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

The Texas Rangers went 2-5 over their week-long west coast road trip but that included a 29-2 two-day spurt to close out the series in Seattle
Credit: AP
Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus, right, congratulates Rougned Odor (12) after Odor's three-run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

DALLAS — It is 100% reasonable to throw out the entire series that was played this week in Oakland. You really don’t have to have stats in front of you to know that any time Texas has stepped foot into the Coliseum in recent years, they haven’t fared well. 

However, if you really wanted to torture yourselves with just how bad it’s been, note that over the last three seasons, Texas is now 3-18 in Oakland and have been outscored 120-54. 

I say you can throw it out because, perhaps, that’s not really an accurate depiction of how things go under normal, non-Coliseum conditions. But, given how the rest of the week turned out, is that really good news?

April 19-28

  • Opponents: Houston Astros, @Oakland Athletics, @Seattle Mariners
  • 10-Game Record: 4-6
  • Overall Record: 14-13, Third Place in AL West, 2.5 Games Back of Houston
  • Notable Injury Report: Edinson Volquez (60, Right Elbow Strain), Ronald Guzman (10, Right Hamstring Strain), Drew Smyly (10, left arm nerve tightness), Taylor Hearn (10, Left Elbow Tightness)
  • Weekly MVPs: Shawn Kelley (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 SV, .111 BA Against), Mike Minor (13.0 IP, 5 ER, 17 K, 4 BB, .159 BA Against), Logan Forsythe (.297 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI), Elvis Andrus (.323 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI)

With the Bat

The losing record over this 10-game stretch wasn’t for lack of scoring. Texas averaged 6.8 runs per game over this stretch, and even though that number is slightly skewed because of the offensive onslaught of the final two Seattle games, the Rangers only had three games where they scored two or fewer runs. 

One of those games was against Justin Verlander, so no surprise there. One was against Chris Bassitt, but again, it was in Oakland so that's to be expected, and the other was against Marco Gonzales, who has given Texas fits before.

Perhaps a throwback to what the Rangers had been known for over the years, the team slugged 18 home runs over this week and a half. Their team slash is .263/.345/.471. Their top four sluggers are all slugging over .500 – Joey Gallo (.647), Elvis Andrus (.596), Shin-Soo Choo (.577) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.500) have all been major power contributors. 

As we saw throughout Spring Training and through the first few weeks of the season, this team wasn’t going to suffer from lack of run production. Its full power was on display over the last two games to close out the road trip, however, where Texas scored 29 total runs. 

While Rougned Odor has returned to the lineup after his IL stint with a knee strain, the position was not without production in his stead, as Danny Santana more than held his own. While filling in for Odor, Santana sported a slash of .325/.357/.550. Those numbers increased even when he spelled Joey Gallo for a day and collected another three hits and an RBI. 

Also encouraging is the progress of Nomar Mazara, who, going into Monday’s off-day, is riding a six-game hitting streak, racking up 14 hits in 41 at-bats. His approach has been notably different, previously chasing pitches well out of the strike zone at an alarming rate, to displaying more patience and swinging at better pitches in the zone.

On the Mound

It’s not like anyone was expecting the trio of Tommy John patients – Edinson Volquez, Drew Smyly, and Shelby Miller – to last the entire season. Whether by injury or innings limits, it was highly unlikely the trio would be making 30+ starts each. 

I don’t know that we were expecting two starters plus a viable depth option to get put out of commission so quickly and without warning, however. Volquez was shelved before this 10-game stretch started and then the hits came like three quick jabs. 

Drew Smyly went on the IL with nerve tightness in his left arm following Friday’s start against the Astros. That’s not a great sign for someone who’s two years removed from regular pitching. As the Rangers were utilizing Adrian Sampson to start one game, they were forced to pre-maturely call up the centerpiece to the Keone Kela trade – Taylor Hearn. 

RELATED: Meet Royse City's Taylor Hearn, new Rangers prospect

The local kid got roughed up in a bad way against Seattle and then went on the IL the next day with elbow tightness. With Texas lacking in depth to start the season (partially the reason they were gambling on the rehab pitchers), seeing a depth option that already wasn’t quite Major League ready go down isn’t a great feeling. 

On the whole, the pitching staff hasn’t been great, but the starters as a whole have been really just awful. Over the 27 games played, their ERA has been just over 6, with a batting average against hovering around .270. Two performances back-to-back like Mike Minor’s and Lance Lynn’s 7.0 inning dominant outings in the two wins in Seattle will help tremendously, but that’s still just two spots in the rotation. Manager Chris Woodward is going to need some length out of Adrian Sampson and…whoever else they can throw into the other two starter roles. 

On the bullpen end, Shawn Kelley has by far been the outstanding reliever – outstanding, not just from a positive performance aspect, but the fact that his performance makes it seem like he doesn’t really belong in the 2019 Texas Rangers bullpen. Amidst names like Chris Martin, Jeanmar Gomez, and Kyle Dowdy, Shawn Kelley seems like he has trade candidate written all over him. 

Jose Leclerc, who had just signed an extension with Texas before the season, seems less like one. 

RELATED: Why the Rangers locking up Leclerc sets a good example

Over this week, the Rangers’ closer has only been asked to go 2 1/3 innings over three games and has given up a hit and at least one walk in each of those games. It’s definitely not an easy go for Leclerc lately, and it’s not a great feeling for manager Chris Woodward either, not being able to rely on his 9th inning guy.

In the Field

Delino Deshields finished last year as one of the more accomplished center fielders in the game. Any sort of continuation of that or positive development in that area could possibly have earned some Gold Glove discussion. As it is, Deshields has had some incredible defensive gaffes in center field thus far, misjudging fly balls, diving for those that he shouldn’t take risks on, and letting routine singles bounce past him for multiple bases. I don’t know that it’s time to give up on Delino Deshields, center fielder, but those kinds of mishaps are signatures of losing teams – Texas isn’t ready to be one of those yet.

But at least they’re not…

The Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates, who may well take the Rangers’ path to contending in their division by letting the Cardinals and Cubs beat up on each other while Cincinnati and Milwaukee stumble over themselves, have now lost eight in a row. Pittsburgh scored first in all but one of those last eight and have ended up losing the lead in the later innings. 

The acquisition of Keone Kela and having Felipe Vazquez in the back end was supposed to shore up the bullpen. Kela did well this week, but is still the owner of a 5.06 ERA with an opponents’ batting average of .220 – hardly the dominant stuff that we saw in Texas in 2017. The rest of their bullpen isn’t pulling their weight however, and it’s resulted in this painfully long losing streak for the Buccos. As fate would have it, the Pirates next play in Arlington against the Rangers.

Up Next

  • April 30-May 1: Pittsburgh Pirates
  • May 3-5: Toronto Blue Jays

How do you feel things are going for the Rangers as they near the end of the first month of the season? Give Matt your first month grades on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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