There’s no feeling sorry for the Rangers. It’s up to them. If they can’t beat the Astros, they don’t deserve to be in first place. If they can’t win the division and are forced into a wildcard three-game do-or-die playoff series because they weren’t good enough to beat the Astros, they deserve their fate.
They have to figure out how to do it. They have to prove they are good enough.
The last two games, they haven’t.
Monday’s loss was embarrassing. It was the second time in a row against Houston that the only reliable arms they have in the bullpen let them down.
Last time it was Will Smith. Monday it was Aroldis Chapman.
It doesn’t matter what their track records were going into these games. They didn’t get it done when it mattered and the Astros did.
That’s what a champion does.
Now the Rangers have the daunting task of beating the Astros best pitcher, Framber Valdez, when their two best hitters, Jose Altuve and Yordon Alvarez, are due back from the IL and potentially in their lineup, if they want to avoid getting swept, and getting caught for first place.
It’s easy to feel the Rangers shouldn’t even be in this position, what with their bullpen constantly melting down and, more than one hundred games into the season, and them having only two bullpen arms that could be called reliable, and one of those has been around less than a month. But they are in this position and they deserve to be in this position because they haven’t fixed the bullpen.
Last night’s loss was the price the Rangers paid for resting Nathan Eovaldi. It was the right choice given his injury history and the fact his fastball had dropped nearly three-miles-per-hour in velocity over the past few starts. Was it the right choice to do it against Houston and not skip his next one? If the idea is to rest him a start, then, unfortunately, yes because the All-Star break had already worked itself into a natural break for Eovaldi. He pitched 5.1 innings way back on July 6 in a loss to Boston. then one inning in the All-Star Game five days later. Then six not so dominating innings in a win against Tampa Bay seven days after that. So, since July 6, Eovaldi has pitched 12 innings. He will be nice and rested for his next start, and for the stretch run.
But skipping Eovaldi means going with a bullpen game when you have no bullpen against the team you are fighting tooth and nail against. And that will lead to only one outcome. A loss.
Yes it was a close loss but that only means the Rangers weren’t able to step up when they needed to and the Astros were.
It’s time for Texas to reach down and show what they are made of. A loss today isn’t the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. But being swept and being tied is not good for the confidence of a team that banks on confidence.
It’s decision time for the Rangers. Are they good enough or not? It’s up to them.