When you get on base, good things happen
“When you get on base, holes open up and things happen, and you’re able to find a way to score runs.”
One of the Rangers biggest struggles this year has been the ability to score runs in ways that don’t include a slow trot around the bases.
The biggest reason they have struggled in this area is because they haven’t had enough guys on base for good things to happen. When you are striking out between 10 and 15 times a night, you aren’t going to put much pressure on the opposing defense; you’re stuck with scoring runs via the “big hit” rather than manufacturing runs in different ways.
On Wednesday evening, the Rangers didn’t get the “big hit” and they also struck out 10 times… again.
Despite that, they were able to get men on base with 8 hits and 6 walks—and that made all the difference.
When you look at the box score and see 1-13 with RISP you think, holy cow the Rangers really missed some opportunities. Yes they did, they missed multiple opportunities, yet they were still able to push 4 runs across the plate in the unlikeliest of ways:
- The Rangers first run came in the bottom of the first inning after Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus led off the game with base hits. Both of the singles were “cheap” hits but it didn’t matter, they were hits and they put the Rangers in scoring position with no outs in the inning. So how did the Rangers score their run? A wild pitch of course…Luis Perdomo launched one that went back to the backstop and actually bounced in favor of the Padres who almost got Choo out at the plate. In fact, if Perdomo was a little better in the tagging-the-runner-out department, they probably would have. Nevertheless, it was a manufactured run and the Rangers tied the game early. The next two batters did strike out and that was a bummer, but one run scored, so it’s all good.
- The Rangers second run came in the bottom of the 5th inning and was their only normal run scored of the night. Well, walks by both Mike Napoli and Joey Gallo set it up, so not sure how normal that is. Anyways, 2 walks and a ground out led to Shin Soo Choo (who got on base 4 times) singling in Mike Napoli, and the Rangers were one run closer. It was their only hit with RISP all night long.
- The third Rangers run was of the unusual variety once again. After a strikeout, a steal, and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Delino Deshields trotted home on a game-tying balk; that’s right—we tied the game on a balk. Once again, anything can happen when you put men on base, and it did right there. Carlos Gomez proceeded to strike out to end the threat, but the damage had already been done.
- The game-winning run came, yet again, after men found a way on base. Joey Gallo led off the bottom of the 7th with a strikeout, but Deshields and Choo followed with walks. After a lengthy at-bat, Elvis Andrus hit what looked like a tailor-made double play—except it wasn’t. Yangervis Solarte threw wide of first base, and the ball went out of play. Elvis Andrus was awarded second base and Delino Deshields trotted home to score the winning run.
So let’s recap: The Rangers were 1-13 with RISP. They struck out ten times but got 8 hits and 6 walks. They scored runs on a wild pitch, and single, a balk and an error. When you get men on base, good things will happen—and that was front and center Wednesday night.
So what else happened in the game?
Pitching: Yu Darvish rebounds, and the bullpen shuts the door
Yu Darvish was not his usual self on Wednesday, but he was still able to get the job done.
After recording two quick outs in the first inning, Darvish had a lengthy battle with Wil Myers that twice looked like it would end on a called third strike. Both times, the pitches were called balls which set up Myers for a fastball that he did not miss and sent deep to left center field, over the visitor’s bullpen. In the second inning, Darvish gave up another bomb to Erick Aybar that found its way to the home run porch, and later in the inning gave up a run scoring double to Matt Szczur.
From that point on, though, Darvish was able to bear down and keep the Padres right where they were. He gave up just three hits the rest of the way and turned in a quality start with six innings pitched, three runs allowed, six strikeouts, and, most importantly, zero walks. This was the first start by Darvish this year where he did not allow a walk; it was especially important, on a night where he battled early, that he didn’t beat himself with walks.
Darvish gave way to Jeremy Jeffress in the 7th inning—who immediately gave up back to back singles. Of course, the bullpen was going to blow the one-run lead, right? The key point to this inning was the next hitter, who laid down a sacrifice bunt that Jeffress fielded. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy screamed so loudly to go to third that you could hear it on the broadcast; Jeffress followed his instructions, barely getting the runner at third.
It was a huge play in the inning, and Jeffress was able to record a ground out and a line out to escape the jam.
Alex Claudio, proven set-up man, came out for the 8th inning and quickly recorded two outs before allowing the only walk the Rangers gave up on the night. Banister went to Keone Kela with one man on, and Keone forced a pop-up to end the threat and set up Matt Bush for the save.
Bush looked very much like a closer on Wednesday night. He quickly retired the first two batters on a line out and strike out before giving up a two-out double to Manuel Margot. This was just a fine piece of hitting by Margot who took a low and outside 99-mph fastball the other way for the double. Bush was not fazed, though, and proceeded to strike out Cory Spangenberg to end the threat.
Bush had incredible stuff on Wednesday. He was throwing his fastball with ease between 98 and 100 mph while featuring a slider that, at one point, came in at 94 mph. It was great to see the Rangers bullpen function like a normal bullpen Wednesday night, and great to see Bush close the door in a commanding fashion.
Offense: Choo’s got it
There wasn’t much offense to go around on Wednesday night as the weird ways in which the Rangers scored runs has already been discussed. It does seem, though, that the Rangers have found themselves a new lead-off hitter.
Leading off for the second straight game, Choo reached base 4 times again. To put that in perspective, the Rangers haven’t had someone reach base 4 times twice in a row since 2012 when Adrian Beltre did the honors.
When the Rangers acquired Choo, they envisioned him as their leadoff hitter. Choo has always had a high on-base percentage; his only real limitation with the Rangers has been the injuries that have piled on the past few seasons. Choo has stayed healthy so far in 2017, and it appears that he is figuring it out at the plate.
After Wednesdays game, Choo has a batting average of .269; more importantly, he now has an OBP of .383. This is great news for the Rangers, and if Choo can continue to excel in this role, it changes their entire offensive approach.
Defense: Rougie, go high
The defense was fine on Wednesday evening and there was nothing exceptional about their performance until Rougned Odor made a ridiculous grab in the top of the 8th inning. With one out and no one on, proven slugger Ryan Schimpf hit a line drive over second that Odor snared out of midair. Rougie only had time to take a few steps before jumping as high as he possibly could to snag it. It was a perfectly timed jump, and Rougie made sure after the play to let everyone know just how high he had jumped to make the play.
It’s one more against the Padres Thursday night, with Martin Perez on the mound. This is a big start for Perez, who needs to go deep in the game and prove that he can pitch a consistent game without breaking at some point during his start.