This Week in Rangers’ Baseball – Finding the Right Fit

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In the aftermath of the shock of losing three of your key players in one game, two of them for WAY longer than expected, the Rangers came out and, honestly, weren’t that bad. They suffered two series losses in a row to Houston and Los Angeles, I get that. The game in which they suffered their worst beating this week, they had a kid in over his head making a start, and they came from behind to force extras in another one. The problem of course, has been the offensive production, but we’ll look at that in a bit as we look at THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL!

The Games

  • Game 7 – TEX 4 vs. HOU 6 (W: Harris 1-0, L: Verrett 0-1, S: Deduno 1) – In which Texas displays heart and forces a marathon, but ultimately falls in 14 innings.
  • Game 8 – TEX 3 vs. LAA 6 (W: Shoemaker 2-0, L: Detwiler 0-2, S: Street 3) – In which Ross Detwiler looks like he was better, but couldn’t hold an early lead, while Texas couldn’t push anything across after the first.
  • Game 9 – TEX 8 vs. LAA 2 (W: Martinez 2-0, L: Rucinski 0-1) – In which Nick Martinez  continues to realize that fastball command is everything and gives another sterling performance. Also: Chirinos shows he’s not just a pretty arm.
  • Game 10 – TEX 2 vs LAA 10 (W: Santiago 1-1, L: Ranaudo 0-1) – In which Anthony Ranaudo makes his Rangers debut and doesn’t really convince anyone he should be on this active roster yet – although Minor League defenses could have made some of tonight’s plays.
  • Game 11 – TEX 3 @ SEA 1 (W: Gallardo: 2-1, L: Happ 0-1, S: Feliz 2) – In which Texas takes advantage of a Seattle team on a losing streak, and Leonys Martin returns to the lead-off spot with success.
  • Game 12 – TEX 1 @ SEA 3 (W: Hernandez: 2-0), L: Lewis 1-1, S: Rodney 3) – In which King Felix ends his losing streak against the Rangers and the Mariners losing streak this week with seven ridiculous innings of striking out 12 Rangers.

Week record: 2-4. Year to date: 5-7

At the Dish

It’s been a theme that Jeff Banister has repeated – this lineup still needs to find its identity, but it is likely going to be a lineup that has to scratch across runs. That is something we saw this past week, as Texas only had one offensive outburst, and that was against Drew Rucinski of the Angels, making his first Major League start. The rest of the time, the Rangers offense scuffled, battling to score its runs, with Robinson Chirinos supplying a healthy dosage of the power and production, driving in six runs over the week on the strength of two doubles and two home runs, going 4-for-11 in his four games.

Continuing with the tinkering of the lineup, Banister saw Andrus struggling in the 2-hole last week and dropped him down in the order, while this week, Leonys Martin was having troubles as the designated lead-off hitter. Banister dropped Martin down in the order, giving Rougned Odor, who has developed new-found discipline at the plate, and Delino DeShields, the speedster, a turn at the top. The idea found favor with Odor, who went 1-for-4 with a single, walk and RBI. That wasn’t the case for the rarely used DeShields, who went 0-for-5 with two Ks atop the order. In the meantime, our two dropped hitters, Martin and Andrus had good enough at-bats to warrant a move back to their usual spots after the off day. Andrus went 2-for-4 on Tuesday with an RBI and two runs from the six spot in the lineup, while Martin went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Wednesday didn’t prove as fruitful as both went hitless, but the Texas offense wasn’t doing much that day either. They returned to their 1- and 2-spots in the lineup on Friday in Seattle, both getting a hit, with Martin drawing a walk. Martin had a successful time on Saturday against King Felix Hernandez, being the only Ranger not to strikeout against Hernandez, but Andrus continued to struggle, and his frustrations with himself seemed to reach a head as he struck-out against Danny Farquhar and proceeded to yell at himself.

