ARLINGTON — The Rangers have enjoyed a resurgence of starting pitching lately, and Lance Lynn kept it going on Saturday afternoon against the Royals.
Lynn held the Royals to two runs in 6 1/3 innings in leading the Rangers to a 6-2 victory at Globe Life Park. Texas has won four of its last five and 12 of its last 17.
“Pretty much what we’ve seen from Lance all year,” manager Chris Woodward said, “He competed his tail off and was getting weak contact early. Struck out the side in the second inning. After that he said, ‘I don’t want to throw too many more pitches.’ So he tried to get early outs. He did a good job getting weak contact.”
Lynn and Mike Minor have been the two bulwarks of the Rangers’ rotation all year, but others are starting to hold up their end.
Rangers starters are 7-3 with a 2.94 ERA in their last 17 games. That includes 4 2/3 scoreless innings over four games from relievers used as an opener. And Adrian Sampson, who is starting on Sunday, is 3-0 with a 2.87 ERA in three of those games, pitching five-plus innings in relief after the opener has done his job.
Drew Smyly was roughed up in the other outing when an opener was used, allowing seven runs in five innings against the Mariners last Wednesday. But he is also 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in his last three starts. Ariel Hernandez is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in his last three starts.
“It has been very reliable,” Woodward said. “I think we made a lot of progress. Obviously Mike and Lance hold down the fort. But everybody who has stepped into that has done a really good job. There is progress being made in how we are pitching. We are able to execute game plans, stay with game plans and sometimes adjust off during the game. Our execution has become much better, which allows those game plans to actually work.”
Lynn is part of the resurgence. He is now 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA in his past seven starts after going 2-2 with a 6.51 ERA in his first five. The difference, Woodward said, is Lynn mixing his pitches better instead of relying heavily on his fastball.
Through his first five starts, Lynn was throwing either the four-seam fastball or two-seam sinker 73.6 percent of the time. Over the next five starts, that dropped to 61.7 percent. That actually made his fastball better as the opposing batting average/slugging percentage dropped from .345/.540 to .233/.360.
But on Saturday, Lynn went back to going heavy on the fastball, throwing the hard stuff on 82 of 102 pitches. The key was his ability to mix the two. He kept the sinking fastball down in the zone and the four-seamer up high.
“It’s really hard as a hitter to hit both of those,” Woodward said. “It gets you in between. He does a really good job of that.”
Lynn allowed six hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. For the season, he has a 3.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If that holds up, that would be the fifth best for a Rangers pitcher in club history.
“In the game of baseball, you can’t sit on what you have done in the past,” Lynn said. “We have to keep improving every day, and if we do that, we’ll be all right.”
Lynn left the game with one out in the seventh after doubles by Ryan O’Hearn and Cam Gallagher made it a 5-2 game. José Leclerc took over and struck out Billy Hamilton and Nicky Lopez to end the inning. Leclerc, who turned it over to Chris Martin in the eighth, has now struck out 21 batters in 9 2/3 innings over his past nine appearances.