The baseball the past five games hasn’t been particularly good for the Texas Rangers, who have only one win in that span. Three of their four losses, though, have been by a combined four runs.
They’re not playing terribly, really. They just haven’t been as good as they were during a terrific June and their surge to the top of the American League West.
Plays they made routinely haven’t been made. Two-out hits they were collecting with regularity have gone missing. Innings from their starters have been lacking.
Those things all add up to a skid, which right now only a hiccup in a 162-game season.
And, despite it all, the Rangers headed to Boston on Sunday evening with the most wins in baseball and an 8 1/2 -game lead in the division.
That’s pretty good for a team that hasn’t been playing quite as good on this road trip.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-4 loss and the first series loss since May.
1. The Rangers needed Cole Hamels to be an ace Sunday, to pitch as he had in his previous six starts, to give the bullpen a rest and to give the Rangers a win against MLB’s worst team.
He didn’t even come close. And that rates a shock.
Hamels allowed five runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings. The bullpen was called into action after Hamels failed to retire any of the four batters he faced in the fifth after the Rangers had just trimmed a 3-1 deficit to 3-2.
Tony Barnette nearly got out of the bases-loaded no-outs jam, but replay overturned an inning-ending double play to give the Twins their fifth run.
The overworked bullpen, though, logged four scoreless innings to do what Hamels couldn’t — give the team a chance to win. He said he struggled with his cutter, and while he commanded his changeup, he didn’t get enough swings and misses at his because he couldn’t speed the hitters up enough with the fastball.
He was most disappointed by not delivering for the bullpen. All starters take pride in working deep in games, and an ace is expected to do it.
Hamels had been doing it, so well that he has spoiled the Rangers and their fans and leaves them surprised when he doesn’t log six, seven or eight innings.
But he was already looking ahead to his next start, Friday at home against the same Twins.
They might be in trouble.
2. The Rangers, and pretty much everyone who follows them or follows the game, expects Ian Desmond to deliver in a tight spot. The same aura is starting to develop with Shin-Soo Choo.
Each had a shot to tie the game late. Rangers third-base coach Spike Owen was well aware who was coming to the plate when he stopped Robinson Chirinos at third on Choo’s two-run double in the seventh that made it 5-4.
“I had my best hitter coming up,” Owen said.
Desmond nearly gave the Rangers a lead with a liner into the right-field corner. Instead, it tailed foul.
“By a foot, maybe,” Desmond said. “It was hugging the line and just ... “
He trailed off into a pained expression and an aw-shucks snap of his fingers. It was close, and then he was nearly safe at first as Miguel Sano bobbled his grounder and threw low to first. Joe Mauer’s scoop got Desmond by less than a half-step.
Choo’s last gasp in the ninth was also bobbled. He hit a hard grounder to second baseman Brian Dozier, who recovered in time for the last out.
Choo is in the midst of a good road trip. He has two leadoff homers and has gone deep in three of the past four games. Because of injuries, he hasn’t even reached 100 at-bats this season.
In 95 at-bats, he’s batting .263 with six homers, 15 RBIs and a .976 OPS. That’ll do.
3. Word of Chi Chi Gonzalez likely getting another start Thursday, even though he didn’t finish one inning Saturday, apparently ruined some fans’ lunches.
The Twitter, the bane of my existence, didn’t like it, even some of the regulars in my notifications who usually keep a level head.
The manager said that Gonzalez didn’t pitch poorly in the 17-5 rout. Gonzalez threw about six outs, but the defense, including his own dicey throw, led to only two outs being recorded.
When Gonzalez needed a ground ball, he got one. Three times.
I can sympathize with the people on the Twitter who have been disappointed with Gonzalez’s progress since his sparkling debut last season, but he wasn’t exactly given a ton of time in the minors to develop.
It’s tough to develop in the majors, especially on a contender. But the contending Rangers don’t have much of a choice right now other than giving him another start.