Texas Rangers: Struggles Continue as Season Fades Into June

The Texas Rangers know they’re in a funk and are having a tough time turning things around.
Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Wiley Singleton

The Texas Rangers continue to play inept and uninspired baseball. The latter half of May was characterized by poor play. The offense that bludgeoned teams to death a year ago has been absent so far this season. The pitching has actually been pretty good, despite the rash of injuries to the starters. The few wins that the Rangers have managed to cobble together during this brutal stretch have been due to great pitching. 

After getting smashed by the Guardians twice, Jon Gray threw 6.1 IP of shutout ball to avoid the sweep. Jose Leclerc, David Robertson, and Kirby Yates preserved that shutout. Those three are the most frequently used high leverage arms. Yates has become the closer, boasting a 0.89 ERA. He has regained his peak 2019 form he had before multiple severe arm injuries threatened to derail his career. 

The next series began with the Rangers getting crushed by the hapless LA Angels. It was Ron Washington’s first game back in Texas as a manager. He was well received in his return. The Angels won that opener 9-3. The next game was one of those stinkers that neither team deserves to win. The Rangers went all the way to the 13th inning before finally walking it off. That is with the Gimmick Runner, against a notoriously bad pitching staff. That same staff held the Rangers down to 1 run the following day to take the series. The offense frequently fails completely and utterly. That happened a bit last year too, but those games were punctuated with absurd offensive explosions. The offensive explosions have been few and far between this season.

After almost getting swept by the hapless Angels, who lacked their two stars, the Rangers went to Philly and got embarrassed. Three games, all Phils. The Rangers have done well against the Phillies prior to that disaster, notably sweeping them on the Opening Series of last season.

The Rangers kept the losing streak going after that by dropping two of three to the pretender Minnesota Twins. The Twins are one of those teams that will always choke in the early rounds of the playoffs because they do not actually deserve to be there. Their playoff appearances are born of divisional ineptitude. They are a pretender team in their current form, but even previous iterations employed a gimmicky style. Despite this flaw, the Rangers managed to lose the series to them too. 

The Rangers then swept a little jokish two game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The small series meant less and little in terms of stopping the skid or rivalry. The D-Backs are struggling like the Rangers and are even less likely to make the playoffs than Texas. There was no bad blood from the World Series. Dane Dunning had a scoreless start in the second game. This is especially significant because he looked shaky in his first start back from shoulder injury. He looked like classic Dunning in this subsequent contest.

The Rangers next series was against the Miami Marlins. They are a joke organization with no direction that just traded their best player. They are essentially tanking and the owner is pouting. Their best pitchers are hurt and they never even had offense. The Rangers got crushed by the Marlins 8-2 in the opening game. Awful.

Michael Lorenzen turned in an exceptional 6.1 IP of scoreless ball in the second game. The Rangers managed to win that one. Andrew Heaney was brilliant in the rubber match. He went 6 scoreless and really had his slider working. The Rangers managed to finally win a series, despite a weak schedule. 

The weak schedule will continue with Detroit, who comes into town wallowing under .500 despite a hot start.

So what has been wrong with the Rangers? It is easy to say injuries. It’s not really injuries, though. Most of the offensive pieces are there, just not performing. Josh Jung is the notable exception. Although Jung’s replacement, Josh Smith, has changed his batting form and redefined his career. Smith has been the best hitter on the team until the last two weeks when Corey Seager finally woke up. Smith is second on the team in OPS+. So it’s not the Jung injury that has deflated the offense, not really. 

Wyatt Langford and Evan Carter are two top end outfield prospects known for their offense. Carter came up for the Rangers last season and was exceptional, adding a much needed spark to a depleted team. Carter was even nicknamed “The Little Savior” by his older teammates. Carter even raked in the playoffs, showing poise beyond his years and earning a ring. Carter was expected to do more of the same after passing that crazy pressure test. He has struggled to live up to those expectations. He started slow and then tweaked his back. A reoccuring back issue that Evan has “had since childhood,” a statement Rangers fans repeat with disbelieving, abhorred contempt. Like in Entourage when Ari Gold brings geriatric producer Bob Ryan into a meeting with a studio and Ryan pulls out a deck of cards to do a trick and Ari disbelievingly says: “he brought cards…” 

Wyatt Langford tore through all levels of the minors and was an insanely hyped hitting prospect fabled to be even more scary than “The Little Savior”. He was largely ineffective until pulling his hamstring weeks ago. Both Langford and Carter were expected to contribute a lot to this team and have done very little before getting hurt. 

Marcus Semien, Adolis Garcia, and Nate Lowe have been average. Last season they were all very good. Lowe also missed about 25 games. Catcher Jonah Heim has hit for virtually no power. His backup, Andrew Knizner, has been atrocious. .130 batting average over 20 games. Brutal. Backup outfielders Travis Jankowski and Robbie Grossman have been ineffective despite the massive uptick in playing time. Both of those players contributed significantly during the early and middle part of last season. They have been given the opportunity to do the same again this year and have failed.

This is the main reason Rangers fans should not put their eggs in the basket of starting pitchers returning, no matter how much of a “name” guy the returning ace is. This team looks significantly different from last year’s squad in terms of offensive force. The 2023 team would brutalize opponents with massive innings. This 2024 offense is mostly tepid. That is why despite the plethora of injuries, the Rangers cannot simply “weather the storm.” Weather the storm until what!? The Astros wake up? The M’s trade for an offensive piece? The offensive weapons the Rangers employ now are the same ones that won the World Series last year. The virus that eats away at this team exists irrespective of the injuries. The Rangers will need to fix their problems on offense if they want to make the playoffs and defend their title.