Blitz Weekly

Rangers Continue to Struggle as Season Reaches Halfway Point

Elvis Andrus is having an excellent season but will be out on paternity leave. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

Elvis Andrus is having an excellent season mashing homers and driving in runs but will be out on paternity leave. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

Watch YOUR Texas Rangers at Big Shucks!

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By Wiley Singleton

The Rangers played two games on the road against AL Central opponents to reach the halfway point of the season. The Rangers began their week as they did their season, losing to Cleveland.

Game 1 in Cleveland – The defending AL Champs decimated the Rangers on Monday. Texas jumped out to a massive 9-2 lead. Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo all smashed homers early to make it 9-2. Cole Hamels got roughed up in his return. He walked four batters, and only struck out one. The Indians had an absurdly low swing and miss rate this game. Hamels was shelled for seven runs and lasted 4.1 innings. The Rangers still led, despite the poor return from Hamels. The bullpen was even worse than Hamels. Dario Alvarez, Tanner Scheppers, and Alex Claudio each walked a batter and failed to record a strikeout. After Alvarez pitched the rest of Hamels’ inning Tanner Scheppers came on. Scheppers was regarded by many as a top prospect in 2010, but has had injury and consistency problems throughout his big league career. Scheppers failed to record an out and gave up three runs. Alex Claudio has been the Rangers most consistent reliever and is often used in messy situations. Tony Barnette is the other Rangers reliever known for being used to strand inherited runners. Barnette was hurt at the time and has been significantly worse this year. Not even Alex Claudio could clean up the mess Scheppers made. The Indians got a couple close ground ball RBIs to take the lead. After that nightmare 6th inning the Indians scored three more in the 7th to make it 13 unanswered runs. Alex Claudio is charged with the first of the week’s four blown saves.  The Rangers blow a 9-2 lead and lose 15-9.

Game 2 in Cleveland – The second game of the series was the only positive one for the Rangers. Robinson Chirinos continues to flash his power, hitting his 11th homer of the year despite not starting many games. The Rangers could potentially look to deal Lucroy. He is in a contract year, and is highly sought after. Lucroy one of the few catchers who can play excellent defense and hit well. Chirinos has improved so much at the plate the Rangers could look to start Chirinos and deal Lucroy for pitching. This would also alleviate the problem of having to bench a powerful outfield or corner infield bat. Lucroy is hitting for solid average, and has been DHing a bit so Chirinos can play.

Adrian Beltre launched his 450th career homer in the 9th inning off of Cody Allen. Allen has been sharp this year, he has 16 saves and a 2.78 ERA. The starting pitchers were both solid in this game, turning in very similar score lines. Tyson Ross and Mike Clevinger both pitched six innings of two hit ball. They both gave up one run. The Rangers bullpen was razor sharp in this game. Jose Leclerc, Keone Kela, and Matt Bush all turned in scoreless performances. Matt Bush did have some command issues, including hanging a breaking ball after Jonathan Lucroy empathically gestured to bounce it in the dirt. Bush was not punished for his sloppiness this time, and the Rangers completed a close 2-1 win.

Game 3 in Cleveland – Yu Darvish pitched the 3rd game of the series. He turned in a quality start, lasting 6.0 innings and giving up three runs. He was relieved by Ernesto Frieri, who walked three people, struck out none, and recorded one out before being yanked. Dario Alvarez came in and immediately surrendered two runs. That meant the Rangers were down 5-1 going into the 9th instead of 3-1. This made Indian-killer Elvis Andrus’ two-run homer off of Cody Allen in the 9th all but irrelevant. Adrian Beltre and Nomar Mazara both failed to reach base.  Trevor Bauer was excellent for the Indians, giving up only one run, a homer from Robinson Chirinos. The Rangers lose 5-3.

