Texas Rangers

Here’s what sank the Rangers in their opening-series sweep

Three losses in three games sounds pretty bad, and the way the Texas Rangers lost every game in their season-opening series, indeed, wasn’t great.

Each game could have been won, but painfully wasn’t.

The closer twice left the ninth-inning door wide open.

Yu Darvish wasn’t as good as he can be on Opening Day, and neither were Martin Perez and Cole Hamels the next two nights. But they gave the Rangers a chance, which is the No. 1 job a starter has each night.

The offense scored 12 runs against three tough Cleveland Indians right-handers — Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. The Rangers launched six home runs, more than any team in the major leagues.

Let’s further peel back the layers of the onion of a season-opening series that made some want to cry.

On the mound

This isn’t all on Sam Dyson, who allowed eight earned runs and recorded three outs over two ninth-inning appearances. He allowed three runs in a tied game Monday, and issued five more runs Wednesday after starting the ninth with a 6-4 lead.

OK, a lot of it is on Dyson.

One area of concern for the Rangers is the number of walks their pitching staff issued, especially starting pitchers Darvish (five) and Perez (four) in 12  1/3 innings. The Rangers can live with as many as two walks from a starter, but each one more than that begins to turn over the opponent’s batting order and give their best hitters another at-bat.

“It’s not even close to where we want it to be,” manager Jeff Banister said. “They know it. We know it. It comes down to trust and staying in rhythm.”

The bullpen wasn’t immune from the walks. Dario Alvarez’s walk Tuesday didn’t turn into a run, but it pushed a runner into scoring position and he eventually scored the Indians’ final run in a 4-3 win. Dyson’s Wednesday woes included two walks and allowed the Indians’ best player to bat again.

Francisco Lindor won it with a grand slam.

Trimming walks was a spring focus for the Rangers, who last season issued the second-most free passes (534) in the American League.

Doing so takes conviction, as former pitching coach Mike Maddux used to say, and focus, as pitching coach Doug Brocail said.

“All of the above,” Brocail said. “We talked about throwing strikes in spring training, and we need to get better at it. I hope it frustrates them, too. If not we need to reassess some things.”

At the plate

The Rangers’ bats had plenty of thunder in them, with their six homers in three games leading MLB. (Cleveland was second with five.)

The Rangers weren’t just hitting wall-scrapers, either. Only one of the six homers measured under 400 feet, with Carlos Gomez’s club-level blast Monday the longest at 461 feet.

Even Elvis Andrus topped 400 feet, with a 410-foot drive to left field Wednesday.

The biggest disappointment was the collective production of Jurickson Profar, Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields, three stars of spring who started 0 for 10.

Back on the bright side, Nomar Mazara became the first Rangers hitter since Vladimir Guerrero in 2010 to collect seven hits in the first three games. Andrus is batting .400 and has hit for the cycle.

He always pounds the Indians, though.

In the field

A few plays that weren’t made turned out to be costly.

Mazara couldn’t handle a Lindor drive to left field Wednesday, a ball that should have been caught. It wasn’t, and the Indians scored twice with their extra out.

Joey Gallo couldn’t finish a tough play Tuesday, a weak chopper that he charged and fielded cleanly only to see his throw just pull Mike Napoli off first base. An out there, and the Indians don’t score a key insurance run.

No one is faulting Gallo on that, though, including the official scorer. But runs came in on each play. When the margin for error, no pun intended, is so slim, those plays are magnified.

Overall takeaway

The Rangers have a few things to clean up, namely cutting down on the number of walks they’ve issued, and they will receive a boost from the returns of Adrian Beltre, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Keone Kela, if he minds his manners.

The bullpen misses left-hander Jake Diekman (ulcerative colitis) more than Kela, however. The 2016 version of Dyson is also sorely missed.

The offense is going to be fine, contrary to what many believe after some key off-season departures. Gallo looks like he could survive in the majors full time, but will likely have to go to Triple A once Beltre returns. Gallo will be back at some point, too.

Ultimately, the Rangers aren’t going to lose 162 games. They opened the season against a team that many are projecting to win the World Series, and the Indians made fewer mistakes on the mound.

The Rangers believe they are a good team and have the talent to be a good team. They’ve shown that, even during a three-game sweep to start the season.

“It’s just getting out there and grinding away and putting up more runs, and our bullpen is going to do a really good job this year,” Hamels said. “Unfortunately the past three games really haven’t gone our way. I know guys are going to bounce back and really get after them.”

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