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A Week of Walk-Offs: Texas Rangers Plagued By Inconsistency in a Rough Week

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A Week of Walk-Offs: Texas Rangers Plagued By Inconsistency in a Rough Week
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I know it is still early in the season, but this team is feeling more and more like teams of the past; keeping a record right around .500, and never knowing how to put other teams away. I hope they can get it figured out soon.

 

Game Recaps

4-20 at Boston Red Sox L, 6-7

Colby Lewis had a decent start going five innings and giving up 3 runs on 5 hits. He had to feel pretty good leaving the game with the score at 6-3, but it turned out not to be enough.

Darren Oliver ended up blowing the lead in the eighth inning giving up a two-run home run to Darnell McDonald who had just been called up to the majors that day.

Frank Francisco was ultimately saddled with the loss when McDonald hammered a ball off the Green Monster in left field.

The offense struck early and often as Michael Young and Nelson Cruz continued to hit well with two hits each, but had nothing to give in the second half of the game. They continued to have success against the knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, but got stymied by the bullpen.

Their lack of late-game energy may have been because they stole nine bases before the end of the fourth inning which broke the team record for steals in a game. They also walked nine times, but couldn’t find enough offense for the win.

4-21 at Boston Red Sox L, 7-8

Matt Harrison had a rough outing going only four innings and giving up 6 runs.  The bullpen did their job and kept the Red Sox from doing too much more damage and gave the team a chance to win.

Josh Hamilton got his first home run of the season and it proved to be a big one.  His three-run shot tied the game and ultimately led it into extra innings.

Unfortunately, the Green Monster would knock down another walk-off single for the Red Sox as Kevin Youkilis would have the game winning hit in the twelfth inning for two walk-offs in as many nights.

4-22 at Boston Red Sox W, 3-0

C.J. Wilson continued his string of strong pitching, going 6 2/3 without allowing a single run. He ultimately outdueled Clay Buchholz, who had 10 strikeouts, but gave up three runs in the seventh.

Nelson Cruz’s RBI single in the seventh proved to be the game winner as his hot hitting continued. He also stole two bases bringing the team total for the series to 14.

4-23 vs. Detroit Tigers W, 5-4

Rich Harden had another rough start lasting only 4 1/3 innings and adding to the strain on the bullpen. He simply had no command of his pitches, and the Tigers took advantage of that.

The bullpen held tough not allowing another run until the ninth. 

Elvis Andrus looked like he would end the game when he made a backhand grab with two outs in the ninth. The throw would end up short, and in his Major League debut, Justin Smoak was unable to dig it out and the inning continued, resulting in Detroit tying the game on a Magglio Ordonez single.

Smoak would make up for not digging the ball out by walking to lead off the bottom half of the inning, and on Elvis Andrus night at the Ballpark, Andrus would get his first career walk-off hit with the bases loaded in the ninth.

4-24 vs. Detroit Tigers L, 4-8

All 12 runs would be scored in the first four innings of this game, and eight of those would be charged to Scott Feldman as he lasted only 3 2/3 innings. 

Feldman was throwing way too many pitches from the get go, and the Tigers did a good job of waiting for the one they wanted. In what has become a growing trend for Rangers’ starters, he ran most of his counts full, which is never a recipe for success.

In another alarming trend for the Rangers, the offense struck early and took the rest of the night off. After scoring four runs with only one out in the second and bases loaded, the offense disappeared and could not respond to the Tigers’ rally in the third and fourth innings.

 

What did we learn?

Chris Davis has no clue how to hit Major League pitching early in the season. For whatever reason, he will tear the cover off the ball late in the season when the games start to not matter, but early on, he can’t ever find a groove. 

Many people have been clamoring for Justin Smoak to get to the big leagues. Well, he is here now and hopefully he will prove his worth immediately. To say that Davis would have made the play he missed in his debut is unfair to both players. Errors happen.

Rich Harden has about as much command as my two-year-old daughter. She has a knack for hitting people in the head with the ball, but unlike Harden she doesn’t get paid millions of dollars to throw strikes.

Harden is not alone is his control issues. Almost all of the Rangers’ pitchers have stopped throwing strikes like the pitching staff last year. Last year’s success was because the pitchers threw strikes and relied on the defense to make plays. We need to go back to that.

Our offense is all about jumping on you early, and then taking the rest of the night off. Normally when you strike early, you win games because hitting is contagious and keeps going the rest of the way. This team needs to find a way to put that all together.

Nelson Cruz is a stud, plain and simple.

 

Conclusion

Our pitching staff needs to find its identity, as it seems completely lost on most nights. I don’t think it is time to sell the farm, but I do know that Derek Holland has been throwing the ball really well in Oklahoma. 

He gave up his first run of the season on Friday night after throwing 21 2/3 scoreless innings.

When asked about switching Harden out for Holland he replied, “It’s not a conversation. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get Rich to be more conservative with his pitches, so he can have an opportunity to get deep in a ballgame. Rich is capable of winning at the Major League level. “

That’s all well and good that “Rich is capable of winning at the Major League level,” but he isn’t right now, and something needs to happen. Maybe he needs to go down for a little while and find his groove and just relax a little bit.

Harden is not the only one struggling, and there are some serious questions that need to be answered in the very near future by the coaching staff and front office before this season gets too far out of reach. 

As for the offense, I don’t know what to say. There are numerous players that have started to do well, we just have a problem stringing it all together. It is refreshing to see Young finally hitting again, as well as Julio Borbon finding some success at the bottom of the order.

Joaquin Arias has been a bright spot as well, and it will be a shame to see his playing time diminish when Ian Kinsler comes back, hopefully next week, but that is an easy call to make.

I am hoping that there is something about Ian that will help unify this offense, as it seems to lack an identity as well. They have started to do better in recent games, but they need to keep that effort going throughout the game, and not just in the early innings.

Our biggest problem is that we aren’t putting complete games together. The first week or so the pitching was awesome and the offense was absent. Now they have kind of switched roles.

The bright side is that our pitching staff and our offense have shown that they can play well. Now we just need them to both do it on the same nights. Hopefully this homestand will provide us with some wins to build on.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we have been playing a lot of tough teams.  New York, Toronto, Detroit, and Seattle are all at .500 or better this season, and we all know that Boston is no slouch.

We knew there would be some growing pains especially early in the season with all of the changes to the roster. Let’s just hope that the growing pains start to go away soon and we can win some games.

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