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Rangers’ Kyle Gibson owns AL-best ERA, continues dominant stretch since Opening Day disaster

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Three months ago, Texas Rangers righty Kyle Gibson contributed to one of the worst Opening Day pitching performances in baseball history. Gibson and Royals starter Brad Keller combined to allow 11 runs on 13 hits and five walks. They recorded five outs. Gibson was charged with five runs in one-third of an inning.

On Saturday, Gibson faced the Royals for the first time since that Opening Day disaster, and dominated Kansas City across seven shutout innings, limiting them to two singles and one walk. Gibson struck out 10 and held the Royals a measly 87.1 mph average exit velocity on 12 balls in play in the blowout win (TEX 8, KC 0).

Gibson’s season since that Opening Day game has been out of this world good. In the 13 starts following Opening Day, he has pitched to a 1.63 ERA and held opponents to a .198/.257/.295 batting line in 82 2/3 innings. He did not suffer a single loss in those 13 games.

Saturday’s performance gives Gibson an AL-best 2.00 ERA on the season. It was his ninth start of at least six innings with no more than one earned run allowed, the most in the American League. Only Kevin Gausman (11) and Brandon Woodruff (10) have more. Only Jacob deGrom (0.69), Gausman (1.49), and Woodruff (1.89) have a lower ERA among qualified pitchers.

The 10 strikeouts are a season-high and Gibson’s most since an 11-strikeout performance on May 8, 2019, when he was still with the Twins. That was 49 starts (and five relief appearances) ago. Strikeouts are not his thing. Gibson relies on ground balls and weak contact to get his outs, and he’s never combined the two better than he has this year.

The Rangers have had quite a bit of success with mid-range free agent starting pitchers in recent years. Mike Minor (three years, $28 million) and Lance Lynn (three years, $30 million) received Cy Young votes during their time in Texas, and Gibson (three years, $28 million) could very well do the same this season. At a minimum, he’ll be at the All-Star Game next month.

Of course, Texas is also in a rebuilding phase, and Gibson would be awfully valuable on the trade market. He’s pitching well and he’s owed a mere $7 million in 2022. Every contender would love to add that production on that contract to their rotation. If nothing else, the Rangers should listen to offers for Gibson at next month’s trade deadline. There’s no harm in listening.

For now, Gibson is pitching like a bona fide ace, and the Rangers have the option to either trade him for prospects to continue their rebuild, or keep him around next year as they look to return to contention.

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