The struggles continue.
A big part of the Rangers winning their second straight A.L. West division crown last season was the bullpen. So far in 2017, it’s a big reason why the Rangers are in danger of burying themselves in a deep hole that could jeopardize a chance to three-peat as division champs. Sunday was just another example of that.
Starter Andrew Cashner did his job against the Mariners. The big righty, signed during the offseason, proved his worth by throwing six shutout innings before being lifted in the seventh after a leadoff walk. Cashner finished with five strikeouts, many of those off the fastball, which he was able to locate while keeping the Mariners lineup off-balanced.
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Once again, the seventh inning became a disaster. Jose Leclerc came in relief and just didn’t look his normal self. The young righty had control issues with three walks, including walking in a run that cut the Rangers lead to 3-1. Alex Claudio, who’s also been solid in relief and even made an emergency start earlier in the week, then gave up a two-run single to Danny Valencia to tie the game. Both of those runs were charged to Leclerc but Claudio was tagged with the blown save.
Sam Dyson, who lost his closer role a couple of weeks ago, took over in the eighth and gave up the go-ahead solo homer to Kyle Seager. In fairness, Seager lights up Rangers pitching no matter who’s on the mound. Rangers get hit with the 4-3 loss.
The thing is we’ve seen this show before during the first month of the season. It was another opportunity to notch one in the win column that got away. Just like that.
Now, the argument could be made that the Rangers would be right up there with the Astros at the top of the division but too many costly games have slipped away due to the bullpen issues. Instead of being near the top, the Rangers are at the bottom of the division at 13-19, eight games behind Houston. Granted, the pen isn’t the only reason the Rangers are six games under .500 but it does play a factor.
If you are a starting pitcher or a position player, you have to be frustrated with the lack of execution by the pen. There have been too many games where the offense fought to get the lead and the starters did their job holding it in place, only to see it all disappear. One has to wonder when the confidence starts to fade and uncertainty begins to creep in anytime the call to the pen is made.
What adds to the frustration is how the ship looked like it was reversing course and sailing in the right direction in Friday’s extra-inning win, where the bullpen threw six scoreless innings. But then Sunday rolls around and the issues re-appear. The Rangers are now near the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA at 5.63 and have allowed 69 runs, only Seattle is worse with 70 runs allowed by the pen. On the flip side, Texas is third in the league with a 3.44 ERA by the starters. Funny how baseball go.
The good news is that the calendar reads May and there’s still a long way to go in the season. There’s still time for the bullpen to turn it around and get back on track. The Rangers will need that to happen and happen soon in order to help keep the season from fading away.