Texas Rangers

‘As long as I made it through the warm-ups, I was happy’

Adrian Sampson was a tough-luck loser in his first start for the Rangers. He allowed only one run on two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Angels.
Adrian Sampson was a tough-luck loser in his first start for the Rangers. He allowed only one run on two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Angels. The Associated Press

What happened Tuesday night to the beat guys doesn’t happen often, and it usually ends the way it did.

But a no-hitter was in progress, deep in progress, when writers decided they had better get to pounding out a quick story to post on the Internet as soon as the final out was recorded.

The one other time that vividly comes to mind in my 11 seasons on the beat was in 2013, when Yu Darvish came within an out of a perfect game at Houston in the second game of the season.

Something named Marwin Gonzalez broke it up as a grounder got through Darvish’s legs and through the infield. Gonzalez, of course, has developed into a key cog for the Astros, and Darvish has developing to an outfield logjam for the Rangers.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

1. The Rangers’ woeful season nearly endured its worst moment as the Angels took a combined no-hitter into the eighth inning before Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled with one out. The near no-no overshadowed a major moment for right-hander Adrian Sampson.

First, the offense, or lack thereof.

The Rangers actually managed another hit in the eighth, by Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar was robbed off a potential go-ahead hit before taking a loss in which Sampson allowed only two hits in five innings. Those were the Angels’ only two hits, though one was the first career homer by Jose Fernandez in the second inning.

The Rangers avoided being no-hit for the fourth time in club history, with the last coming April 18, 2007, as Mark Buehrle pulled the feat for the Chicago White Sox.

Jim Johnson started a bullpen game for the Angles, and was followed by Noe Ramirez, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson and Jose Alvarez. Blake Parker recorded the first out of the eighth before Kiner-Falefa delivered a sharp line drive to right field.

The Rangers didn’t get a ball out of the infield from the fourth through the seventh innings and didn’t have a base runner after the third until Kiner-Falefa’s hit. Profar took two of the three walks issued by Angels pitchers, and Joey Gallo had the other.

Sampson was the tough-luck losing pitcher in his first start for the Rangers, his second career start and his first time start in the majors since his flexor tendon tore while warming up for the first inning of a 2016 start with the Seattle Mariners. It was a long road back.

“As long as I made it through the warm-ups, I was happy,” Sampson said. “I threw four or five pitches in warm-ups in Detroit, and that’s when I felt it go. Just getting through it all and just being able to go out and compete is what I love about this game.”

He found himself behind in the count more than he would have liked and was fortunate that much of the hard contact against him was turned into outs. He credited the defense for his success, but also liked how his changeup was able to keep hitters off the fastball.

He threw a nice changeup to strike out Shohei Ohtani for the first out of the fourth after hitting Mike Trout, and then stranded him there despite a hard grounder to third by Justin Upton and a drive to the center-field wall by Andrelton Simmons.

It was better than Bartolo Colon would have done, and the Rangers gained much more out if than had Colon started. Sampson could get as many as three more starts before the season mercifully ends.

They could be a nice launching pad into a spring competition for a 2019 rotation spot.

2. Gallo was off Sunday. Nomar Mazara was out of the lineup Monday. Shin-Soo Choo and Delino DeShields received a day off Tuesday.

The Rangers have outfielders who need a look, and, by golly, they’re going to get a look even if it means taking at-bats away from players who needed them and/or have earned them.

That’s the way September baseball goes for a rebuilding team, and the Rangers are rebuilding. They wanted to see Willie Calhoun and Drew Robinson against the Angels, and at some point are probably going to let Ryan Rua and Carlos Tocci start a game or two.

They have too many outfielders on the roster. That’s the reason Scott Heineman, who might be the Rangers’ Minor League Player of the Year and had earned a promotion, wasn’t a September call-up. Tocci still being bound by Rule 5 stipulations didn’t help his cause.

The Rangers have too many left-handed-hitting corner outfielders who need playing time, which is why the Rangers will strongly consider trading either Choo, Gallo, Guzman or Calhoun in the off-season.

But a trade still wouldn’t make it easy getting three of them playing if Adrian Beltre returns and requires multiple games a week as the designated hitter.

The Rangers have said multiple times that they don’t want Gallo playing center field all that often. They wouldn’t want Calhoun, the centerpiece of the 2017 Darvish trade, to be a bench player. Mazara has become their cleanup hitter. Choo has been their best player this season and is owed a difficult-to-trade $42 million the next two seasons.

So, who gets traded? Is there a non-tender candidate? Which right-handed hitter makes the team next spring. Clearing the log jam won’t be as easy as it might seem to some.

3. And, then, there are the infielders and catchers, whose futures seem to hang on Beltre’s decision.

If he comes back, that means Profar plays third base when Beltre is the DH and some first base when Beltre is at third. That means Ronald Guzman, the Rangers’ best defensive first baseman and a burgeoning power threat, sits multiple times a week.

If Beltre retires, Profar becomes the regular at third and might put more importance of Kiner-Falefa being more of a utility infielder than a catcher. (By the way, is it just me or do too many balls get past IKF when he catches?)

If he is the backup catcher to Robinson Chirinos, Hanser Alberto is better positioned to be the utility man.

If Kiner-Falefa is the utility infielder, Carlos Perez is in line to be the backup. Jose Trevino might get some consideration, though missing half of the Double A season because of a shoulder injury stunted his development.

He’s the better defender and will be ready for spring training, but the Rangers might not want a promising prospect to be an MLB backup.

At least the Rangers don’t need to trade anyone from the group. They just need to know if Beltre plans to return or retire.

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