The first week of baseball has not gone the Rangers’ way. Jon Gray is already injured, and the bullpen blew a 6-0 lead to Toronto on Opening Day. But the Blue Jays have a high-powered offense, so one might expect the pen to stiffen up during the home opener against the Rockies.
The Texas Rangers bullpen did not.
The debatable ending of game one of this series – when Mitch Garver was called out after apparently illegally sliding into Rockies shortstop Brendan Rodgers – ruined what would have been a fantastic show of resilience from the Rangers.
Taylor Hearn was solid, if we’re just judging by earned runs, since he only allowed one. Hearn also was able to notch six punchouts. But it was not his best outing, as he allowed eight hits and one walk in four innings. According to Statcast, Hearn also allowed an opponent .421 avg and a 50% HardHit.
His slider was what got him into the most trouble, and his spin rate on his slider was down 50 RPMs from last year. It could be a first-start situation that will be fixed with some tinkering, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Despite not being at his best, Hearn left with his team winning, 3-1. The Rockies then proceeded to score in the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th innings. Four straight innings allowing runs is never a sign of success when building a bullpen. Greg Holland was particularly frustrating to watch in the 10th. Yes, starting the frame with a runner on is far from ideal, but neither was his location against Connor Joe: Two fastballs low and outside, fastball for a strike, a slider away called strike, and then another slider which broke right into Joe’s barrel for an insurance run.
Holland allowed a home run in two straight appearances, and on Tuesday, he issued a walk to load the bases. I don’t believe that we need to DFA him or anything extreme, but it might be best to remove him from high-leverage situations.
Willie Calhoun was incredible. With the Rangers down to their final out, he hit an absolute mammoth shot to tie the game at 4 and send it into extras. The Rangers then stayed in the game, even after Holland’s performance in the 10th. The unfortunate call against Garver took the game out of the Rangers hands and placed it with those who make the calls in New York.
Game two was a flipped box score for Texas, which scored three at the start and then one near the end. Martin Perez pitched about how I expected as the Rangers’ fifth starter. The 31-year-old lefty typically limits walks and pitches to contact during short, three-to-four-inning stints. Tuesday, he did not miss many bats, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with only two strikeouts in four innings.
Looking at the glass as half-full, the bullpen rebounded well, allowing only one run on no hits and two walks through five innings combined. It was a vast improvement from the prior game.
Unfortunately, the hitting disappeared. Only two guys had hits. And Corey Seager came close to getting his first Rangers home run, but he was robbed by Randal Grichuk. Sometimes hitting the ball 406 feet just won’t do it in the game of baseball.
But I’m not too worried about the lineup. Sometimes teams go cold, and the ball just won’t drop in. The Rangers xBA of .193 this game will rarely get any team a victory but 28 runs through five games is solid, and better than the 1-4 mark they had to show for it.
After Wednesday’s off-day, the divisional games begin. The bullpen’s most recent outing gave me confidence, but the team still needs more cohesion. The hitting and pitching must carry the other when one is down, and that’s something the Rangers lacked in the two-game series against Colorado. But now, the divisional games are starting, and the Angels are first up.
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This is when Rangers fans will start to see what the 2022 unit is made of.