Experiencing History: The Streak of 2015
The old saying goes that all good things must come to an end. For Rangers fans, that time was Wednesday evening/Thursday morning, but take heart and enjoy the ride it was and enjoy the ones responsible!. I speak, of course, of the starting rotation. Excuse me? The starting rotation that currently lacks four pitchers that, only in March of last year – last year! – figured to be part of their long term plans? The starting rotation that was supposed to be cemented for years to come? Yes, that starting rotation is a very good thing, and it’s not just the Rangers fans that need to ride the hot streak as long as they can, the entire club needs to take advantage of the magic that is being produced by their starting five.
The magic is the oft-debated stat known as “QS” – the Quality Start. The Quality Start is defined as a starting pitcher recording eighteen outs, six innings, and giving up three earned runs or fewer. That stat has been known to ruffle a few feathers here and there, as there are some, myself included, that feel like a line like that indicates a bare minimum expectation, not something denoting “Quality.” I digress, however, as the stat is what it is, and the Rangers starting five have put up a fantastic string of Quality Starts. The run is not merely fantastic – it’s historic.
The five pitchers that Jeff Banister has settled on – Nick Martinez, Colby Lewis, Yovani Gallardo, Wandy Rodriguez, and Chi-Chi Gonzalez – have gone through and put up a 2015 Major League best, and a Texas Rangers franchise best twelve consecutive quality starts. Twelve consecutive starts is just under two and a half times through the rotation, which not only counts as some darn good pitching, but also is a measure of consistency. Let’s take a look at the timeline of this streak.
Before the Streak
The last time a Rangers’ starter failed to record a quality start was on June 3rd against the Chicago White Sox, a 9-2 loss. The starter in that game was none other than the Rangers’ current best starting pitcher, Nick Martinez. It was a bad day at the office for Martinez, who was knocked out after 3.1 innings, having given up seven earned runs.
Thankfully, for the Rangers and their fans, it was quite the aberration. The outing put an end to only the longest string of starts allowing three runs or fewer in club history. Yes, dating back to last year, Martinez had gone sixteen straight starts allowing fewer than three runs. With that in mind, you think that a rough outing like the one against Chicago was going to rattle Martinez? It could have, but it didn’t. His next start was one of his most brilliant, and it came in the middle of this wonderful string of Quality Starts.
The Streak Itself
While the offense was tasked with finding its identity without Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, the rotation took the cue to step up and give the lineup time to mesh. Whether they consciously did this or not is something for clubhouse ears only, but the reconstructed offense needed some time to gel, and Banister needed time to find out where the best place was to put some of his new pieces.
It started with Yovani Gallardo in the series finale against the White Sox; Gallardo, who has had three starts during this streak, went six innings against the South Siders and has since gone seven innings each against Oakland and Los Angeles. The man from Milwaukee, who might even figure to be trade bait for the Rangers in a month and a half (“What Ifs” pending), has given up just two runs in those three starts.
Colby Lewis, the workhorse, the stalwart, has been a huge part of this streak as well. It seems that Lewis finds renewed strength with each start and has fought through his two starts in this streak, giving up the maximum required three runs against Kansas City and Minnesota, but going seven innings. If you take away the Nick Martinez start, it was Colby who started before that loss, going seven innings in that start.
Wandy Rodriguez contributed his two starts against Kansas City and Minnesota, going seven innings and 6.2 respectively and giving up just one run in each start. The curveball has continued to be a huge weapon in Rodriguez’ arsenal, as has his veteran ability to maneuver out of jams and bulldog his way through an inning. Did he get credit for being the one to stop the streak? Yes, but he battled to the very end.
Nick Martinez rebounded nicely as well to keep up the streak after the White Sox fiasco. In his next start division rival Oakland, he matched pitches with Athletics’ ace Sonny Gray to allow his offense to scratch out two runs while he held opposing bats to none. Martinez might be in a stretch where he isn’t nearly as dominant as he was at the beginning of the season, but it looks like the rest of the rotation is more than willing to keep up the pace.
Easily the most fun pitcher to watch during this QS run has been rookie Chi-Chi Gonzalez, who threw a relatively easy Complete Game Shut Out against Kansas City during his first turn in this streak. He followed that up with a one run, seven inning performance against Oakland. In his last time out, he only faced his most formidable challenge to date in a first-place Los Angeles Dodgers team and almost pitched another CGSO. It was just a two-run homer by Justin Turner that stood in his way, but it was clear that Gonzalez held control and poise on the mound.
Ending the Streak
It took the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup two and a half trips through before they finally chased Wandy Rodriguez from the first game in Dodgers’ stadium for Texas since 2001. Unfortunately, that third trip through the lineup happened in the middle of the sixth frame for Rodriguez, and Jeff Banister was forced to make a move. That gave the veteran lefty the maximum three earned runs allowed for a Quality Start, but he failed to make it through six innings. The game turned out much happier than the game before the streak began, as the Rangers held on thanks to some sparkling bullpen work.
Ultimately, what is this all going to mean for you, a Texas Rangers fan? Perhaps nothing, as you could really just view this two week stretch as the answer to a future Rangers trivia question. Or, you could be like me, and realize that this stretch of history is coming from a group of guys that nobody expected anything from…and that’s special.