DISAPPOINTING HOME STAND

LOSSES AND INJURIES MOUNT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

UPDATE – 8:30 PM (Central) – The Rangers announced this afternoon that Elvis Andrus will not need surgery for his right elbow injured Wednesday night. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Rangers also announced that Ronald Guzman will be called up to take Andrus’s place on the active roster. Guzman is a left-handed hitting first baseman. When he plays, Joey Gallo will shift to left field. Ryan Rua will then likely move to center field with Drew Robinson moving to second base. Rua may also see playing time at second base, and Carlos Tocci can play center field to give the Rangers further lineup options.

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers got their first off day of the season Thursday, and they look like a team that desperately needs a day off. They closed out their second home stand Wednesday night with a loss to the Los Angeles Angels to go 1-5 on the home stand and 4-10 for the season.

The bigger story of the home stand though was injuries. They had already lost center fielder Delino DeShields when the home stand began. By the time it was over, they had also shelved starting pitcher Doug Fister, second baseman Rougned Odor and worst of all, shortstop Elvis Andrus.

The old adage in baseball is for a team to be good, they need to be strong up the middle – catcher, pitcher, shortstop, second base and center field. Injuries have hit four of the five positions, with Fister being one of their top three starters, if not the best.

The home stand began with three games against Toronto. Texas lost the rubber game of that series last Sunday afternoon. The first two games of the series were split behind strong and almost identical starting pitching performances – one run allowed on a home run over six innings.

On Friday, it was Toronto’s Marco Estrada with the strong start. He was supported by two early three run innings, and back-to-back Toronto home runs in the sixth inning that ran the lead to 8-0 and virtually sealed the win. Texas did rally for four runs off the Jays’ bullpen in the seventh to get within striking distance. However, double plays in the eighth and ninth innings snuffed out any further Ranger scoring opportunity.

On Saturday, it was the Rangers’ Mike Minor with the strong start. He allowed just two hits while the Rangers supported him with five runs. Jake Diekman and Keone Kela finished off the final one-third of the game allowing no more hits, much less a run for the 5-1 win.

Sunday’s series finale unraveled quickly for Texas. Steve Pearce homered on the first pitch of the game. Eleven pitches later, Kendrys Morales hit a three run home run to balloon the lead to 4-0 before the Rangers came up to bat. The Rangers answered with one run in the first, but never got closer than three runs. 7-4 was the final score, with Cole Hamels taking the loss.

The injuries began Monday night when the Angels came to town. Odor clutched his hamstring in the first inning as he scrambled back to first base after a flyout. He left the game immediately and was placed on the disabled list a day later. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks with a hamstring strain.

Fister was the Rangers’ starting pitcher. He allowed three earned runs in five innings, departing after throwing 81 pitches. The Rangers trailed 3-1 when he left, but Alex Claudio relieved and immediately surrendered two more. He was unable to finish the sixth inning.

Diekman started the eighth inning and failed to retire a batter, as the Angels added three more runs. 8-3 was the final score. Fister is 1-2 with the loss. However, he was added to the disabled list on Tuesday with a strained muscle in his right hip. He’s expected to miss two weeks at least.

On Tuesday, reliever Tony Barnette was activated from the disabled list and utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa was called up from AAA Round Rock to replace Fister and Odor.

Tuesday’s game deteriorated rapidly. Martin Perez got the first two batters of the game out, and then it turned south. A walk and four singles followed to plate three runs. Mike Trout homered in the second inning, and the Angels added two more runs in the third and three more in the fourth to take a 9-1 lead. They later added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings for the final 11-1 score.

Texas loaded the bases in both the first and second innings, but managed to score just one run. Perez is 1-1 with the loss, while the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs is 2-0 with the win.

In the series finale, the Angels’ Jaime Barria made his Major League debut, and threw five strong innings to earn the win. The Angels scored two runs in the second to take the lead, which they never surrendered. The Rangers managed just one hit off Barria – Ryan Rua’s first home run of the year – and just five hits total in the game.

Matt Moore started for Texas and went to 0-3 with the loss. 7-2 was the final score, as the Rangers really weren’t in this game after six innings.

The injury to Andrus came with two outs in the ninth inning. He got plunked on the elbow with a 97 MPH fastball. He was scheduled for an MRI on Thursday to fully assess the damage, but with broken bones, he’ll miss a minimum of six to eight weeks. This will be the first time in his career that he’s been placed on the disabled list.

There is no love lost between these two teams. Andrus was the fourth hit batsman of the game. The first two were the catchers for each team, so that looked like a tit for a tat. The third one was Mike Trout, the best player on the Angels. There are good arguments that the pitch that hit Andrus was a mistake, but Andrus is the Rangers’ best player, so it could well be retaliation.

Bartolo Colon made two relief appearances in the home stand allowing a run in five innings. His ERA is down to 1.64. He’ll get the starting assignment Sunday in what would have been Fister’s start.

Jurickson Profar took over at second base for the rest of the series after Odor left Monday’s game. He now moves to shortstop. The Rangers will likely make a roster move to add a second baseman. Hanser Alberto at AAA Round Rock is the most experienced internal option, though adding Alberto would involve making room for him on the 40-man roster as well as the active roster. Another option is to call up an outfielder and move either Rua or Drew Robinson to second base. The Rangers undoubtedly will be scrutinizing the waiver wire and exploring trades.

Unfortunately, the team looks pretty much like the one Ranger fans saw over the first week. The defense is not good. The offense is inconsistent. They are very poor at situational hitting. On the home stand they went 11-49 with runners in scoring position. The starting pitching after Minor’s Saturday night gem was not good. It’s simply difficult to win games when a team is so often behind early in the game and playing “catch-up”. The bullpen has been inconsistent.

The Rangers now go on the road for six games starting with three in Houston this weekend. That’s followed by three more against the Rays in St. Petersburg next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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