DALLAS — We’ve said it before: Bad baseball is good as long as it’s against your team. In the case of Texas vs. the Chicago White Sox, however, watching the South Siders play baseball was cringe-worthy at most times.
After Chicago took 3 of 4 from Texas earlier this season, one would hope that the Rangers would go ahead and just have their way with them. For two games, they did. Scores of 11-3 and 13-4 lit up the boards at Globe Life.
Against San Diego, another less-than-stellar team, Texas put up scores of seven and five runs in the winning efforts. Unfortunately, in two games that, on paper, they should have won, one of their best relievers and their ace dropped the ball and prevented a homestand sweep.
Nevertheless, Texas has won their last five series it has played and still looks like they’re playing good baseball. Some have broken out of slumps and some just keep trucking as we enter the last stretch of games before the All-Star Break.
June 25-July 1
- Opponents: San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox
- 6-Game Record: 4-2
- Overall Record: 38-47, 16.5 Games Back of Houston
- Injury Report: Doug Fister (60, strained knee), Matt Bush (10, right elbow strain), Carlos Perez (10, right ankle sprain), Martin Perez (60, right elbow discomfort), Ronald Guzman (7, concussion)
At the Plate
It took until the last plate appearance of the Chicago series finale, but Shin-Soo Choo extended his on-base streak to 42 games. That’s tied for third longest since 2010, and he’s only got four more games to get to the top of that list.
In that stretch, which started on May 13 against Houston, Choo has slashed .333/.467/.583 with 10 homers, 24 RBI with 38 walks and has scored 26 runs. At the tail end of this, we found out that Choo has been battling a quadriceps strain. He sat out Saturday’s game, but was back in as designated hitter on Sunday.
From at its lowest in mid-May at .169/.236/.231, Rougned Odor has heated up to .241/.316/.361. It’s still not the most ideal slash line you can see from your well-compensated second baseman, but Odor has been hovering around the .300 mark for the last two weeks and showcased discipline that he didn’t during his worst stretches. It's getting better, slowly but surely for Odor.
On the whole, yes, Texas has been facing some lackluster pitching, but you always face lower-level bosses first before you get to the harder levels. Texas is about to get to the harder levels with Houston and Boston before the All-Star break and Cleveland, Oakland and Houston right after that.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the notion of, “If you can produce against the lesser teams, you should be able to do so against the better teams,” I think the fact that Texas is seeing that they can, in fact, string hits together, score runs in bunches and take advantage of mistakes builds a lot of confidence going forward.
It could be a hot streak, it could be a building block, but for five straight series, it’s been a good sign for Texas.
On the Mound
Your winner for “Best Start of the Season” for the Texas Rangers in the year 2018 is *checks the box score again*…Yovani Gallardo, versus the Chicago White Sox on June 29. The box will say three earned runs, but two of those were inherited runners that Tony Barnette allowed to score.
The Fort Worth native, citing a Minor-League-Pitch-Clock-Enabled tempo as his best asset, pitched 7 1/3 innings, giving up just four hits and a lone run by himself. He struck out seven and walked just one as he cut through the Pale Hose on 90 pitches.
Not far behind Gallardo was Mike Minor, who slung a gem against San Diego, pitching seven innings of one-hit ball. For a guy who is being cautiously watched in his first season back in a rotation with another two years to go on his contract, that’s as good as gold.
Minor only needed 85 pitches to go through those seven innings, flirting with perfection until one out in his final inning. Both pitchers were backed by the awakened Texas offense, prompting free and easy pitching against some lackluster bats.
That should say something, though, that Minor and Gallardo were the two best pitchers during this stretch of winning baseball against losing teams. Expectations for the rotation are low – Minor, Gallardo, Austin Bibens-Dirkx (who fought through five innings of shutout ball) and Bartolo Colon (who suffered through a muggy evening for five innings of three-run ball) are here to make sure the Rangers can send a competitive team onto the field. In a stretch of games where Cole Hamels pitches twice, you expect two dominant lines from the staff ace.
You got anything but that. No, as Hamels began and ended the homestand, he gave the Rangers their worst pitching from a starter. Against San Diego, he gave up nine hits and four runs in five innings. The offense bailed him out and they won.
Against Chicago, arguably the worst team in the American League (Baltimore gives them a run for their money), Hamels gave up seven runs on nine hits in the same five innings. Over his last seven starts, the Rangers’ best trade chip features a 4.95 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. You may think that other teams will be more interest to see how he fares against playoff contending teams, but I would argue that the performances against bad teams matters just as much, if not more.
Those are the games that could make up the difference between a Division pennant and a Wild Card berth. If you’re a contending team, do you want a pitcher who’s good against good teams and just okay against bad teams? Or are you looking for someone who can handle both good and bad fairly handily?
The bullpen had just a couple of slip-ups. We don’t count Matt Moore on Sunday. We do count Chris Martin giving up two runs in the eighth against San Diego. More importantly, we count Jake Diekman surrendering three runs and the lead in the eighth against San Diego.
We can potentially rule this out as an anomaly, as Diekman had an otherwise outstanding June, but it does speak to something of the inconsistencies that a bullpen can experience. As Diekman’s name is floated about in trade talks, seeing a performance like this might make a contender like Cleveland or Washington hesitate.
In the Field
I’ve said it before here, but Delino DeShields is going to win himself a Gold Glove, isn’t he? DeShields still leads MLB in Outs Above Average (according to Baseball Savant) with 12. He leads the American League in 5-Star Catch Probability (0-25%) with 18 chances at making those kinds of plays and four conversions AND leads in 4-Star Catch Probability (26-50%) with 12 chances and 8 conversions.
In short, DeShields has had the most chances of anyone in the American League at making stellar catches and had the best rate of conversion among them. We saw another one of those in the San Diego game in which Minor was going for a perfect game, as Delino leaped at the wall, braced himself with his foot and stole a home run.
He says he’s developed a level of comfort with his home center field wall, and it shows in his improved routes and fearlessness in approaching balls hit to the wall.
One of the advantages of having Joey Gallo able to play left field and first base at a high level, is that when someone like Ronald Guzman goes on the 7-Day Concussion Disabled List, it’s not that much of a step backwards when Gallo takes over.
Although Gallo has started at first just nine times in the last two months, he was able to save a few dirt balls from his fellow infielders and showed that he can still pick them with the best.
The Rangers will finish their home series with Houston over the Independence Day holiday and then finish out the first half of the season on the road against Detroit, Boston, and Baltimore. Two bad teams, two Division leaders. It would be quite the sight to see Texas maintain its offensive approach and have its pitching staff do enough to make the runs hold.
We may have just seen the best stretch of 2018 Texas Rangers baseball with these last five series wins.
- July 3-4: Houston Astros
- July 5-8: @ Detroit Tigers
Can the Rangers keep their winning ways of the last two weeks of June going in July? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.