We’re still waiting for Prince Fielder to smash his first homer of the year, and while he’s still producing at a greater-than-.400 average pace, this week belonged to Robinson Chirinos, who showed power, discipline and clutch hitting skills this week. He’s proving that he can be more than just a stop-gap backstop, and if highly-anticipated prospect Jorge Alfaro isn’t ready next year, another year with Chirinos as the primary catcher isn’t going to be that bad. Chirinos is the first Ranger to two homers this year – just like he was last year.

In the Field

The Ranger defense continues to show complete mental absences, and no game was more evident of that than in Anthony Ranaudo‘s debut against the Angels on Wednesday. The player who continues to be infuriating with his glove is Elvis Andrus. Twice, Elvis had defensive miscues that did not officially go down as errors. On one play, he whiffed on a ground ball he usually handles with ease. Even Banister, who at the beginning of the year, said that Elvis could earn a Gold Glove, said that Elvis should have made the play. On the other play, Elvis slipped as he tried to throw out a runner who was caught stealing and dead to rights, and as a result, Collin Cowgill made it safely.

Leonys Martin had another defensive lapse on Wednesday, as well, attempting an ill-advised and not-very-well executed dive on a bases loaded fly to left-center. The resulting runs led to a six-run inning, as Ranaudo could not recover from that and the other two Elvis plays.

Is it really just a matter of focus? That, to me, seems like a problem that should fix itself after two or three games. Elvis seems to have been lacking focus for the whole season. Despite coming into Spring Training and the season in the best shape of his life, his struggles on the field and at the plate are playing off of each other. He hasn’t developed a rhythm on either side of the ball, and while there are still just under 150 games left to play, it’s clear that Andrus needs either an off-day or some extra time outside of game time to get back on track at shortstop.

The brightest spot on defense has been Rougned Odor, who has made several picks, stops, and throws at second base. Odor has shown a propensity to pick up things quickly and learn from them. There was an obvious shift in his thinking at the plate, as Odor is beginning to see more and more pitches with each plate appearance and that has also highlighted his defensive work. One can only hope for that to be true for Elvis.

The interesting take-away from this week? This little quote from first baseman Prince Fielder in an Evan Grant piece in the Dallas Morning News:

“I work hard at first,” Fielder said. “But if we’re better with [Moreland] out there, I’m not too proud to say that. It helps him stay in the game and it helps us win. I just want us to win. We’re a better team with him out there. He plays great defense.

“I don’t care what anybody sees me as,” he added. “I’m at a point in my career where I want to be a good team player and be real with myself. Mitch is a lot better at [defense]. I’ve told him that and I’ve told Banny [manager Jeff Banister]. It’s not that I don’t want to play the position; I do. I just want to win. I think that’s part of maturity and growing up.”

Fielder just missed three balls scorched by him on Saturday, prompting Eric Nadel to ask whether Mitch Moreland, sitting out with loose bodies in his elbow, could have made any of those plays.

On the Mound

It was the Rangers’ back-end starters that struggled mightily this week. Ross Detwiler and Anthony Ranaudo both suffered meltdowns in their starts this week, and it’s hard to say who had it worse. Detwiler, at least, had two scoreless innings under his belt and held a lead for one of those before crashing and burning against the Angels. Ranaudo, as mentioned above, was not helped by his defense, but giving up six runs can’t be solely attributed to the plays behind you in the field. With all of that in mind, however, I have to say that Detwiler had the worse outing, as he was given a lead to hold onto and just seemed to run out of gas in the fifth inning. For a guy who was a long reliever all last year, going four innings seems about on par. Will Detwiler get back on track? That’s difficult to say. Nothing he’s shown so far has given reason to believe he could be good enough to give a quality start. As for Ranaudo, he was sent down immediately following the game he floundered in. There’s still time, but the obvious immediate reaction from Rangers fans is a bit of resentment that fan-favorite Robbie Ross turned into that.

As for the rest of the pitching staff, Yovani Gallardo had another quality outing on Friday, showing his more recent trend to pitch to contact. Colby Lewis had two outings this week, both requiring him to battle, although he pitched into the 8th inning on Sunday in the extra inning marathon. In that start, Colby had a ridiculously bad 2nd inning, but then chewed through the Astros for the rest of his outing. His outing against Seattle on Saturday was a true battle, as he surrendered 10 hits over 5.2 IP and allowed three earned runs. As Colby would say, he did keep his team in the game, a game they would go on to lose against the “good” King Felix.

