The Rangers have played two entirely different seasons so far this season.
Season One was the first two months of the season. The Rangers were 35-20, and—other than Tampa Bay, who won their first thirteen games of the season and have now fallen into second place—they were the most dominating team in baseball.
Season Two was the second two months of the season. They went 25-26, and are stuck in neutral. Slowly sliding out of first place.
The starting pitching that had been so good during Season One has been mostly bad during Season Two. The offense that was piling up runs in Season One has been piling up strikeouts in Season Two. The bullpen that was totally unreliable in Season One has been totally unusable in Season Two.
Now it’s time for the Season Three: the final two months of the season. August and September are the stretch drive. The Rangers are gearing up for it.
They acquired Max Scherzer to take over as staff ace for Nathan Eovaldi, whose injury is supposed to be minor and who, according to Bruce Bochy, will be back when he is due off the IL, or a couple days later.
Ah, the old, “or a couple days later” line. Rangers’ fans have heard that before. A couple days in Rangerspeak translates to a couple months.
Dane Dunning came back to earth. Gravity was especially harsh for him in Season Two. After being in the top five in ERA for much of Season One, posing a 2.06 ERA at the end of May, his June ERA was 3.62. July, 5.06. Thud. Dunning wasn’t even supposed to be in the rotation. He took over for deGrom who was able to go just six starts.
The Rangers acquired Jordan Montgomery to replace Dunning as their number two starter. So Dunning can slide to three.
Jon Gray’s downward trajectory has followed Dunning’s. Gray has given up four or more runs in three of his last five starts. After posing a 1.95 ERA in May, he saw it nearly double in June to 3.99, and skyrocket to 5.48 in July. And as everyone knows about rockets, they go up, they come back down. Splat.
Martin Perez posted an 8.50 ERA in July. Yes, it was only 8.50. It just seemed so much higher. Then there’s Andrew Heaney, whose July ERA of 5.40, following a June 5.87, looks Cy Youngish compared to Perez.
Suddenly Cody Bradford’s 4.50 ERA is looking better and better.
The Rangers cannot consistently win with both Heaney and Perez in the rotation. That’s forty percent of your starts with very little chance of winning that particular game. Which means all three of your other starters have to be on in order to have a winning record.
The trade deadline is 5:00 pm, Central, today. The Rangers still have needs.
If the Rangers pick up another starter, that will tell you one thing. They know Eovaldi isn’t coming back. If they don’t pick up another starter, that tells you something else. Even if he doesn’t come back, they think they can win with either Heaney or Perez still in the rotation. One automatic loss in five is better than two.
But the Rangers still need a lock-down, no-doubt-about-it relief pitcher and Season Three of 2023 will have a chance to be more like Season One.
Because if it’s like Season Two, the Rangers season ends at the end of the regular season.