Rangers closers continue to struggle

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, May 10th, 2019

Rangers-Astros 1

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

The Rangers opened this weekend’s series Thursday night with a
4-2 loss to Houston.  It was the 11th time in 13 series that the
Rangers have lost the opening game.  Surprisingly, they have scrambled
back to win five of the first 12 series and to split four more.
Despite the obvious pitching problems, the Rangers go into the weekend
with a 17-18 record, far better than anyone projected when the season
began.  That’s good enough for third place in the American League
West, 4.5 games behind the Astros, but only one-half game behind the
second place Mariners.

Mike Minor was the starting pitcher Thursday and went to 3-3 for
the season as he gave up three runs in five innings to get tagged with
the loss. Minor also started game one of last weekend’s three-game
series at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Ironically, it was the
only loss and best pitched game of the series for Texas.  Minor
threw seven shutout innings.  Unfortunately, Toronto starter Trent
Thornton was even better, shutting out Texas over six innings while
allowing just two base runners.

The bullpens for both teams were really good, and the game wasn’t
decided until the 11th inning, when Toronto finally scored and then
held the Rangers off the scoreboard in the bottom half of the 11th to
win 1-0.  It was the first time the Rangers have been shutout in extra
innings at home since they moved from Arlington Stadium to the
Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers scrambled back to win Saturday and Sunday by the
scores of 8-5 and 10-2.  Lance Lynn wasn’t very good on Saturday, but
he scratched out six innings, and the offense scored early to qualify
him for the win.

Drew Smyly came off the injured list to start Sunday’s game. He
didn’t get the benefit of a minor league rehab assignment, so was
limited to around 65 pitches. Smyly completed four innings, allowing
just a run on an Eric Sogard home run.  Kyle Dowdy relieved Smyly and
polished off the Jays for the fifth and sixth innings to qualify for
the win. Asdrubal Cabrera homered, scored twice, and drove in four
runs with a 2-4 day.  Rougned Odor also homered and went 2-4 to end an
0-21 skid at the plate.

As far as the Rangers are concerned, it may be time to break up
the Pirates.  After losing a two game series to the Bucs last week at
home, Texas started this week in Pittsburgh for two games and dropped
the opener 5-4.  Adrian Sampson was the starting pitcher, and he had
control problems.  Hunter Pence hit a two run home run early to put
the Rangers ahead 2-1, but the Pirates scored two runs in each of the
fourth and fifth innings to reclaim the lead at 5-2. In both the
fourth and fifth innings, Sampson hit a batter that later scored.
Pence accounted for all of the Rangers’ offense when he doubled home
two more runs in the seventh inning.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Rangers were staring at a Pittsburgh
series sweep for the second week in a row as they trailed 6-2 after
seven innings. In the eighth, Pence pinch hit with the bases loaded
and hit a grand slam home run to tie the game.  The Rangers rallied
for three more in the ninth inning and held Pittsburgh off the
scoreboard for a 9-6 win to avoid the sweep.  All seven runs scored in
the final two innings came across the plate with two outs.

Pence may be the hottest hitter in baseball this week.  After
three games, he has gone 5-7 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.  One of
the two outs he made was a ball that would have landed in the seats
for a three run home run Thursday night, but Josh Reddick robbed him
with a marvelous catch. Pence’s batting average is up to .343, though
he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify to be among the
league leaders.

On Thursday, the Rangers faced a roster conundrum when first
baseman Ronald Guzman came off the IL. The two players that have
absorbed the playing time available from his absence are Logan
Forsythe and Danny Santana. Both of them have played well.  As
back-ups, they can sub in for all four infield positions and
centerfield. Neither one has a minor league option meaning that they
would have to clear waivers before they could be sent to the minors.
Obviously, the Rangers did not want to lose either one. One
option to keep both was to reduce the bullpen from eight to seven
pitchers However, the Rangers started a string of 15 games in 16 days
with Thursday’s game in Houston, and the Ranger starting pitchers are
still averaging fewer than five innings per start. They didn’t want
to reduce the bullpen availability, especially after Shawn Kelley was
placed on the injured list on Thursday.

In the end, they surprisingly sent down Delino DeShields.
DeShields has developed into a very good defensive center fielder, but
was struggling with a .182 batting average.  The Rangers hope he’ll
work hard at AAA Nashville to get his offensive game back together.
He is a big weapon offensively with his plus-plus speed, but he needs
to get on base to be that weapon. For now Joey Gallo is the regular
center fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo is likely to see more time in the
field than at designated hitter. The move should open up more playing
time for Pence.
Other Ranger news:
• Joey Gallo woke up Thursday morning leading the American League
in OPS (1.106).  He hit his 12th home run of the season Wednesday in
Pittsburgh which was his 100th career home run.  It came in his 377th
game making him the fastest in American League history to hit 100 home
runs.  Mark McGwire previously held the record at 393 games. Gallo is
third in Major League history trailing National Leaguers Ryan Howard
(325 games) and Ralph Kiner (376 games). Oddly Gallo has only 93
singles in his career making him the first player in Major League
history to have more home runs than singles when he reached 100 for
his career.
• Another consideration when Ronald Guzman was activated from the
IL on Thursday was Rougned Odor. After breaking his 0-21 streak at
the plate last Sunday, he went 1-10 in the first three games this week
to lower his batting average to .136.
• The Rangers’ closer situation is back in turmoil.  Shawn Kelley
was excellent after Jose Leclerc was demoted, but Kelley was placed on
the injured list Thursday.  Leclerc’s struggles continued Thursday’s
when he retired only one batter and loaded the bases with two walks
and a single. Chris Martin is the likely closer at this point.
• Ranger farm hand Sam Huff was named the Player of the Month in
April in the Southern League. He led all minor leaguers with 12 home
runs. This week, he was promoted from Low-A Hickory to High-A Down
East.

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