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Roller coaster season for Rangers continued with up and down homestand

The Texas Rangers once again spent the week losing before coming back with big performances over the weekend
Credit: AP
Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor (12) gets the postgame dunk following the Rangers' 10-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/ Louis DeLuca)

DALLAS — If it seemed like the Rangers might not win another game after Friday night’s opening loss against Toronto, it’s only because there were five games played in this week with two off days. That can make a little bit of losing seem like a lot. All that said, the Rangers have lost eight of their last twelve, which…well, that is a lot. 

In the four wins, though, we saw a very complete team. The two last games in Seattle were a definitive romp and the Rangers followed that up with another weekend cakewalk against the Blue Jays. 

I think I need to address an elephant in the room – last week I mentioned how bad off the Pittsburgh Pirates were, having lost eight in a row. Then they came into Texas and took both games they played. 

RELATED: A rough road trip for Texas Rangers ends on a high note

Hey, losing streaks have to be broken at some point, right? It’s unfortunate that it had to be against the Rangers. Sorry. I’ll pick a team they’re not playing this week as my team to pity. 

April 30-May 5

  • Opponents: Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays
  • 5-game Record: 2-3
  • Overall Record: 16-16, Third Place in AL West, 3.0 Games Back of Houston
  • Notable Injury Report: Edinson Volquez (60, Right Elbow Strain), Ronald Guzman (10, Right Hamstring Strain), Taylor Hearn (10, Left Elbow Tightness)
  • Weekly MVPs: Joey Gallo (.333/.545/.733, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 BB), Mike Minor (8.0 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 9 K), Shin-Soo Choo (.318/.400/.455, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Shawn Kelley (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 SV)

With the Bat

Most of the regular players passed the 100 AB mark at the start of this stretch of games. Elvis Andrus leads the pack with 126, and Joey Gallo would be right behind him. Joey Gallo, however, is the team leader in walks at twenty-five! That’s nine more than the next most and tied for second in all of baseball behind only Mike Trout. 

As a result, Joey Gallo’s on-base percentage is second by three-hundredths of a point to Shin-Soo Choo. Are they singles to the opposite side? No. Are they bunts? No. But how much does that matter when your OBP is .413 and you’ve scored the most runs on the team? Regardless, someone’s going to point to Gallo’s 41 strikeouts and call him one dimensional, but don’t look now – according to Baseball Reference, Gallo is tops in WAR for position players on the team.

Also right at the 100 AB mark (99, if you’re going to be exact) is utility fielder Logan Forsythe. Filling in for Ronald Guzman and having stepped in when Rougned Odor was on the injured list, Forsythe is at a .289/.388/.470 line and on pace for twenty homers. When The Condor comes back, Forsythe’s playing time will be reduced, but it’s been a refreshing change of pace to have an offensively potent bench player.

Over the five-game stretch this week, Texas bats weren’t really all that cold. Neither side hit for anything in the 1-0 loss against Toronto, which ultimately seemed like an aberration, but Texas had a few chances with runners in scoring position in that game. 

The Rangers probably should have won the opener against the Pirates when they led by three runs heading into the ninth (more on that later), showed some fight in the second game, and then exploded for the last two games against Toronto. Everyone in the lineup has contributed at some point or another, and that speaks to the versatility of how Texas can score runs and to the depth in the lineup.

The one person that needs to get it turned back around is Rougned Odor. Odor, batting a paltry .141/.221/.244 over the season, may have showed some signs of digging out of the slump on Sunday, There, against Buchholz, Odor rocketed a two-run homer and drove in another with an opposite field single and some great plate appearances. 

If you thought he wasn’t really caring about his performance, the smile or relief on Odor’s face after punching that homer should tell you it’s been weighing on his mind. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue trending upwards now. 

Don’t forget, around this time last year, Rougie was in the same rut - it would continue for another few weeks (he was actually on the disabled list exactly at this time) before he busted into an MVP-caliber second half of the season.

On the Mound

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s an issue with the Rangers’ rotation. Don’t worry, at least there’s one person who is, honestly, exceeding expectations – Mike Minor continues to be a consistent presence on the hill, going eight scoreless to keep Texas in the game in his start in the unfortunate 1-0 loss. With the exception of his opening day start, Minor has gone at least six innings in EVERY single start he’s had this year and never given up more than four runs.

Unfortunately, he can’t throw EVERY day. Lance Lynn might be able to give Texas some innings, but they’re not consistent innings. Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly still don’t have the stamina to go the innings Texas needs. 

Adrian Sampson, if he can recreate the 5 2/3 scoreless that he provided against Pittsburgh, would go a long way to helping lengthen out the pitching corps of the team. But the story is that the Rangers need more length out of their rotation, because the “non-winning” or “low-leverage” pieces in the bullpen far outnumber the “winning” pieces.

Case in point, Jose Leclerc has been temporarily demoted from the closer role. After blowing another save (2), this one against Pittsburgh, manager Chris Woodward said that Leclerc would be restricted to more low-leverage situations. He did just fine against Toronto in the exact situation he needed to be in – 7th inning of a game that wasn’t necessarily on the line, but still had some pressure behind it, as Texas was only up by three. 

Right now, it appears to be a case of confidence with Leclerc, and maybe a few more successful, low-pressure outings will get him back on track.

In the Field

How about Asdrubal Cabrera? Cabbie had himself a heck of a game with the glove in the Sunday contest against Toronto. Between a sliding stop and a double play started from the seat of his pants, the growth of Cabrera defensively has been virtually tangible. 

One of the only bright spots for Rougned Odor this year has been his defense. Despite the struggles at the plate, Odor has maintained a great defensive skill set and still hasn’t recorded an error. The double play he started on Saturday against the Blue Jays was a blur of lightning that was an absolute joy to watch. 

Like I mentioned before, Odor’s offensive struggles at this time last year extended for another few weeks, but if he can get his bat turned around a little quicker and combine that with his glove game, he’ll have a chance to replicate the Gold Glove nominee success he saw last year.

Also fun to watch on the defensive side AND the offensive side has been Joey Gallo. Over this stretch, Gallo recorded three outfield assists, one in left and two in center. All of this has been part of the evolution of Gallo as a complete player, and the Rangers are certainly benefitting from it.

At Least They’re Not…

The St. Louis Cardinals

Texas has an opportunity this weekend like the Cardinals had this last weekend. Texas takes on Houston this weekend with an opportunity to potentially overtake the Astros or at least make up some serious ground in the AL West. St. Louis had the chance to increase their lead on the Cubs in a three game series, but instead spit the bit and ended up being swept in pretty convincing fashion by Chicago. 

In their weekend series was a complete game shutout on 81 pitches by Kyle Hendricks, giving up a game-tying, game-changing grand slam to some catcher named Taylor Davis and allowing a grand slam to Kris Bryant en route to a 13-5 loss on Sunday. St. Louis now trails the Cubs by winning percentage in the National League Central.

The landscape of the American League West could change pretty drastically this weekend. Could.

Up Next

  • May 7-8: @Pittsburgh Pirates
  • May 9-12: @Houston Astros

Are you happy with how the season is going for the Rangers so far? Share your thoughts on the team with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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