Texas Rangers

Rangers' strikeout-prone lineup no match for Sale, Red Sox

Strikeout artist Chris Sale found a willing opponent Sunday at Globe Life Park. He struck out 12 in his seven innings.
Strikeout artist Chris Sale found a willing opponent Sunday at Globe Life Park. He struck out 12 in his seven innings. The Associated Press

The past seven games, beginning April 30 and ending Sunday, saw the Texas Rangers post their two highest-scoring games of the season and two other games where they scored five runs but lost.

From a scoring standpoint, buoyed by home runs each game, the Rangers' offense was just fine.

That might come as a shocker upon closer inspection. The Rangers also struck out 89 times, and no MLB team has struck out more often this season.

Rangers hitters whiffed 14 more times Sunday against strikeout artist Chris Sale and reliever Matt Barnes, and the only run they managed was on a solo homer by Ryan Rua as the Boston Red Sox left town with a 6-1 victory.

The Rangers lost the final three games to the Red Sox after posting a season-high 11 runs Thursday in the series opener and have lost six of their past eight games. Included in the losses was a 6-5 back-breaker Saturday.

"That is a quality starting staff," manager Jeff Banister said. "Obviously, look at their record, who they are, what they run out there. They've got really good stuff, and their bullpen is extremely tough.

"There is some youth on the field, but we’ve faced some quality pitchers along the way with the same set of guys on the field. It’s part of the process. It’s what we do have to do, get these guys up to speed at this level and it’s a challenging level. There is no level of baseball better than this one."

The strikeout-heavy week pushed the Rangers past the San Diego Padres for the most strikeouts in baseball, 356 to 355. Sale, who fanned 12 in seven innings, has struck out plenty of hitters across the league, and he's probably the last pitcher the Rangers needed to face.

That's especially so after they struck out 17 times Saturday against Eduardo Rodriguez and three relievers. And 12 times Friday against Rick Porcello and three relievers. And after 14 strikeouts Monday against Trevor Bauer and three relievers.

Banister noted the youth in the lineup as the Rangers play without Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. But the only player who didn't strike out Sunday was Jurickson Profar, one of the inexperienced replacements.

"Hey, it's Chris Sale," Profar said. "Plus-changeup, plus-slider, and he didn't even use his fastball at 98 mph."

It was a 2-0 game into the sixth before right-hander Doug Fister allowed a three-run homer to light-hitting catcher Sandy Leon with two outs in the sixth and a solo homer to power-hitting J.D. Martinez in the seventh.

Fister hit Jackie Bradley Jr. on a 1-2 pitch ahead of Leon's first homer of the season.

"It put the second runner on, and the next thing you know, Sandy ... ," Fister said.

The Rangers saw runners advance into scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings against Sale, but never got a runner past third until Rua caught a pitch in the seventh and sent it out to right field.

Sale stabbed a Carlos Perez liner to end the second after he had struck out rookie Renato Nunez and Rua with runners at first and second with no outs. Sale struck out Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara in the third to stop any momentum from Delino DeShields' leadoff single.

A focus in spring training was taking more walks and striking out less. After a nice start to the season, the Rangers are trending the wrong way.

"It is, right now, what we’ve got going on, and we’ve got to be better," Banister said. "As coaches, we've got to be better at coaching these guys up and preparing them to be better at these type of situations and go out and perform."

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