By: Nicholas Gilanfar
After a 4-0 game one victory against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers headed back to Tropicana Field for game two and sent the Rays home packing with a 7-1 statement win to send the Rangers to the ALDS.
Throughout the series, the Rangers had all the answers for the Tampa Bay offense with yet another stellar pitching performance from Nathan Eovaldi as well as an offense outburst from the Rangers’ rising stars.
Mound Dominance Continues
After seven scoreless innings in game one from Jordan Montgomery, Nathan Eovaldi got the nod for game two looking to edge the positive momentum going on the mound. Eovaldi has recently come off the IL and has struggled as of late trying to get back to his regular workload. Since his return, today was the first game he was able to handle an abundance of innings pitching 6.2 innings letting up only six hits, one run, zero walks, and eight strikeouts. It is safe to say Eovaldi has inched towards his usual stature, as the dominant pitching tandem in Montgomery and Eovaldi will put the American League on notice for the remainder of the playoffs.
After six scoreless innings from Nathan Eovaldi, things did start to get shaky as he could not make it past that letting up his only run in the game. Following Eovaldi’s exit was relief pitcher Josh Sborz who appeared in his third game back from a month-long stint on the injury list. Sborz finished the 2023 campaign with a 5.20 ERA but has always been reliable in high-leverage situations, so Bruce Bochy was able to instill trust in him, so they did not have to put in Aroldis Chapman in back-to-back days. Sborz ended up pitching the seventh and eighth inning with the game still tied at 7-1 where the Rangers decided to throw out their closer Jose Leclerc in a non-save situation. The decision to put Leclerc in the game came as a surprise to most as this was not a high-leverage situation as well as pitching yesterday, but good thing Leclerc and the Rangers will get two full days of rest.
An Offensive Clinic
In Game 1, the Rangers did not take full advantage of scoring opportunities, going 2-14 in RISP. In Game 2, it was a different story as the batting order tallied 12 hits including home runs from Adolis Garcia and Evan Carter along with a three-hit day for Josh Jung. Each Ranger had a hit in the ball game as Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Zach Eflin had no answers for the Rangers pitching only five innings letting up eight hits, five runs, two walks, and three strikeouts.
Throughout the series, the Rangers’ #1 prospect Evan Carter has taken the reign as a major league hitter and has gotten on base seven out of eight plate appearances tallying three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch. Carter got brought up on September eight shortly after his 21st birthday not having an exceedingly long stint with AAA Round Rock. The composure Carter has shown throughout his big-league tenure is unimaginable as he comes to a Ranger team at a time when there were doubts of a playoff berth to being a main contributor in clinching a playoff series.
After the Rangers completed a two-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays, they will now shift their focus towards the one-seeded Baltimore Orioles for the ALDS in a best-of-five series. The Orioles are a young and up-incoming group that has dominated all year as this will be their first playoff berth since 2016, same as the Rangers. It is hard to believe looking back on the 2021 season with these two teams being featured in a playoff series as Baltimore was 52-110 and Texas was 60-102 holding the worst record in the American League at the time.
Featured Image via Smiley N. Pool/Dallas Morning News