Chi Chi Gonzalez won’t be around Globe Life Park on Wednesday, with left-hander Derek Holland coming off the disabled list and taking his spot on the 25-man roster.
There were other possible roster moves the Texas Rangers could have made, but it made more sense to option Gonzalez back to Triple A Round Rock late Tuesday for a few weeks until big-league rosters expand or the Express’ season ends.
The right-hander will return to the minors having pitched better than his numbers show but still with room to improve and plenty to learn.
The big inning, two of them, got him in his two starts during his second big-league stint, where in-game adjustments were made but made too late and a lack of experience came into play.
That was the case again in a 3-2 loss Tuesday to the Seattle Mariners, who scored three times in the first and watched Hisashi Iwakuma allow two runs in seven innings before their bullpen hung on.
The big blow was a two-run homer by Seth Smith, a left-handed hitter who swatted a 2-1 changeup with two outs into the Rangers’ bullpen with first base open and a right-handed hitter coming.
Gonzalez attacked when a more cautious approach might have played out better.
“I felt he made some good pitches to the left-hander in a situation where there was a right-hander on deck and two outs,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s a situation where being aware of where the lineup’s at, who’s on deck, what the situation is. As he progresses, he’s going to learn that and understand that.”
The loss snapped the Rangers’ five-game winning streak and ended their run of eight straight home wins, which was tied for seventh-longest in club history. They also lost a game to Houston in the American League West, falling four games behind the first-place Astros, but stayed a game out of the second wild card.
Gonzalez arguably outpitched Iwakuma, coming off a no-hitter in his last start, beginning in the second inning until he was pulled after the sixth. Gonzalez (2-5) allowed only two hits after the first and struck out seven of his career-high eight batters.
He did his best pitching in the fifth, when Ketel Marte reached third base with one out. Gonzalez got Nelson Cruz swinging and Robinson Cano on a harmless grounder to first to end the threat.
After seeing his pitches stay up in the strike zone in the first inning, Gonzalez put an emphasis on keeping his pitches down.
“From then on, that’s what helped me out a ton,” he said.
Gonzalez allowed eight runs in 11 2/3 innings in two starts over five days as the Rangers adjusted their rotation to give Cole Hamels extra time for a sore groin. A four-run second inning Thursday bit Gonzalez at Minnesota, but the Rangers fought back for a 6-5 victory.
They couldn’t erase an RBI double by Cruz and the two-out two-run homer by Smith in the first. Gonzalez said that he never considered pitching around Smith.
“It’s early on in the game. I’m not trying to walk anybody there,” Gonzalez said. “I had another crooked number in an inning,” Gonzalez said. “It could have gone worse, but I did well enough. The team battled and got me two, but just couldn’t get that last one.”
Rougned Odor homered with two outs in the second against Iwakuma, and Bobby Wilson delivered a sacrifice fly in the seventh. But right-handers Danny Farquhar and Carson Smith worked a perfect inning apiece to improve the Mariners’ record this season against the Rangers to 8-3.
Iwakuma never allowed the Rangers to find a rhythm offensively.
“He throws however many pitches he throws and then in every spot,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “He goes up, down, in and out, up and in, down and away. Up and way, down and in. Everything is right on the edge of the zone or just off.
“You just try to battle against him, and he did a good job tonight. You’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Gonzalez wasn’t bad, either, but his inexperience and being too slow to make an adjustment came into play early.
“I felt like he was able to make some adjustments, but the first inning was a challenge for him,” Banister said.