Two runs allowed in five innings isn’t bad for a starting pitcher who gave up seven runs in his 2014 debut.
It isn’t bad for a starting pitcher who in a perfect world would be back in the key bullpen spot he filled in 2013.
But the Texas Rangers have learned the past few months that their pitching staff, beginning with the rotation and trickling down to the bullpen, is far from perfect.
Even though Tanner Scheppers was far better in his second career start Monday than he was on Opening Day, the Rangers need more and he expects more.
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Scheppers allowed nine singles and two early runs to Boston, which got a better mound performance from John Lackey and pulled away in the eighth inning against two unproven Rangers relievers en route to a 5-1 victory.
The chain reaction from the injuries to Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish, even though he has returned, was felt at Fenway Park. But the Rangers remain committed to Scheppers.
“With the injuries we’ve had in the rotation, the domino effect is being felt in the ’pen, and not just with Tanner,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We made the decision to start him because we felt he could be pretty good in that role. His upside as a starter — as good as he was as a reliever last year — we think it even outweighs that.”
Not only is the bullpen missing Scheppers, but Robbie Ross is also in the rotation and Neftali Feliz is at Triple A Round Rock. Only four members of the bullpen were on the roster last year, and one (Alexi Ogando) was mostly used as a starter and another (Joakim Soria) missed four months.
So, Pedro Figueroa and Seth Rosin were tasked with keeping the Rangers down only 2-1, which they did with scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh after the offense missed three times with Alex Rios at second base in their half of the seventh.
Rosin went back for the eighth in a situation that last season would have been given to Jason Frasor. But with Scheppers in the rotation, Frasor is being used in tie games or with a lead.
The first three Red Sox reached to open the inning, and all three scored against Rosin and Shawn Tolleson to turn a close game into a non-save situation for Koji Uehara.
Scheppers wasn’t pointing any fingers afterward, except at himself.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to give the team more innings,” Scheppers said. “Forcing the manager’s hand in the fifth inning is not what a starting pitcher should do.”
Still, the performance rated as an improvement after he allowed seven runs in four innings in the season opener.
But Scheppers couldn’t escape the second inning unscathed for the second straight start, though he allowed only one two-out run as opposed to the six he yielded to Philadelphia on Opening Day.
Jackie Bradley Jr. came through with a single to center for a 1-0 lead, and Daniel Nava followed with a walk to load the bases. Scheppers, though, got Dustin Pedroia to end the threat.
The Rangers broke through against Lackey in the fourth. Adrian Beltre and Rios had consecutive one-out singles, and they moved up a base on a passed ball by A.J. Pierzynski.
Mitch Moreland followed with a liner to center that Grady Sizemore dived to catch, but Beltre trotted home to tie the game.
Scheppers, though, couldn’t keep the Red Sox at bay in their half of the fourth. Pierzynski and Jonathan Herrera delivered back-to-back hits with one out, and Bradley Jr. delivered another run with a single to left.
The bottom three in the Red Sox’s lineup went 5 for 6 against Scheppers.
“He hit a mistake,” Scheppers said of the first Bradley Jr. single. “And the same with the second run that came in. I made a mistake to A.J. I’ve got to limit the mistakes.”
Rios gave the Rangers a chance in the seventh, when he drew a leadoff walk and stole second on the next pitch. Moreland moved him to third with a groundout to first. But Donnie Murphy popped out with the infield in, and after Leonys Martin walked and stole second, J.P. Arencibia grounded out to second base.
The Rangers finished 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, with seven of the misses against Lackey.
“We had some opportunities against Lackey,” manager Ron Washington said. “But he showed why he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League.”
Boston started the eighth with a single by Pierzynski and a four-pitch walk to Herrera, who was trying to bunt. Bradley put down a bunt that first baseman Prince Fielder fumbled and then shoveled wildly to first.
Pierzynski scored, and Herrera and Bradley Jr. would score later in the inning to put the Rangers in a four-run hole.
That was too many fallen dominoes to overcome on a night when a key member of the projected bullpen showed improvement in his second career start.
“Sure, progress, but I’m still not happy with it,” said Scheppers, who threw 91 pitches. “We’re talking about two starts here. We’ve got a long season. I’ve got to do a better job and throw deeper in ballgames.”