For the third time this season and the third time in four starts, left-hander Ross Detwiler allowed fewer than five earned runs Thursday.
Technically, he is trending the right way, though the arrow isn’t pointing up so much as it’s defying gravity.
Technically, Detwiler gave his team a chance to beat the Kansas City Royals. He didn’t have his best stuff, as the nine hits he surrendered would indicate, but when he left the Rangers were only down one run.
He needs to be better — there’s nothing technical about that — and he knows it. The Rangers’ front office and coaching staff know it. They also know that the middle relievers, who once again couldn’t keep their team close, need to be better.
The combination of an iffy starting performance and a three-run sixth inning by the bullpen opened the door for Kansas City to salvage a split of the four-game series with a 6-3 win.
Detwiler is now 0-5 with a 6.95 ERA, and the Rangers have already given him extra time between April starts to fix his mechanics.
The bad news is that the Rangers don’t appear to have many options to replace him.
“Right now, he’s one of the five,” manager Jeff Banister said. “I felt like Det had a grinding performance. I still think about the same as what we’ve seen.”
Kansas City scored once in the first and twice in the fourth, when Detwiler did some damage control by picking off Alcides Escobar with one out after he had just singled in two runs.
But he also was caught not covering first base on a bunt try and hit No. 9 hitter Jerrod Dyson on a 1-2 pitch.
“Mostly, I’m just frustrated with myself,” Detwiler said. “I’m the one not getting the ball where I need it to be.”
The first three Rangers singled in the fifth to make it 3-1, and Prince Fielder singled with two outs to trim the Royals’ lead to 3-2.
That was it for Detwiler, who logged 108 pitches for his 15 outs. And as it turned out, that was it for the Rangers’ chance at collecting only their second series victory of the season.
Anthony Bass, who has been pitching in the middle innings with mixed results, surrendered a double to his first batter, the .222-hitting Drew Butera, and two batters later allowed an RBI single to Escobar.
Left-hander Sam Freeman, added to the roster Wednesday, entered to strike out the lefty-hitting Mike Moustakas for the second out, but the lefty-hitting Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch for a 6-2 lead.
“Those do sting,” Banister said.
The bullpen has allowed runs in seven of the past nine games to push its ERA to 6.00 this month. The 17 homers allowed by the Rangers bullpen are tied for the most in the American League.
The bullpen bright spot Thursday was the debut of Kyuji Fujikawa, who worked a perfect eighth inning on only nine pitches.
Right-hander Tanner Scheppers is nearing a return from Triple A Round Rock, and his addition would create more depth in the middle innings.
The Rangers also have the flexibility to keep trying out relievers, as most of them have options remaining.
The rotation, though, has limited options. Prospect Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez has stumbled some at Round Rock, where he has had trouble putting away hitters. Fellow righty Anthony Ranaudo continues to have trouble with his command.
Injured lefties Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez are probably two months away from being options. That leaves one healthy lefty, Detwiler, to try to figure things out.
Aside from one start, he hasn’t been able to do it.
“I’ve just been leaving my fastballs up, especially in bad counts,” Detwiler said. “You’ve got to work on getting the ball down and finding a better release point.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760