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Rangers continue to cause havoc down the stretch

Despite a losing record over the last week, the Rangers continue to find ways to expose contenders as we march toward the final six weeks of the season
Credit: Raymond Carlin III
Aug 13, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos hands relief pitcher Jose Leclerc the ball after recording the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Globe Life Park. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — Spoiling isn’t always about the wins and losses. Sure, at the end of it all, when the dust has settled, the wins and losses determine who ultimately makes it to the postseason.

But something the Rangers did and can do is expose contenders’ weaknesses down the stretch. Texas, during its four game series with the New York Yankees cemented the issues that were known – the starting rotation isn’t exactly playoff solid.

In working the starters over, limiting their innings impact in the series, Texas also exposed problems with the Yankees’ bullpen – primarily their trade deadline acquisition Zach Britton and closer Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees had two high-strikeout pitchers going against a high-strikeout lineup and they struggled. So if Texas isn’t going to be able to hang a loss on the record of the opponent, the Rangers can at least cause some havoc as they go down.

August 9-14

  • Opponents: at New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 6-Game Record: 2-4
  • Overall Record: 53-69, 21 Games Back of Houston, 20 Games back of Wild Card
  • Tragic Number: 19
  • 2019 Draft Order: 9th Overall – Protected
  • Injury Report: Doug Fister (60, Strained Knee – OUT FOR SEASON), Matt Bush (60, right elbow strain), Tony Barnette (60, Strained Lat Muscle), Nomar Mazara (10, Right Thumb Sprain), Ryan Rua (10, back spasms)
  • Notable Stats: Shin-Soo Choo since I said he was in a slump (.435/.552/.565), Ronald Guzman this stretch (.333/.412/1.133, 4 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K), Rangers with RISP this stretch (16-for-51, .314), Alex Claudio’s last 7 games (7 IP, 4 Earned Runs [5.14 ERA], 10 hits surrendered, .349/.375/.477 slash against for season), Chris Martin since being activated (4.1 IP, 4 Earned Runs [8.31 ERA], 6 hits surrendered, .282/.325/.402 slash against for season)

At the Plate

Despite being outscored 40-29, the Rangers weren’t hurting for a poor approach at the plate. Against the Yankee pitching staff, they saw an average of 4.38 pitches per plate appearance, but were able to make their starters throw around 16-18 pitches per inning.

They may not have achieved the results they desired, but the Yankees have a great defense (Miguel Andujar notwithstanding) and their pitchers know how to finish off batters. That’s what a veteran staff does, but Texas hitters made them work to put them away.

Because of that, New York starters, full of known innings eaters, didn’t last longer than six innings. That put things in the hands of the Yankee bullpen, and the Texas approach was strong against them, too. The Rangers made Aroldis Chapman throw 24 and 29 pitches over his two innings. A.J. Cole threw nearly 50 pitches over two innings. Jonathan Holder threw 44 over his two.

The Rangers offense just had problems stringing together hits. Texas had decent traffic on the base paths in each game over this stretch, but couldn’t put a lot together, save for the 12-run outburst against the Yankees in their lone win in New York.

The offense was also put on its heels early, as in all but one of the games in this week, Texas’ opponent scored first. The Rangers came back from the two-run hole that Arizona put them in Monday to win. Texas also scored in the seventh inning or later in all but one of their games this week. Their losses this week weren’t for lack of effort.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Ronald Guzman’s incredible week, highlighted by a three-home run outing in the Bronx. In front of his father for the first time as a professional, Guzman swatted three solo shots to right, center and left respectively. On that night, somewhat overshadowed, was Elvis Andrus having a four-hit, three-RBI performance.

Andrus, to his credit, had himself a pretty strong week, slashing .308/.333/.385. Rougned Odor has cooled off slightly, nursing an 0-for-9 stretch in the middle of the week. He was still getting on base at a .357 clip and is still a force in the lineup.

