SEATTLE — The pitching staff of the Texas Rangers isn't sold on the idea of using an opener instead of a traditional starting pitcher — yet.
The evidence continued to mount in favour or using an opener for the Rangers in an 11-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
The Rangers used reliever Jesse Chavez as the opener and brought in former starter Adrian Sampson in the second inning. The result: Texas snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 3-1 this season using the approach and 6-3 since September.
"I don't think it ever puts the debate to rest," Texas manager Chris Woodward said. "I love to debate. I love arguments when it comes to this game. There are so many things that are changing in this game on a daily basis. It's just something I feel like it gives us . an advantage in the game I feel like. Nothing is black and white, but I think it has worked well."
So well, Woodward is emboldened to try it again Wednesday, sending Jose Leclerc to the mound with Drew Smyly scheduled to follow. And with success like this, why not?
Chavez struck out three of the four batters he faced, then turned the ball over to Sampson. The former Mariner worked five innings, allowing three runs and eight hits while striking out six. The two are thriving under the opener approach. Chavez has pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings with six hits as an opener, with 16 strikeouts and three walks. And Sampson, a former Mariners pitcher, is 3-0 while following an opener. He also beat the Mariners 2-1 last week.
"My understanding is we're just trying to win a game and it's working," Sampson said. "I ask questions and they give me answers. Woody's always been up front with me . we have a lot of good communication and nobody's really caught off guard by anything."
Texas hitters backed up their pitchers with a seven-run fifth inning that included two-run hits by Hunter Pence and Asdrubel Cabrera and a three-run home run by Ronald Guzman that landed in the second deck in right field. The burst ended the night for Seattle starter Marco Gonzales (5-5), who gave up eight hits and eight runs (six earned) in four innings. The left-hander has lost five games in six appearances after starting the season 5-0. He also gave up a two-run home run to Nomar Mazara.
It was the third time the Rangers have seen Gonzales this year, but he doesn't think familiarity explained their success against him Tuesday. He was 1-1 with an ERA of 0.64 in his previous starts, but Texas seemed dialed in this outing with several balls off the wall.
"Pitching . is a constant chess match," Gonzales said. "I had a couple good games against them early, the dice rolled their way today. I think it's as simple as that."
Rangers: Woodward pulled centre fielder Joey Gallo from the game with a sore wrist injured while swinging the bat. Gallo was originally scheduled for an off-day Wednesday.
Mariners: Shortstop J.P. Crawford was helped from the field after rolling his ankle late in the game. Manager Scott Servais said the injury was a "gut-punch to everybody." Crawford was undergoing X-rays postgame and the Mariners will know more Wednesday.
Seattle manager Scott Servais gave Mitch Haniger a day off, operating under the theory that even All-Stars need one occasionally. Haniger is top 10 in the American League in doubles (second), extra-base hits (fourth) and home runs (eighth), but the 2019 All-Star right-fielder has been in a prolonged slump and is batting .229. "Hopefully it helps," Servais said. "My guess is he's watching video or in the cage or doing something right now. But sometimes you sit and watch the game for a little bit. It does recharge the batteries."
Rangers: LHP Drew Smyly (1-3, 6.15 ERA) will likely get the start in the series finale against Seattle, though Woodward said he was still looking at using a reliever as an opener.
Mariners: LHP Wade LeBlanc (2-2, 7.35 ERA) tries to stop an 0-2 skid with a 13.50 ERA in his third start since returning from the injured list.
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