Of all the ugly numbers to come out of the Texas Rangers’ collapse Monday night, one stands above all others.
No, it’s not the Rangers blowing a seven-run lead.
Rather, it’s this: The Cleveland Indians batted 28 times with runners in scoring position. That doesn’t included plate appearances that ended in a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly.
The number broke the Rangers’ club record of 26.
As manager Jeff Banister put it, that means the Rangers could do nothing to stop the Indians’
Hitting is contagious, he said. So is bad pitching, apparently.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 15-9 loss.
1. A seven-run lead with Cole Hamels, even though he hadn’t pitched since April 26, is a scenario in which the Rangers should never lose.
Yet, the 2017 Rangers found a way.
The reason is simple: The bullpen.
Hamels, admittedly, wasn’t good. No excuses there, he said, even though he was just coming off the disabled list. He didn’t throw enough strikes, and Indians hitters took advantage of favorable counts
But there was zilch in the relief department.
The box score shows a scoreless inning for Dario Alvarez, and technically that’s correct as none of the batters he faced scored. But the left-hander allowed three inherited runners to score, including a bases-loaded walk to the first batter he faced.
He was lousy. Again. If the Rangers are really jonsing for a lefty specialist, surely they can find someone in the system who would give them as good of a chance as Alvarez. Give me Ryne Slack. Just no more Alvarez.
That didn’t end well.
Claudio can be excused from the disaster, as he has been one of the Rangers’ best relievers this season. He didn’t give up much solid contact. In fact, he allowed an RBI infield single.
But he allowed two inherited runners and then two more of his own. That was it, though Preston Claiborne’s Rangers debut in the seventh, when he allowed three runs on four doubles, made it academic.
The middle relievers have been in flux of late with injuries to Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress. Barnette begins a rehab assignment Tuesday and could be back on the active roster Saturday.
Based on his appearances before hitting the DL, that doesn’t sound as encouraging as it should be. But Barnette said that he has realized what the majority of his issues were, trying to do more than what he has, and that’s a key step in bullpen recovery.
But Barnette and Jeffress won’t fix everything. Nick Martinez or Austin Bibens-Dirkx could fix something else as the long man. The Rangers don’t have one right now, so that’s how Alvarez got in the game.
Lest anyone forget that the “winning” bullpen pieces have all had their troubles this season. Keone Kela has had fewer than Jose Leclerc and Matt Bush, but no one needs to be reminded that the trio has hardly been perfect.
They’re not the problem and weren’t the problem Monday. Other pieces in the bullpen, though, were.
2. From the first pitch Hamels threw, it was apparent that he wasn’t going to be as sharp as normal. When he’s right, which is frequent, he attacks hitters and throws plenty of strikes.
But after nine pitches, he had walked two batters. The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but came away with only one run. They didn’t score in the second and then plated single runs in the third and fourth.
It was 9-3 at that point, and Hamels was near 80 pitches on a night when the Rangers would give him only 90 in his first start off the DL. He didn’t retire a batter in the fourth, allowed a run, and that watched Alvarez work his magic.
Unfortunately for Hamels, it was black magic.
Hamels ended up being charged with seven runs. He probably would have given up five had a serviceable reliever been used.
Hamels, though, said that he was perfectly healthy and is actually please that he topped 90 pitches. He should be able to pitch unshackled the rest of the way.
If he wants to goes deeper into games, he knows he has to throw strikes. Maybe that’s what happens this weekend at Chicago, where Hamels will make his start. If I were a betting sportswriter, I’d put my money on a much better outing.
What happened to him Monday can happen to any pitcher, especially when the bullpen doesn’t give them any help.
3. Drew Robinson drew the short straw Monday afternoon as Hamels came off the DL, and was optioned to Triple A Round Rock even though he had homered, doubled and made two nice defensively plays Sunday.
Baseball can be cruel, but Robinson knows what it means to have minor-league options.
Some on the Twitter wondered why he was shipped out and not Pete Kozma. One reason is that Kozma can play shortstop better than Robinson, though the Rangers would put him there for a game or two if needed.
They just wouldn’t see all the plays made that Elvis Andrus or Kozma would reach.
Banister said that the No. 1 reason Robinson was shipped back to the minors is because the Rangers believe he is capable of being an everyday big-leaguer and needs to hone his skills at one primary position.
This season, and of late, that has been second base. The Rangers have a second baseman locked up for the next six seasons, and even though Rougned Odor has been struggling since the second week of the season, he’s not going anywhere.
To tag Robinson as a utility player as a rookie would be unfair to him, Banister said, and potentially two the Rangers. Robinson has pop, which he showed at Yankee Stadium and has shown in the Pacific Coast League.
Of the 11 homers he has hit this season, 10 have come this month.
It’s safe to say that Robinson will be back at some point this season. Maybe, thanks to his minor-league options, at multiple points this season.