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Eovaldi shuts down Rays to lead Rangers to 5th straight win

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.


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


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.


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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