Nathan Eovaldi pitches 6 scoreless innings as Rangers beat Rays 5-3 for fifth win in a row

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Nate Eovaldi Extends Rays Woes
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Nate Eovaldi Extends Rays Woes
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers still have a new ace, even though they have been without their two-time Cy Young Award winner most of this season.

All-Star right-hander Nathan Eovaldi pitched two-hit ball over six scoreless innings and matched the major league lead with his 11th victory as the AL West leaders beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 on Tuesday night.

“He’s the ultimate competitor, the hardest worker on the team,” second baseman Marcus Semien said. “(Jacob) deGrom went down and he’s our ace immediately. … Usually you see the No. 1 guy go down and you’re trying to figure it out, but it was almost simultaneous that he stepped into that role.”

Semien and Corey Seager, All-Star infielders who were the big free-agent additions the previous winter before deGrom and Eovaldi signed this past offseason, homered for Texas. The Rangers (57-39) won their fifth game in a row since the break to match their season-best winning streak.

Eovaldi (11-3) struck out two, walked three and hit a batter, though the Rays stranded six runners on base against him in his first start for Texas since July 6. He threw a scoreless second inning for the American League in last week’s All-Star Game.

“He did such a great job of pitching,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

“I had two or three really quick innings, but then at the same time I had two innings where I had some walks and things like that,” Eovaldi said. “I think it’s a good start, especially coming back from the break.”

Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe went deep for the Rays (60-38), who still have the AL’s best record and a one-game lead over Baltimore in the AL East despite losing their last three games. They are 3-10 in July.

“It’s just not coming easy right now for the guys. I really don’t know what else to say other than that,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I mean, nothing’s changed, they’re working, so just kind of let it play out a little bit, I guess.”

Will Smith, the third Texas reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.

Texas won all six of deGrom’s starts, the last on April 28, before his season-ending surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Tampa Bay starter Taj Bradley (5-6) struck out nine pitching into the sixth inning. The rookie right-hander gave up two runs and walked two.

Seager struck out three times against Bradley, but his 14th homer was a three-run shot to straightaway center that made it 5-1 in the seventh on the first pitch he saw from Javy Guerra, the second Rays reliever. That came a pitch after Semien’s third hit was a single that ricocheted off the left foot of Guerra.

“He’s such a good hitter … The good ones, they don’t think about the previous at-bat,” Bochy said. “You talk about a really good hitter that’s not going to let three strikeouts faze him.”

Semien’s 13th homer was a one-out solo shot in the third. The Rangers went up 2-0 in the sixth when Travis Jankowski, who extended his hitting streak to eight games, had an RBI double.

Rays No. 9 batter Francisco Mejía had a one-out RBI double off José Leclerc in the seventh before Grant Anderson took over and got an inning-ending double-play grounder from Wander Franco. Anderson gave up Arozarena’s 17th homer and Lowe’s 10th in a span of three batters in the eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: DH Harold Ramirez was hit in the chest on a full-count pitch leading off the fifth inning. He stayed in the game.

TOP PICK SIGNED

Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford, the fourth overall draft on July 9, signed a contract with an $8 million bonus that is the largest ever for a player drafted by Texas.

UP NEXT

The season series finale is Wednesday. Rangers right-hander Jon Gray (6-5, 3.45 ERA) is 0-4 with a 5.24 ERA over his last six starts, a stretch which began with a complete-game 1-0 loss to St. Louis on June 7. The Rays likely will go with right-hander Zack Littell (0-1, 6.05), who has started only two of his 14 games.

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