The Texas Rangers lost once again on Monday night 4-3 against the Arizona Diamondbacks to start their nine-game road trip. A combination of stranded runners and bullpen failure cost the Rangers in this one. Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith both blew save opportunities for the Rangers in the 9th and 11th innings. It was less surprising and more expected considering how this team has been playing since the last game in San Francisco. Whatever August magic this team had prior to that day has all but disappeared since then. Last night the man in the dugout hired to be the steady hand in times like this likely contributed to the loss. Bruce Bochy's decision to walk Ketel Marte with two outs in the 11th really needs to be examined from all angles. This decision directly led to the DIamondbacks being able to walk it off two batters later.
Why did Bochy walk Ketel Marte in the 11th?
I do not want to beat around the bush, so lets talk about it. Will Smith was on the mound and was facing Ketel Marte with a runner on third and two outs. The Rangers had just taken the lead in the top of the inning off a two-run double from Nathaniel Lowe. They were one out away from wrapping up this game and ending a four-game losing streak. It was not meant to be.
Marte in his previous at-bat had taken Chapman deep off a 92mph splitter that was hung to tie the game at one in the ninth. He did also have a single in the fourth inning off of left-hander Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery had struck him out as well in the first. Marte was 2-4 as he stepped to the plate in the 11th and was then intentionally walked. The walk placed the tying run on first base and brought the winning run to the plate.
Marte has been in a slump for most of this month. He was 8-63 for the month of August coming into this game. That is good for .127 batting average. He also only had two home runs and six RBIs for the month of August. He was not in a good place. Chapman threw a bad pitch in the ninth and Marte took the pitch deep. That does not mean he is back to playing at an all-star level.
What likely played into the decision to walk Marte?
If you want to take a look at Bochy's decision analytically Marte does have better numbers against left-handers than right-handers. He has a significantly higher batting average at .299, on-base percentage at .377, and slugging percentage at .496. He also strikes out much less against left-handers. He already had a hit against left-hander Montgomery and the home run against left-hander Chapman. I am sure Bochy saw what happened in the ninth and was willing to take his chances against Buddy Kennedy or Gerald Perdomo.
Will Smith does have a history with Marte and it is one that is heavily in his favor. Marte is 1-6 in his career against Smith. The one hit was a single back in 2019 when Smith was pitching for the Giants. In those six at-bats Smith had struck out Marte four times and walked him twice. Yet, Bochy still chose to force a struggling Smith to face the potential winning run.
What happened as a result of Bochy's decision?
Bochy chose to walk Marte and then in the blink of an eye it was over. Perdomo laced a double in the right field corner that scored the zombie runner from third and allowed Marte to go from first to third. Then Tommy Pham took a 92mph fastball that was right in the middle of the strike zone and drove it between the center and right-fielder into the gap to score two runs and win the game.
Will Smith has had a difficult month of August. This is the second walk-off win he has allowed this month. In his last seven appearances that total 5 1/3 innings he has now allowed nine runs. He has an 11.05 ERA for the month. He does still have five saves this month, but he also now has blown as many saves this month as he had prior to this month.
Where does Texas go from here?
They have another game tonight and Jon Gray will get that start against Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen. They have to pick themselves up and do whatever it takes to get a win tonight. The series against Houston from September 4th through 6th only really matters if they have a winning road trip. They need to turn it around now and get back to playing winning baseball.
It will take a team effort. The lineup needs to be producing more and giving the starters breathing room. The bullpen needs to do its job when called upon. Manager Bruce Bochy needs to put Texas in a position to win games and not lose them.
The Astros and Mariners are breathing down their necks and if Texas does not rally the AL West could turn into a two-team race that does not include Texas as one of those teams. It would be terrible to hold on to the division lead for this long only to see it slip away before September arrives. That is the position Texas is in currently. I think Bruce Bochy said it best after the game Monday night to assembled media,
"Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy. We gotta bounce back"- Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy
Yes they do and they get another opportunity to do that Tuesday night at 8:40pm local time. We will see what kind of character this team has in this game.