Rangers fans are getting used to holding their breath and saying a prayer to the baseball gods.
Every time Jacob deGrom takes the mound, every pitch he throws, there is a collective angst. Will this be his last pitch?
Those same breath-holding muscles are going to be flexed every time there’s a save situation and a Rangers closer is in the game.
Five of the last seven Rangers losses have been directly a result of the closer caving.
Think about that. This team currently sits in first place at 21-13. If they had a closer in place for those five blown saves—let’s say he got every one of those wins, because that’s what a closer does—the Texas Rangers would be 26-8. Suddenly, they are in Tampa Bay Rays territory. They are elite.
In light of that, when Bruce Bochy summoned Will Smith to the mound to close out a razor-thin win against the heart of the Mariners’ lineup, breathing stopped. It was a game the Rangers really needed to win. They had been head hitless—a perfect game, no less—by Seattle’s Logan Gilbert through six innings. Finally, they broke through with two runs in the seventh. Jon Gray was masterful. This was a game you did not want to give away.
So, when the Rangers called on their closer, Will Smith, hearts stopped. Palms broke out into sweat. Eyes were covered.
Smith’s last foray into closing was a disaster. It happened Friday, the day Bruce Bochy officially named him the closer. He comes in and gives up three runs to the Angels in the bottom of the ninth inning, allowing them to tie it in regulation and win it in extras.
Last night Will Smith picked up his fifth save. He went with a steady stream of breaking pitches down, all down, all breaking pitches, resulting in three strikeouts.
Gone was that hittable fastball up.
If he can continue to get major league hitters to swing at that, which he got a lot of last night, then Smith will have a lot of success. Remember, he had thirty-seven saves in 2021.
If he can come close to that in a Rangers uniform, there will be a lot of easy breathing.