One play pretty well summed up today’s game. In the top of the sixth inning, with Cesar Puello–a hero as recently as his three-run go-ahead home run on Sunday–on first base. Jose Trevino hit a ball to middle-deep left field that is an out–I haven’t checked the new Statcast on this, but I’m comfortable venturing a guess–99% of the time. But Kristopher Negron lost the ball in the sun, eventually giving up and turning his back to home plate and ducking, just in case baseball had designs on turning him into 2017’s version of that one Jose Canseco highlight.
The ball didn’t hit/immortalize Negron; it bounced harmlessly a few feet away. But Puello, as one does when a ball is hit to the Usually An Out part of the field, had been hanging out partway between first and second. When he saw Negron duck, he turned on the boosters and rounded second, gunning for third.
Alas, what came next was a microcosm of a 12-0 loss: Puello, watching the ball, forgot to watch where he was going. He ran directly into umpire Jim Wolf and fell all the way down. When he recovered, he attempted to return to second, but Trevino had wisely continued to run, and was sliding safely into the base. Puello (who didn’t miss Wolf by much the second time he passed the umpire) turned back around and ran towards third base like a rat in a maze with sliding doors. He was out by a long, long way, and the Rangers did not score in that or any inning.
If there are any positives to be taken from such a loss, they are as follows:
Tony Barnette: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K - no runs
Tanner Scheppers: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K - no runs
Jeremy Jeffress: 1 IP, 2 H, 1K - no runs
Jose Leclerc: 1IP, 0 H, 1K - no runs...
...okay, that’s not Leclerc’s entire line. It was followed in the 8th by an additional ⅓-inning which included 2 hits (both home runs, with a walk sandwiched in between) for three runs.
As for the rest of it, well…
Two starts is not enough to call Chi Chi Gonzalez’ performance a trend, but the similarities between today’s game and Gonzalez’ last start (Thursday against team Venezuela) are at least noteworthy:
On Thursday, Chi Chi pitched a 1-2-3 first inning. Today (Tuesday), Chi Chi allowed one hit (a single) but struck out the other three batters he faced.
Thursday: Carlos Gonzalez led off the second with a home run. Tuesday: Chris Iannetta led off the second with a home run.
Thursday fell apart for Gonzalez after the home run: Single, double, single, single, single, groundout, and Gonzalez’ afternoon was finished, handing the ball to reliever Jimmy Reyes with a 5-0 defecit.
Tuesday threatened to fall apart for Gonzalez after the home run: single, strikeout, single, single, and an error with the bases loaded, when Jose Trevino’s foot came off the bag as he stretched for a James Loney throw. It was 3-0, but Gonzalez got David Peralta to ground into a double play. Chi Chi actually pitched pretty well in the second inning. Two of the hits were on pitches well outside the strike zone. It seemed that he might have navigated the storm.
Tuesday fell apart for Gonzalez after that. The third inning went double, lineout, walk, single, groundout, single, hit-by-pitch, walk, and Gonzalez’ afternoon was finished, handing the ball to reliever Preston Claiborne with a 5-0 defecit. Claiborne did not fare as well as Reyes, and the score quickly ballooned to 9-0.
The Rangers are still missing Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Lucroy and Robinson Chirinos and Martin Perez and Sam Dyson and Alex Claudio and Jurickson Profar. It’s not time to panic yet, nor will it be for quite some time. But as the little stories play themselves out over the course of Spring Training, we can say that Chi Chi Gonzalez’ strong start to Cactus League play seems to have crashed & burned a little bit, especially with strong starts recently by A.J. Griffin and Mike Hauschild, and Dillon Gee continuing to have a sub-.200 ERA in Cactus League play.