The Texas Rangers’ recent rough patch reached a personal level earlier this week.
On Tuesday, my 18-month-old daughter’s teacher at daycare needed answers.
“Mr. Wilson, what is going on with the Rangers?” she asked.
My response: “Well, they still have the most wins in baseball.”
I didn’t delve into the Rangers getting only two quality starts in the first eight games of their road trip (and that was all they got on the 10-day trip) or the injuries. They didn’t get a quality start Thursday night, either.
The offense has been fine, Thursday not withstanding, though unable to keep up with the alarming regularity with which opposing teams have been scoring.
Things haven’t changed much two days later. The Rangers only have the best record in the American League.
That’s baseball, but it’s not manager-pleasing baseball.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-1 loss Thursday.
1. Manager Jeff Banister has seen enough. He had seen enough before Chi Chi Gonzalez struggled from the outset, and he had definitely seen enough afterward.
His tone in the postgame news conference had an edge to it. He wasn’t annoyed by any questions, but he took an opportunity via his answers to tell the world and maybe the players that the Rangers’ current level of play, even though they have the most wins in the American League, is unacceptable.
He’s not wrong, as the Rangers have lost seven of their past nine games, and the problem has been a ragtag starting rotation that has forced the Rangers to use two position players to pitch this week after outfielder Jared Hoying and his 58-mph fastball worked the ninth.
“I’ve been in these situations before,” Banister said. “Stomping my feet and screaming and yelling is not going to do much good. There are a number of messages that need to be delivered to individuals. The bottom line is that we’ve got to be better. We have to be better. We’ve been really good in stretches. It all starts with starting pitching.”
So, the Rangers will turn to Cole Hamels on Friday, and he needs to pitch like an ace. He didn’t do it Sunday against these same Minnesota Twins, but now the Rangers really need it.
The All-Star needs to adjust to the Twins’ game plan from Sunday. He needs to go seven or eight innings. The Rangers need him, and this is typically when he thrives.
Just look at his postseason record.
Granted, this game is July and the Rangers are up 6 1/2 games in the division. But they are hurting, and they go with Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin on Saturday and Sunday.
Not exactly innings-eaters or sure bets.
Hamels is the best bet the Rangers have, and he needs to deliver.
2. Gonzalez shouldn’t get another start for the Rangers, except under extraordinary circumstances. The problem is the Rangers are facing extraordinary circumstances.
Yu Darvish should be back after the All-Star break the first time through the rotation, so that takes care of one possible slot for Gonzalez to fill. Derek Holland, though, hasn’t thrown a ball in more than two weeks, and the soonest can return would be early August.
So, the Rangers are going to have an opening in the rotation that someone is going to have to fill, and Gonzalez is a candidate.
Seriously, even though he’s a candidate to be sent to Triple A on Friday.
When the Rangers look back on the first half, among their biggest disappointments (Prince Fielder, Tom Wilhelmsen) will be the performance of their rotation fill-ins. Gonzalez and Nick Martinez, who starts Saturday, have had success in the majors but have looked very ordinary. Worse, in Gonzalez’s case, and Martinez earns the lofty rating of very ordinary only because he left two of his three starts with a lead.
Martinez, then, probably has the lead among internal candidates to stick as Holland’s fill-in, unless Kyle Lohse impresses for a third straight start. But he might have to really impress.
Yohander Mendez and Connor Sadzeck, proud members of the 40-man roster, have to be in the conversation, right?
Gonzalez, who impressed last season as a rookie, hasn’t had much go right in three starts, and his mound presence hasn’t wowed the Rangers either.
Yet, extraordinary circumstances have him in the running for a start after the All-Star break.
3. How sweet is having a spot on the 40-man roster? Just ask Martinez, Jose Leclerc and Lohse.
Martinez, on the 40-man roster, will make a fourth start of the season even though No. 3 was not good. No. 2 wasn’t great, but he left with a 6-2 lead in the game at Yankee Stadium when Matt Bush and Sam Dyson couldn’t gave up six runs in the ninth.
One reason he gets to start?
“He’s here,” Banister said.
So is Leclerc, who apparently will stay with the club through the weekend even though he won’t be available until Saturday after an impressive, lengthy MLB debut Wednesday.
Leclerc, who started the season at Double A Frisco after a lousy 2015 there but was moved up last month to Triple A Round Rock, is on the 40-man roster.
Lohse, though, isn’t. The veteran signed a minor-league deal in May but hasn’t shown much for Round Rock until his last two outings. Even then, he can’t make a push for the majors, and the Rangers have only 39 players on the 40-man.
Keone Kela figures to become the 40th after the All-Star break, so the Rangers won’t have to designate a player for assignment to create an opening. They will have to do that soon enough for Tanner Scheppers, Drew Stubbs and Colby Lewis.
Could the Rangers clear a spot for Lohse once Kela is added? Sure. But Lohse hasn’t motivated them to do so, at least not yet.