Texas Rangers

Rangers lose again in key stretch of season. Here’s what went wrong, what’s on the line

Elvis Andrus discusses Rangers’ woes to end first half

Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus talks about his team’s current slide Saturday after a 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
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Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus talks about his team’s current slide Saturday after a 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

The facts with one game remaining before the end of the first half of the 2019 MLB season are as imposing as Minnesota Twins right-hander Michael Pineda appeared to be Saturday afternoon.

Not to mention Taylor Rogers.

The Texas Rangers are swooning, losers of 6 of 7 games and staring hard at a three-game sweep ahead of the All-Star break. They are in danger of losing contact with the lead pack of wild card contenders.

The couldn’t claw out of a five-run hole Saturday in an eventual 7-4 loss.

The Rangers’ All-Star starting pitcher, Mike Minor, will rest Sunday rather than pitch. Left-hander Joe Palumbo, only two weeks ago deemed not ready for prime time, will pitch against a team that crushes lefties.

Meanwhile, one of the game’s best lineups has misfired more than it has hit on all cylinders dating to last weekend, when, by the way, much of the pitching staff began to either miss the strike zone or find too much it.

And guess who awaits the Rangers after the All-Star break? The big, bad (in a good way) Houston Astros and the July 31 trade deadline.

The Rangers are in the midst of their most important stretch of the season, one that could ultimately convince management to trade for the help the team needs, and they haven’t been very convincing.

“I don’t think it was in our plans losing (6 of 7), especially the way we were playing in June, but we can’t start thinking about we’re failing or we’re going down,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We’re playing good teams. They’re in their situations for a reason this year. Just scratch today’s game and get ready for tomorrow.”

Jesse Chavez allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings, and All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo stranded four runners and committed the throwing error that led to one of the Twins three runs in second.

He had a chance to put a dent in the Twins’ lead in the third, batting with two outs and the bases loaded, but Pineda got him with at a 3-2 fastball near the top of the strike zone.

“It was a good battle, but he made his pitches,” said Gallo, who flied out to the warning track to end the first inning with Shin-Soo Choo at second. “I got it to 3-2, and sometimes they make a pitcher’s pitch and there’s not much you can do with it.”

Gallo made a nice running catch on a sacrifice fly in the Twins’ second, and it scored the game’s first run, but runners at first and second moved up 90 feet as Gallo made an ill-advised throw home that hit off the screen behind the plate.

Two runs, not one, scored when Byron Buxton followed with a two-out single.

“I thought the big hit was the Buxton hit,” manager Chris Woodward said.

The Twins added two more in the fourth against Chavez, the first coming after Gallo jumped but couldn’t secure Miguel Sano’s drive to center field to start the inning. It turned into a triple, and Sano scored two batters later.

“It’s one of these games you look back and how did this happen,” Chavez said. “One extra-base hit, you give up five at the end of the day and you’re like, ‘Man.’ I understand two walks and a hit batter put me in a bad position.

“My fault today. I was a little too nibbly.”

Andrus got the offense going with a homer to start the sixth, and Willie Calhoun delivered a two-run shot to cap the Rangers’ three-run seventh to trim what was a 5-0 deficit to 5-4.

By the time the Rangers made a game of it, they were neutralized in the eighth as Rogers, a left-hander, mowed through three straight lefty hitters. Gallo struck out for the third time, and Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor also fanned.

The Rangers’ task in the ninth was made more difficult after Marwin Gonzalez homered in the eighth off Shawn Kelley on an 0-2 pitch to jump-start a two-run rally. Rogers added two more strikeouts in the ninth for a seven-out save.

Now, the Rangers are staring at a three-game sweep, the Astros coming after the All-Star break and the trade deadline after that.

“I’m definitely aware of that,” Woodward said. “We just need to play better.”

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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.