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Thoughts on a 4-2 Rangers loss

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Astros 4, Rangers 2

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Astros 4, Rangers 2

  • We saw the extremes of the good and the bad with Martin Perez today.  Perez allowed a double to Jose Altuve to start the game, but otherwise for the first couple of innings seemed to have things in control.  He was attacking the zone, getting ground balls, and looked like the guy who you think of as a potential #2 starter.
  • Then, with two outs in the second inning, Marwin Gonzalez topped a slow roller to shortstop.  Elvis Andrus charged, had trouble getting the ball out of his glove (he said afterwards it was stuck in the webbing), and then rushed an off-balance throw that forced Mitch Moreland to jump for it, resulting on Gonzalez reaching via an E-6.  No big deal, you'd think...Perez was cruising, it was the bottom of the order, and this would presumably just mean a couple of extra pitches.
  • But the composure issues that have dogged Perez throughout his career, the tendency to let a mistake get to him and snowball, cropped up.  Chris Carter stroked a line drive single to left field, and then Jason Castro worked a walk, bringing up #9 hitter Jake Marisnick, who lined a double to right-center, bringing home a pair of (unearned) runs.  Perez battled back and got Altuve to strike out, but the damage was done, and the pitcher we saw on the mound after the error was someone who looked frustrated, unsure of himself, lacking confidence.
  • Perez got back into his groove after the second inning, retiring the side in order in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings, and escaping a first and third, one out situation without damage after back-to-back singles in the 6th, and his final line looks fine -- 6 IP, 5 hits, 6Ks, 1 walk, 2 unearned runs.  But one of the things that Perez seemed to have put behind him last season, pre-injury, was the lack of composure problems, the inability to shake things off and move on to the next batter.  That has been an issue of late this season, and when Jeff Banister is looking to fill out his playoff roster, you have to wonder how much confidence he's going to have turning, with the spotlight on, to a pitcher who has been so easily rattled.
  • Banister went to Ross Ohlendorf for the 7th inning with the Rangers down 2-1 -- a surprising move, as given how close the game was, you would have thought he'd have gone to one of the Dyson/Kela/Diekman trio that he trusts in non-9th-inning close situations.  For the second night in a row, the Ranger reliever coming in to replace the starter faced Chris Carter immediately, and for the second night in a row, Carter homered in that situation.  In the 8th, Sam Dyson allowed a run on a single-steal-advance on ground out-passed ball sequence, making it a 4-2 game, but by that point, the Ranger offense had pretty well gone into hibernation.
  • The Rangers managed two runs in the game, both on infield grounders where a runner scored because the Astros took the play at first.  The first run came in the first inning, when a Choo single and Beltre walk, followed by a wild pitch, set up a Prince Fielder RBI ground out.  The second run came in the eighth inning, when Rougned Odor led off the inning with a triple, and scored on a Delino DeShields groundout.
  • The only other Ranger hit was a Mike Napoli infield single, and the only other Ranger walk was drawn by Elvis Andrus.  Josh Hamilton came into the game in the 8th, pinch hitting for Chris Gimenez with Odor on 3rd and no one out, but fanned -- his fourth strikeout in five at bats over the past two days.
  • Odor, aside from getting the triple, also made a great, ballsy play in the first inning.  With Altuve on second base and no one out, George Springer smacked one to Odor at second that he short-hopped.  Altuve had to pause briefly to make sure it wasn't caught on the fly, then headed to third for a routine advancement.  Odor, however, rifled a throw to Adrian Beltre, who was covering third, catching the lead runner.  Great play by Rougie there.
  • Bottom line, Dallas Keuchel struggled in the first inning, but Texas could only get one run across, and after that, Keuchel pitched like a Cy Young candidate -- which, of course, he is.  Vic Carrapazza's strike zone was generous, but I don't know that that mattered much...Keuchel was simply on today, and the Rangers were going to need a near-perfect pitching performance to win.  They didn't get it.
  • Still, I'm dismayed by the number of Rangers fans who seem to think that this portends some sort of impending doom or collapse.  I said coming into this series I'd be satisfied with winning one of three, and that's what happened.  The Astros are a good team, they play great at home, and its hard to take more than one of three under those circumstances.  Texas now has seven games left, all at home, with Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis starting four of those seven games.  The Magic Number is at five, and the Rangers are still in great shape.  That's not to say that the race is over, or that the lead can't be blown...but now is a time to feel good about where things stand, not to panic.