SAN DIEGO -- With 15 games to go in the regular season, Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister is making things complicated.
On Friday night at Petco Park, Banister decided to follow a trend and use an "opener" to start the first game of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres. Right-hander Connor Sadzeck worked a scoreless first inning before turning the game over to scheduled starter Yohander Mendez, who pitched the next five innings of a five-hit Texas shutout.
It was hinted that left-hander Jeffrey Springs would be the "opener" Saturday for the second straight time in front of scheduled right-handed starter Ariel Jurado (2-5, 7.03 ERA). Then Springs followed Mendez and worked two scoreless innings in relief Friday night.
Now it will be left-hander Alex Claudio (4-2, 4.87) "opening" for the Rangers on Saturday in front of Jurado against Padres' rookie left-hander Eric Lauer (5-7, 4.80).
The only thing that is certain is that neither Jurado nor Lauer has ever faced the other team before -- although opener Claudio allowed a hit in a scoreless inning against the Padres back on June 26 in Texas.
Lauer, 23, the 25th overall selection in the 2016 draft, will be making his 21st start of the season and his third start since returning from the disabled list Aug. 30 after missing 25 games with a forearm strain.
Over nine innings since his return, Lauer has allowed one earned run on two hits and five walks with 10 strikeouts.
Lauer has worked 95 2/3 innings on the season, giving up 57 runs (51 earned) on 113 hits and 42 walks with 85 strikeouts with a high .294 opponents' batting average and a 1.62 WHIP.
But over his last 13 starts, since June 2, Lauer has a 3.53 ERA while allowing three earned runs or fewer in 11 of those outings. The Padres went 6-7 in those 13 starts. Each of his five outings of six innings or more this season has resulted in a quality start. And after giving up 13 homers in his first 86 2/3 innings, Lauer has not allowed a homer in his two outings since returning.
Tuesday night will mark the fourth time that Texas has used an "opener" in front of the starter. And each of the openers has been a left-hander in front of the right-handed starter.
Padres manager Andy Green said Friday night that he would not adjust his starting lineup for one or two innings from an "opener."
Factually, this will be the 22-year-old Jurado's third relief appearance against seven starts. He has worked a total of 39 2/3 innings this season, allowing 31 runs on 51 hits and 15 walks with just 14 strikeouts. Opposing hitters are batting .313 against Jurado, who has a 1.66 WHIP.
Jurado spent the majority of the season with Double-A Frisco of the Texas League, going 5-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 16 starts. The Rangers are 3-4 in Jurado's seven starts.