The Texas Rangers have lost six straight games — three to the Oakland A’s, two to the Houston Astros and another to the A’s on Friday night.
Those two foes are two of the best teams in the American League. The A’s are an MLB-best 56-25 since June 16.
So, while it might look like the Rangers are dialing it in, just trying to get to the finish line, consider their schedule. Manager Chris Woodward was so passionate Wednesday night after a ninth straight loss at Minute Maid Park because he sees players still fighting.
They’re just Jerry Quarry fighting Muhammad Ali.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-0 loss.
A push for Andrus?
The belief in sports is that competition makes players better, and the Rangers need their players to be better next season.
General manager Jon Daniels suggested that Elvis Andrus might have someone pushing him next spring.
Of all the players on the roster, Andrus’ spot in the 2020 lineup would seem to be the safest. He has tenure, a contract and hasn’t been a liability. He hasn’t had the year everyone, including Andrus, thought he would.
A saying that Daniels goes by is “contracts are financial security, performance is job security.”
That should hit Andrus’ double-play partner a lot harder than it should hit Andrus, who has three years and $43 million left on his deal. Rougned Odor’s contract, which will pay him $36 million the next three years, will keep him on the team next season, but Nick Solak is providing some serious competition right now.
Woodward said that Odor knows Solak is knocking on his door, and Woodward believes Odor is responding to it. It’s very hard to see sometimes in the box score, so everyone will just have to take the manager at his word.
But if Daniels wants to push established players into position battles and isn’t as concern about sitting high-paid players, spring training and the early going next season could get interesting.
Minor roughed up
Mike Minor entered his 31st start of the season needing 5 1/3 innings to reach 200 and 12 strikeouts to reach 200.
He will reach the innings mark, needing only one more out.
His bid for a 200-200 season, though, was dealt a blow as he struck out only three in five innings. The A’s got him for six runs, thanks in part to the four batters he walked.
“I couldn’t throw the ball where I wanted to,” Minor said. “I don’t know what their stats are, but when you don’t throw the ball where you want to and you can’t throw an off-speed pitch for strike, then it’s pretty tough.”
Minor has seen his ERA climb from 3.08 to 3.52 the past two starts, both against the A’s.
The Rangers have scheduled Minor for one more start, Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox. That’s where he will surpass 200 innings.
He could pitch again in relief in either of the final two games, but that would be a consideration only if 200 strikeouts was in reach. Nine, the way he’s pitching, seems like a tall order.
Two A’s home runs helped do in Minor on Friday, when Chad Pinder swatted a three-run homer in the second. Mark Canha connected for a solo shot in the fifth, when Minor’s pitch count was nearing 100.
The home runs came on pitches that were left over the middle of the plate, and these A’s don’t miss those pitches. Minor’s struggles are similar to his July, when he lost his mechanics amid all those trade rumors.
“I’m just kind of searching lately for the mechanics stuff,” Minor said. “When a little thing is off, I feel like everything is off.”
He fixed it then. He has only a few more days to fix it this time.
Minor would have had to pitch a shutout to give the Rangers any kind of chance as their offense again misfired on the road.
Shin-Soo Choo started the game with a liner to center on the first pitch but was erased on an Andrus double play. Delino DeShields had a similar-looking single in the third but was quickly picked off.
That’s right: The A’s faced the minimum 27 hitters.
The two singles was all the Rangers got against Mike Fiers, who left his start last weekend in Arlington with numbness in his arm and with a cat tail on his face. His performance should ease any fears the A’s had about being short-handed for the postseason.
“He was executing his pitches,” Woodward said. “We did hit some balls hard and make some outs. Once he feels good, you can see the comfort. ... Today wasn’t great.”
Fiers could be in line to start the wild-card game. Should the A’s win that, they would face the Astros in the division series.
That would be worth watching.