A Solid Start

Texas Rangers show toughness as they grind out wins in season-opening series

Texas Rangers show toughness as they grind out first pair of wins

The Texas Rangers struck an early blow for resiliency in their first series of the season. The Rangers scored 10 runs on opening day but were still clobbered, 14-10, by Philadelphia. They turned around and won the next two games in their final at-bat.

It was an Adrian Beltre RBI single on Tuesday night and a Shin-Soo Choo bases-loaded walk on Wednesday night. The latter win came at the expense of former All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon.

It’s too early to draw conclusions about where this team is going to be in three months. But given how snake-bit this team was in spring training, a 2-1 start is nothing to dismiss, either.

 “We squandered some chances, but in the end we did what we had to do,”  Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

The takeaways from the Rangers’ opening series? First, the toughness with which this team played a year ago hasn’t disappeared, despite player changes and injuries. The Rangers were quite resilient in 2013, rallying from behind to win 50 games, seven of them in their final at-bat.

The Rangers now have two walk-off wins in their first series. In 2013, Texas was 2-58 in games in which they were behind entering the ninth inning last year. They’re already 2-1.

“That’s why you play nine innings, and we play nine innings every night,” Rangers manager Ron Washington told the media after Wednesday’s game. “We squandered some chances, but in the end we did what we had to do.”

Squandering chances? Well that’s the second takeaway. That’s something the Rangers were quite guilty of last season, and early in 2014 that still seems to be the case offensively. The Rangers left 14.25 runners per game on base last year.

So far this year the Rangers have left an average of 16 runners on base per game. Yes, it’s early. But the Rangers didn’t cash in consistently in the first series.

The Rangers hit one home run and stole one base in the first three games, and that’s likely to change. The Rangers scored fewer runs in the final two games of the series (seven) than the first game (10). 

Finally, there’s a third takeaway: The Rangers need to provide more consistent run support to a rotation that appears shaky. Is it good enough to weather the fact that four Major League starting pitchers are hurt?

The Phillies lit up opening day starter Tanner Scheppers, who gave up eight runs in four innings. Martin Perez, a holdover from last year, and Robbie Ross, like Scheppers a converted reliever, fared better in the other two games. But none of the starters made it out of the sixth inning and none of them figured in the decision. The bullpen, as it often seems to early in the season, shined. But it could show some wear if the starters continue to have difficulty reaching the seventh inning.

Staff ace Yu Darvish is set to pitch on Sunday in place of Scheppers. Theoretically that puts Scheppers back in the bullpen. Colby Lewis had a minor-league start last week, and the Rangers must make a move on him by April 10 or Lewis could opt for free agency.

Lewis threw 92 pitches, gave up 10 hits and five runs in that appearance. Matt Harrison had his first minor league start on Thursday in Frisco and is likely at least three weeks away from re-joining the club. Derek Holland is out until July after knee surgery.

It would seem this shoestring rotation must hold together for at least another month before the intended rotation for 2014 starts to take shape. But the Rangers showed in that first series that they have the toughness to hang in there.

Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers
Shin-Soo Choo celebrates his walk-off walk. Texas Rangers/Facebook
Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers
Rangers manager Ron Washington wins his first series of the season. Cleveland.com
Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers
Adrian Beltre had a strong opening series for the Rangers. Texas Rangers/Facebook