The star of the staff through the first two weeks has been Nick Martinez, who turned in another outstanding outing against the Angels, going seven innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits. Nick said he figured out a mechanical flaw from last year and that has made him far more comfortable in throwing his fastball where he wants and inducing contact.

On the bullpen side, Sunday definitely did its job to tax the relief corps, as the game went 14 innings, with Logan Verrett giving up the unfortunate homer to Hank Conger. Neftali Feliz turned in a shaky save, the kind of outing where Rangers fans swear up and down that Feliz won’t be here by the end of the year. Keone Kela pitched four times over the week, surrendering just three hits and giving up no runs as he finished the week by pitching in Seattle, where he went to school. Roman Mendez‘ had a freakish outing on Saturday in Seattle, coming in the middle of the sixth inning and being completely wild with his command, hitting and walking a batter before settling down to retire the Mariners in the seventh. Also noteworthy was the return of Tanner Scheppers, who returned in Friday’s game, giving up a hit and Seattle’s only run in his 2015 debut. Shawn Tolleson continues to be a clutch reliever, giving up just one hit and striking out three in three games.

Awards

    • Home Run of the Week – I would have loved to give this to Leonys Martin for a game-winning Grand Slam, but George Springer had to ruin that. Instead, I’m giving this award to catcher Robinson Chirinos, who hit his second one on Friday in Seattle. The dead-center blast was a much needed insurance run, but the fact that it was to dead-center in Safeco was impressive, in and of itself.

  • Defensive Play of the Week – My only struggle here was which Rougned Odor play to give this to. At first, I thought it was going to be the odd double play, where Roogie originally booted the ball, but Elvis picked it up on the bag and turned the play. Then I thought I could give it to the sharp pick in Ross Detwiler’s start, but since the double play wasn’t turned, I had to give the edge to this week’s winner, from Saturday’s Mariners game – the perfect relay to the plate from Carlos Peguero in right field, who seemed like he was itching to show off his arm, and Rougned Odor.
  • Pitching Performance of the Week – This one was easy. Nick Martinez, who went seven strong against the Angels. Giving up three walks looks scary in the line score, but Nick was featuring some sharp moving breaking pitches that induced the contact necessary to get himself out of trouble.
  • Overall MVP of the Week – With a great all-around game each time he took the field, this week’s MVP is Robinson Chirinos. Not only did he have a career day on Tuesday, crushing his first homer of the year on the way to driving in five runs, he also was a key force in Friday’s win against the Mariners, hitting his second long ball. His work behind the plate is not to be overlooked either, as he cut down runners and called some decent games for his pitchers. Chirinos is proving to be a key cog in the Rangers’ machine, both defensively and offensively.

The Injury Report

  • Yu Darvish (elbow) – Out for season with Tommy John
  • Matt Harrison (back) – Continuing rehab, hopeful for a second half return
  • Martin Perez (elbow) – Continuing Tommy John rehab, hopeful for a second half return
  • Lisalverto Bonilla (elbow) – Out for season with Tommy John
  • Kyuji Fujikawa (groin) – Had a rehab appearance for Frisco, allowed three runs on three hits in 21 pitches
  • Ross Ohlendorf (groin) – expected to pitch in Triple-A until healthy enough to join Major League roster
  • Derek Holland (shoulder) – Will not pick up a baseball for four weeks, then will begin throwing program; expected to be out at least two months
  • Ryan Rua (ankle) – Walking in a boot; expected to land on 15-day DL

Mitch Moreland is considered day-to-day after tests revealed loose bodies, likely a bone chip, in his elbow. If the chip doesn’t settle in a bad place, Moreland could play through the soreness he’s experiencing.

How do you feel after a 4-2 record this week? Where should Elvis hit? Is this team going to average around 3 runs a game the rest of the year, or do you expect a breakout soon? Talk about it below and we’ll see you next week for…THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL!

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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