The pattern is all too familiar so far for the last-place Texas Rangers.
The offense jumps out to an early lead, then knocks off early for the day. The starters are good, but not quite sharp enough to keep runs from leaking into the boat. The defense is sloppy, unsure, tentative, unprepared, which helps chip in a run or two. Then the bullpen comes in and squanders it all away.
After yesterday’s fourth blown save of the year, the last-place Rangers are now 4-8. But this isn’t just at the feet of Sam Dyson. The Rangers have been outscored 31-9 from the seventh inning on.
Only the 2-10 Toronto Blue Jays are off to a worse start in the American League. At the rate both teams are going, it doesn’t look like Toronto is going to be knocking Texas out of the playoffs this year.
Jeff Banister is going to have to earn that Manager of the Year trophy sitting on his mantle. Because he’s going to have to figure out a way for the other aspects of his team to catch up to his offense. And maybe how to get his offense to consider staying for the entire game.
He’s going to have to decide if he wants to push his starters one more inning, which might mean actually taking them—gasp!—over the one-hundred-pitch mark. But every inning a starter pitches is one inning his bullpen doesn’t pitch. Those 31 late-inning runs are not all on Sam Dyson. Banister is trying hard to protect his starters for late-season games that won’t matter very soon.
He’s going to have to learn how to manage a bullpen. Especially one that is more flammable than Chinese pajamas.
He’s going to have to drill some in-season fundamentals into his fielders’ heads, as well—the kind that are supposed to be done in spring.
The ninth inning yesterday was a perfect example of the lack of execution that is killing this team. The first batter hits one back to Dyson, who foolishly threw his pitching hand in the way and watched what probably would have been an out at first turn into a leadoff single. Then a stolen base.
The next batter bunted and the Rangers didn’t know what to do with the ball. Dyson fielded it and then acted as if he had never had a moment of pitcher’s fielding practice. The infield seemed to be surprised by the bunt too. Maybe because it was a bunting situation and the Rangers have been happily, and unsuccessfully, swinging away in those situations.
Instead of getting an out, they had to eat the ball. First and third, no outs, on two balls that have been hit a total of seventy feet.
After the runner from first stole second, Dyson issued an intentional walk to load the bases in order to set up a double play. That backfires when he walked the next batter to force in the tying run. But they were still in the game. They just needed a sharply hit ball to the infield to turn two.
They got that. Only, unfortunately, it was hit to someone wearing a Rangers uniform.
Odor made a bad throw home. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy had to leave his feet to catch it, then had to find the plate on the way down That sloppy throw eliminated any chance of getting the critical double play on what was a very high-percentage home-to-first double play ball.
That changed everything.
So, when the next ball was hit to Andrus, instead of needing only one out, in order to get a double play he had to make a desperation Hail Mary flip. Had he only had to get one out, things could have ended a lot differently. Andrus did the best he could.
It would have taken the second most amazing miracle ever to happen on Easter Sunday in order to have completed a double play in that situation even if it had been cleanly played and cleanly flipped. That wasn’t on Elvis. Just bad luck. Which is the reside of bad execution.
Seattle beats Texas without hitting a single ball past the shortstop.
So now the last-place Rangers have four series under their belts. They were swept, then won a series, then won a series, then were swept.
Give them some credit for being symmetrical.
And frustratingly predictable.
A.J. Griffin (1-0, 6.75) vs. Jharel Cotton (1-1, 3.97)
Game time: 9:05