Texas Rangers: "He's our best pitcher": Jose Leclerc's save against Oakland is a testament to Chris Woodward's faith in approaching the Rangers



ARLINGTON – Crisis avoided in the Rangers bullpen.

Closer Jose Leclerc recovered from two erratic performances a few days earlier to finish an unlikely 8-7 win at Oakland on Sunday at Globe Life Park. That was the most significant development for the Rangers of a win in which they lost five races before.

"Leclerc was Leclerc again," manager Chris Woodward said. "It was good to see it."

The Rangers had no idea who was on the mound during the Leclerc appearances in Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday. He retired only two of the nine batters faced, had a shot at saving and had to be rescued by rookie Kyle Bird in the ninth inning of the other game.

Woodward, however, never shuddered.

When pinch-hitter Danny Santana, in his first at-bat with the Rangers, tied the game with a two-run triple in the eighth, Leclerc was told he was ready for the ninth. When the Rangers came forward in the daring touch of Delino DeShields he led in Santana, it was still Leclerc's game.

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"It does not matter if we lose or win, I just do my best," said Leclerc, who admitted to being happy when given this opportunity.

It was not a clean salvo.

Robbie Grossman arrived with a single out one. With two outs, Leclerc went to a full count of Matt Chapman. One more bad throw would bring Khris Davis, the Rangers shredder.

Davis did not have the opportunity. Leclerc finished the eight-hit at-bat by striking out Chapman in his devilish court change.

"It makes me more confident, more comfortable," Leclerc said of the savings. "I needed it … It means a lot, I know I had two bad games, I tried to do my best today, and everything was there."

Pitching coach Julio Rangel could see by the smile on Leclerc's face when he left the field that this moment was important to him.

"It was one of those things that happened," Rangel said of Leclerc's performance in Arizona. "He was probably trying to do a little too much, today, you saw him go back to where he was, he had no worries at all."

This was the first test for Leclerc as the closer, as he replaced the commercialized Keone Kela last August. Woodward was managing both long-term and short-term management of his closer.

Leclerc is an important piece of the foundation that is being established, as evidenced by the long-term contract that the club awarded during spring training. Going back to Leclerc after some rock outings would be counterproductive.

"We have to show faith in all of our kids, especially our closest ones," Woodward said. "He's one of the best closers in the game, he's our best pitcher."

Leclerc was the last of the four relievers who combined to clean up the mess left by starter Adrian Sampson.

In his first start of the season, Sampson left with a 7-2 deficit after four innings. The bullpen continued with five innings without races, which gave the offensive time to recover.

The Rangers left with a Hunter Pence infield in the fifth and a two-run homer by Elvis Andrus in the sixth. Andrus also stole the house in the first one.

The Rangers exploded against Joakim Soria in the eighth.

Santana made a change to the right-center gap for the triple of two starts. With Chapman playing deeper than normal for a 1-1 shoot, DeShields exercised his option to play the bunk. Athletics did not play anywhere.

"I trust a situation like that where I can do the job," said DeShields.

The Rangers also feel the same for their closeness.

Twitter: @gfraley

Save leaders

A look at the American League saves the leaders since August 1, 2018, when Jose Leclerc moved to work with the Rangers:

Closer

Team

Save

Possibilities

Roberto Osuna

Houston

twenty

twenty

Ken Giles

Toronto

18

19

Shane greene

Detroit

18

twenty-one

Jose leclerc

Rangers

sixteen

17

Blake Treinen

Oakland

sixteen

18

This topic is losing its voice.



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