"We’re Just Not Getting the Big Hit" The Rangers' Missed Opportunities at the Plate are Piling Up
Friday night's series opener in San Francisco couldn't have gotten off to a better start. It looked as if the Texas Rangers were going to pick up where they left off on Wednesday when they scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning en route to a 7-4 victory over Arizona.
Shin-Soo Choo took the first pitch from Giants' starter Logan Webb and planted it in the left field seats for a lead-off home run. The Rangers added another run in the third inning on a Joey Gallo RBI-double. Despite not recording a hit, the Rangers threatened again in the fourth inning and loaded the bases. However, Rougned Odor failed to capitalize with a pop out.
The Rangers didn't record another base hit until the ninth inning. By that time, it was too late as San Francisco had a commanding 9-2 lead.
Starting pitcher Mike Minor did not have his best stuff on Friday night. Yet, it was the first time the starting staff truly let down the offense this season. Even when Corey Kluber was pulled after one inning with his shoulder injury, the bullpen kept that game within reach. The offense failed to pick them up, mustering only five hits and two runs in a loss.
With the exception of the five-run eighth inning on Wednesday, this Rangers offense has struggled mightily. It's understandable to get off to a slow start given the rushed nature of Summer Camp. Hitters don't quite have their timing down. Then they try to do too much to compensate. It's a slippery slope that can cause an offense to sputter and be wildly inconsistent and unreliable.
The Rangers hoped to build off the the strong finish against Arizona and carry that momentum into San Francisco. Instead, we saw more of the same issues for more than half of the game.
“It was a little bit frustrating," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "They had some pitchers I felt like we could have taken advantage of. We put ourselves in a decent spot at times. I feel like with some of the walks we were having good at-bats. We’re just not getting the big hit. I think that’s what was happening to us at the beginning. We had big hits in the last game, but we need to start coming through in those situations. Instead of just walks, we need to add some hits to it.”
Those big hits are coming few and far between thus far in the young season. The Rangers are batting .214 (9-for-42) with runners in scoring position this year, and even went 3-for-12 in Wednesday's best offensive performance of the season.
The Rangers rank dead last in the American League in team hits, slugging percentage, on-base-plus-slugging, and total bases. Excuses can be made for playing in a new ballpark, but the fact of the matter is the Rangers just aren't hitting well enough.
Rougned Odor and Willie Calhoun are two bats the Rangers are relying on to be productive. In a 60-game season, it makes it difficult for managers to let their hitters figure things out at the plate. Games mean much more than they usually do. Unfortunately, the Giants have a number of left-handed pitchers to match up against left-handed hitters like Odor and Calhoun.
"I need him to get going, but at the same time, there’s strategy and there’s also a feel for letting these guys get at-bats," Woodward said of Calhoun. "We need to use the whole roster right now. We have 16 (hitters). If the matchups present themselves, I may go to those matchups instead of just riding out a guy and letting him kind of figure out his timing."
Odor started the season with a couple of nice performances and some quality at-bats, but has dropped off over the last couple of games. On Friday night, he went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and left six men on base.
"Obviously, we need to see production," Woodward said. "I don’t love the numbers. But I love his work and everything he’s doing. The quality of the at-bat is OK right now. I’d like to see a little bit better. He is facing some tough lefties obviously. He typically doesn’t mind lefties. I think once he gets a few more games under his belt, hopefully he gets some more results to kind of put his mind at ease. Then we can start seeing the Rougie that we saw at the end of last year and pretty much the whole time in spring and camp this year.”
Looking up and down the lineup, there's a lot to pick apart right now. Very few traditional or advanced stats are favoring any Rangers hitting through the first six games. It sounds crazy to say, but the season is already 10 percent complete. As the Rangers' continue through their schedule, it's only going to get tougher.
We all knew pitching was going to be the strength of the team. And through six games, it's been more than good enough. Before Friday night's game, the Rangers had a team ERA of 2.40, which was second in the American League.
The pitching can't shutout the opposition every night. A 9-2 loss to the Giants reminds us that even the better pitchers in the game can't be great every time they take the ball. And outside of one fabulous inning, the Rangers' bats have been essentially nonexistent. In order for the Rangers to avoid a disappointing series loss in San Francisco before they travel across the bay next week, they need to strike a better balance.
Chris Woodward believes in process over results. If the offense continues down its current path, we're going to see just how much that mantra will be put to the test.