Patterns, patterns have not been kind to the 2017 Texas Rangers. Until now, The Pattern has repeated itself in enough losses to put Texas at the bottom of the AL West.
The Pattern is fairly easy to describe; the starting pitching keeps the team in the game, but the offense is unable to remove the pressure from the bullpen, and when it breaks, it breaks hard.
But see, the thing about recognizing the Pattern is you can turn it on itself. And what have the Rangers done for the past four games? Win a come-from-behind game late. Win a come-from-behind game late. Win a come-from-behind game late. Win a come ok you probably get the idea you’re right this is a bit gratuitous.
It seems so easy. Instead of suffering That Inning, inflict That Inning.
The weekend started, perhaps a bit hung over from Thursday’s walk-off win and Party at Napoli's, with Andrew Cashner facing off with Jesse Hahn. Cashner went 6.0 innings, allowing only only one run (a solo Matt Joyce homer in the fifth).
Texas immediately responded, with Delino DeShields sacrificing Carlos Gomez home in the bottom of the frame (Gomez had doubled and advanced on Hanh’s error throwing); following a shutdown sixth, Cashner handed off to the bullpen with the game tied.
Alex Claudio took over and got the leadoff out, but a Trevor Plouffe single ended his day at that; Jeremy Jeffress entered (because it’s a Rangers game, so the odds of seeing Jeffress are… strong). Jeffress gave up a flair double to pinch hitter Mark Canha, and the Rangers found themselves in a 2-1 hole, where they would reside until That Inning.
That Inning was the ninth. Lucroy lead off against new A’s pitcher Santiago Casilla with a single, and his surrogate (pinch runner Pete Kozma) advanced to third on a Rougned Odor single to right. That put the tying run 90 feet away, and the winning run on the first.
Mike Napoli ensured at a minimum we would see extra frames with a sacrifice fly to left to tie the game. A Gomez double later, Joey Gallo strode to the plate, and took the seventh pitch of his at-bat to the right field foul pole. 5-2. That Inning. The Pattern.
On Saturday, Nick Martinez took the ball for Texas. Your reasonable hope for Martinez is a quality start, and he gave the team that; six innings, three runs in (all on singles, one from Yonder Alonso in the 4th, one from Matt Joyce one frame later). He handed the ball to Tony Barnette, who allowed the A’s lead to expand to 4-2 with one run on three hits in his one inning of work.
Oh, the inning Barn worked? Yeah, it was That Inning. The seventh.
Gomez lead off, grounding out. Gallo came back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk, and advanced to second when DeShields singled; both advanced on a wild pitch. Choo walked to load the bases; that summoned Liam Hendricks, who was greeted rudely by Elvis Andrus (the rude greeting being a single past a diving Adam Rosales to drive in plus baserunners Gallo and DeShields).
Two pitches later, Nomar Mazara put an exclamation mark on That Inning with a two run double, and the Rangers had a 6-4 lead.
Keone Kela protected it in the eighth (ok, he got a bit of a scuff mark on it, allowing a solo Yonder Alonso homer to bring it to 6-5) and Matt Bush ended A’s hope with the smoke and lightning that emanates from his right arm. Effective relief pitching is a neat aspect of The Pattern.
It was Bark in the Park, by the way, and all the dogs were Very Good Dogs, I have that on the utmost authority.
For Mother’s Day, the All Pink All The Time Finale saw sinker specialist Kendall Graveman opposed by curveball specialist AJ Griffin.
The Rangers gave Griffin an early 2-0 lead when Andrus drove in a run with a single, and then scored on a Lucroy double play ball. The lead lasted until the fifth, when Griffing gave up his third solo homer of the day.
The Rangers would get out the fifth with no further damage, but Griffin allowed a walk-single sequence to start the sixth inning, ending his day and bringing in Jeremy Jeffress (can I recycle the joke about Jeffress pitching everyday, or do we frown on repeating things? Because I’ve still got one more use of That Inning and The Pattern, so…). Ten pitches later, Jeffress had notched a double play and a lineout and the score remained 4-2, A’s.
The game remained quiet until the bottom of the seventh, which was (you guessed it) That Inning. With two outs and Gomez on second, Deshields beat out a throw from Plouffe to keep the inning alive and score Gomez; after an Andrus double and Mazara single later, the Rangers were up 5-4.
Sam Dyson got three groundouts, sandwiched around a pair of A’s singles, to get the ball to Matt Bush. Pete Kozma drove in a insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, and the final score was 6-4.
So, all that was good news. Let’s cover the bad news. Primarily, Carlos Gomez. See, when he scored that run, he grabbed his right hamstring, which is the universal sign for ‘ah geez ow I hurt my hamstring’. Word is the Rangers will DL Gomez and he'll miss four to six weeks. That's a big blow for the Rangers.
Doubling up on the rainclouds, we have Shin Soo Choo, a late scratch with back stiffness. We’re less certain of a DL trip with Choo, but… the only good back pain is zero back pain.
As far as replacements go, you can read Matt Fisher’s thoughts on the handful of options the Rangers have.
Always Sunny In Arlington
Following Monday’s off day, the team reconvenes on Tuesday opposite the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are 14-20, good for 8.0 games back of their division leader. The Phillies offer a team-wide 100 WRC+, perfectly satisfying if you want to see how the Rangers handle an average offense.
Tuesday is Yusday, as he squares off with old friend Jared Eickhoff. Eickhoff is the current holder of the ‘Most Likely to Make You Have A Headache As He Develops Into A Cost Controlled Frontline Pitcher The Rangers Traded’ (a/k/a The Kyle Hendricks Award).
He’s hit a rough patch now, as he’s 0-3 in seven starts this year with an ERA of 4.76 (although his FIP/xFIP of 4.08/4.75 suggest he’s a bit better than ERA says he is).
On Wednesday Andrew Cashner will oppose Zach Elfin. You know how in the old days you got your last name because of what your job was? Like the blacksmith was called Smith and the guy who made shoes was Shoemaker?
Do you think maybe Zach’s great great great grandfather was an elf hunter? It’s possible. Maybe they even had real elves back then and we’ve just forgotten. Anyway, Elfin is 0-0 in five starts this year with a 2.81 ERA.
Finally, on Thursday, Martin Perez will start for Texas. Taking the ball for Philly is Nick Pavetta. Pavetta is a right hander, 24 years old, with an 0-2 record in three starts.
His ERA is 6.14, ballooned up by the fact that he’s allowed five homers in his 14.2 innings pitched. And also the fact that the league has hit .359 against him. Also the fact that hitters are carrying a .419 BABiP against him, meaning luck and gloves haven’t offered him much help.
Of note; win the series, and you head to Detroit over .500. Sweep it and you’re carrying a nine game winning streak.
How high will the streak reach? Share your predictions with Joe on Twitter @thejoeursery.