Texas Rangers

Rangers end first half with loss, but also optimism

Yu Darvish not frustrated by lack of run support

The Texas Rangers have scored one run for pitcher Yu Darvish during the last four games, but he said that he is focused on his own job (video by Jeff Wilson/Star-Telegram).
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The Texas Rangers have scored one run for pitcher Yu Darvish during the last four games, but he said that he is focused on his own job (video by Jeff Wilson/Star-Telegram).

The figurative first half of the 2017 season came to an end Sunday afternoon for the Texas Rangers, whose first 88 games could be summarized by many in the following way:

The bullpen: Awful.

The offense: They struck out how many times?

The rotation: Trade Yu Darvish now.

But as of the end of business Sunday, the Rangers found themselves still in the playoff hunt despite a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers will open the second half of the season Friday only three games out of the second wild-card spot.

Furthermore, the Rangers feel as if they are trending in the right direction, toward the top of the wild-card standings and a win-or-go-home game with either Darvish or Cole Hamels on the mound.

Despite all the first-half warts, the Rangers are still standing and still believing.

“With the way the guys are pitching and the offense is waking up, that’s what you want,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “When you finish the first half strong, it gives you a better side and on the mental side you feel a lot better for the season half.

“It’s been a rough one, a lot of ups and downs, but it’s always good to go through everything in the first half. Hopefully, we have an amazing second half. We’re confident we can do it. We’ve done it before.”

The Rangers rallied from way back in 2015, making up an eight-game deficit on Aug. 2 to win the first of two consecutive American League West titles. That memory is still fresh with the players on that team and the front office.

Their weekend performance will also be fresh on their minds when play resumes July 14 at Kansas City to kick off a 10-game road trip. The Rangers are only 18-25 on the road and have lost four of their past five away from Globe Life Park.

They will send Martin Perez, Hamels and Darvish to the mound at Kauffman Stadium with the rotation at full strength and pitching well. Darvish allowed two runs on three hits in 7  1/3 innings, but was once again the victim of a lack of run support.

He heads to the All-Star Game in Miami, where he won’t pitch, with a 6-8 record, a 3.49 ERA, 125 strikeouts and 118  2/3 innings over 19 starts. More importantly, he has a healthy arm and confidence going forward.

The Rangers, meanwhile, have scored one run in the past four games with him on the mound and have lost all four.

“We have not been scoring many runs when I’m pitching, but it’s part of baseball,” Darvish said. “My focus is to face just one hitter at a time, and I don’t look at the scoreboard much.”

Offensively, Adrian Beltre’s march to 3,000 hits will be an immediate second-half storyline, but the Rangers will attempt to continue their recent trend of grinding out at-bats and hope it translates into a more diverse offense.

The Rangers are homer-happy, third in the majors and the fourth most in club history before the All-Star break. While third in the league in runs, the Rangers are second to last in batting average and were 11th out of 15 AL teams in average with runners in scoring position (.246).

“You need to be able to have a balanced attack,” manager Jeff Banister said. “A balanced attack is your best attack, but I’m never going to argue with the ball going out of the ballpark on our side. Instant offense. We’ll take that every time.”

The bullpen remains the biggest concern and with good reason after 17 blown saves, tied for most in the majors, and 18 losses, second-most in the AL.

Keone Kela, the Rangers’ top reliever in the first half, is expected to return against the Royals after dealing with shoulder inflammation and resume a late-innings role, possibly as the closer. Banister feels more comfortable with the current mix of relievers and said that he has an idea of how he wants to use them.

The bullpen’s woes have overshadowed that the Rangers actually have had 17 leads to blow. The Rangers believe they are a much better team than their record indicates.

“For sure,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “We believe we have a great team. We’re still the division champions until somebody else wins it. There’s still a long way to go. The bullpen has to get better and be more consistent closing games. That’s it.”

Chirinos didn’t put all the blame for the sub-.500 first half on the bullpen. No one unit performed consistently well for a long stretch, other than the 10-game winning streak against three last-place teams.

The first half was consistent in that the Rangers played well for a few games, only to take a step backward for another couple.

Yet, the team still believes it’s trending the right way and will contend for one of the two wild-card spots in the second half.

“Work-in-progress,” Beltre said. “Right now, we’re trying to find out how to be more consistent. We’re doing everything we can. Yes, we need to start playing better. Yes, we need to learn how to start helping each other more often and win more series.

“In baseball, anything can happen. There’s no doubt we have the players. We just need to come in and perform and make it happen.”

Los Angeles

100

010

001

3

5

0

Texas

000

000

000

0

2

1

Los Angeles AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Maybin cf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.245

Calhoun rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.242

Pujols dh

2

1

1

1

2

0

.241

Escobar 3b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.284

Valbuena 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.185

Young Jr. pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.260

Cron 1b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.213

Simmons ss

4

0

1

1

0

2

.290

Revere lf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.229

Franklin 2b

2

0

0

0

2

0

.191

Graterol c

1

0

0

1

1

1

.245

Totals 29

3

5

3

5

8

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Choo rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.250

Andrus ss

4

0

0

0

0

0

.300

Mazara lf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.258

Beltre dh

2

0

0

0

2

0

.283

Odor 2b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.220

Robinson 3b

3

0

0

0

1

1

.273

Chirinos c

3

0

0

0

0

1

.218

Gallo 1b

0

0

0

0

3

0

.194

DeShields cf

2

0

1

0

0

0

.286

Totals 26

0

2

0

6

6

E—Odor (8). LOB—Los Angeles 5, Texas 6. 2B—Maybin (16), Simmons (21), Mazara (17). HR—Pujols (13), off Darvish. RBIs—Pujols (54), Simmons (39), Graterol (6). SB—Revere 2 (9), Young Jr. (8), DeShields (19). SF—Graterol. S—DeShields. DP—Los Angeles 2; Texas 1.

Los Angeles

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Ramirez, W, 8-7

6

2

0

0

5

2

96

4.46

Hernandez, H, 8

1

0

0

0

1

2

17

2.73

Bedrosian, H, 5

1

0

0

0

0

1

12

1.69

Norris, S, 11-13

1

0

0

0

0

1

17

2.59

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Darvish, L, 6-8

7 1/3

3

2

2

4

6

102

3.49

Claudio

 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

4

2.76

Leclerc

1 1/3

2

1

1

1

1

19

3.42

Inherited runners-scored—Claudio 2-0, Leclerc 2-0. T—3:08. A—28,384 (48,114).

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