The commissioner’s memos about improving pace of play this season somehow have yet to arrive at Globe Life Park, where the home team’s games are among the longest in baseball.
The Texas Rangers were back at it again Monday night.
For a bunch of guys who don’t get paid by the hour, they sure do take their sweet time.
But they don’t work under a strict curfew or on a tight deadline. They just keep going until rules don’t allow them to go any more, the final out, which came Monday after 3 hours, 48 minutes.
They usually provide plenty of fodder for the beat writers, and that again was the case in the opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. They also have knack for causing rewrites, and was also the case.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-6 loss.
1. That ninth-inning kick to the Rangers’ head might have been the result of an inexperienced pitcher not having the experience to fall back on when things stray off-course.
Matt Bush didn’t use his best pitch — his upper-90s fastball — enough in the ninth inning as the Blue Jays rallied for two runs and sent Bush to his second blown save since becoming the closer.
Bush said that he didn’t lose confidence in the pitch, but he wanted to use his slider to keep the Blue Jays off his heater. In so doing, he hung a couple sliders that were dumped into the outfield during the winning rally.
“They try to ambush or try to get him early,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “If he doesn’t make his pitch, then they’re going to be looking for something hard up. They got him.
“Donaldson was sitting on that curveball, and they got him. He walked a guy. Just got to make better pitches. He knows that. We all know that,” Lucroy said. “You’re not going to be perfect.”
The blown save kept the Rangers from moving into a tie for the second wild-card spot and ruined a decent game story. Bush said that he is fine physically, so, to answer a question on the Twitter, no, I don’t expect him to go on the disabled list.
Nothing, I’ve decided, makes baseball Twitter lose its stuffing like a bullpen meltdown. In addition to the DL question, some called for a new closer. Some, again, gave up on the Rangers’ playoff chances. One did the head/gun emoji combo.
It’s mildly understandable at this point in the season, after the Sam Dyson fiasco and others’ contributions to what still statistically rates as a lousy bullpen. But Bush isn’t Dyson or Tony Barnette or Jeremy Jeffress. If he’s as healthy as he says he is, the Rangers don’t need another closer.
He could use some more experience to fall back on when things start hitting the fan. He got some Monday, though, after it was too late.
2. Austin Bibens-Dirkx wasn’t nearly as effective as he was his last time out, when he allowed only one run in seven innings and retired 19 straight at one point against the Washington Nationals.
The Blue Jays, seeing him for the second time, found more success. They built a 5-1 lead with a four-run fourth that Bibens-Dirkx almost wasn’t allowed to finish.
The Rangers then countered with five in their fourth, and Bibens-Dirkx was back on the mound for the fifth. And that’s when he did his finest pitching.
The right-hander struck out Blue Jays leadoff man Kevin Pillar swinging, then caught former MVP Josh Donaldson looking. Jose Bautista, who homered in the fourth, bounced to third base to end the inning.
It was the best inning by a Rangers pitcher in the game. Had they won, it might have been the most important, though Tanner Scheppers’ escape act in the sixth somehow kept the Rangers up 6-5.
The fifth also showed once again how much faith the Rangers have in Bibens-Dirkx, a 12-year professional who has been in the majors two months. They believe that he will make enough pitches to keep them in the game.
He wasn’t as good Monday as he was June 11, and that’s to be expected after being oh-so-good against the Nationals. But he left with the lead and left with the Rangers still confident in him.
Expect to see him in five days.
3. With the way the Rangers have been lighting up the transaction wire, there’s no telling how long Ernesto Frieri and Scheppers will be in the bullpen, but each comes with an intriguing story.
They have had success previously, with Frieri a former closer and Scheppers one of the best relievers in 2013. Each has had to battle his way back to the major leagues.
In Frieri’s case, he lost the velocity off his fastball and the deception from his delivery after too much tinkering. He appreciates the coaches’ attempts to help him — they weren’t trying to harm him — but it took him starting over from scratch with the coach who taught him how to play baseball to get his effectiveness back.
He’s not there yet, but the velocity is creeping back up and he is confident in his off-speed pitches. He had to learn how to pitch, and shortstop Elvis Andrus told him that he’s a better pitcher now than when closing for the Angels.
Scheppers’ medical history is a rich one, with all sorts of ailments dating to his days at Fresno State. Since the ill-fated 2014 transformation into a starter, he has barely been in the majors and hasn’t been all that effective.
He has bounced on and off the disabled list and gone to and from the minors. He said that he had to grow personally, with patience and faith, and is better off for it.
Both remain confident that they can help a big-league team. Both understand that they aren’t going to fill late-inning roles. Frieri pitched the ninth inning Saturday with the Rangers down 7-3.
The Rangers’ bullpen, as was written here Sunday, seems to becoming together. Whether Frieri and Scheppers are a part of it over the long haul is dubious, with Tony Barnette to come off the DL and with Nick Martinez or Bibens-Dirkx likely to become the long man once Cole Hamels and Andrew Cashner are healthy.
But Frieri and Scheppers are with the club now, on the 40-man roster and on the radar as potential help. It’s a just reward for enduring all that has happened to them during the past few years.