Tuesday newsletter time: More bullpen woes for Rangers, but offense also falls flat
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ARLINGTON — No matter which players are in the Rangers lineup or which players return from the injured list, who the pitchers remain the most important players on the field.
If the starter goes six or seven innings, life is so much easier on everyone else. If he doesn’t, trouble usually isn’t very far away.
While the Rangers saw Josh Jung and Adolis Garcia return Monday from the IL, they also had Jordan Montgomery on the mound to start a critical game.
That worked out splendidly, as the left-hander allowed one run in seven innings.
The trouble came once he left.
Left-hander Will Smith surrendered three runs in the eighth inning, and in the process a one-run lead, and the Rangers’ losing streak hit four games with a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox.
It was a costly defeat, too, as the Mariners beat the hapless A’s to catch the Rangers for the final wild-card spot. Toronto was off but added a half-game to its hold on the second wild-card berth.
The Rangers did not lose ground in the American League West, as the Astros lost and their division lead held at 1 1/2 games. The Rangers should have gained ground.
Smith was summoned to face Boston’s 8-9-1 hitters, each of them a right-handed batter. He promptly walked the .188-hitting Luis Urias, surrendered a double to Colton Wong and, after a strikeout and intentional walk, allowed a two-run single to journeyman the righty-hitting Rob Refsnyder on a 3-2 pitch.
The hit made the score 3-2 and chased Smith from the game. Bochy, who made the decision to use Smith, was visibly upset.
Smith was the Rangers’ most reliable reliever in the first half of the season but has been wildly unreliable during the Rangers’ slide the past month. He gave up a 1-0 lead Saturday at Cleveland.
The Rangers’ offense has been unreliable, too. They have scored eight runs during the four-game losing streak and had only five hits Monday night. Marcus Semien drove in both runs, the first of which came on his ninth leadoff homer of the season.
Before the game, Bochy said these are the games the Rangers can’t lose with all that is on the line.
Well, they just lost another one.
Carter a must
The surprise return of Garcia left Bochy with a handful of decisions, namely which player who had been starting would find himself on the bench.
The choices were Evan Carter, Robbie Grossman or Leody Taveras. The answer was Grossman.
At a time when managers like to lean on veteran players, Bochy went with the defense Carter and Taveras provide. Also factoring into the decision is that Carter is providing the Rangers with better at-bats than Grossman, and that’s saying something.
The combination of hitting, defense and speed that Carter provides has become irreplaceable in a matter of only 10 days. He tripled and scored in the sixth to help break a 1-1 tie.
Carter set a somewhat obscure club record for the most walks by a rookie in his first nine games, with seven. One of those was an intentional walk Sunday, though that decision by Cleveland manager Terry Francona said as much about light-hitting catcher Austin Hedges as it did Carter.
Nevertheless, unless the opposing pitcher is a nasty left-hander, it’s difficult to imagine Carter not playing every remaining game. It’s also getting harder to imagine him going back to the minor leagues ever again.
Huff, Ornelas optioned
The Rangers needed to clear two spots on the active roster for Jung and Garcia, so Sam Huff and Jonathan Ornelas were optioned to Triple A Round Rock.
Ornelas heads back with his first big-league hit, and Huff homered Friday night at Cleveland.
With Round Rock in a playoff race, Huff and Ornelas will be of great service.
Huff, it seemed, would have been of service Sunday to left-hander Cody Bradford after they were battery mates multiple times this season at Round Rock. Huff is also more of a threat offensively that Austin Hedges, who ended up behind the plate and had two hits.
Would Bradford have been more comfortable with Huff as the game started to fall apart on him in the fourth? Would Huff have had the right words and a previous experience to draw upon that would have put Bradford at ease?
Maybe, but it’s not like Hedges is some rookie. Things were pretty good for three innings, too.
But Huff is in line to be the backup catcher next season, when the Rangers will have plans of being in contention once again. A start Sunday would have done him some good and might have done the Rangers some good.
Impressive but potentially very messy. Enjoy.
Showing off.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/XQ6nKUbb2N
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) September 18, 2023
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org