The Texas Rangers will not be undefeated this postseason. Texas lost 8-5 in game three at home against the Astros. Max Scherzer started and had some issues early on, but got through four innings. Josh Jung hit two home runs in this game. Bochy used almost everyone in the bullpen except for Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc. Those three got an extra day off. They should now be setup to be able to go in both games 4 and 5. It was not all good though. Corey Seager continues to struggle mightily in this series. He looked visibly frustrated after a couple of his at-bats. I think it warrants an inspection on what it is that Houston is doing to frustrate him and what is Seager not doing well right now.
Houston's game plan against Corey Seager
In the division round series it seemed like the Orioles plan was to mostly pitch around Seager. He ended up with nine walks in the three games including five in one game. The Astros have chosen to pitch to Seager. They are not trying to pitch around him or be careful with him. They are actively challenging him with pitches in the zone. The best thing Houston is doing is not missing in the middle of very much. They are mostly staying high in the zone or on the inside or outside corners. They have executed their game plan well against Seager.
This has led Seager to a 2-13 start to this ALCS. That includes going 0-4 in game three on Wednesday night. It is not just the lack of hits that is concerning, but the fact that Seager is not driving the ball. When he is on he is generating a very high exit velocity and is driving the ball into the gaps and well over the fence in right and center field. So far this series a lot of what we have seen is weak pop out, foul outs, and fly outs. Even the one hit he had in game two was a weak pop that found grass in left field.
It is really hard to diagnose what Houston is really doing. Javier and the Astros pitching staff threw almost all fastballs to Seager on Wednesday night. He did see a changeup that was well outside the zone. In game one Veralander mixed up his pitches and attacked the lower half of the zone against Seager. In game two Framber Valdez and the Astros bullpen really stayed on the inside and outside corners. It has been a well thought out plan that to this point has worked perfectly to hold down Corey Seager. I say to this point because Seager does not stay down for very long. He nearly went the entire season never going two consecutive games without a hit.
What is Corey Seager not doing well?
The first thing is his pitch selection and swinging at pitches that are not strikes. Seager is an aggressive hitter, but he also normally does a good job at not chasing pitches.In the first two games of the series he was striking out too often. In game one he struck out twice both on pitches below the zone. In game two he struck out twice again both on pitches below the strike zone. Seager is an aggressive hitter, but he also normally does a good job at not chasing pitches. In the ALDS he had nine walks and in the first three games of this series he has zero walks.
The second thing is his tendency to get under the ball instead of being on top of it. So, many at-bats in the first three games have ended as pop-ups either in foul territory or fair territory. He really is struggling to get behind the ball and really drive it into the gaps. If you look at all of his at-bats, only one really can be described as a hard line drive and that was in game two when he drove the ball to center field. That ball had a 97.2mph exit velocity and had a 17 degree launch angle. It was hit to center and Chas McCormick made a diving catch to record the first out of the fourth inning. Other than that it has been a lot of weak pops or fly outs to medium deep center field.
It just seems right now that Seager is really fighting himself and his swing to some extent. He was showing visible frustration in the sixth inning on Wednesday night when the first two pitches nearly led to foul pop outs. Then he settled himself and did not chase the next three pitches and worked the count full. He saw a pitch down and away and he swung and did drive this ball 102.2 mph to deep right center field, but it was caught. It was one of those good process, bad result kind of at-bats.
What can Seager to get out of this funk?
Texas fans know that Seager will put in the work. Hundreds of times throughout the season he has been shown on the bench with the Ipad ostensibly studying his at-bats. He would look at what went right and what did not. He is one of the hardest workers on the team. If I had to guess he is likely going to spend the majority of Thursday in film study of what he has done in this series and what he has done in the past against Jose Urquidy. He will see that he is 3-9 in his career against the right-hander. He has two doubles and a home run against Urquidy.
When he is done with film study he will step into the cage that is not on the field to work with his hitting coaches to diagnose what is wrong with his swing? I am going to guess that the fans will see a better Seager tonight and going forward. It really does not seem like he is that far away. He did not strike out last night. He did fly out four times. The broadcast pointed out correctly last night that he is just right underneath everything. Once he figures out how to get on top then he will be able to better drive the ball.
If Texas is going to win this series and have any shot of winning a World Series they need Seager to perform in a similar fashion to how Yordan Alvarez is performing and how Bryce Harper is performing for the Phillies in their playoff run. Texas will not close out this series without getting better production from Corey Seager and really everyone at the top of the lineup.