Bullpen woes scuttle road trip success

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2019

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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers came home this week from a
3-3 road trip, their best performance on the road this year. Despite
the success, the bullpen let two games slip away, such that the trip
could have easily been 4-2 or even 5-1. With about a third of the
season in the books, it’s disappointing that the team hasn’t developed
more depth in their bullpen.

The trip began last weekend on a high note as the Rangers won the
first game in Anaheim to run their winning streak to five games in a
row. That was good enough to take over second place in the American
League West. Texas then lost their next three games, two by one run,
and were over taken by the red hot Oakland Athletics, who moved into
second place and dropped the Rangers into third.

The down turn on the road can be directly attributed to the
bullpen, as the Rangers’ starting pitchers turned in a quality start
in all three losses. At this point, the Rangers’ bullpen has evolved
into three solid pitchers to take care of the back end of games.  They
are Jose Leclerc, Shawn Kelley, and Jesse Chavez.  Since April, those
three have combined to pitch 34-2/3rds innings in 29 appearances with
a 1.56 ERA.

The problem is, they can’t pitch every day. In last Saturday’s
3-2 loss to the Angels, Kelley made his fourth appearance in five
games since coming off the injured list.  He gave up two earned runs
to be charged with a blown save and to take the loss.

The bottom line is the Rangers need more reliable relievers. It’s
still early for in-season trades..teams don’t usually get serious
about trades until after the amateur draft and subsequent signings.
Jon Daniels said this week in a radio interview that he did not expect
the Rangers to be much of a player for Craig Kimbrel, the top free
agent reliever who is expected to sign soon after the attached draft
choice compensation disappears this weekend.

For now then, if the Rangers are going to improve their bullpen
depth, it’s going to come from within the organization. Brett Martin
was sent to Nashville last week.  He made 14 appearances with the
Rangers had one rough outing in which he was charged with five of the
12 earned runs he gave up. He’s been lights out at AAA Nashville with
a 0.77 ERA. He’ll be back.

Wei-Chieh Huang has been up with Texas twice appearing in four
games, but he has a 0.91 ERA at AAA in 11 innings.  Brady Feigl is 2-0
with a 3.43 ERA in Nashville.

Peter Fairbanks appears to be on the fast track to the Majors.
He started the year at high-A Down East (Kinston, North Carolina),
advanced to AA Frisco where he gave up just two hits in six
appearances, and has moved on to Nashville.

Two other relievers to keep in mind are Joe Barlow and Demarcus
Evans. Both were moved from High-A Down East to AA Frisco this week.
These are just a few of the names that Ranger fans will likely
see to improve the bullpen depth.  Farm hands now considered starters
could also get consideration as relievers with the Rangers.

Texas closed out the road trip with a pair of wins. They blew
open Tuesday’s game with a seven run sixth inning to win 11-4.  Not
much pressure on the bullpen there.  On Wednesday afternoon, the
Rangers coughed up two leads, but came back to score the final three
runs of the game in the eighth and ninth innings for an 8-7 win.
Chavez shut out the Mariners in the seventh and eighth innings, and
Kelley got his sixth save with a scoreless ninth.

The Rangers are home now for 11 games…the longest home stand of
the season. The first two opponents are Kansas City and Baltimore.
Going into play Thursday, those teams had the worst two records in
baseball. This home stand presents a great opportunity for Texas to
make a statement that this team is solidly in the race for at least
the second Wild Card spot.

The Kansas City series disappointingly began with a 4-2 loss.  All
six runs scored on home runs. Shin-Soo Choo led off the Rangers’
first with a solo shot. Mike Minor shut out the Royals over the first
five innings, but gave up a three run home run in the sixth. Jeffrey
Springs in relief gave up the other K.C. home run, and Nomar Mazara
hit the other Ranger round tripper.

The loss left the Rangers still in third place going into the
weekend, trailing second place Oakland by one game and first place
Houston by 8.5 games. However, the Rangers are just one game out of
the second Wild Card.

There may be more than the Wild Card to play for. It was
generally assumed that Houston would walk away with the division.
However, there may be more of a crack in the Astros’ armor than first
believed. Three of their top four players are on the injured list.

Carlos Correa incurred one of the strangest injuries of the year,
assuming the story for public consumption is true.  He’s out for four
to six weeks with a broken rib, supposedly sustained at his home while
getting a massage.  Jose Altuve and George Springer are also on the IL
with hamstring problems.  Hamstrings can linger.  Houston is very
good, but their lineup looks far less imposing without those three
players at the top of the batting order.

The current home stand presents a golden opportunity for the
Rangers to get solidly in the race for a playoff berth. Texas has
been really good at home and the first two opponents are very
beatable. The final four games are against Oakland, one of the teams
Texas will be fighting with for a playoff berth. It’s a home stand
that could go a long way to defining this season.
NOTABLE:
• Joey Gallo went into play Thursday still leading the American
League in OPS (on base plus slugging percentages) at 1.057. He also
is the hardest hitting batter in the Majors with an average exit
velocity of 97.3 miles per hour. Josh Bell (Pittsburgh Pirates and
Jesuit High School in Dallas) is second at 95.9, and last year’s
National League MVP Christian Yelich is third at 95.6.
• After losing Thursday night, the Rangers are 5-7 in games started
by Mike Minor.
• In next week’s amateur draft, the Rangers have the eighth, 41st
and 50th picks. The eighth and 50th selections are their first and
second round picks, while the 41st pick came in a trade with
Milwaukee.

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