ARLINGTON, Texas — Coming off a dominating sweep in their trip to Toronto where the Texas Rangers looked like the impressive team from the first half, the team headed into Cleveland to face a Guardians team that was on their last legs in the playoff chase with elimination breathing down their necks.
The results were not what you’d expect only if you expect the Rangers to meet expectations as Cleveland swept Texas to boot them back to a tenuous position in the postseason picture with 13 games remaining. Texas secured a winning road-trip at 4-3, but all of the victories came north of the border to leave a sour taste in their mouth after being outscored 23-6 over the weekend.
- Game 147: Texas 3, Cleveland 12 (W: Giolito, 8-13, L: Gray, 8-8)
- Game 148: Texas 1, Cleveland 2 (W: Lopez, 3-7, L: Smith, 2-6, Sv: Clase, 41)
- Game 149: Texas 2, Cleveland 9 (W: Williams, 3-5, L: Bradford, 4-2)
Carter Continues – Just over a week into his big league career, Evan Carter has knocked out several “firsts,” including his first intentional walk on Sunday. Carter found himself in the middle of a lot of the action on Saturday night and was able to handle most of it.
With Texas up by a run, Carter dove for a ball and made a spectacular catch with strong extension for a highlight-worthy grab.
At the plate, Carter was 1-for-3 and scored from first on a Marcus Semien double for the Rangers’ only run that ultimately wouldn’t hold up in the 2-1 loss. Nevertheless, the rookie is showing that he can handle big league pressure after slashing .280/.424/.440 through his first ten games.
Dunning nearly undone – It could hardly be called a clean five innings for Dane Dunning, but the righty was still able to put up a scoreless outing in the eventual loss.
Dunning gave up six hits, three walks, and hit a batter, while encountering traffic in every inning but the 4th. Still, Dunning was able to maneuver out of the situations he put himself in, stranding five total Guardians in scoring position.
For all intents and purposes, it wasn’t Dunning’s best start, but he kept the Rangers in the game. Unfortunately his relatively short outing proved Texas’ undoing with their faulty bullpen blowing another late lead while the offense could only muster one run of support.
Return of Latz – Even though catcher Austin Hedges has been frequently used as the mop-up reliever for Texas of late, he was given the day off from mound duty during the 9-2 drubbing in the finale. Instead, Hedges was behind the dish, with Jake Latz – who was called up when Ian Kennedy hit the 60-day IL – taking the mound for the final two innings of the Cleveland series.
Latz had a drama-free outing, two years after he had made his MLB debut also in Cleveland. Latz retired six in a row after taking over for Jonathan Hernandez, completing his work in just 24 pitches. Against a Cleveland offense that put 23 runs up on Texas, it was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing series.
All’s quiet in Cleveland – After putting up 35 runs in four games against the Blue Jays to kick off this road trip, Texas was held in check for the first eight innings of the opener before scoring three runs with the Guardians already up 12-0 in the 9th.
The Rangers struck out 17 times on Friday, including 12 times against starter Lucas Giolito, who had been having a subpar second half to the season and was on his third team since the trade deadline.
On Saturday, the AL’s top run scoring offense was held to just one run on six hits and no walks before they managed a paltry two runs on Sunday with one of those also coming in the 9th inning after trailing 9-1.
Arms spread too thin – In the opener, starter Jon Gray lasted just 3 ⅔ innings, giving up seven hits and three runs. The short outing meant Texas was forced to burn through Andrew Heaney, an option to start in the finale in the spot vacated by the injured Max Scherer.
Heaney was making his second relief appearance of the year, but the results were very different from his first. Heaney gave up six runs on six hits over just two innings of work. Ian Kennedy came on and gave up three runs. He was placed on the 60-day IL the next day with a rotator cuff strain.
On Saturday, both Dunning and Martin Perez put up scoreless outings, but the problems that plagued Will Smith in the middle of August returned as the veteran lefty lasted only ⅔ of an inning before Jose Leclerc came on and promptly earned his eighth blown save.
In the finale, recent late-innings reliever Cody Bradford was forced into duty to make the start and he combined with reliever Jonathan Hernandez for one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad inning. Seven hitters reached base off the duo for Cleveland, all on sharply hit balls, before an out was recorded and five runs had crossed the plate to swiftly erase the meager 1-0 lead Texas had been clinging to.
Four more runs would cross before the inning was done. Bradford, who had retired nine in a row after a game-starting double, hit the hardest of all brick walls and ended up with the loss. The result was that the Guardians, who had averaged just over four runs per game coming into this series, averaged nearly eight per game while putting up 23 runs on the Rangers.
Chances unfulfilled – All three of the top AL West teams lost on Friday and Saturday. While that means Texas did not lose ground in the playoff race until Sunday’s sweep, it also means that they missed an opportunity to retake first place.
Texas instead drops back to a game-and-a-half behind Houston for the division lead with Seattle threatening them for the final Wild Card spot. Texas still has seven games remaining against the Mariners, but any opportunity to put some additional distance between them and Seattle before those games occur dried up next to the Cuyahoga River in Ohio this weekend.
Do you think the Rangers will recover from the collapse in Cleveland? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.