Texas Rangers

Rangers Reaction: Is limiting Minor's pitches, innings causing some of his struggles?

Left-hander Mike Minor will start Opening Day on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs’ left-hander Jon Lester at Globe Life Park.
Left-hander Mike Minor will start Opening Day on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs’ left-hander Jon Lester at Globe Life Park. The Associated Prerss

A thud of a first half for the Texas Rangers, with a few exceptions, ended with a thud Sunday at Camden Yards.

Staked to a 4-0 lead, Mike Minor couldn’t keep it as the Baltimore Orioles scored one in the first and five in the third, an inning he couldn’t finish.

The offense, which produced three walks and a grand slam from its first five hitters, didn’t score again until the seventh. They had a chance to score in the ninth, but Carlos Tocci didn’t see third-base coach Tony Beasley throw up a stop sign.

The game ended with Tocci an easy out at home.

“I trust Tony with what he sees and what he does out there,” manager Jeff Banister said. “I haven’t gone back and looked at the tape, but I was OK with the runner being sent in that situation. To take that risk right there is a good opportunity to do it.”

The result was a series loss to the last-place Orioles, who won 28 of their 97 games in the first half. The Orioles hadn’t won a home series since mid-May.

Have a nice All-Star break.

Here’s some Ranges Reaction from a 6-5 loss.

1. Minor doesn’t make excuses. He might occasionally speak his mind, as he did last week after his start at Boston, but he doesn’t make excuses.

And this isn’t making an excuse for him, because he himself said he couldn’t execute pitches in the five-run third, but an idea as to what might have been in play to some extent Sunday and possibly would be in play the rest of the season.

Cole Hamels’ discourse Friday night on pitch counts skimmed the surface.

A pitcher who knows he is working on a pitch count knows what he is up against. He needs to be nearly perfect, but if things start hitting the fan, he knows he needs to make a pitch to get out of it.

So, he might try to make the perfect pitch rather than doing what has worked best for him in the past. He might walk a hitter or be unable to put one away quickly or might leave a pitch over the plate.

Before he knows it, his pitch count has piled up and the manager is coming to get him.

Take Hamels, who know Friday night in the seventh inning that he was approaching a pitch limit because he hadn’t worked deep in his previous two starts. He gave up a couple singles and then walked Chris Davis, who was hitting .158, on four pitches.

Out came Banister. Hamels knew it was coming.

Minor knows that he isn’t going to be given much leash as the Rangers try to keep his shoulder healthy in his first season back in a big-league rotation. He knows entering a start that he has to be efficient with his pitches if he wants to pitch deep into games.

The one thing a starting pitcher always wants to do is go deep in a game, and the Rangers made that much harder on Minor this season. Being the competitor that he is, perhaps he focuses too much at time on pitches per batter and pitches per inning rather than just letting it go.

He’s had great starts this season, like June 27 when he retired the first 18 batters. He gave up a hit in the seventh, and wasn’t allowed to pitch into the eighth despite coasting to that point on only 85 pitches.

He had to be nearly perfect to get that far.

Minor has topped 100 pitches only twice this season and has finished seven innings on three times.

That’s bound to drive a starting pitcher crazy. Knowing there’s no chance to alter it this season, maybe it’s taking Minor away from what he does best.

2. Shin-Soo Choo set the tone for the Rangers’ offense (what else is new?) when he drew a leadoff walk to stretch his on-base streak to 51 games. The next two hitters followed suit before Rougned Odor chased a ball in the dirt for a strikeout.

(Insert head-slap emoji.)

Ronald Guzman, though, connected for his first career grand slam, and the Rangers appeared to be off and running. And, of course, they weren’t.

But leave it to Choo to try to get them going again. He singled in his third plate appearance to lead off the fifth and homered in his fourth to open the seventh. In the ninth, he drew a two-out walk to give Elvis Andrus a chance.

Andrus doubled, and Tocci, running for Choo, was out a home.

The Rangers’ lone All-Star, Choo was planning to make the short drive to Washington for the All-Star activities after the game. His wife and three kids, who were pretty happy with the home run, will be accompanying him.

In this lousy season for the Rangers that is bound to get only lousier, Choo’s story is clearly the best. Give me Isiah Kiner-Falefa next, then Guzman, Jurickson Profar and Bartolo Colon.

More are bound to develop in the second half.

3. The Rangers, except for Choo, will be off the next two days. An informal poll revealed that a beach is where many players are headed.

They all need the rest.

Most, not all, have to be back by Thursday night, when the Rangers will work out at Globe Life Park. Choo is one of those who doesn’t have to partake, and the guess here is that Adrian Beltre will be excused, too.

The goal, Banister said, is to get the blood pumping again after four days off. Choo and Beltre and other veterans can do that without some stinking workout.

The second half will begin Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, and the Rangers will play 12 straight before their first day off Aug. 1.

The last day of the stretch is the trade deadline. Hamels and Beltre will be difficult to move. Maybe some bullpen arms are shipped out.

There are bound to be changes, though perhaps not as many as are expected.

All the scenarios are bound to be revisited here multiple times over the final 10 games before the deadline hits.

For now, though, have a nice All-Star break.

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