Ten Takeaways from the Rangers' Three-Game Series Against the Giants
The Texas Rangers are 3-5 to begin the 60-game sprint that is the 2020 regular season. After dropping the first two games in San Francisco in rather ugly fashion, the Rangers salvaged what they could with undoubtedly their best offensive performance of the season.
It's difficult to label a team any particular way after eight games. We've seen some encouraging things in the first several games, but there is plenty to be concerned about as well.
We learned quite a bit in these three games against the Giants. Let's take a look.
1. Joey Gallo is really good at baseball. He has gotten off to a great start, with Sunday being his best performance of the season. He went 3-for-4 with a single, double, and a three-run home run in the seventh inning to help put the game out of reach.
Gallo is also doing all of this after being two weeks behind nearly everyone else on the team after the COVID-19 fiasco at the beginning of camp.
We saw the potential for a special player in 2019. Only eight games into 2020, he is making us all believers so far that 2019 was no fluke.
2. The starting rotation didn't have a great series. Mike Minor had a less-than-stellar outing and Jordan Lyles had troubling command issues walking five batters in four innings of work. Allard was solid on Sunday, but couldn't give more than four innings due to a pitch count restriction as he continues to be stretched out.
While the offense continues to find its form, the rotation will have to pick up the slack. The Rangers really needed to take at least two out of three in San Francisco. With the rotation turning in subpar performances, the Rangers need to win two games in Oakland to try and salvage the road trip.
3. There are definitely some questions about the bullpen. As mentioned, it wasn't a great series for the starting rotation either, but we were left with wondering about several arms in the bullpen. Brett Martin will get a pass since he just made his season debut after coming back from battling COVID-19.
Luke Farrell was hit hard in one inning of work on Friday. Jimmy Herget had a nice inning on Friday, but gave up two runs in an inning on Saturday. Jesse Chavez had the same issue on Saturday and Sunday. Ian Gibaut was pretty underwhelming in his 1 1/3 innings on Sunday.
It's a small sample size and not everyone is going to be lights out. But the bullpen pitched 11 1/3 innings over the weekend, giving up 10 earned runs, striking out 12 hitters and walking 10 in the process. That's a poor collective performance to say the least.
4. For some brighter news out of the bullpen, Jonathan Hernández was lights out in two innings of work on Sunday. He had command of his turbo sinkers and his slider—both of which had some nasty movement.
He has definitely been talked about more than anyone else in the bullpen since the start of camp. It hasn't been perfect for Hernández so far, but he's shown plenty of why the Rangers are so excited about him going forward.
5. Willie Calhoun is working his way back—and it might not be too much longer until we see him break out. Calhoun is admittedly a slow starter. In addition, he's working his way back after a traumatizing fastball to the jaw in Spring Training.
Calhoun came through in a critical at-bat against a left-handed pitcher on Sunday. He has also been making solid contact in recent plate appearances. The Rangers are relying on him to be a critical piece of the lineup. He may not be too far away from being a key contributor once again.
6. Similar to Calhoun, Shin-Soo Choo may be starting to hit his stride. He homered twice in the series, including a moonshot that splashed down in McCovey Cove on Sunday afternoon.
Choo is 38 years old and in the final year of his contract with the Rangers. Both sides seem somewhat open to another contract, but obviously the Rangers need to see if he can still play—or at least hit. Choo could be a reliable veteran bat atop the lineup if he's starting to hit like we've seen in years past.
7. Scott Heineman's series shouldn't go unnoticed. He started on Saturday and Sunday, going 3-for-9 in those games with a home run and three RBIs. He also gave the Rangers quality defense in center field while Danny Santana was put on the 10-day IL. Not to mention, Saturday's matchup against his brother Tyler Heineman was a really cool moment.
8. As a whole, the Rangers are hitting the ball hard. Five of their nine hits on Sunday exceeded 100 mph off the bat (two hit by Choo, two more by Gallo, and one by Nick Solak). While fans await the offense to provide some consistent production, it's an encouraging sign to see hitters squaring the ball up more often.
9. The defense is still a work in progress, but it seems to be improving. The combination of the wind from the bay and the time of day all three games were played made it a difficult environment to play sound defensive baseball.
However, Isiah Kiner-Falefa committed his second error of the season on Sunday. Kiner-Falefa may be the best defensive infielder the Rangers have, but two errors in eight games is worth noting.
Todd Frazier can handle his own at first base, but he's not going to win a Gold Glove over there. He clearly looks more comfortable playing across the diamond.
Nick Solak gets accused of subpar defense, but he made the plays he had to make in center field on Friday night. He also seemed to do just fine at second base in place of an injured Rougned Odor on Saturday and Sunday.
Defense will continue to be a key factor for the Rangers while things get sorted out in the bullpen. The offense needs as much support as they can get until they begin producing more consistently.
10. Last but definitely not least, the Rangers continue to be aggressive on the bases. The Rangers stole three bases in the first inning of Saturday night's game, aiding in the Rangers jumping out to a 2-0 lead right away.
Chris Woodward wants this team to be aggressive on the basepaths and apply pressure to the opposing pitcher. They haven't been afraid to run so far and there's no reason to think they'll stop any time soon.
The Rangers are off Monday, but will stay in the Bay Area with a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics beginning on Tuesday. Lance Lynn will take the ball for the Rangers on Tuesday night and face Oakland's prized prospect Jesús Luzardo, who is set to make his first career start. First pitch will be at 8:10 p.m. CST.