Rangers' Road Trip Recap: Anderson Tejeda Shines in Major League Debut, Mike Minor Dealing With Fatigue
The Texas Rangers are 3-8 to begin the 2020 campaign.
Definitely not ideal.
After a disappointing 2-3 homestand to open the season, the Rangers dropped five of six on their road trip to the Bay Area. The Rangers lost two of three in San Francisco and were swept by their division rival Oakland Athletics.
"We've got to play better," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after Thursday's loss in Oakland. "We've got to do enough things to win games and we just keep making little mistakes. ...We still got a lot of games left, but we definitely got to play more consistent, like right now, getting doubled off on line drive to end the game. Just little things that we can't keep doing. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot, a lot of times."
Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson both pitched very well in Oakland, but the bullpen couldn't hold a tie or lead in either game. One bad inning ruined Minor's third start of the season and the Rangers couldn't put together enough offense to bail him out despite a majestic Major League debut from Anderson Tejeda, which was easily the highlight of the series for Texas.
"He saw five pitches and swung at all five of them," Woodward said. "That’s one thing I knew, he was going to be aggressive. I told him I wanted to see a live bat, especially against Mike Fiers. He did a good job. No fear. That’s what I love about him. He has no fear. I thought at the end of the game it was going to be his day with [Yusmeiro] Petit out there. I was hoping he would throw him a changeup and he did. He just got it off the end of the bat."
Tejeda went 2-for-4 with a single, a two-run home run, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base. From the get go, Tejeda was on the attack in the batter's box and on the basepaths. Oakland manager Bob Melvin was forced to take notice of the bottom of the lineup, especially when Tejeda stepped up to the plate with the Rangers down only one run, the bases loaded, and only one out. Petit won the battle, getting Tejeda to pop out.
"He's scary," Melvin said. "He can run, He can hit , he can hit for power. ... I mean, there's a reason you bring a kid from A ball to the big leagues.
"That's a pretty exciting prospect to have there. Thank goodness we held him down that last at-bat because really quickly, you had your eye on him where it was the bottom of the order with him up. And nowhere to put him with the bases loaded. Yusmeiro made a great pitch. He looks good, though."
While Tejeda might be a ray of hope for the club's future, the Rangers have some serious work to do to salvage this 2020 season. A 3-8 start isn't necessarily too much to overcome, but the Rangers a massive uphill battle to climb without all reinforcements at their disposal.
Not only are Corey Kluber and José Leclerc on the Injured List, Mike Minor isn't quite himself. In Thursday's start, Minor experienced a significant dip in velocity after a long fourth-inning where his fastball was sitting around 87-88 mph, a difference of about 5 mph. This obviously alarmed the Rangers' coaching staff and approached Minor about it in the dugout.
"I had the long inning and then came out for the fifth. I started warming up and it’s been like that the past couple of games where I felt I hit a wall," Minor said. "Velocity was done. That’s when I came back in and they asked me how I felt. I said I feel fine, I just don’t have any gas in me. I feel fatigued."
Minor reassured his coaches and the media that no injury is causing the fatigue. He also said the Injured List isn't currently an option right now to give him more time to build stamina.
The quick ramp up to the season has taken its toll on pitchers across Major League Baseball, and especially the main strength of the Rangers. With one starter out, another one not at 100 percent, the rotation doesn't give the Rangers the advantage on the mound they expected heading into the season.
The Rangers' bats are beginning to pick it up a little bit (12 hits on Thursday), but they aren't hitting in big spots. The bullpen hasn't gone a game without surrendering a run since the Opening Day shutout against the Colorado Rockies.
The Rangers have a golden opportunity ahead of them with the Angels and Mariners coming to town for a six-game homestand. They can try to gain some ground within the division against teams that are having issues of their own.
With the expanded playoffs in 2020, it would be quite a failure to miss out on a postseason berth. And with nearly 20 percent of the schedule now played, time is slowly beginning to run out.