rangers and was drafted by the team in 2010. He has battelled injuries over the but has battled injuries over the past two seasons.

In his last seven outings, Leclerc earned three saves and blew another – Thursday in Oakland — with the help of some sloppy Ranger defense. The free pass to Franco brought a mound visit from a Texas pitching coach before Leclerc toed in against the next batter.

With runners on first and second, Tampa brought Randy Arozarena to the plate with one down. Arozarena came into the contest with 142 hits – 19 homers – and 79 RBI on the season though Ranger’s starting pitcher Martin Perez held him hitless the three prior at-bats in the win. Perez’s victory pushed his record to a team-best 12-6 on a season in which his ballclub is 63-81 and all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Leclerc got out to an early 1-2 count on the Tampa righty before firing a 98 MPH four-seam fast (on the heels of a 97.5 MPH four-seamer) handcuffed Arozarena’s swing that shyly popped into a foul ball to Ranger first basemen Nathaniel Lowe gloved for the second out.

Isaac Paredes came to the plate against Leclerc with two on and two out. Leclerc missed the strikes zone on three straight pitches before uncorking a 97.7 MPH fastball that beaned Paredes in his left elbow, giving him a free pass to first and loading the bases full of Rays with one out remaining.

Tampa’s hard-hitting Harold Ramirez outfielder was next to the dish for the Rays, and the battle between the two began with Leclerc shooting a 97.4 MPH, knee-high four-seamer across the heart of the plate and past Ramirez for an 0-1 count.

Leclerc came back with the same pitch – a hair higher in the strike zone this time and a tad faster at 97.9 – and Ramirez caught up to the offering but fouled it out of play, putting him in 0-2 hitter’s hole.

For the third pitch in a row, Leclerc went with his fastball, putting it nose-high. Ramirez didn’t offer at the ball and crept back into the count at 1-2. Leclerc went to his slider in his next throw but skipped the 84.5 MPH pitch into the dirt, bouncing off Ranger’s catcher Jonah Hiem. Hiem quickly snagged the errant pitch and looked the runner back to third from his knees.

With a 2-2 count and Tampa Bay with the go-ahead run 180 feet away standing at second, Leclerc went slider again, belt-high and a little slower, but in the middle of the strike zone. Ramirez hit a hot, two-bounce shot toward a potential hole between short and third base.

Texas rookie third basemen Josh Jung was ranging to his left as the ball left Ramirez’s bat; Jung webbed the ball mid-third hop before a perfect throw to Marcus Semien that led the Ranger’s second basemen to his bag ahead of the runner from first for the third out, spoiling the host team’s late-inning rally.

On Offense, Texas netted four runs in the fourth, bookended with a rally starting two-out single from Ranger rookie Bubba Thompson and completed with a 2-run homer from Lowe, 25th of the year.

Perez lasted 5.1 innings while picking up the win and allowed three earned runs on nine hits. The 31-year-old lefty got his flowers from his head coach after the victory.

“This year he’s maintained [success] for the whole season,” Rangers Skipper Tony Beasley told MBL.com. “He’s given us a chance to win just about every time he’s taken the baseball this year.”

Aside from the single allowed by Leclerc as he opened the top of the final frame, the Texas bullpen only allowed one other hit following Perez’s departure. 3.2 innings. Jesus Tinoco (4), Elier Hernandez (3), Martin (7), and Matt Moore (12) each earned a hold for their efforts.

The win for Texas was their second in a row, and the team will look for the three-game series sweep tonight, Saturday, September 17, starting at 6:10 EDT at Tropicana Filed in St. Peterburg.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *