Texas Rangers

Ninth inning unravels on Rangers just after go-ahead rally. Here’s how it happened

Kelley hates the way the Rangers lost Saturday

Texas Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley blew a save Saturday night against the Los Angeles Angels just moments after the Rangers had taken the lead.
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Texas Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley blew a save Saturday night against the Los Angeles Angels just moments after the Rangers had taken the lead.

The forecast for Sunday in sunny southern California calls for a lot of yuck.

Rain was to start falling overnight, calm down through first pitch, and then pick up again mid- to late afternoon. The forecast high temperature is only 60 degrees.

That’s crazy for these parts this time of year, but it’s been a crazy week. Rain on Wednesday left the Angel Stadium outfield too soggy to play, resulting in only the second rainout here since 1995.

Two in one week would be unprecedented.

The Rangers return to the Big A in August for a two-game series, so they could play a doubleheader to make up a Sunday washout. The teams have a mutual off day Aug. 26 before the series, but playing that day would result in the Rangers playing on 31 consecutive days.

The maximum permitted in the CBA is 20 in 20, though a team can vote to overrule that rule. It’s happening to the Rangers next month as they play 21 games in 20 days, but there’s no way they would play on 31 straight days.

So, hope for some sun and two-hour game Sunday. Hope for that every day, come to think of it.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 3-2 walk-off loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

1. The best inning of the game was the last inning, when the Rangers looked like they would steal a sixth straight win only to see it stolen away from them.

Or did they give it away?

Rougned Odor might have been the longest shot of all the Rangers hitters to come off the bench and deliver a go-ahead single on an 0-2 pitch, but that’s what the second baseman did in the ninth inning for a 2-1 lead after the Rangers had been blanked for eight innings.

Ronald Guzman doubled in the tying run the batter before Odor, who was caught stealing with Elvis Andrus batting to end the inning.

In the bottom half, Odor then threw wide of home as Luis Rengifo ran through a stop sign at third base but still managed to score the tying run.

The Angels’ winning hit was a popup with a .060 hit probability that found a way to fall between Andrus and left fielder Hunter Pence.

Here’s a look at each play:

Andrus took the blame for the Odor caught stealing. He indicated to Odor to attempt to steal second base in anticipation of a slider coming from Hansel Robles. Instead, Robles threw a heater and Odor was an easy out.

“That was on me,” Andrus said. “I should have protected him on that pitch. I thought he was going to come back with another slider and a sinker came back. I was pretty telling him to steal.”

Rengifo was trying to score from first base on a Kole Calhoun double that center fielder Joey Gallo cut off before it hit the wall. Gallo turned and threw to Odor, who had to go across his body to catch the ball.

To throw home, he had to turn himself around rather than throw in motion, and he pulled his throw to the right of home. An accurate throw nails Rengifo and keeps the Rangers up 2-1.

“The throw was a little bit to the right, and it was kind of tough to throw to home plate,” Odor said. “I had to turn around the other way. I turn around to the left, and that one I had to turn around to the right.”

Calhoun was at second as Jared Walsh pinch hit with two outs. Andrus was shifted behind second base, which became a significant problem when Walsh sent a popup to left field.

Andrus raced for it but didn’t catch it. Pence was playing a little too deep and couldn’t get there. Andrus said it was his fault for not communicating with Pence before Walsh came to bat.

“I was talking with him after the game, and we kind of miscommunicated a little bit,” Andrus said. “I knew we were going to be really close on that popup, so I kind of flinched a little bit at the end because I felt him at the end.

“I was playing behind second base. I know if I’m playing normal I can get to that flyball in a heartbeat. That’s one of those plays that after it happens, it’s like, ‘Ugh.’ I wish I could have communicated with him, ‘Hey, I’m this way. If you see a popup, go get it because I’m far away.’ It won’t happen again.”

2. Sometimes the other guy is just a little bit better, and that was the case for Mike Minor on Saturday as fellow left-hander Tyler Skaggs allowed only three hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

One of the five hits Minor issued over six innings was a Calhoun homer to start the third, and Skaggs kept Rangers hitters at bay. So did relievers Ty Buttrey and Cam Bedrosian until Guzman and Odor delivered against Robles.

The Rangers five-game winning streak wasn’t built just on the offense, though the hitters have had a knack for timely hits the past three games. But the rotation continues to impress.

The starters’ ERA the past 10 games is 2.63. Yes, that includes two openers over 2 2/3 scoreless innings, but the ERA of actual starters the past eight games in 2.78.

That’s one of the reasons why the Rangers are oozing optimism about their chances of remaining a winning team.

Minor retired the first six batters he faced before Calhoun’s homer to right field, and Minor kept the Rangers within a run in the fifth as he managed with a scoreless inning even though the Angels loaded the bases with no outs.

Just as was the case Friday with Drew Smyly, a fifth-inning escape act nearly saved the day for the Rangers. At the very least, Minor’s magic gave them a chance to win the game.

3. Jose Leclerc worked a scoreless seventh inning, albeit on 23 pitches. That rates as a shaky outing for him of late. He walked one and struck out three more batters, giving him 14 in his past 6 1/3 innings (all scoreless).

His return to the closer’s role continues to look inevitable, though it’s hard to argue with what he is doing in a set-up role and with Shawn Kelley had been doing at closer until blowing the save Saturday.

“That’s a tough way to lose one,” Kelley said. “It happens. I’ve probably made some bad pitches and gotten away with some, but that’s part of baseball. Initally off the sound and the swing I thought, ‘At least we still have a chance to win this ballgame.’ It fell in.”

The blown save probably won’t change the Rangers’ ninth-inning plans, though Kelley likely won’t be available Sunday. It could be Leclerc if a save opportunity develops.

It’s plain to see that he has conquered his early-season woes.

He did so with the help of veteran Edinson Volquez, who notices that Leclerc’s front shoulder was flying open during his delivery and causing pitches to ride up and in on right-handed hitters. Volquez said that he had experienced the same issue previously and gave Leclerc a drill to get going in a direct line to the plate.

It took some time for Leclerc to get it ironed out, but he has and he feels confident he can handling closing again.

“I think now I feel more comfortable out there, and I don’t feel any pressure,” Leclerc said. “I’d do it and I’d do like I was supposed to be doing it before.”

The Rangers’ bullpen has been better of late, with relievers posting a 3.79 ERA the past 10 games to drop their overall ERA to 4.74. That’s not great, but it is better.

Leclerc’s improved results have helped, and Jesse Chavez has also found a groove with 10 consecutive scoreless appearances.

But the Rangers need more than Kelley, Leclerc, Chavez and Chris Martin, but they don’t have much roster flexibility in the bullpen. Shelby Miller and Jeanmar Gomez are out of minor-league options, and Kyle Dowdy is a Rule 5 pick who must remain on the active roster all season.

Jeffrey Springs has options, but he’s the only left-hander in the bullpen and likely would be swapped out for fellow lefty Brett Martin.

With that stretch of 21 games in 20 straight days coming next month, something might have to give to keep fresh arms rolling into the bullpen.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

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