Jose Ureña shines, Texas Rangers offense mashes in blowout win (2024)

ARLINGTON — It might’ve just taken an impromptu Detroit Tigers bullpen game to reignite the Rangers’ offense. It would take a whole lot more to maintain those flames if their best hitter is forced to miss any amount of considerable time.

First, the good news: Texas, which scored just two total runs in the first two games of its series vs. Detroit at Globe Life Field, swung freely in a 9-1 series finale win. The bats jumped on a Detroit bullpen forced into action early after starter Kenta Maeda exited after two pitches with abdominal discomfort. Jonah Heim and Josh Smith both hit home runs and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Nathaniel Lowe busted his slump with a pair of hits, a run scored and another driven in. And, in a nod to the bruising bats of last year, they forced the Tigers to pitch a position player in the eighth inning.

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It's Heim Time, we fear.

Jonah Heim unloads for a two-run shot!

(via @BallySportsSW) #StraightUpTXpic.twitter.com/6Gl4RFNK0G

— SportsDay Rangers (@dmn_rangers) June 6, 2024

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Now the bad news: Corey Seager, who drove in the game’s first run with a second-inning singlepulled up to first base awkwardly and exited immediately afterward with what the Rangers called left hamstring tightness.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said postgame that the club doesn’t think Seager’s hamstring tightness is anything serious. Seager won’t undergo a MRI, and he’ll continue to be evaluated before Friday’s series opener vs. the San Francisco Giants.

“Come Friday, we’ll see where we’re at with Corey,” Bochy said. “He might need a day, but we don’t know that yet.”

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They’ll need Bochy’s optimism to become a reality for Wednesday’s outburst to develop into a norm. Seager was named the club’s player of the month in May after he slashed .287/.387/.660 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI, and was spurred by a stretch of eight home runs in eight games. His 1.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs, ranks fourth among all American League shortstops and his 13 home runs rank second. Only Marcus Semien (2.4 WAR) has been more valuable to the Rangers than Seager. He’s reached base in a career-best 28-straight games.

Seager exited a game against the Kansas City Royals last April with left hamstring tightness and wound up on the injured list one day later with a hamstring strain that cost him 31 games. The Rangers didn’t miss too much of a beat without him, averaged 6.2 runs per game in his absence and kick-started a month of May that set an undeniable tone for the rest of their season.

Jose Ureña shines, Texas Rangers offense mashes in blowout win (1)

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Something else that’s undeniable, though, is that this year’s Rangers offense is not last year’s Rangers offense. Texas charted a 14-game stretch in May in which it didn’t score more than four runs. Wednesday’s nine-run performance was the club’s highest since a May 8 win over the Oakland Athletics. Josh Jung is still sidelined with a fractured wrist, Evan Carter’s bad back could keep him out for another month and the trio of Marcus Semien, Adolis García and Lowe have each floated in and out of slumps.

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Seager, since the calendar flipped to May, has been drought-proof. His second-inning single, which scored Travis Jankowski from second base to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second inning, launched a relentless offense that’d been the benchmark of last season’s success.

Smith and Heim, both of whom were named to the American League All-Star ballot on Wednesday, homered in the third inning to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead. Texas scored twice more in the sixth inning on a hard-hit ball from Ezequiel Duran that induced a run-scoring error and a single from Smith. They scored three times in the eighth to take a 9-1 lead and force the Tigers to use shortstop Zach McKinstry on the mound.

“We know that starters aren’t going to go the whole game 99% of the time,” Heim said of Maeda’s early exit, and the impact it had on Texas’ offense. “We just adjust on the fly, we got good reports on the bullpen guys. Just another day at the park.”

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Heim finished 3 for 5 with two runs scored and another two driven in. Smith went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored, and raised his season slash line to .290/.377/.440. The 26-year-old backup-turned-starter has hits in eight of his last nine games, and his on-base percentage ranks seventh in the American League.

“I know last year he didn’t get a lot of playing time, but with what happened, we needed him,” Bochy said. “He stepped up in a big way to ease the blow of losing a Josh Jung, and gives you so much flexibility ... he should be on the All-Star ballot.”

On the topic of overperforming fill-ins: starting pitcher José Ureña — who could be due for a return to the bullpen if Jon Gray returns this weekend — took a perfect game into the sixth inning, and finished his sixth start for the Rangers with 6 2/3 innings of one-hit, one-run ball.

The 32-year-old right-hander retired 15 consecutive batters before Detroit rookie Justyn-Henry Malloy hit a sinker over the wall in left field for his first career hit and home run. Ureña retired the next five Detroit batters that he faced before he walked Gio Urshela on eight pitches with two outs in the seventh and was replaced by right-hander David Robertson. Robertson and closer Kirby Yates combined to pitch 2 1/3 shutout innings to finish the game.

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“How unfortunate that we couldn’t make it nine [perfect innings]?” Heim said. “He had everything working.”

The Rangers signed Ureña to a minor league contract in the offseason. He earned an opening day roster spot in the bullpen as Texas’ long man and shifted into the starting rotation after Nathan Eovaldi landed on the injured list in early May. He lowered his season ERA to 3.44 on Wednesday, and has pitched five or more innings in five of his six starts.

“Oh my goodness, that was quite an effort, wasn’t it?” Bochy said of Ureña, who received a standing ovation when he left the field. “He was really on top of his game.”

So, too, was the offense.

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Now they’ll hope it can stay that way.

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Shawn McFarland, Texas Rangers reporter. Shawn covers the Texas Rangers and other Dallas-area sports for The News. He joined The Dallas Morning News after covering UConn basketball, football and high school sports for The Hartford Courant. A Boston area native, Shawn graduated from Springfield College in 2018 and previously worked for The Boston Globe and Baseball America.

shawn.mcfarland@dallasnews.com McFarland_Shawn

Jose Ureña shines, Texas Rangers offense mashes in blowout win (2024)
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