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Apr 11, 2024 4:36 am

Winless starters meet in A’s-Rangers rubber match

Texas Rangers

Two winless starting pitchers who have already shown marked improvement in their two outings this season go head-to-head Thursday afternoon when the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers wrap up their three-game series in Arlington, Texas.

A’s left-hander JP Sears (0-1, 8.68 ERA) and Rangers righty Jon Gray (0-0, 6.14) are scheduled to get the ball when a surprisingly competitive series between last year’s champion and losingest club continues.

Sears was bombed for five runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Cleveland Guardians when the A’s were opening the season with three straight home losses, including a 12-3 defeat in the 28-year-old’s start.

But Sears looked like a different guy when he pitched into the sixth inning and kept Oakland in the game during an eventual 5-4 loss at Detroit on Friday.

The former New York Yankee owns a 1-0 record in three career starts at Texas despite allowing nine runs in 15 innings. The win came in his second start for the A’s after being acquired from the Yankees in 2022, when he threw five shutout innings in a 5-1 victory.

Sears has faced the Rangers a total of five times in his career, going 1-1 with a 5.55 ERA.

One unfamiliar face Sears can expect to see Thursday is Rangers third baseman Davis Wendzel, who made his major league debut in Texas’ Tuesday loss to the A’s before sitting out his team’s Wednesday win.

The right-handed-hitting Wendzel hopes he has been able to settle in after finally reaching the Texas big club following all or parts of five seasons in the minors.

“Everybody says it’s kind of a whirlwind,” he admitted this week, “but you know it’s the same game. You just have to show up and compete.”

A’s prospect Darell Hernaiz surely can relate. The 22-year-old made Oakland’s Opening Day roster and got three starts in the club’s first 10 games, but he was hitless with four strikeouts in his first nine at-bats. He finally put his first big-league hit in the books on Wednesday when he singled to center field off Rangers starter Cody Bradford in the seventh inning.

“I feel like I’m good enough to play in this league,” Hernaiz said after the game, noting he thought he had hit in some hard luck in the early going. “Just keep going and eventually the baseball gods will reward me. Everything will take care of itself.”

Hernaiz could get his first look at Gray on Thursday. Gray hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in either of his starts, although he was much more effective on Saturday against the Houston Astros (two runs, both unearned) than he was in his season debut against the Chicago Cubs on March 31 (five runs).

The 32-year-old has struggled with his control in both outings, walking three in each.

Gray has 2-1 record and a 4.60 ERA in six career starts against the A’s. He threw the first eight innings of a 5-0 shutout at Oakland last May 13, allowing just three hits.

–Field Level Media

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