Rangers Recap: Bullpen a glaring problem in Seattle series

Rangers Recap: Bullpen a glaring problem in Seattle series

Credit: Getty Images

Relief pitcher Alexi Ogando #41 of the Texas Rangers gets a visit from catcher Robinson Chirinos #61 after giving up a single to Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners in the eighth inning at Safeco Field on April 27, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners went on to defeat the Rangers 6-5. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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by JOESPH URSERY

WFAA Sports

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 8:37 AM

Every Monday, we look back at the weekend's series and then preview the next week's series.

Sandwiches are pretty great. I eat a sandwich probably two or three times every week. If you count hamburgers as sandwiches, that adds probably another sandwich a week, on average, I would guess.

Bread is a big deal in sandwiches. You can have a bad sandwich with great bread, but it's hard to have a good sandwich with bad bread.

Enter, a series sandwich with the bread as twin 6-5 losses with the same mealy, bullpen-meltdown bread. Starters pitched 17 innings in this series, allowing 7 runs. Relievers pitched 8 innings and allowed 8 runs. One figure is pretty good, good enough to win games. One figure is bad, bad terrible, and bad.

Well, the names have changed since you hung around, but the dreams remained and they're turned around, Matt Harrison.

Enter, Adrian Beltre and Matt Harrison. Exit, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Shin-Soo Choo. I still hold out hope for a day in June or July when the whole team is healthy and well. It's not likely to happen.

Friday's game started off well, as all three games did. Robbie Ross pitched six innings, allowing two runs on six baserunners with a sterling 6:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After the sixth, the Rangers built a one-run lead that Jason Frasor protected. Then Neal Cotts had his second terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad appearance  of the season, allowing four runs to cross without notching an out. The Rangers rallied in the ninth, drawing to within a run with one out and the bases loaded, but Justin Smoak turned and Adrian Beltre liner into a game-ending double play.

Saturday's game featured inning-eating bulldog Colby Lewis against transcendent ace Felix Hernandez. Naturally, Lewis matched Hernandez's performance, throwing out a five-inning, three-run performance opposite Hernandez's six inning, three run effort. Both allowed 3 walks, but Lewis struck out 6 to Hernandez's 4.  Of course, Colby allowed two home runs, but that's pretty much what you expect from Colby; he's going to allow home runs, but he'll also keep a rope in his mouth, growling, until he passes out from exhaustion.

The Rangers put three runs in in the last two innings with some small-ball antics, highlighted by Leonys Martin's scamper home on a wild pitch that made it about six feet away from Mike Zunino. Aaron Poreda, Neal Cotts (on a non-terrible, horrible, no good, very bad evening), Alexi Ogando, and Joakim Soria combined for four scoreless innings, leading to a 6-3 win.

Sunday's game featured the long, long awaited return of Matt Harrison, absent from the major league club for over one calendar year. Harrison was Harrison, allowing 5 baserunners in six innings, with 2 of them coming around to score. Of note, Harrison got nine outs by ground ball; an effective Harrison is one who's getting opposing batters to pound the ball into the ground. It's tough to gauge success against a team like the Mariners, but, hey, it's a good start.

The Rangers scored five off of opposing starter Brandon Maurer, chasing him after 3.2 innings. Unfortunately, the Mariners bullpen would go on to pitch 5.1 innings of scoreless ball, scattering two walks and a hit. The Rangers’ bullpen, tasked with three innings, allowed four runs off the bat of Kyle Seager; a one-run homer in the seventh off of Shawn Tolleson, and a three-run shot off of Alexi Ogando in the eighth.

The bullpen is a problem right now, especially if Neal Cotts isn't the Neal Cotts of 2013. There's not much of a cavalry to speak of returning to fix it, either; Daniel Bard or Neftali Feliz (or both) could potentially have an impact after he returns, but no one is near ready to put a date on that. Same with Tanner Scheppers. Theoretically, Derek Holland's return could either move Robbie Ross back to the bullpen (which doesn't seem likely, given the success he's had) or put Holland into the bullpen himself (the history of Derek Holland as a reliever should give all of us pause on that). As far as minors reinforcements go, Matt West in Frisco is likely the leader in the clubhouse. Other names include Roman Mendez, Ben Rowen, Nick Tepesch, or Nick Marrtinez - none of which inspire confidence to replace the high-leverage innings the current bunch is having problems with.

Time for Mike Maddux to earn his paycheck.

It's been so long, never dreamed you'd return... but now here we are, and here I am.

Time to throw out the stinky old bread of the last sandwich or series or whatever metaphor works here and start anew, bringing Oakland into Arlington for a three-game set.  Naturally Oakland's fans are clamoring for revenge after the three-game sweep on their home turf last week, but I'm not sure Oakland has television yet. In fact, I'm not sure cassettes of Nevermind have hit Oakland yet. I think their radio booth operates like the booth in Bull Durham, just relaying calls from the opponent's radio feed.

Oakland's coming off losing two of three to (surpressed chuckle) Houston, and five of their last six overall.

Monday's game features Yu Darvish in another matchup against a top-flight opponent in Sonny Gray. Gray was the hard-luck loser opposite Martin Perez last Wednesday, allowing three runs in seven innings.

Tuesday's matchup will see Martin Perez squared off against Scott Kazmir. After reclaiming his career from the dumpster fire that is the Anaheim slash Los Angeles Angels, Kazmir has a 31:6 K:BB ratio on the year, and has only allowed one home run. Martin Perez has decided to spend the last three weeks as the best pitcher in the universe.

Wednesday's finale features Robbie Ross opposing Jesse Chavez. Chavez, a righty, was drafted by the Rangers in 2002, and has a career 5.12 ERA in 265.2 innings. However, he seems to have found new life as a starter, pitching 31 innings in five starts this season, allowing only 11 runs. Chavez has a 33:7 K:BB ratio, much like Kazmir's. To date, this season has been a nice story for the 30-year-old journeyman, but just the same I'd like to see him give up about seven runs by the second inning. Nothing personal.

Expect Shin-Soo Choo back: sometime after the A's series. The team would like to give Choo a few more days to evaluate, using the max amount of time for a DL backdating. However, it's likely that the team would have tried to give Choo Wednesday off anyway versus a tough lefty, and Michael Choice has acquitted himself well in the leadoff spot.

Regardless, at the end of this series, the calendar turns over. I'll probably get my SABR membership card taken for this, but I'm superstitious about changing over months. Considering everything that's gone wrong over this April, for the team to have held up as well as it has - it's comforting to know that the other side of the coin is probably the lucky one, and there's a good chance that side lands up soon.

Joseph Ursery can be found here and on twitter.com at @thejoeursery. His main interests include fatherhood, craft beer, facial hair, and twenty-year-old middle infielders with patience and power. Oh, and cover songs, too. He really likes cover songs. “No particular reason why,” he says, but WFAA feels like there's more to this story.

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