SAN DIEGO (AP) – Using an “opener” for an inning ahead of a traditional starter worked so well for the Texas Rangers on Friday night that they’ll do it again on Saturday night.
Yohander Mendez followed opener and fellow rookie Connor Sadzeck by scattering three hits in five relief innings and Jurickson Profar had a two-run home run among his three hits to lead the Rangers to a 4-0 victory against the San Diego Padres.
Having Sadzeck pitch the first inning allowed the 23-year-old Mendez to pitch into the sixth, when he struck out Eric Hosmer with runners on first and second to end the inning.
“I thought Mendez did a great job tonight,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It was a huge moment in the sixth, the at-bat against Hosmer. Really it was one of those grow-up moments for a young pitcher that felt like it was an opportunity for him to put a foot down and make some pitches.”
Mendez was facing Hosmer for the third time and got him to swing at a change-up for strike three.
“I say, ‘That’s going to my last hitter. Going to be best opportunity to strike him out or get a ground ball,’” Mendez said. “For me it’s great … For me it’s better, my third time that I did like I did. I feel good.”
Mendez (2-1) struck out five, walked three and was backed by two double plays. Four Rangers pitchers combined to five-hit San Diego.
The 23-year-old left-hander originally had been penciled in to make his third start since being recalled on Sept. 2 for his third big league stint this year, but the team then decided to have him follow Sadzeck, a 26-year-old rookie who made his first start.
Sadzeck walked leadoff batter Francisco Mejia, a rookie playing for the first time at Petco Park, before getting Wil Myers to ground into a double play and Hunter Renfroe to ground out to end the inning.
“It flips the lineup,” Banister said. “That secondary guy comes in and it’s a little more of an extended look in a sense, deeper into the game.”
Sadzeck said it was “definitely different” but that he stuck to his normal routine he uses when relieving, including throwing only 10 to 15 warmup pitches in the bullpen.
“I approached it just as I would relieving,” he said. “My job is to get us to the next inning, whether it’s coming in in the middle of an inning or getting us to the sixth, getting us to the seventh. That’s all I thought about was getting us to the second inning.”
Banister said left-hander Alex Claudio will be the opener for right-hander Arial Jurado on Saturday night.
After hitting singles in his first two at-bats, Profar drove the first pitch he saw from Phil Maton into the seats in right with one out in the seventh, his 17th. He drove in two runs and scored twice in the matchup of last-place teams.
Profar also hit an RBI single in the second and singled and scored in the fifth on an odd play in which Myers, the Padres’ third baseman, committed an error and had two putouts. Roughned Odor and Profar opened the fifth with singles. Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded to Myers, who forced Odor before overthrowing first for an error that allowed Profar to score ahead of the throw home by first baseman Eric Hosmer. Mejia, the catcher, threw out Kiner-Falefa at third.
Padres starter Robbie Erlin (3-7) allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out six and walked none.
“I thought there were some really good curveballs he threw today,” manager Andy Green said. “That just has the ability to rock a hitter back and forth. … It felt to me he used it strategically well and got hitters off of his fastball timing and was able to use the fastball and slider off of that.”
Adrian Beltre doubled twice to extend his career hits total to 3,155, passing George Brett to take sole possession of 15th on the all-time list.
“How about that third baseman?” Banister said. “He continues to find barrels. Two doubles tonight. It’s fun to watch and fun to watch the names that he’s taking off that board.”
Rangers: Claudio will open for RHP Ariel Jurado (2-5, 7.03).
Padres: LHP Eric Lauer (5-7, 4.80) is set to make his 21st start. He’ll be one of just 20 rookies in Padres history to make 20 starts in a season. Along with fellow lefty Joey Lucchesi, it’s just the fifth time the Padres have had two rookies make at least 20 starts.