Wandy Rodriguez isn’t some rookie. He also isn’t in the prime of his career.
But doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what he’s doing on the mound or doesn’t know when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Rodriguez didn’t have it Friday, and he knew it might be a difficult night.
He was right.
Rodriguez didn’t make it out of the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians, who worked counts and kept at-bats alive long enough to score five times against the left-hander en route to an 8-3 win.
“I had a bad day today,” Rodriguez said. “Everything I threw today had bad location. I used everything, and it was basically up in the zone. I struggled with location the whole game tonight. That was my problem tonight.”
Adrian Beltre further strengthened his résumé for the National Baseball Hall of Fame by swatting his 400th career home run, the 52nd player in baseball history to reach the plateau and only the fifth third baseman.
“I don’t like those situations, but it was nice for the fans and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done,” Beltre said. “It would feel a lot better if we had won the game today.”
Beltre’s first-inning homer followed a two-run shot by Prince Fielder and gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead after Michael Brantley and Nick Swisher drove in early runs for Cleveland.
But Rodriguez (1-2) was ineffective, and another bullpen hiccup, this one in the sixth by Kyuji Fujikawa, prevented the Rangers from any realistic chance at a comeback after the offense misfired on several early opportunities against journeyman Bruce Chen.
The first two batters reached in the second, but the Rangers came away empty after Ryan Raburn robbed Shin-Soo Choo of extra bases with a catch while crashing into the left-field wall and Elvis Andrus bounced into an inning-ending double play.
“The double-play ball early was a big play for us,” Banister said. “If Raburn misses that ball, it’s a big inning for us.”
Beltre was stranded at second in the third after a one-out double.
After that, the chances dried up.
Rodriguez could only fend off the Indians until the fourth, when they tied the game on the first hit of the season by Zach Walters. Swisher put them ahead for good with a two-run single in the fifth, and Rodriguez was done after hitting the next batter, Brandon Moss, on his 101st and final pitch.
“The fastball, he couldn’t quite get it on the edge where he wanted it,” Banister said. “More than anything, the breaking ball was not as sharp as we’ve seen. Those two factors were the difference tonight for Wandy.”
Swisher entered the game without an RBI but collected three against Rodriguez, who didn’t have the same effective curveball or fastball command that helped him register a franchise-record 34 consecutive outs between his previous two starts.
Fujikawa got the last out of the fifth to keep the Rangers’ deficit at 5-3, but Fujikawa was tagged for three innings, including a solo homer, as the bullpen again faltered in the middle innings with an opportunity to keep the game tight.
“We definitely need to be better in the middle innings,” Banister said. “The string of home runs out of the bullpen is a concern. The ability to pitch through an inning without giving up runs is challenging.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760