ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Hitting has taken something of a backseat for Isiah Kiner-Falefa as he works at being a full-time catcher for the first time in his professional baseball career. So a night like Saturday was a welcome reward.
Kiner-Falefa hit a bases-loaded triple during a four-run second inning and drove in a career-high four to lift the Texas Rangers over the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5.
“I’m seeing the results pay off a little bit,” said Kiner-Falefa, who was converted from a middle infielder as a rookie last season with Texas. “But I still have a long ways to go. Especially when you’re working so hard, you want to see small victories. And today was a big one for me.”
The Rangers ended a three-game skid by scoring eight runs in the first three innings. Lance Lynn (4-2) won for the fourth time in five starts despite allowing five runs in six innings. He walked five, struck out three and threw two wild pitches.
“There were a couple of pitches I’d want back and a couple of runs I probably shouldn’t have given up, but that happens,” Lynn said.
Thomas Pannone (1-3) allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in making his second spot start of the season. Pannone gave up five hits and three walks while striking out one.
“He didn’t have his command, and he was off from the beginning,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We have to give him a little bit longer because of what we had in the bullpen.”
Nomar Mazara hit his sixth homer of the season in the first inning.
The other RBI for Kiner-Falefa, who went into the game with four hits in his previous 33 at-bats, came on a fielder’s choice in the third inning.
“It’s a lot to ask, the things we’re demanding from him,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of Kiner-Falefa. “I’m excited he got some positive results with the bat because he can hit.”
A MIGHTIER PEN
Shawn Kelley has replaced Jose Leclerc as the Texas closer – at least temporarily – and retired three straight batters on eight pitches for his second save of the season. Leclerc lost the job when he allowed three ninth-inning runs Tuesday for his second blown save.
Leclerc worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Woodward said he’s looking for Leclerc to work his way back into that role.
“I went up to him and told him, ‘Man, that looked like you,'” Kelley said of Leclerc. “I think he was able to breathe a little bit and slow down. I fully expect him to bounce back.”
VLADDY HISTORY IS CYCLICAL
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove in Justin Smoak in the first inning for his first major league RBI, in his seventh game. In 2010, rookie Smoak drove in Vladimir Guerrero Sr. for his first major league RBI with the Rangers.
“Well, baseball, it’s crazy,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I feel very happy with myself for my first RBI, for hopefully many, many to come.”
Jays 2B Eric Sogard had a two-run triple. … Texas 2B Rougned Odor went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to extend his hitless streak to 21 at-bats. … Toronto RHP Derek Law made his season debut and allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings.
Rangers: 1B Ronald Guzman (right hamstring strain) homered and doubled in the first game of his injury rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco.
Blue Jays: RHP Clay Buchholz (0-1, 4.79) hasn’t pitched six innings since his first start of the season on April 13.
Rangers: LHP Drew Smyly (0-2, 7.80) returns after being placed on the 10-day injured list with mid-arm nerve tightness. In his most recent outing, Smyly allowed four runs and two home runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 7-2 loss to the Houston Astros.
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