ARLINGTON -MLB.COM — Rangers infielder Nick Solak certainly enjoyed this week’s reunion with the Rays, and the high point may have come on Thursday night. Solak punctuated three excellent games against his former organization by going deep off the pitcher he was traded for on July 13.
Solak hit a two-run home run off reliever Peter Fairbanks, and Texas ended up taking two out of three from the Rays with a 6-4 victory at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are back to the .500 mark at 74-74 after winning for the ninth time in their past 13 games.
This game was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the fourth before the Rangers jumped on Rays starter Brendan McKay and Fairbanks for four runs. Solak, with Elvis Andrus on third base and two outs, finished it off by hitting a 1-2 fastball from Fairbanks over the right-field fence. Fairbanks’ fastball was at 99.6 mph, while Solak’s exit velocity was 104 mph.
“I think to extend the lead was the most important thing,” Solak said. “That’s a good arm. But just going out and competing against him, every home run is pretty special, so it falls into that category.”
Solak also had a single off Fairbanks in the first game of the series on Tuesday. But Fairbanks had the edge that night in closing out the Rays’ 5-3, 11-inning victory for his first Major League save.
“Anytime someone takes a 100-mph fastball over the plate out of the park, hats off,” Fairbanks said. “He’s on a tear right now, what can you say? I felt like [the pitch] was more down than it should have been, but it’s baseball, right? Hopefully he hits the A’s like he hits us. If he can do that, I’ll buy him as many steaks as he wants if he does the same thing to the A’s that he did to us.”
Solak finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk, and he was 6-for-11 with two walks, two home runs, four runs scored and four RBIs in the three-game series.
“He doesn’t seem to change ever, but I know that it means a lot to him because I talked to him about it,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He obviously appreciated everything the Rays did, but it’s cool to beat the team that traded you. He’s been so good since we got him. In this series, I don’t know how many hits he’s gotten. I feel like he’s on base every single time. Walks, hits homers, everything in between.”
It would be hard for Solak not to enjoy this. Last week, he was facing the Yankees, the team that drafted him out of Louisville in 2016 before trading him to the Rays. McKay was his teammate at Louisville, in the Cape Cod League and for two years in the Rays’ organization. He had a single and a walk off McKay on Thursday.
“At the end of the day, it’s about going out there and competing against whoever it is,” Solak said. “Once the game starts, I’m trying to find ways to help the team win. It doesn’t matter who is in the other dugout to an extent. Those are two teams that helped develop me and get me to this point, but once the game starts, it’s just going out there and competing.”
Solak, who started at designated hitter on Thursday, is hitting .360 (27-for-75) with four home runs, 15 RBIs, a .473 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage since making his Major League debut on Aug. 20.
“I don’t think about it a whole lot; I try to do the things that I’ve always done,” Solak said. “Hits are falling in, and I’m putting together some good at-bats.”
Solak, whose primary defensive position is second base, isn’t the only Rangers hitter who has been hot lately. Rougned Odor, the Rangers’ regular second baseman, hit another home run on Thursday and is 14-for-44 (.318) with five home runs and 12 RBIs in his past 12 games.
Maybe having another second baseman on a hot streak has motivated Odor lately.
“He has been great,” Odor said. “He is a great guy and a great hitter. For me, he can hit the ball to every part of the field. We are working together. I’m always trying to help guys, even if he is playing my position. He is my teammate. I want to make him better.”