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Thoughts on a 6-4 Rangers loss

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Pirates 6, Rangers 4

Pittsburgh Pirates v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Pirates 6, Rangers 4

  • There are a variety of things going through my head after this loss. One of them is that I’m glad I’m not expecting the Rangers to contend this year, because if I was, this would be a much more upsetting loss.
  • Adrian Sampson did good work for 5.2 innings, allowing no runs on 5 hits and 0 walks while striking out 5. There was apparently some consternation in some quarters that he was pulled after 82 pitches, but he was pitching on 3 days rest after having thrown an inning on Friday, and having thrown 3 innings on Wednesday, and having thrown 4+ innings the previous Saturday, so I get not wanting to push him.
  • Sampson is kind of a fringe piece, but other than one disastrous outing, he’s pitched well so far this year. I’m not sure if he can keep it going, but he’s earned the opportunity to make a few more starts.
  • The bullpen did well until the 9th inning, when Jose Leclerc was brought in to protect a 3-0 lead. The first batter he faced hit a hard hit ball to right field that Nomar Mazara should have caught, but that bounced off his glove for a hit. Leclerc then gave up an infield single and a regular single before striking out the next two batters, giving us reason to hope. Then Josh Bell doubled home a pair of runners to tie the game, and Leclerc only got out of the inning because Bell was thrown out trying to advance on the throw.
  • Leclerc has been bad this season. That said, he wasn’t “blow a 3 run lead” bad today. His fastball command was better. He allowed four balls in ball, and all four went for hits, though based on exit velocity and launch angle, all of them were more likely to be outs than hits, and the ball Mazara dropped definitely should have been an out. There was some bad luck involved, but you know, when it rains, it pours.
  • Chris Woodward suggested after the game that Leclerc might not stay in the closer role.
  • Jesse Chavez pitched a clean 10th, and then allowed a pair of home runs in the 10th to make it a 6-3 game. Chavez has been brutal this season, and it’s largely been overlooked because there are bigger pitching problems. But he’s a guy who was supposed to be a veteran stabilizing force who instead has been very, very bad. And I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about it.
  • The offense was generally not good today, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if Leclerc hadn’t blown a 3 run lead. Two runs scored in the fourth on a bases loaded Asdrubal; Cabrera single, another run scored in the 8th on a bases loaded Joey Gallo walk, and then Gallo hit a gargantuan home run in the 10th, the majesty of which almost made it worthwhile that Leclerc blew the save, since otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten to see it.
  • Joey Gallo was 1 for 2 with 3 walks, and appeared to be getting pitched around much of the game. He’s very good.
  • Rougned Odor went 0 for 5 and had both a steal and a caught stealing, and also had a Profar-esque bounce throw to first base on a routine play. He’s a mess right now. I am confident he will snap out of it, but I’m not sure if that will happen tomorrow or in July. But Odor is struggling, badly.
  • Logan Forsythe and Shin-Soo Choo each had 2 hits tonight. Choo also got lifted for pinch hitter Danny Santana as the tying run in the 11th. It was baffling, and I assumed Choo had a physical issue (he had a bad error in the top of the 11th), but Chris Woodward said it was a “Manager’s decision.”
  • The Pirates’ closer, Felipe Vazquez, is tough on lefties. Coming into today, he had faced 10 of them this year, and struck out 6. The other four, though, had hits. Last year, however, Vazquez had a 454 OPS allowed against lefties. In 2017, it was 255. He’s a lefty killer.
  • Choo, meanwhile, does not hit lefties well. We’ve talked about that since he signed with Texas. He’s slashed .267/.389/.400 against them this year. Last year he slashed .221/.329/.309. For his career it’s .244/.344/.350.
  • So yeah, having Vazquez, a lefty killer, go up against Choo, who doesn’t hit lefties, with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, with Choo as the tying run, is a terrible matchup. Is it such a terrible matchup that you send Danny Santana up to hit for Choo? I don’t think I’d do it. But looking at the numbers, I also don’t think this was a spur-of-the-moment decision by Woodward. My guess is the analytics said Choo shouldn’t hit.
  • Between this and the decision to sit Choo on Opening Day, one gets the sense the Rangers have little confidence in Choo against lefthanded pitchers, or at least certain types of lefties. Choo has started only 3 of the 7 games the Rangers have had against lefty starters. One can reasonably argue that Choo shouldn’t face lefties. But still...I wouldn’t have expected this.