How weird for the Rangers to lose in a fashion that doesn’t reach into your heart and feel around for a soul before rolling its eyes and just ripping the whole thing out of your chest in a fit of exasperation with your continued insistence on believing in your team.
I mean, yeah, a loss is a loss, and if the Rangers had won, they would have slid past Oakland for third place in the division. But it’s mid-April still, and hey: Felix Hernandez was Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz was Nelson Cruz. You budget for the bills you know are coming. So long as the bullpen doesn’t “your carburetor unexpectedly turned into a raven of death” away any more 3-run leads in the 9th, you can live with a 2-1 loss to a Cy Young award winner once in awhile.
Let’s look at the things that will matter beyond tomorrow:
First: Martin Perez, who used to have one bad inning per game to the tune of 3-5 runs contained his meltdown to, uh, zero additional runs tonight. That’s not to say it didn’t exist: after Nelson Cruz’ solo home run with two outs in the 4th inning, Perez allowed an infield single to Kyle Seager, a single up the middle to Tyler Motter, and a walk to Danny Valencia. The bases were loaded and the candle was lit. But Perez blew it out by striking out Mike Zunino, and the Venezuelan southpaw had averted disaster.
In the top of the 6th inning, Jurickson Profar led off with a single, which was, at the time, only the second Rangers’ hit of the game. He moved to second on a Gomez bunt single that spun around Zunino for just long enough to put runners on first and second. A Shin-Soo Choo double play poured a bit of cold water on the rally, but Nomar Mazara (let’s all take a moment to appreciate his start to the season… ahhhh…..) singled home Profar, and the game was tied.
Let’s talk about Jose Leclerc, who we should remember is just 22 years old. After Perez came out and allowed a walk and a single to begin the 6th inning, Leclerc came into the game and proceeded to just strike out everyone he looked at. Motter? Strike out swinging on a cutter at 88. Valencia? Swinging. 83 Curveball. Zunino? Swinging at a slider at 89. You, reading this? I’m sorry, you’ve been struck out.
Unfortunately, the whiff party didn’t last for the entire 7th inning. Jarrod Dyson reached base by out-hustling a ball that Odor tried to field-and-flip with his glove. Then Guillermo Heredia bunted a ball towards third that Leclerc half-dived, half-just-fell-over at, but couldn’t make a play on. With two on and no out, Mitch Haniger hit a three-run homer.
At least that’s how it was initially called. After review, the league decided that C.B. Bucknor was wrong yet again, and reversed the call. Where do you think the runners ended up? Wrong: Haniger was put at first and Heredia was put at second. Had the Rangers come back to win, this would have been an extremely sore spot with the entire Pacific Northwest.
As it stood, even in the face of Jeremy Jeffress coming on and relieving Leclerc like some kind of fireperson, the Mariners bullpen also did their job, and that was the end of that. Edwin Diaz came on in the ninth to strike out the first two batters he faced, endure a single by a red-hot Elvis Andrus, and induce a 5-3 groundout to Jonathan Lucroy.
The Rangers are 4-6, and they send Andrew Cashner to the mound for the first time this season in tomorrow evening’s game.