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Rangers’ Jon Gray, not Max Scherzer, draws start vs. Royals

The Rangers will have a hard-throwing right-hander on the mound Saturday afternoon as they go for the series win against the visiting Kansas City Royals. Only it won’t be the one many Texas fans hoped for.

Multiple media outlets reported earlier this week that three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer would make his 2024 season debut Saturday, but Texas manager Bruce Bochy said Friday that Jon Gray would get the start instead.

Scherzer, who had offseason back surgery and also was battling a nerve issue in his thumb, has made three rehab starts for Triple-A Round Rock, allowing six runs in 11 innings (4.91 ERA) while striking out 17. So what gives?

“We just want to make sure nothing is wrong. That’s all,” Bochy said.

The manager added that the team would evaluate Scherzer again on Saturday and that he might start the finale of the three-game set against Kansas City on Sunday.

Gray (2-3, 3.31 ERA) will try to bounce back from a 14-2 loss to the New York Mets on Monday during which he allowed nine runs and 11 hits, both matching his career high, in three-plus innings. Afterward, he hinted that he may have been tipping off his pitches.

“My stuff was really good,” Gray said. “I thought I threw the ball really good. But I don’t care how nasty it is, I don’t care if it’s 110 miles per hour, if they know it’s coming, they know it’s coming.

“I tried to do a lot of different things just to try and throw them off. But it seemed like they still knew it was coming. So I don’t really know. It’s a shame, I guess. I mean, that’s baseball, right?

The 32-year-old veteran is 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in three career starts against the Royals. He wound up with a no-decision at Kansas City on May 5 after allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out seven without issuing a walk.

Gray will be opposed by right-hander Michael Wacha (4-5, 4.24 ERA), who is set to be activated off the injured list. Wacha’s left foot was broken by comebacker hit by the San Diego Padres’ Luis Arraez on May 31.

“His rehab went well,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said, according to the Kansas City Star. “He’s feeling good, and we’re lucky it’s as short term as it was.”

Wacha is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in five career starts against Texas. He gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Rangers on May 4 in a 15-4 loss.

Texas won the opener of the teams’ latest series, prevailing 6-2 on Friday night. Marcus Semien highlighted the Rangers’ five-run sixth inning with a three-run double, and Nathan Eovaldi picked up the win, allowing two runs over six innings.

“It’s always good to have a big inning like that, especially in a tight ballgame,” Bochy said. “Good at-bats, we had some walks there. Marcus topped it off. It’s something we’ve been missing at times, and he came through with a big three-run double there.”

Kansas City, which fell to 2-5 on its nine-game road trip, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third on Kyle Isbel’s fifth home run of the season. However, Isbel, who is batting .308 with seven RBIs over his past 13 games, departed in the fifth inning due to lower back tightness.

“It’s probably something he could have played with, but we didn’t want to chance it,” Quatraro said. “We’re in a long stretch of games, so we’re going to see if we can calm it down a little bit. We don’t think it’s anything serious.”

Isbel said he’s “been feeling it the past couple of days. It just kind of cramped up on me. It should be good (Saturday).”

–Field Level Media

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