If it wasn't official already, it is now: The Texas Rangers lineup has gone ice cold.
The Rangers dropped the first of four games in Tampa Bay on Monday, falling by a final score of 1-0. Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow was simply sensational for the Rays, pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits and one walk allowed, while racking up 14 strikeouts.
For the Rangers young lineup, the coaching staff has continually preached to stick to the process and grind out at-bats. It's easier said than done when a guy like Glasnow is on his game.
"I don't think it was a lack of process at all. This guy's just got elite stuff," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "Guys went into the at-bat with an idea of what to do. This guy is really good. He's really tough to hit."
Nevertheless, for the third time in four games, the Texas Rangers lineup failed to score a run. They were no-hit in one of those three games, and combined for eight total hits in Monday night's loss and the 2-0 loss to San Diego on Sunday.
The Rangers have seen some very good pitching over the past few games. Joe Musgrove no-hit them on Friday, Chris Paddack is no slouch, and the Padres' deep bullpen showed their worth on Sunday. Follow that up with a pitcher of Glasnow's caliber, that can wear down on a young and inexperienced lineup.
"Listen, our guys fought," Woodward said. "It was a tough test. We put a lot of pressure on them there at the end. We had some really quality at-bats in the ninth inning. Unfortunately, we lost on a little bit of bad luck, to be honest. Our pitchers pitched their butts off."
The Texas pitching has been remarkable over in the last two games. The tandem of Dane Dunning and Taylor Hearn followed Mike Foltynewicz's seven strong innings on Sunday with seven sensational innings of their own. Dunning pitched four scoreless innings with two hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Hearn followed with three solid innings of his own, striking out seven Rays hitters in the process. John King came in and pitched a scoreless eighth inning, limiting the Rays to just the one run.
The only blemish on the night was a first-pitch home run by Willy Adames off of Hearn in the seventh inning — a 376-foot fly ball that bounced off the top of the fence in left-center field. According to Statcast — backing up Woodward's comment on some bad luck — it would have been a home run in only 10 big league ballparks.
"It sucked," Hearn said. "Yeah, it was a good outing for me, but I really feel bad I gave up that solo shot. But I know it's a part of the game."
As the young season has progressed, so has the Rangers' pitching. Dunning has a 1.00 ERA through two starts, Kyle Gibson righted the ship in his second start, Jordan Lyles has looked more like the pitcher that caught the Rangers' eye in Milwaukee, and younger guys like Hearn are making tangible improvements in each outing. That has allowed confidence to grow in the clubhouse, despite the 3-7 record.
"I know from a pitching side, we're not really panicking," Hearn said. "We're taking it day by day. I know that's something I do. I think that's helped me out a lot, just trying to not look too far ahead. Plus, [the coaching staff has] done a really good job of continuing to reiterate to us that we're only a month into the season."
Ultimately, this season is about growth. And with growth comes growing pains.
"If you have a weak-minded team, maybe it will affect them," Woodward said. "But our guys are tough as nails."
Playing in left field, Ronald Guzmán left the game in the first inning while running in for a pop up. His cleat caught the Tropicana Field turf and Guzmán went down. He was removed on a cart with what the Rangers dubbed as a "right knee injury." He will undergo further evaluation.
The initial fear, given the nature of the way Guzmán fell, is an ACL injury. A tear would effectively end Guzmán's season. While the Rangers wait for the results of the evaluation, Adolis García may be in line for a call-up to the big leagues until Willie Calhoun is ready to return.
Calhoun is close to full health after sustaining a groin injury early in spring training. However, he just arrived at the team's alternate training site in Round Rock and is undergoing intake testing for COVID-19.