After Friday night’s defeat, despite a lower number in the loss column, the Texas Rangers (36-24) have ceded the division lead to Oakland (38-25) by mere percentage points.
Nick Tepesch pitched a lot better than his final line seems to indicate — allowing 6 runs on 5 hits in 7.0 IP, including a 4-run 6th — but again the Ranger offense couldn’t muster much support.
The only run the Rangers plated came in the first inning on a sequence where Jurickson Profar singled, advanced to 2nd base on a balk, and was driven in on a two-out RBI single from Adrian Beltre two batters later. That was it. Blue Jays’ pitching only surrendered 4 hits and a walk on Friday night, punching out 13 Ranger hitters. It was not a pretty night any way you try to spin it.
At the same time, I don’t think much should have been expected. Consider this: Nick Tepesch and Ross Wolf were the only two pitchers used in the game; an already depleted lineup was without Nelson Cruz and Lance Berkman, and Adrian Beltre was DH’ing. This is a supremely less-than-ideal roster as it stands, but the only thing we can do is wait. Things are going to get better.
The team will not look like this next month, or even next week.
The Rangers have now lost 7 of its last 11 games — obviously the worst patch of baseball to date in 2013 — and you can pick apart virtually any aspect of the team you’d like. The offense is underperforming, the pitching staff is regressing to the mean, and the manager isn’t going to do the club any favors. This is basically what a team looks like when it is gutted by injuries and, as fans, we realistically shouldn’t be counting on Tepesch, Wolf, Justin Grimm, Michael Kirkman and Jason Frasor to lead us to the Promised Land.
What’s more perplexing (and thus, more fascinating) is the potential infield situation once Ian Kinsler returns from the disabled list. With Mitch Moreland on the DL for a hamstring, it could theoretically open a scenario where the Rangers are behind in the standings to the A’s, and they feel it’s time to utilize Kins, Profar and Elvis Andrus all in the same lineup.
To extract the most value from the troika of the athletes, it would make sense to employ Ian at 1B, Profar at 2B, and Andrus at SS; it’s the basic wet dream infield many have salivated over for about a year now.
This, of course, would be unfortunate for Mitch Moreland, who has actually had a pretty fine year. I know in baseball there’s some sentimentality involved when a player works his ass off for an organization, finally looks like he’s figured something out, then gets hurt and loses his position for the greater good of the team … but when you have all your chips in front of you with a World Championship as the end goal, you want your best players on the field, period. No matter what.
When Moreland returns from the DL, he will find at bats. Somewhere. Whether that means starting at 1st base twice a week, gets a couple games in the outfield and a game at DH — they will be there. He just needs to continue hitting, and, before that, make it back on the field in a healthy way.
2nd place isn’t a place the Rangers are used to being; at least not the neo-Rangers. In the ensuing days, with the roster as it stands now, don’t look forward to a crazy amount of wins. Attrition has taken our best roster from us. But when you listen to the radio, or watch pundits on television clamoring for Jon Daniels to do something, just remember that most of Texas’s midseason reinforcements will not come via the trade market.