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Thoughts on a 5-4 Rangers loss

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Astros 5, Rangers 4

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Astros 5, Rangers 4

  • After one game, I’m thinking I maybe was underrating Glenn Otto.
  • That was a hell of a major league debut for the Rice product. Facing a really good Houston Astros lineup — the only two players in their lineup on Friday with an OPS on the year under 800 were Martin Maldonado and, barely (792), Alex Bregman — my hope was that Otto would survive, be respectable, keep his head above water. The Astros are leading the A.L. in runs, batting average, OBP and OPS while striking out less than any other team and drawing the fourth most walks in the Junior Circuit. Anything short of a disaster outing I figure we could live with as a getting-your-feet-wet experience in this lost season.
  • Otto did much more than that. Needing just 73 pitches over five innings of work, Otto not only kept the Astros off the board, he allowed just two hits while not walking a batter. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out seven of the seventeen batters he faced. Friday was just the 21st time this season a pitcher has struck out seven Astros.
  • When the Rangers acquired Otto from the New York Yankees in the Joey Gallo trade, one of the things all the reports said was that the slider he added this year had contributed significantly to his improvement and the rise in his stock. Baseball America’s write-up on the Gallo traded noted that “Otto’s slider has rapidly developed into a pitch he can land for strikes or get swings and misses with,” and also noted his ability to use it effectively against both lefthanded hitters and righthanded hitters.
  • He had the slider working on Friday to great effect — he threw his slider as often as his four seamer, 30 times apiece, and generated 8 whiffs with it, along with 7 called strikes. Only three of the 30 sliders he threw were called balls — a remarkable rate for a breaking ball. And as BA noted, Otto was able to both spot in effectively up and armside in the strike zone for called strikes, as well as down and gloveside to generate swings and misses.
  • Along with the slider and four seamer Otto mixed in a changeup (7X) and a knuckle curve (6X). The knuckle curve generated the one other swing and miss Otto recorded Friday.
  • Also noteworthy was Otto’s strikethrowing on Friday. Otto started off the first nine batters he faced with a first pitch strike, and had first pitch strikes on fourteen of the seventeen batters he faced. One of the things Chris Woodward and the pitching coaches have consistently preached is trusting your stuff and throwing strikes. Otto did that on Friday, in spades.
  • Even before the COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in three Rangers starters going on the COVID list and creating an opening for Otto to start on Friday, it was expected Otto would be up this year, and Woodward acknowledged that Otto likely would have joined the team next week anyway, with the COVID situation just moving the timeline forward a little bit for him. Barring injury or significant ineffectiveness going forward, he will likely get a half-dozen or so more starts the rest of the way. I’m expecting bumps on the road and for Otto to struggle at times — we don’t need to be inking him in at the top of the Rangers’ 2022 rotation, or even in the 2022 rotation at all, based on one start.
  • But its hard to imagine a better debut for Glenn Otto, and it makes his remaining outings must-watch events for September.
  • As for the rest of the game...well, other than the top of the seventh the rest of the game was pretty awesome. When I played soccer in my tween days, though, I remember my coach once telling me that one “oh shit” can negate ten “good job”s, and that’s what happened with the top of the seventh.
  • Jharel Cotton allowed a pair of hits in the sixth inning but kept Houston off the board, and after the Rangers, already up 2-0, put two more runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth to make it 4-0, Cotton headed back out for the seventh. A single and a walk resulted in Brett Martin coming into the game to try to extinguish the rally.
  • Martin is an effective reliever, but he’s not a strikeout guy — he’s going to avoid walks and get ground balls, but not miss a ton of bats. The downside of that is that you can end up getting BABIP’d, which happened with Martin on Friday. A softly hit single by Tucker loaded the bases. A well hit ball by Jake Meyers (albeit one with a .300 xBA, per Statcast) went for a double and brought home two. A walk to Martin Maldonado and a seeing-eye single brought home two more runs, tying the game. An Aledmys Diaz flyout moved Maldonado to third, and a Yuli Gurriel grounder to shortstop was unable to be turned into a GIDP, resulting in the fifth and final run of the inning scoring.
  • It was an unfortunate turn of events, unless you’re rooting for draft pick positioning, in which things turned out quite well.
  • Demarcus Evans struck out two in a scoreless eighth, and Wes Benjamin threw a scoreless ninth. Those are both good things. Evans threw 12 pitches and got 3 swings and misses, continuing to show he can miss bats. If he can get that command tightened up...
  • Offensively, the Rangers got a lot of hits, which, again, from a process standpoint, is a good thing.
  • Nick Solak continued to perform, picking up a pair of singles and drawing yet another HBP, albeit on a 3-2 pitch that barely grazed his sleeve, and where the previous pitch had been way out of the zone and should have been called ball four. Solak, despite his sojourn to AAA, is fourth in the American League with 14 HBPs this year.
  • Andy Ibanez continued his hot streak, singling and homering, recording his seventh straight multi-hit game. During that time he has raised his OPS on the year from 605 to 723.
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Adolis Garcia and Jason Martin all had multi-hit nights as well, so that’s all good. The only Ranger not to get a hit was D.J. Peters. Peters has had some impressive home runs and looks good in the field, but he is also slashing .167/.191/.369 with 32 Ks in 89 PAs as a Ranger, so that’s not great.
  • Our man of the match, Glenn Otto, maxed out at 94.8 mph on his four seamer and averaged 93.2 mph. If you are curious, his slider averaged 81.3 mph with a max of 83.1. Jharel Cotton topped out at 95.7 mph on his four seamer. Brett Martin hit 94.2 mph with his sinker and 93.6 mph with his four seamer. Demarcus Evans and Wes Benjamin reached 92.3 mph and 92.2 mph on their four seamers, respectively.
  • Nathaniel Lowe had a double with a 106.9 mph exit velocity, and also had his nightly worm burner, a 104.4 mph -4 degree launch angle groundout. Yohel Pozo had a 104.5 mph double. Jason Martin had a 102.1 mph single. Andy Ibanez’s home run had an exit velocity of 101.0 mph. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a 100.4 mph single.
  • Oh, and speaking of exit velocities — Yordan Alvarez’s second inning double, with a 107.7 mph exit velocity, was the only Astro ball in play on the night over 100 mph. Martin Maldonado had a 99.3 mph flyout, and the next highest EV was 97.3 mph. That’s good work by the Rangers pitchers on the night.
  • So we go. Its the journey, not the destination, and from a process standpoint, Friday night’s game was a success, even if it was a loss on the scoreboard.