Rangers reliever Spencer Patton gives up a grand slam to Mike Trout in the sixth, putting the game out of reach and starting a string of nine runs the pen would give up, seven earned.
If you look on the bright side, the Rangers won two out of three against the Angels. Remembering what the Angels did to the Rangers in the Ballpark earlier this month, that is quite an accomplishment. All three games of that series were like yesterday’s game. But over much earlier. This one ended in the sixth.
So, while yesterday’s L was an embarrassing L, it was just one L. If the Rangers win two out of three from now on, they will make the playoffs.
But therein lies the problem. The winning two out of three thing.
The most worrisome development about yesterday’s game actually came pre-game, in the commentary beforehand on the radio.
Fresh off four straight wins, the Rangers pre-game announcer Jered Sandler was feeling cocky.
He commented on how the Rangers bullpen has really been good lately but has not gotten any credit for it. Matt Hicks agreed. The pen is getting a bad rap. It is a much maligned bullpen.
I thought, then and there, Okay, this is going to be the Rangers downfall. Not the inability to hit left-handers, or a lineup that is thinner than the sheets at a Motel 6, or a patchwork rotation, or even the bullpen, good or bad (hint: it’s bad).
Their downfall is going to be blindness.
The pre- and post-game commentators on TV are avowed homers. They have never meet a Rangers player who wasn’t a future Hall of Famer, or seen a Rangers game where one bounce would have made the difference in a 13-0 loss. They are insufferable optimists.
But the radio guys have been, for the most part, very objective.
And that’s what bothers me the most.
If the feeling around the club, and those covering it closest, is that this bullpen is under-rated, that it is in anyway good or acceptable or effective, then there is a problem that cannot be solved.
Yes, the Rangers went into Sunday’s game having won four in a row. And, yes, the bullpen on Saturday held that thin one-run lead. Spenser Patton picked up the win in relief with a scoreless inning. Tanner Scheppers pitched a scoreless eighth. Shawn Tolleson pitched a scoreless ninth.
But even a drunken homeless alcoholic finds a mattress once in a while.
In the five games before Saturday, the Rangers were 4-1. The bullpen pitched 15.1 innings, won 2 and lost 1, with 2 saves, gave up 6 runs, for a 3.52 ERA. Scheppers went 1-1 with an ERA of 16.88. He blew a four-run lead in the game he won.
In the four-game winning streak, the Rangers bullpen blew one large lead, wasn’t needed in a 9-0 victory, and held two other leads. And we are supposed to be getting excited about that?
While 3.52 isn’t awful, it’s also not the kind of ERA to get cocky about, or to call out for any reason as being much maligned. Especially in such a small sample size.
That sort of thinking must be permeating into the dugout, because Jeff Banister thought he had a stellar bullpen when he pulled Nick Martinez Sunday after just five innings.
Next thing you know, the Angels put the game out of reach with five runs in the sixth.
Here is how the bullpen did yesterday: 4 IP, 7 ER, 15.74 ERA.
Counting Sunday, in its previous six games the Rangers bullpen has given up 13 earned runs in 19.1 innings. For a “much maligned” ERA of 6.05.
The problem is, a lot of people think this bullpen is not only acceptable, but good.
The Rangers bullpen in the six games in Colorado and Anaheim.