After Thursday, no one can question Chi Chi Gonzalez’s ability to log a bunch of pitches.
The right-hander threw 124 of them, a season-high for the Texas Rangers.
The problem is he did it in 4 2/3 innings of a 10-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Gonzalez surrendered two runs in each of the first two innings, and the Rangers managed only two hits in six innings against Tyler Duffey en route to their fifth loss in six games.
Gonzalez has been a part of two of them, and he hasn’t pitched well in any of his three starts in place of Colby Lewis. The only Rangers win in the three came on after the marathon rain-delay rally June 27 at Yankee Stadium.
A position player has pitched in both of the Gonzalez losses. Outfielder Jared Hoying worked the ninth Thursday, and catcher Brian Holaday pitched Saturday as Gonzalez lasted only two-thirds of an inning.
“Dating back to Chi Chi’s last start, you look at the number of innings we’ve gotten out of the starting rotation, and it has not been good,” manager Jeff Banister said. “I’ve been in these situations before. Stomping my feet and screaming and yelling is not going to do much good. There are a number of messages that need to be delivered to individuals. The bottom line is that we’ve got to be better. We have to be better. We’ve been really good in stretches. It all starts with starting pitching.”
The soonest Gonzalez, a former first-round pick, would pitch again for the Rangers would be after the All-Star break, though there are no guarantees that he will get a fourth start as the Rangers continue to deal with injuries to Lewis, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish.
Before the game, Banister didn’t seem to be in the mood for another lousy outing by any of his starters. When the Twins started fast against Gonzalez, it was Banister who went to the mound and not pitching coach Doug Brocail.
“Sometimes you have to put your big-boy pants on and play major league baseball,” Banister said. “This is Major League Baseball. You don’t graduate from here. You play here or you don’t play here. You show up to do your best. If you’re best isn’t good enough that day, sometimes you tip your cap and move on.
“Facts over feelings. This is grown-up baseball.”
Banister’s tone didn’t change afterward.
“There are some things that get said on the mound that are between me and the pitcher,” he said. “I think you can come to your conclusion what I had to say.”
Gonzalez allowed nine hits and five walks, and finished with five strikeouts. The 124 pitches were the most in club history in a start lasting fewer than five innings.
After a 10-game road trip filled with short outings by their starters and only two quality starts, the Rangers didn’t need another to open their final series before the All-Star break. But it was apparent early that Gonzalez wouldn’t work deep into the game.
The Twins opened with a double and a single, and a one-out walk loaded the bases. Minnesota scored on a sacrifice fly to shortstop by Max Kepler, as Eduardo Nunez raced home after Elvis Andrus made a sliding catch on a flare just over second base.
A two-out single by Robbie Grossman made it 2-0.
“Balls here and there, they don’t fall my way, but it was a grind all game,” Gonzalez said. “I got out of some tough situations, and some I didn’t. It was just a grind.”
After the Rangers failed to score despite loading the bases with one out, Kurt Suzuki started the Twins’ second with a homer, and a two-out walk and two singles brought in another run.
Gonzalez didn’t yield any more runs, though it wasn’t easy. He threw 34 pitches in the fourth, and needed strikeouts of Kepler and Grossman to escape a bases-loaded jam.
But Gonzalez was back for the fifth and exited only after he walked Nunez with two outs.
Yet, the Rangers were down only 4-0 after seven innings. But that didn’t last as the Twins scored five runs against Shawn Tolleson, who had worked 11 2/3 scoreless innings over his previous nine outings.
“Tonight was the first night we haven’t score any runs in these situations,” Banister said.
The Rangers were hoping that a return to Globe Life Park would fix their current woes. They went 4-6 on their road trip but were 28-12 at home.
Despite the loss to the Twins, the Rangers continue have the most wins in the American League and will enter Friday with a 6 1/2 -game lead over Houston in the AL West.
“Every game, every series is important to us,” said Shin-Soo Choo, who returned to the starting lineup after leaving Tuesday’s game early with back stiffness. “We’ve had some tough times, but it’s a long season. We trust each other.”
It seems doubtful the Rangers would entrust Gonzalez with another start, though they will need a fill-in starter after the All-Star break. Darvish is expected to return in one of the first five games of the second half, but Holland’s return is uncertain and the earliest Lewis can return is late August.
After Thursday, at least the Rangers know Gonzalez can log a bunch of pitches.
Rangers vs. Twins
7:05 tonight, FSSW