Chris Woodward sees some good in Rangers’ Opening Day loss to Cubs
The first series of the Texas Rangers’ season has ended. That’s hardly enough of a sample size to definitively say which way the season will go, but that’s never stopped Rangers Reaction.
The offense appears to be capable of scoring runs in bunches.
The pitching staff, starters and relievers, appears to be capable of surrendering runs in bunches.
The Rangers are not capable of playing a game in under three hours. Of course, that’s been the trend for a couple seasons now.
Come to think of it … .
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 11-10 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
1. The good news is the Cubs are leaving town and won’t be back to knock around Rangers pitching. The bad news is the Rangers have work to do so that other upcoming foes don’t to the same to them.
The Rangers allowed 12, six and 10 runs in the season-opening series, and actually won twice. Starting pitchers Mike Minor, Edinson Volquez and Lance Lynn surrendered six, six and seven runs in a combined 14 1/3 innings.
Lynn has ample experience in his career against the Cubs and knows that they can be a complete offense. He also knows that he and the Rangers have work to do on the mound.
That’s obvious, but it’s a good thing the pitchers aren’t oblivious to what went down at Globe Life Park.
“Everyone is going to say we need to pitch better, and everyone has things we need to work on,” Lynn said. “But it is the first three games of the season, and when you look back at it the offense picked us up and we won two out of three.
“There will be a run through season when the pitching staff is going to pick up the offense and we’re going to win two out of three. That’s baseball, but when you lose the first game and come back to win the series, that’s awesome.”
Up next are the Houston Astros, and the Rangers know what they can do at the plate. Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller and Minor have the task of shutting down a team that once again is considered a World Series contender.
Smyly and Miller will be making their season debuts. Smyly will be pitching in an MLB game for the first time since 2016. Miller pitched sparingly last season.
But the bullpen needs to tighten up, too. Shawn Kelley and Jose Leclerc can’t pitch every night. Leclerc likely won’t be available Monday and might not be ready Tuesday after pitching in back-to-back games.
These three high-scoring games have affirmed one thing – if the Rangers’ starters can’t go deep in the games, the bullpen is going to be gassed. The only reason Lynn pitched in the sixth inning is because so many relievers weren’t available.
Outlasting the other team offensively isn’t a sustainable winning model. The pitching staff needs to be better.
At least they know that.
2. The season opener Thursday wasn’t the Rangers’ best day at the plate, though Cubs left-hander Jon Lester does that to most teams he faces.
Nevertheless, the Rangers showed that, indeed, there is pop in their lineup as Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara launched two-run homers.
On Saturday, the Rangers showed a patient approach, drawing 12 walks before Joey Gallo flexed his muscles on an eighth-inning three-run homer. Asdrubal Cabrera also homered in that one.
He went deep again Sunday in a game in which the Rangers were about as complete an offense as possible. They hit homers, they took walks, they moved runners over and they did damage with two outs.
Delino DeShields’ grand slam in the fourth off Cole Hamels came with two outs. It followed to tough plate appearances that ended in walks to Logan Forsythe and Jeff Mathis. DeShields homered on a 3-2 pitch.
Cabrera plated the first run in the inning with a sacrifice fly after Hunter Pence went from first to third on a one-out single by Mazara.
Mathis hit his first homer of the season in the sixth, matching his total from all of last season. Gallo started a four-run two-out rally in the seventh with a single to left field, a rarity for power hitter, and Pence took a walk before Mazara tripled to right-center.
Cabrera was next, and he ended another quality at-bat with a homer off the foul pole.
The at-bat that shouldn’t be overlooked was in the ninth after Gallo opened the inning with a double. Shin-Soo Choo hit for Pence and grounded the first pitch to second base.
The coveted productive out allowed Gallo to move to third base, and he scored as Pedro Strop’s next pitch went to the screen.
The offense won’t do that all season, just as the pitching staff won’t have a hat-size ERA, but it also will be a better unit than the past two seasons.
The lineup decision for the series finale came after Woodward said that the lefty-hitting Choo would play against Hamels. Choo didn’t have a great game Saturday in his season debut, but he delivered a critical two-out two-run single in the seventh against Jose Quintana.
Quintana is … a left-hander.
“I trust Choo more than anybody on the team,” Woodward said. “He is the most professional at-bat we have. Just more of a chance to get Pence a couple of games early and make him feel he’s part of this. He is too good of a player. It’s a good problem. We have too many good players.”
Woodward said that Choo could start as many as the next 10 games with opposing rotations currently lined up to throw right-handers at the Rangers. The Astros are scheduled to start righties Brad Peacock, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.