BACK TO THE BASEMENT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers are back in last place after dropping two of three to Seattle this weekend, and finishing the week with two wins and five losses. They are a season high six games under .500 at 13-19 and trail the first place Houston Astros by eight games. Texas is two games behind in the loss column to third place Seattle and fourth place Oakland. The Rangers are now 3-6-0 in series and have had losing weeks in four of the first five weeks of the season.

Texas arrived in Seattle with a short bullpen after last Tueday’s game in Houston turned into a bullpen game when Cole Hamels was injured warming up for the start. The problem only got worse Friday. Yu Darvish was very good giving the Rangers seven strong innings. However, the offense didn’t provide much support. A dropped fly ball in the first inning allowed a run to score, and that was all the Rangers could muster through nine innings. Darvish gave up a home run to Robinson Cano, and that run was all the scoring the Mariners could muster through nine innings.

The game ended up lasting 13 innings. The damage to the Rangers’ beleaguered bullpen could have been worse, but Tony Barnette amazingly threw three shutout relief innings. It was surprising in that he had not pitched well this season. His ERA was still an ugly 5.56 after the three shutout innings were included.

Matt Bush followed Barnette in the 12th. Manager Jeff Banister was undoubtedly hoping to get two innings out of Bush, but he threw 25 pitches in the 12th inning, and wasn’t available for the 13th. Rougned Odor finally broke the tie with a two run home run in the 13th inning. Alex Claudio, who had started Tuesday’s game in Hamels’ stead and thrown four innings, was summoned for the save. He gave up a hit, but the runner was erased on a double play as he earned his first Major League save.

On Saturday, Martin Perez made his best start of the season. He pitched six innings of one run ball on 94 pitches. With the short bullpen, Banister decided to send Perez back out for the seventh inning. The strategy failed. Perez pitched to two batters, and both reached base (a single and a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt). That ended Perez’s night. Keone Kela replaced Perez, but was unable to record an out. When the smoke cleared in the seventh inning, the Mariners had exploded for seven runs and an 8-1 lead.

The Ranger run had scored on Joey Gallo’s 10th home run. Mike Napoli later added his fifth home run to make the final score 8-2.

On Sunday, the Rangers took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning behind Andrew Cashner’s strong performance, but the seventh inning was a problem once again. Three pitchers saw action, and the Mariners cashed in three walks and a single for three runs to tie the game.

An eighth inning run gave Seattle the lead. It came on a home run with none other than Sam Dyson pitching. He has now given up four home runs and allowed 15 earned runs for an ERA of 12.66.

Edwin Diaz made quick work of the Rangers in the ninth inning to save the game for Seattle.

With about 20% of the season in the books, it’s beginning to look like the Rangers aren’t going to contend for a playoff spot. It’s still early, but this team obviously has holes in lots of areas. The batters strike out too much, and the pitchers walk too many for starters. The bullpen is a disaster.

The question has already been raised as to whether the Rangers should take the opportunity in July to trade veterans in the final year of their contracts to contenders for prospects. Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy head the list. You can bet the Ranger front office will put this off to the last minute. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

This week opens with four games against the Padres. The first two on Monday and Tuesday are in San Diego, while the Wednesday and Thursday tilts are in Arlington.

NOTABLE:

* 10 Ranger batters struck out in Saturday’s game, the seventh consecutive game in which at least 10 Rangers struck out. That’s an American League record. The Rangers finally ended the streak on Sunday, when only nine batters struck out.

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