ARLINGTON — Rangers manager Chris Woodward wants chaos. He wants it on the bases, at the plate and everywhere in between. And he wants his club in control of that chaos, wreaking havoc upon opposing teams.
The Rangers were in an early 3-0 hole in the bottom of the first, and it would’ve been easy to roll over and just get through the game against a star-studded team like the Angels, with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout in the opposing dugout.
Instead, Texas’ offense immediately punched back with the chaos.
Outfielder Eli White led off with a single into shallow left field and immediately began jumping around the basepaths and distracting Angels starter Noah Syndergaard. After a series of attempted pickoffs, White took off for second before the right-hander had even thrown a pitch to Marcus Semien at the plate.
White attempted to take third multiple times while Semien battled through an 11-pitch at-bat that ultimately ended in a walk. He only recorded the one steal, but the intent was there and it likely drove the course of the inning for the Rangers as he scored their first run on a single by Corey Seager moments later.
White is the perfect person for Woodward’s brand of chaos, too. With an average sprint speed of 30.2 feet per second (second in MLB), he has the speed and savvy ability to produce whenever he gets on base. He’s gone a perfect 8-for-8 on steal attempts this season.
“Speed is a part of my game,” White explained. “So every time I get on base, I’m trying to make it tough on the pitcher and be a threat out there. Even if I don’t run, just the thought that I might run can be a distraction to him. So going out, we had a good game plan about how to attack him on the bases and I was able to do that.”
After that, it was open season for Texas’ hitters. Six of the Rangers’ seven runs came in the first inning as they batted through the entire order and all but two players reached base. White, the leadoff hitter, recorded two hits and helped ultimately chase Syndergaard out of the game with just two-thirds of an inning in the books.
The Rangers took the lead and then some on a two-run single by White his second time around, and they never gave it back.
“You could tell Syndergaard was a little bothered by [White],” Woodward said. “He was inside moving over and over again. That’s the chaos that we want to create with all of our guys, but especially Eli because he’s so fast. That set up the whole inning with Semien’s at-bat right after that, it was tremendous. From there, everybody after that just kind of followed suit. It was awesome to get six.”
Woodward added that Semien’s 11-pitch at-bat was just as important in the Rangers’ game-securing first inning. With Syndergaard throwing 42 pitches, nearly a quarter of them were to Semien, which allowed Texas to knock the flamethrower out as early as they did.
“For [Semien] to work the count and foul off that many pitches, [it’s great],” Woodward said. “Syndergaard has been really good this year. For us to knock him out in the first thing, that was obviously a big key. If he doesn’t throw 50 pitches to one guy, we have to deal with him for the next three or four innings at least.”
After a week of struggles at the plate, the Rangers followed up their four-homer performance on Sunday with an even bigger offensive performance, even if it was mostly contained to the first inning. Every Texas hitter except one reached base, and both White and designated hitter Sam Huff had two-hit nights. Semien, who seems to be finding his groove at the plate, reached three times on a walk, single and an error, and Jonah Heim added a little extra insurance with a solo homer in the eighth inning.
Rangers starter Jon Gray, who gave up a three spot in the first inning but shut the Angels down afterwards, emphasized how big it was for him as a pitcher to have his offense back him up like they did in the bottom half of the first.
“It just gives you another chance,” Gray said. “After a rough first inning like that, you can kind of feel like you already screwed the game. So for them to battle back like that and take the lead and even hold it, like that was an incredible offense. It wasn’t just one or two guys either, it was our whole line. Everybody had us. Everybody was productive, and that’s a good win.”