Somber home stand for the Rangers

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

Image result for rangers vs AngelsBY: Dic Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – This week began on a high note as the Rangers returned to Arlington on the heels of their second consecutive winning road trip, and with the naming of three players to the All-Star team, a first for the Rangers since 2013. The euphoria didn’t last long. The tragic death of Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs last Monday quickly took away the joy.

Skaggs, who was the announced starting pitcher for the Fourth of July game against the Rangers, was found unresponsive in his hotel room Monday afternoon; and when the authorities arrived, he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was just a few days shy of his 28th birthday. So far, no cause of death has been made public, and it has been announced that Tarrant County will not have autopsy results until October.

Monday’s series opening game was cancelled, and will be made up during the Angels’ next trip to Arlington August 19, 20 and 21. There was some doubt that Tuesday’s game would be played, but by noon on Tuesday, it was announced that the game would be played as scheduled.

Tuesday’s game definitely had a surreal aura. The afternoon began with a press conference with Brad Ausmus (Angels’ manager), Billy Eppler (general manager), John Capuano (team President) and Arte Moreno (Angels’ owner) meeting the media. The Rangers definitely toned down the game presentation. Walk-up music for Ranger batters was not played. Between innings, music was more subdued. There was no dot race. For the first time in ballpark history, the theme from The Natural was not played for a Ranger home run when Delino DeShields hit his second home run of the season.

The Rangers played their worst game this year. Their pitchers combined to give the Angels 13 free base runners (11 walks and two hit batsmen). The Ranger defense committed four errors. With the Rangers’ largesse, Los Angeles was able to score nine runs on just six hits to win 9-4.

The Rangers followed with an almost equally lackluster performance on Wednesday to lose 6-2 and give the series win to the Angels. Texas managed just four hits off Angel starter Jaime Barria, and no hits off the four relievers that followed Barria to the mound. Mike Trout drove in five of the six Angel runs with a pair of home runs.

Texas did avoid a series sweep with a 9-2 win Thursday. The Fourth of July fireworks show was preceded on the field by fireworks from the previous slumping Ranger offense. Rougned Odor hit a pair of home runs to lead a 14 hit attack against the Angels. He drove in five runs, and Nomar Mazara chipped in with four hits and two RBIs. Lance Lynn held the Angels to two runs over seven innings to notch his 11th win, tying him for the American League lead.

As for the Ranger All-Stars, Hunter Pence was the first to make the team. Pence looked like his career was over after the 2018 season in which he hit .225 in 97 games with the Giants with four home runs and 24 RBIs. He had to scramble to even get a 2019 offer of a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

Wow! Has he made the most of the opportunity the Rangers made available. He was on the Injured List during the finals of the fan vote, but won the starting DH spot on the All-Star roster hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs. Unfortunately, his groin injury has not responded as expected, and he will not be playing in the game. He will go to Cleveland and be part of the festivities, but he was replaced on the A. L. roster by Boston’s Xander Bogaarts.

Last Sunday the reserves and pitchers were announced.  Joey Gallo, who was an outfield finalist in the fan vote, and Mike Minor were announced as team members. It’s the first time for both to make the All-Star team. Unfortunately for Minor, he will go and be part of the festivities, but will not participate in the actual game. He was scheduled to pitch this week on Monday and Saturday. The cancellation of Monday’s game pushed those starts to Tuesday and Sunday. One of the rules is that pitchers that pitch in their team’s game on the Sunday before the All-Star game are not eligible to participate.

Actually, there was some question whether Minor would have pitched anyway. The first place Astros are the Rangers’ opponent in seven of the first nine games after the All-Star break. Minor wanted to time his starts to face Houston twice and an All-Star appearance might have upset the schedule.

Gallo is known for his prodigious home run hitting. He had 20 when he was announced to have made the team despite spending three weeks on the injured list. That sounds like he would be a perfect entrant for Monday night’s Home Run Derby, but Gallo bowed out of consideration because of the oblique injury that sent him to the IL. Too much danger of re-injuring it.

There are always All-Star replacements as the game nears. Some pitchers will pitch Sunday and be forced out of the game. Other injuries will keep some of the announced All-Stars away from the game like Tommy LaStella, the Angels’ infielder that was injured in Tuesday night’s game against the Rangers. The best bet for any additional Rangers to make the team is Lynn. He has 11 wins, and his ERA is down to 3.91.

The Rangers losing four games out of their last five going into this weekend’s series in Minnesota has dropped them into third place in the American League West. They trail first place Houston by eight games, and Oakland has crawled into second place ahead of the Rangers by one-half game. On last weekend’s road trip, the Rangers woke up Saturday morning tied with Tampa Bay for the top Wild Card playoff berth. Going into this weekend, they are 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the second Wild Card berth with Oakland ahead of them as well. Boston is still in the Wild Card picture one game behind the Rangers.

That makes this weekend’s series and the three series after the All-Star break vital to the Rangers staying in the race for a playoff berth.

NOTABLE:

  • The International signing period opened up last Tuesday. The Rangers immediately signed outfielder Bayron Lora and shortstop Maximo Acosta. MLB Pipeline ranked Lora as the number three prospect available on the International
  • Prospects list, and he received a $4.2 million signing bonus. Acosta was ranked as the 17th best prospect. International signings have been a good talent source for Texas. Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara are international signees that have become solid contributors at the big league level.
  • The Rangers also announced the signing of their top two draft picks. Josh Jung from Texas Tech, the eighth pick in the first round, was signed with a $4.4 million signing bonus. He was co-player of the year in the Big XII this spring with Baylor’s Davis Wendzel, who the Rangers selected with the 41st pick in the draft. Wendzel will receive a $1.6 million signing bonus. Jung and Wendzel both primarily played third base in college.
  • The Rangers also signed their sixth round draft pick, Cody Bradford, a left-handed pitcher from Baylor. Bradford was the Pitcher of the Year in the Big XII and third team All-American as a sophomore in 2018. Had his junior year followed suit with his sophomore year, he would have been drafted much higher than the sixth round. It didn’t. He didn’t pitch well early and was shut down this spring after just three appearances. On March 27 he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He has been approved by the doctors to begin throwing again, but the Rangers are likely to take a cautious approach and wait until the fall to get him into action.
  • The Rangers have also signed their 11th (RHP Nicholas Lockhart), 12th (RHP Gavin Collyer) and 18th (RHP Marc Church) draft picks.
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