Deja Vu all over again
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Rangers lost a game last night due to their lineup misfiring on all cylinders and their bullpen being unable to contain the opposing offense.
This seems to be a recurring theme with the Rangers this year, and, as Yogi Berra used to say, last night was “Deja Vu all over again”.
We have seen this happen far too often this season. The Rangers entered the game tied with Seattle for last in the AL West; with a win they would have actually leapfrogged Oakland, too, who lost again to reach the bottom.
Having won on Friday night in a 13-inning affair, the Rangers came into last night’s game with a depleted bullpen and desperately needed two things to happen: Martin Perez to be on point and go deep into the game, and the offense to produce some runs against the walking triage unit that is the Seattle pitching staff.
Perez did his part (more on this later). But, outside of solo shots from Joey Gallo and Mike Napoli, the Rangers offense struggled against a rookie pitcher who came into the game with an 0-2 record and an ERA over 11, and who got shelled by the Indians in his previous start.
The Mariners got a run in the first on a couple of singles and an RBI groundout from Nelson Cruz; Gallo launched his bomb in the next half inning to tie the game at one apiece. The next few innings moved along glacially, and it seemed to be another game like Friday—one where neither offense could score, and the fans may have to start reaching for the Jolt Cola to stay awake to see who wins.
That held until the 7th inning, when the wheels didn’t just fall off—they practically exploded.
The inning started with a single by Ben Gamel, compounded by Perez’s throwing error on a sacrifice bunt. Jeff Banister then went to the ‘pen and brought in the stone-cold Keone Kela to try and get out of the inning—after which the only thing that got shut down is the Rangers hope of winning this game. The next Mariner hit an infield single, to load the bases, and Kela proceeded to hit the next in the elbow to bring in the go-ahead run.
The Rangers manager then brought in Dario Alvarez to try to stop the bleeding. Alvarez got Cruz to hit a sacrifice fly and perennial Ranger killer Kyle Seager to foul out to third, leaving runners on first and second with two outs and only two runs surrendered.
But just as I thought the Rangers had a good chance of escaping the inning with minimal damage—as Seattle was 0 for its last 18 with runners in scoring position entering the game—the aforementioned wheels, well…BOOM!
Three straight hits and a ground out later, the damage was done.
Seattle batted around in the inning; having posted 7 runs in the frame, they handed the Rangers the biggest scoring inning off them all season—which is surprising only because of how poorly the bullpen performed early this year.
The Rangers would only muster one more run—a solo shot by Napoli in the ninth—and fell, 8-2.
Perez does his part
With the Rangers bullpen depleted—having thrown 194 pitches in 10 innings of work over the past two games—the Rangers desperately needed Perez to go deep into the ball game. He started the game by going 3-0 to the leadoff hitter, then he seemed to find his control, and settled in.
Martin cruised through the first 6 innings, allowing only the single run in the first, finishing with 5 Ks and no walks. This was his first start of two or more strikeouts and no walks since his near no-no against the Giants in August 2015.
Perez’s Achilles’ Heel has been his lack of an out pitch and inability to put batters away—even with the third-highest average fastball velocity among qualifying left-handed starters this season (his 93.9 mph sit behind only Boston’s Chris Sale at 94.6 mph and Seattle’s James Paxton at 95.8). Perez seemingly mixed his pitches well, didn’t go too deep into counts that often, and had a good handle on his curve. Of note, too: in his best starts and stretches, he’s used the changeup particularly effectively.
Tonight’s outing was a good sign from Perez, showing he may be turning things around. Still, given the offense and their latest record-breaking effort, who knows what the future holds.
Records were made to be broken
US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps once said, “Records are always made to be broken, no matter what they are. Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to”.
But unless the Rangers have set their minds to creating a nice breeze by a seemingly long list of swings and misses, I’m pretty sure they weren’t set on breaking the record they broke last night: The Rangers now hold the dubious distinction of being the first A.L. team to ever strikeout 10+ times in seven straight games, and, somehow, I don’t see them holding a ceremony or unveiling a plaque for this one.
Sadly, given the makeup of this year’s team, this record may continue to grow. Nomar Mazara, Gallo and Rougned Odor have always been free-swingers; throw in Napoli, who whiffed 194 times last year and is on pace to out-whiff his body weight this year, and the outlook isn’t good for an offense that ranks as the fifth-worst in the majors for strikeouts.
Various news and notes
- Elvis Andrus kept his grip on the cleanup spot in last night’s game. The exception became the rule Saturday, as he actually struggled to produce—with 3 strikeouts, something he did only once all of last year.
- Carlos Gomez continues to be a bright spot in the tepid lineup; he finished with one hit against two strikeouts—but averaged around 6 pitches per at bat, making him one of the only guys in the lineup to show some patience at the plate.
- Odor struggled mightily, finishing 0 for 5 with a grounder, a whiff, and 3 “Kinsler specials™”, (infield pop ups).
- Gallo hit is 10th bomb of the season, tying him with Rangers nemesis Khris Davis for second in the A.L. and three others for 4th most in all of Major League Baseball.