Can you hear that high-pitched squeaking sound? This balloon is running out of air. It’s not just that the Rangers traded Yu Darvish at the deadline before Monday’s game, it’s because for most of the season this club has been running in circles. Monday’s 6-4 loss to the Mariners was not exactly a sterling example of putting your best foot forward. Four errors, 13 strikeouts, two balks and a hit batter. Not winning numbers.
Here’s the Rangers reaction from a third consecutive loss:
1. Balking at Claudio — Alex Claudio was called for two balks, one of which moved the go-ahead run to third in the ninth inning. Rangers pitchers have been called for six balks in 2017 and Claudio has three of them. In Claudio’s defense, it sure didn’t look like he was doing anything differently than normal. He’s the first Rangers’ pitcher with two balks in a game since Roy Oswalt in August 2012 in Toronto.
“I thought that I was doing the same motion all the time,” said Claudio, who took the loss after allowing two runs on two hits and three intentional walks in 2 2/3 innings. “But after the game was over, I saw the videos, and I was just maybe a little bit missing it.”
Maybe. But pitching coach Doug Brocail wasn’t seeing it during the game after the second balk visited Claudio on the mound. Before he made it back to the dugout he had been ejected by home plate umpire Doug Eddings.
“I’m as perplexed as everybody else in the stadium,” Manager Jeff Banister said. “Same stuff all year long, he hasn’t deviated, which hasn’t been called. All of a sudden you get called twice. For whatever reason they felt like that there was no stop. Why we decide to do that tonight, I don’t know.”
Banister said Mariners’ pitchers were doing the same thing.
“No call. Phelps was doing the same thing, Hernandez was doing the same thing ... bouncing and rolling right through the no stop,” he said. “It’s a rule that’s interpreted. I disagree.”
2. Odor — Rougned Odor hit 10 home runs in July, the most in a month by a Rangers’ player since Adrian Beltre hit 11 in September 2012. Three of those came in the past two games. He hit a two-run shot into the right-field upper porch in the first inning. He now has 23, second only to Joey Gall (25) on the club. The issue with Odor in 2017 hasn’t been his power, but his average. He’s hitting .220 for the season after hitting .270 in July with 17 RBIs. The Rangers have zero shot at contending for one of the wild card spots without Odor remaining dangerous in the middle of their lineup.
3. Defending the Lucroy trade — For some, the departures of Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress in trades the past two days has left them feeling a bit hollow. As if the Rangers traded away three prized prospects a year ago to the Brewers in vain. The prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell, were necessary to acquire an All-Star catcher and then closer for the Brewers. Lucroy played well for the Rangers in August and September, helping the club win a league-best 95 games. The Rangers were going for a World Series title and thought they were winning pieces. No fault in that. Lucroy struggled in the post-season but so did much of the team. Why he struggled at the plate and behind the plate for much of this season for the Rangers is baffling. Brinson made his major league debut for the Brewers in June. He’s hitting .111 with two homers in 19 games. Ortiz, 21, is in Double A, and Cordell is hitting .284 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 68 Triple A games. All three could turn out to be solid players. Perhaps only Brinson, the top prospect of the bunch. Regardless, sometimes you have to part with prospects to get winning pieces. For two months in 2016, Lucroy was worth it.
4. Ross’s rehab — Tyson Ross made his first rehab start for Double A Frisco Monday night. The right-hander who went on the disabled list last week with a blister on his right index finger allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks. He struck out two in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 80 pitches (50 strikes).