On the Mound

As mentioned, the Rangers found themselves playing from behind in each game, except for Friday’s. Starting pitching wasn’t exactly stellar. It wasn’t terrible, though.

Mike Minor and Martin Perez turned in strong efforts, although their lines betray how decently they pitched. Minor pitched in Texas’ only winning effort in New York, pitching in 5 2/3 innings only giving up one run until his final couple of batters. He actually shut out the Yankees for four full innings.

Similarly, Perez gave up a run in the first inning of his effort on Sunday and then didn’t give up anything until the fifth inning. Ultimately, Perez’ line shows that he surrendered all seven runs, but still had a strong four inning effort. Drew Hutchison rebounded from his first awful effort to work through 5 1/3 innings on 85 pitches and allowed just three runs to the Yankees.

Ariel Jurado and Yovani Gallardo, both of whom had been on decent rolls for Texas as of late, had the worst outings this time around. Jurado surrendered six runs in five innings, including a record setting rocket from Giancarlo Stanton that left the yard at 121.7 MPH.

Gallardo’s line looks much worse, as he only survived 3 1/3 innings against Arizona, surrendering four runs as he struggled with command. However, until we see repeat performances of this, we can just chalk this outing up to a bad night at the office. If his post-game comments are any indication, Gallardo knows what went wrong. We’ll see how his next outing goes.

Bartolo Colon actually turned in the best effort for Texas, going up against Arizona, surrendering just three runs in a minimal five inning outing. The shortened outing may have been pre-planned, as Texas starts to look at arms to fill out its 2019 staff. So, after 79 pitches, Colon was pulled for the likes of Eddie Butler, Cory Gearrin and Jose Leclerc. Butler and Gearrin were acquired via trades with Chicago and San Francisco and Leclerc is auditioning for the role of closer of the future.

Speaking of the bullpen, there have been some good spots and some awful spots. Gearrin, for the most part, has been a bright spot. Under control for another couple of seasons, the trade acquisition has righted the ship after a bad outing in Oakland, giving up just two runs over his last eight outings, totaling eight innings. He’s been brought in as a one-out guy and as a reliever who can go beyond just the one inning of work.

Butler’s been less of a bright spot, but his future role is yet to be cemented. More frustrating, in fact, has been the work of two arms who had been heavily relied upon in winning situations earlier this year. Since coming off of the DL, Chris Martin has given up four runs in 4 1/3 innings, including the game winning, two-run shot by Andujar on Saturday.

Also struggling is Alex Claudio, who for three years avoided the bullpen curse of ineffectiveness, but seems to finally be succumbing, giving up five earned runs in six innings of work this month. That’s with a reduced workload, as well, as Claudio has only appeared in 49 games this year after appearing in 70 games on his way to winning the team's Pitcher of the Year award last season.

In the Field

We’re enjoying Joey Gallo, outfielder, aren’t we? While up in the Bronx, the slugger’s athleticism was on full display. He made a heck of an accurate throw to cut down Stanton at home plate from shallow right field. He made a nice recovery after misjudging a fly ball and made a diving catch in shallow left.

Finally, he made a very impressive leaping catch to rob Austin Romine of a home run in left. Joey’s ability to not just play multiple positions, but play them well, ensures that he’ll always have a home in the Rangers lineup somewhere, even if his bat goes through a slump.

We’re also enjoying the fruits of the hard work Rougned Odor has put in with Tony Beasley. Odor continues to make dazzling plays to turn outs from seemingly nothing. Jurickson Profar is also acquitting himself well at third base, making a couple of nice stabs and strong throws over the week to help his pitchers out of jams.

Texas gets a fun AL West challenge next, as they take on an Angels team that just swept the Padres and then head to Oakland to take on the white-hot Athletics.

Up Next:

  • August 16-19: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • August 20-22: at Oakland Athletics

Which young everyday position player has made the biggest strides this season? Share your opinion with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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