Gil LeBreton

Rangers back to first-week norm, and that’s not good

Alas, as it turns out, Friday night may have been the outlier in this first early sampling of the Texas Rangers’ baseball season.

Five nights, one win.

One game, Friday’s, when the bats were alive and the ball seemed to find the Rangers’ gloves. One night when it didn’t matter if the phone rang in the home team bullpen.

Saturday, however, wasn’t one of those nights.

On a windy evening when starter Yu Darvish held the visiting Oakland Athletics to one run and four hits over six innings, the Rangers failed to put together enough offense, defense and dependable bullpen work to turn around what has been a lousy first week. The A’s scored five times in the final three innings Saturday and won 6-1.

Contenders? The Rangers have played more like pretenders.

There were two outs in the seventh when they finally managed their first hit off Oakland starter Kendall Graveman – a Mike Napoli solo home run.

Other than that, they never threatened to score.

The expected heavyweights in the batting order – Carlos Gomez, Shin-Soo Choo, Napoli and Jonathan Lucroy – now have first-week batting averages, respectively, of .167, .222, .111 and .133.

Add it all up – there were a lot of zeroes, so it shouldn’t be hard – and it was a waste of a solid performance by Darvish.

Making his second start of the young season, Darvish struck out five of the first 13 Athletics he faced. The third of the three bases on balls he issued, however, came back to bite him when Ryon Healy doubled and Matt Joyce scored on a slow roller to Rougned Odor.

Spare us, please, the tired refrain that Darvish is missing some essential element when he gets entwined in these 1-0 games. Almost always, the only thing he’s missing is the Rangers scoring more runs.

But Graveman has done this before to Jeff Banister’s team. He took another no-hitter into the seventh against the Rangers last Sept. 23.

One night after bashing out 11 hits in a 10-5 victory to open the weekend series, the Rangers seldom were able to get the ball out of the infield in the first six innings.

Napoli’s home run shot came with two outs in the seventh, and Odor followed with an opposite-field single. But those two minutes were pretty much the home team’s offensive highlights of the night.

Again, for the third time this week, when manager Jeff Banister called to his bullpen, Rangers relievers only made the night worse. Two plays that should have been made – a would-be double play throw by Napoli and a fly ball that Nomar Mazara over-ran in the right-field corner – dug deeper holes for relievers Tony Barnette and Dario Alvarez.

But so the first week has gone. Merely 157 games remain.

Yet, it’s been an untidy week for Banister’s team. Capable starting pitching has been wasted. Cylinders haven’t been firing. And the bullpen has been generally ghastly.

The victory Friday night has been the exception.

Darvish did his job Saturday night. But what about the others?

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