Game 4 in Cleveland – The final game of the series pitted Andrew Cashner against Indians ace Corey Kluber. Kluber is an excellent strikeout pitcher. The Rangers have struck out the fifth most in the league this year, and Kluber fanned 12 in this 8.0 inning masterpiece. Rangers hitters strikeout frequently. With players like Mike Napoli, Joey Gallo, Rougie Odor, and Carlos Gomez in your daily lineup this is expected. Kluber made the Rangers offense look bad on Thursday. He worked both sides of the plate very well. Andrus, Gallo, Chirinos, and Gomez all struck out multiple times. Nomar Mazara smacked a solo shot off of Kluber in the 1st, but the Indians ace showed he is top tier and sealed the series win for the Tribe. Cashner labored heavily and had some long innings. Cashner also was hit by a bat near the end of his start. Nick Martinez came in for relief and allowed the inherited runners to score. Indians 5-1.

Game 1 in Chicago – The Rangers bats were bad with RISP in the series against the White Sox, going 7-33. Austin Bibens-Dirkx, AKA ABD, gave up three homers in 5.2 innings. The Rangers carried a 7-3 lead going into the bottom of the 6th. Throughout the game there were a plethora of opportunities for the Rangers to add to their lead. The Rangers left runners on base in these situations. Matt Bush came into the game in the ninth inning and had control issues. He was not completely erratic, but many of his pitches were catching huge portions of the plate. Bush gave up four hits, three runs, and blew the save. This game cost Matt Bush the closing job. Joey Gallo had a homer in the loss, 8-7.

Game 2 in Chicago – The Rangers faced off against Derek Holland in the 2nd game of the series. Holland is top 10 all time in Texas Rangers innings pitched. Holland was released this past offseason after the team declined his option. Holland has been average for the White Sox. Holland is still beloved by many Rangers fans, largely due to his lighthearted personality and legendary start in Game Four of the 2011 World Series. Holland pitched 8.1 innings of brilliance in that game to lead the Rangers to victory and a tied 2-2 series.

Holland was opposed by Cole Hamels, who looked like Philadelphia Phillies Era Cole Hamels. After giving up two runs in the first, Hamels posted multiple hitless innings. After Hamels poor performance in his return and ALDS, him proving he can return to his old form was a season-defining moment for the Rangers. Hamels was top 10 in the league in walks allowed last year. Hamels walkess outing against the White Sox was the first step in returning to legitimate ace form. Last years ALDS was defined by the Rangers awful starting pitching. The Rangers aces, Darvish and Hamels, both got trashed by Toronto. The idea of starting Martin Perez on the road at night prompted Bannister to skip his start entirely in favor of an injured Colby Lewis. If the Rangers want to be a legitimate playoff threat, their aces need to put up ace performances. This is especially true when considering their number three pitcher. AJ Griffin is home run prone and matches up poorly against many of the power lineups of the AL. Tyson Ross has been inconsistent, alternating good start with bad start. Andrew Cashner has looked solid at times, but good enough to start against a top offense in a playoff game? Martin Perez pitches significantly worse on the road, and at night. This trend can not be ignored, because it was significant enough for Perez to be benched last year when the season was on the line. All of these pitchers have spent significant time on the DL this year.

Holland was not very good. He got into a plethora of trouble in the early innings but actually lasted 5.1 innings. The Ranger squandered many opportunities, similar to the first game of the series.  They carried a 6-4 lead into the 8th inning, when the bullpen question was avoided with a four run outburst. This made the game 10-4 with only six outs left to get, and Alex Claudio finished Hamels’ start. The Rangers won 10-4, and avoided a save opportunity. Adrus, Napoli, and Odor all had homers. Rangers hold their six run lead, with 10-4.

Game 3 in Chicago – The final game of the series featured Tyson Ross against Jose Quintana. Ross lasted 5.0 innings, gave up four runs, and five walks. The Rangers took the lead in the 5th, behind sloppy defense from Chicago. The score was 5-4 Rangers going into the sixth inning. Frieri turned in scoreless inning, as did Matt Bush in the 7th. Jose Leclerc came on pitch the 8th and gave up a two-run shot to change the game. Carlos Gomez swung erratically at a pitch in the dirt to end the game and complete a day of nine runners left of base for Gomez alone. The Ranger lost 6-5.

To help with the bullpen issues, the Rangers traded Eduard Pinto to the Blue Jays for Jason Grilli. The Rangers begin their next series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
7/7   vs Angels    7:05 p.m.
7/8   vs Angels    8:05 p.m.
7/9   vs Angels    2:05 p.m.

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