A line of questioning about Adrian Beltre last week during the All-Star media availability prompted Houston Astros right-hander Charlie Morton to make the following observation:
The Texas Rangers are underperforming this season.
Now, don’t get carried away. This wasn’t Astros smack talk. In fact, it was the beginning of Morton heaping praise on the hitters the Rangers send to the plate each game.
“They’re underperforming for how good they are,” Morton said. “They’re really talented.”
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Morton rattled of a number of hitters, including second baseman Rougned Odor. He has been the Rangers’ poster boy for underperformance since last season.
Note: has been.
Odor homered and drove in three runs Sunday afternoon, and Yovani Gallardo and three relievers combined to scatter five hits as the Rangers beat the heat and the Cleveland Indians 5-0.
Odor, who also stole a base, finished the series 8 for 13, extending a hot streak covering his past 31 games. He continues to work on his all-around game and still claims he’s not feeling as good as he can.
“I’m feeling better at the play, have been working hard at practice and have been focusing more,” Odor said. “I don’t feel good yet, but I feel better.”
The second baseman lifted his average to .259 with a 3-for-3 day that included singles in his first two at-bats. The second drove in the game’s first run in the third inning, and he lifted a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Keep in mind that he batted .204 last season.
Ryan Rua, playing after Joey Gallo left the game with a sprained left ankle, connected for a two-run homer in the eighth as the Rangers avoided a three-game sweep and snapped a four-game losing streak on a day in which the scoreboard thermometer topped out at 108 degrees.
The Rangers also had a hard time disagreeing with Morton’s assessment. In fact, the Rangers took it a step further by saying are capable of more as a team, not just an offense.
It showed in the series finale with the Indians — on the bases, where the slumping Delino DeShields stole two of their four bases, and in the field, too.
The best came in the second inning, when Gallo threw out Jason Kipnis from right field as he tried to first to third. Odor made a nifty play in the sixth in which he had to avoid umpire Sam Holbrook, and shortstop Elvis Andrus ended the seven with another gem.
The Rangers also turned two double plays behind Gallardo.
The most troubling thing in the win is that Gallo had to leave the game after seven innings with a sprained left ankle stemming from landing on first base awkwardly as he ran out a sixth-inning grounder. He claims that he could play Monday to open a three-game series against the Oakland A’s.
The Gallo sprain aside, the Rangers have been getting healthy. With a cohesive group playing, they can’t help but get better.
“We needed to get healthy,” Andrus said. “It’s always though when you don’t have the nine guys you work out during spring training. It’s important as a team that we put everything together.
“As much as people think we can’t, as a team we know we can. It’s going to be an interesting second half. The good thing is we’re going to face a lot of good teams. When you face a good challenge, it gets the best out of you, too. We’re looking forward to that challenge and playing better in the second half.”
But how good can they be? Andrus said .500 isn’t unrealistic, though the team could be getting a major shakeup at the July 31 trade deadline.
“I definitely feel like we have a lot of talent on this team,” DeShields said. “I guys feel like they could have been better than what they’ve been showing. But you can’t really sit and ponder on the negatives. If you can take something positive away from each day, things will end good in the end.”