As the Texas Rangers try to get to October, one of the oddities about their 73-52 record is how they have fared against losing teams.
Their loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Rays left them 22-26 against teams under .500 and 51-26 against the good squads. That mark can change for the better should Houston or Kansas City dip below .500, but for now it comes as a surprise even to manager Jeff Banister.
But the other teams have major league players, too, and they practice just as much as the Rangers do. Don’t expect the Rangers to disrespect another team’s quality of play.
“That part of it is one of those stats you look at and scratch your head,” Banister said. “But I don’t think there’s any merit to saying, oh, we don’t play as hard or we let down or we’re not focused. No, that’s not the case.”
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-4 loss.
1. Maybe Martin Perez shouldn’t pitch on the road.
All the things that have dogged him in his career, especially the big inning, come out to bite him again when he’s not at Globe Life Park. He’s 7-1 there this season.
But he’s a frigid 1-8 on the road with a 6.23 ERA after allowing six runs in six innings to the Rays. Five of the runs came in the fourth, when Tampa Bay collected four of its five hits against Perez.
It’s a real problem for him and the team, and it could cost him should the Rangers be the host for any potential postseason series.
The team with the series home advantage opens at home, where Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish would pitch. The road then gets the next two or three games at home, depending on the round. The Rangers will be keenly aware of Perez’s issues.
If Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are still standing, it would seem likely that they would get to make any road starts ahead of Perez.
If the rotation holds, Perez is probably looking at three more road starts the rest of the season. Two would be at pitcher-friendly parks in Seattle and Oakland, where he has his lone road win this season.
Maybe he gets things straightened out by then. He probably needs to if he wants to pitch on the road in the playoffs.
2. The Rangers sure are being bullish with Carlos Gomez, a .210-hitting free-swinger who is going to be their starting left fielder once he piles up the requisite number of at-bats with Triple A Round Rock.
The guy can be very good, and the Rangers believe that Gomez is still dripping with talent. He must have left a big puddle of it in Milwaukee, because he didn’t show much after being traded to Houston last season.
When Gomez is on, he can hit for power, steal bases, run down balls in the infield, flip bats and start bench-clearing brawls. He’s an MVP candidate when it comes to riling up the opponent, and that can rile up his own teammates.
The Rangers are banking on Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran to be calming influences on Gomez, who is a free agent after the season and can try to recoup a multiyear contract this off-season with a September, and possibly October, rebound.
They better hope that Gomez can play defense as well as Drew Stubbs and Delino DeShields did in the third inning to preserve the Rangers’ 2-1 lead.
Stubbs kept a carom off the right-field wall from getting past him on a Evan Longoria double and kept Matt Duffy from scoring from first. DeShields robbed the next batter, Brad Miller, of a two-run single by racing in and sliding to catch a soft line drive.
How did the Rangers get their first two runs? On a two-run homer by DeShields. How did they get their next run? On a homer by Stubbs.
The Rangers are gambling that Gomez can do that as well as the guys he’s about to replace did Sunday.
3. Holland seemed to have some extra pep in his step Sunday morning, two days away from getting off the 60-day disabled list and back into the starting rotation.
He hasn’t been gone all that long, just more than two months, but he feels like it’s been four months. That’s what it was last season, and it was five months in 2014.
Holland was good last season until he took a line drive off the middle finger of his pitching hand in a September start at Houston. He wasn’t the same the rest of the season, including in a disastrous Game 4 in the division series.
But the 2014 off-the-DL Holland was terrific in September, albeit without the pressure of a pennant race. If he can be that kind of pitcher, or even the one before his finger was dinged last year, the Rangers’ rotation will be better off.
“Be the best version of the 2016 Derek Holland he can be,” Banister said.
Holland, as everyone should know, can dominate. He has more career shutouts (8) than Cole Hamels (7). As everyone is quick to remind when Holland struggles, he can throw up some stinkers, too.
His first start back Tuesday could be bumpy, especially at homer-haven Great American Ballpark, but it could also be smooth sailing. Give me the latter.