Hoying's speed, defense proving key down stretch

Hoying's speed, defense proving key down stretch

HOUSTON -- Outfielder Jared Hoying has found himself in a small but vital role for the Rangers going down the stretch.

Manager Jeff Banister has been using Hoying both as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement for Nomar Mazara late in the game. It's a similar role that Drew Stubbs had for the Rangers in September last season and he ended up on the postseason roster against the Blue Jays.

"I like the defense side of it," Banister said. "We've got a guy with a little more speed and can cover some ground. Mazara is a quality defender, it's just more range and covering more ground. I don't think we lose any arm strength."

Hoying made a nice catch to end the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Astros in 12 innings on Monday night, racing in toward the foul line to snag George Springer's high popup and then avoiding a major collision with second baseman Rougned Odor.

"I obviously take a lot of pride in my defense," Hoying said. "It gives me a chance to use my speed and my ability. It's been fun to get into games."

Hoying can also swing the bat if needed. He hit .269 with 16 home runs, 66 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 100 games for Triple-A Round Rock. He also just missed his first Major League home run on Monday with a 12th-inning shot that nearly grazed the right-field foul pole. The shadow of the baseball was visible on the foul pole as it passed by.

"I don't think you could slip a piece of paper through there," Hoying said. "I felt I had it."

Barnette progressing

Reliever Tony Barnette, sidelined with a strained oblique muscle in his left side, threw for a second day on flat ground without any issues.

"It went well," Barnette said. "Today was better than yesterday. I'll take that and move on, test it every day and make sure it's 100 percent before I do anything drastic. I know there is something there but it's not pulling or tugging. That's a positive sign."

Barnette will likely need one session off the mound before he is ready to pitch in a game but the Rangers don't have a timetable for that.

"I don't see any need to rush it and nobody else sees it either," Barnette said.

Rangers beat 

• Center fielder Ian Desmond was out of the lineup for the first time in 40 games on Tuesday. With the Rangers holding a 9 1/2-game lead in the American League West, Banister has the luxury of starting to give players time off as the postseason approaches. Said Banister, "I still look at it as we set out every day to win a baseball game. But there are opportunities inside that to win baseball games."

• Odor hit his 30th double on Monday, to go along with his 31 home runs. He is one of eight players in the American League with at least 30 doubles and 30 home runs. The others are Mookie Betts, Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, Edwin Encarnacion, Evan Longoria, Manny Machado and David Ortiz.

• Class A Advanced High Desert beat Lancaster, 9-4, on Monday night, and now has a 2-1 lead in best-of-five series in the Cal League South Division finals. Game three is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. CT on Tuesday night in Lancaster.

• With Keone Kela getting the victory on Monday night, the Rangers now have 35 wins from their relievers, tied for the most in club history.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.