Rangers continue to struggle on the road

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

The road woes of the Texas Rangers continued this week by getting swept in three games in Oakland.  The road trip continues this weekend in Seattle where the Rangers lost the series opener Thursday night.
Going into the weekend, the Rangers had lost four straight road games for second time this season, and their road record is 2-8 with the
three games in Seattle remaining before they return home.

The biggest problem is the pitching, especially the starting
rotation which currently has a 6.51 ERA and is averaging fewer than
five innings per start.  When the season began, the Rangers felt
comfortable with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn at the top of their
rotation.  Both came back last season from significant surgeries, and
both were very good late in 2018…and have not disappointed.  Both
have made five starts, and seven of them have been good.  They both
are 2-2 for the season, and the Rangers are 5-5 in their starts.
The rest of the rotation was planned to be Shelby Miller, Drew
Smyly and Edinson Volquez, all three of which were returning from
Tommy John surgery after not pitching last season. (None of the three
saw action in the Majors in 2018, though Smyly tried to start his
comeback with a handful of minor league appearances late in the year.)

All three have had success in the past, so the Rangers’ hope was for
them to return to form.  Ranger management obviously knew they would
have to be careful with their usage, and quite frankly, they knew they
would be fortunate to get as many as 20 starts out of any of them
At this point, the projected rotation is in shambles.  Through
the first 24 games, only twice has a starter besides Minor and Lynn
pitched five full innings.  Volquez and Smyly are on the disabled
list.  Adrian Sampson has started two games, while Kyle Dowdy and
Tayler Hearn have each started one game.  None have lasted five
innings in those starts.

Hearn’s start was Thursday night, the series opener in Seattle.
The Rangers had a winnable game Wednesday in Oakland, and Ranger
manager Chris Woodward chose to use Thursday’s scheduled starter –
Adrian Sampson – in relief.  Sampson pitched well, but the Rangers
lost anyway, and the move left Texas without a starter for Thursday’s
game.

Hearn was acquired last season in the Keone Kela trade with
Pittsburgh, and he is ranked as the number 11 prospect in the Rangers’
system by MLB.com.  He was 1-3 in four starts at Nashville, with a lot of strikeouts and walks.
Hearn was expected to see time in the big leagues this season, but not
in April.  The Rangers definitely wanted him to make more than four
AAA starts before bringing him to Arlington.  It was a desperation
move by the Rangers, and it backfired in spades!

Hearn faced eight batters, retiring just one.  He walked the first
three batters he faced.  A single and a sacrifice fly followed to
plate two runs for the Mariners.  Ryon Healy then doubled home two
more runs.  A walk and a single followed Healy’s double to re-load the
bases and end Hearn’s night on the mound.  Brett Martin thankfully
needed just a few pitches to coax a sacrifice fly and a groundout to
end the inning.

When the smoke had cleared, the Mariners had sent 10 hitters to
the plate, five of which had scored.  Hearn was on his way to his
first Major League loss.

The performance was remindful of another disastrous debut by a
highly regarded Ranger prospect rushed to the Major Leagues before he
was ready.  Even before Hearn exited, Eric Nadel noted the similarity
to Wilson Alvarez’s debut in 1989.  Alvarez ended his career with 102
wins, but his debut was even more forgetful than Hearn’s.

Alvarez became the first player born in the 1970’s to appear in a
Major League game when he started against Toronto on July 24, 1989.
Alvarez never retired a batter.  The first two Blue Jays hitters
singled and homered to put the Blue Jays in front 2-0.  The next
batter also homered, and when two walks followed, the second on four
pitches, Ranger manager Bobby Valentine changed pitchers.

A few days later Alvarez became part of perhaps the worst Ranger
trade in history.  The Rangers were in a pennant race with Oakland
that season and sought a veteran middle of the order bat.  They
received Harold Baines and Fred Manrique from the Chicago White Sox,
for shortstop Scott Fletcher and two Ranger prospects.  Alvarez, who
won 67 games for the Sox over seven seasons including a no-hitter, was
one of the prospects.  The other was Sammy Sosa.

Overall, the Rangers’ ERA is 5.94.  Baltimore at 6.03 is the only
Major League team that is worse.  The rotation looks to be in a free
fall with the injuries. The games started by Lynn and Minor give
Texas the best chance to win.  This road trip was doomed when the
Rangers lost both their starts to begin the week.  It takes a big
offensive performance to win when anyone else starts.

The offense has been spotty at best on the road.  They have
averaged 5.9 runs per game in the first two home stands – 14 games.
In the 10 road games through Thursday night’s in Seattle, they are
averaging just 4.7 runs per game.

Thursday’s game only got worse after Hearn left.  Seattle ended up
with a 14-2 win, the most runs the Rangers have allowed this year.
Ironically, catcher Jeff Mathis pitched a scoreless eighth inning to
save the bullpen.  He retired three of the four batters he faced, two
more than Hearn.

Fortunately, the Rangers are back in Arlington after this Sunday’s
game in Seattle. For the second time this year, Texas gets two off
days in one week.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are in Arlington Tuesday and
Wednesday, and Toronto comes to town next Friday for three games, the
only appearance this season in Arlington for both teams.
NOTABLE:
• Joey Gallo was named American League Player of the Week for the
week ended April 21.  He hit .478 with four home runs and 11 RBIs as
the Rangers went 5-1 for the week.  It was Gallo’s first career POW
award.

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