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Thoughts on a 3-1 Rangers loss

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Cubs 3, Rangers 1

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Cubs 3, Rangers 1

  • Well, that's two losses to the Cubs post-break, with the offense putting up a total of 1 run in 18 innings.  That's not good.
  • Yu Darvish returned to the mound today, though, and that's good.  The Cubs made him throw a bunch of pitches, and his command wasn't always perfect, but he ended up striking out 9 of the 20 batters he faced.  With a pitch limit, he was pulled with one out in the fifth at 90 pitches, with the Cubs up 2-1.
  • Darvish should have gotten out of the 5th, but an error by Rougned Odor ended up costing him that chance.  Yu walked pitcher Jason Hammel to start the inning, and then after getting a fly out, he induced a Kris Bryant grounder to third base that was a tailor-made double play ball.  Unfortunately, Adrian Beltre's throw to second base was dropped by Rougned Odor, who seemed to try to do the exchange before he had secured the ball, and instead of the inning being over, Yu was pulled for Shawn Tolleson.  Tolleson got the final two outs of the inning, but allowed a Cubs run in the sixth, giving Chicago their final 3-1 margin of victory.
  • Keone Kela pitched the 7th and didn't allow a ball in play, fanning Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, walking Ben Zobrist, and then striking out Contrears to end the inning.  Matt Bush also had a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.
  • The real mystery, though, is why Tolleson pitched the sixth...not because he wasn't capable of pitching the sixth, but because he was the leadoff batter to start the sixth inning.  In a 2-1 game, with a reliever up to start the inning, pinch hitting is a no-brainer...there's simply no rational reason not to make such a move, particularly with a fully rested pen (remember, the Rangers just came off of a four day break before yesterday's game).  The question seemed to simply be who was going to come off the bench -- Shin-Soo Choo, who was dealing with a bad back but supposedly could pinch hit; Prince Fielder; or Jurickson Profar.  Instead, Tolleson led off the sixth with a swinging K, the start of a 1-2-3 inning.
  • This was talked about at some length on Twitter, and really, even the media folks who cover the Rangers and are willing to give Banister some benefit of the doubt didn't understand the move.  Banister's explanation after the game was that the Rangers needed to get 12 outs, and so once Tolleson was going to come into the game in the fifth, he had to pitch the sixth.  This, I think, is a reflection of Banister's rigid "winning pieces" bullpen usage.  In a close game, with Jake Diekman on the disabled list, Shawn Tolleson has to pitch the sixth inning...that's the point of the "we still needed 12 outs" comment.  Tolleson has to get three outs, Keone Kela has to get three outs, Matt Bush has to get three outs, and Sam Dyson then pitches the ninth.  This inflexibility means that, if Tolleson has to come into the game in the fifth, and he's due first up in the sixth, you simply have to give up the notion of pinch hitting there...you simply can't go with any option other than using Tolleson in the sixth.  No other choice is acceptable.
  • Of course, Sam Dyson ended up not pitching, because the Rangers didn't score enough runs to tie the game.  And of course, Tolleson ended up giving up a run in the sixth, and getting pulled mid-inning for Alex Claudio, who had to come into the game with two on and two out, so you had to use the guy you couldn't trust to pitch in the sixth in the sixth inning anyway.
  • There were those who asked why Banister didn't do a double-switch when he brought Tolleson into the game, but that's because a double-switch really wasn't viable, given how he had structured the lineup.  You're ideal double-switch replaces the hitter who is due up ninth in the next inning, but that was catcher Bobby Wilson, and we know Banister isn't going to burn his backup catcher like that.  Hitting seventh was Elvis Andrus, who you aren't going to double-switch out.  Hitting sixth was Nomar Mazara, but with Shin-Soo Choo unavailable, he's not a good double-switch option.  Basically, if your pitcher is due up in the next inning, you can't double-switch with the lineup Banister put together.
  • It probably didn't cost the Rangers the game, but it was a bad decision, and one that stands out in particular when it happens in a loss in the midst of a bad streak.
  • The bats were largely silent today.  Just three hits -- one by Mitch Moreland, one by Ryan Rua, one by Elvis Andrus.  Two walks, one by Rua, one by Mazara.  The lone run scored in the second, when Rua singled with one out, stole second when he ran on 3-2 and Mazara fanned, and then scored from second on a terrific play when Elvis was safe on an infield single...Rua drew a throw home that was wild, and seemingly gave Elvis a chance to advance to second, but the ball caromed off the wall behind home hard enough that he was thrown out.
  • Anyway...it was the second very disappointing game in a row, and not the way you wanted to start the second half.  But Houston also lost, so Texas is still 4.5 games up, and Cole Hamels goes tomorrow for Texas.  Hopefully, the Rangers can avoid the sweep, then go to Anaheim and do some damage there at the start of next week.