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Thoughts on a 4-3 Rangers loss

Astros 4, Rangers 3

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Astros 4, Rangers 3

  • That was a winnable game.
  • The Rangers, however, did not win.
  • Glenn Otto. Let’s start with him. Last year, Otto mixed good starts with really awful starts. Otto had a five inning, one run outing against Oakland last week. Against Houston, he allowed a first pitch home run to Chas McCormick to lead off the game before issuing back-to-back one out walks, which had me thinking, okay, we’re in store for an awful Otto outing today.
  • But no — Otto struck out Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz to end the inning, and was fine after that. Otto’s pitch count got high early, thanks in large part to a 10 pitch at bat by Jason Castro in the second, and so he was lifted at 79 pitches after allowing a one out single in the fifth, but it was a good, solid outing for Otto.
  • Otto got 10 swings and misses on 79 pitches, with five of them coming on his slider, though he had some issues locating the slider early on. After using his knuckle curve and slider roughly equally his first time out, with the occasional changeup, Otto went with more of a fastball/slider combo against Houston, using his changeup and knuckle curve roughly 15% of the time apiece.
  • In any case, it was another solid outing for Otto, who, his first two times out, seems to be earning a longer look in the rotation.
  • Brett Martin came in for Otto, a move that made sense because there were lefties coming up and Martin is a ground ball pitcher who could potentially get the Rangers out of the inning with one pitch. Unfortunately, Martin had one of those combinations of bad luck and bad execution that can — and in this case, did — cost the team a game.
  • Facing Michael Brantley, Martin threw a 1-1 slider that Brantley barely got wood on. It was one of those balls, though, that was blooped into no man’s land in the outfield, and fell in for a weak single. Alex Bregman popped out for the second out, bringing up Yordan Alvarez. Even with runners on first and second, the plan appeared to be to pitch around Alvarez — Martin threw him four curveballs, the last of which on 3-2 bounced well short of the plate to loud the bases for Kyle Tucker.
  • On 1-1, Martin threw a curveball to Tucker that, based on where Jonah Heim set up, was supposed to be down. Martin left it up, Tucker drilled it into the left-center field gap, three runs scored, and that, as it turned out, would be all the runs the Astros needed. Martin got Aledmys Diaz looking to strand Tucker at second, but the damage is done.
  • I saw a certain amount of carping over the decision to go with Martin in that situation, which I don’t really get. With one out in the fifth inning, lefties coming up, a runner on, Martin is who you presumably want to use — he’s a solid lefty middle reliever who gets ground balls. Brock Burke threw two innings and 36 pitches the day before, so he likely wasn’t an option. Matt Moore pitched the sixth and seventh innings and didn’t give up any runs, and I guess those questioning the decision to bring in Martin may have wanted to see Moore instead, but...I mean, its Matt Moore. He had pitched in four games prior to that and had more walks than innings pitched. The other choices were John King, who I like and would have been fine but who has struggled with his command this year, and Kolby Allard, who is Kolby Allard.
  • The issue wasn’t that Chris Woodward made a bad choice in going with Martin, though I wouldn’t have disagreed if he’d gone with King or Moore there, either. The issue is that Martin made a bad pitch to Kyle Tucker. It happens.
  • Anyway, as noted above, Moore had a solid outing, including flirting with an Immaculate Inning in the sixth, when he struck out J.J. Matijevic and Jeremy Pena on three pitches apiece and went to 0-2 on Jason Castro before Castro rolled out to first base. Moore had a few more issues in the seventh, giving up a walk and a very loud single as well as getting a pair of outs on 100+ mph balls in play, but ended the day with two shutout innings, bringing him to 8.1 IP on the year with just one run allowed.
  • Matt Moore, quality reliever, would be a fun story for 2022.
  • Garrett Richards finished out the final two innings for the Rangers, retiring all six batters he faced. Its still very early, but Richards has been encouraging in this role so far.
  • Texas had re-taken the lead from Houston in the second. Mitch Garver, who has been mired in an awful slump, took Cristian Javier deep with one out to tie the score at one. After a Willie Calhoun fly out, Adolis Garcia walked, tried to steal second, was called out, had the call challenged by Chris Woodward, and saw the call reversed. Jonah Heim then walked, bringing up Brad Miller, who singled home Garcia. The Astros held Heim at second, which turned into a big deal on the next play, as Kole Calhoun had a line drive single that Heim attempted, unsuccessfully, to score on, resulting in the third out.
  • Miller, incidentally, was batting ninth, with Kole Calhoun hitting leadoff. It was mentioned by the broadcast and the beats that Calhoun was 4 for 5 with two home runs against Javier, and that’s why he was hitting leadoff, despite being off to an awful start to the year offensively. While I don’t dispute that being 4 for 5 against Javier was a factor, I tend to think that there’s additional information that goes into that decision, particularly in regards to the type of pitcher Javier is, and the type of pitchers Calhoun hits well against — it isn’t just a small sample size kneejerk decision.
  • Regardless of what was behind the decision, Calhoun had a pair of hits off of Javier, so it worked out okay.
  • After the second Javier settled down, and the Rangers didn’t have a scoring opportunity again until the sixth, when a two out infield single by Garver and a Willie Calhoun HBP brought Adolis Garcia to the plate as the go ahead run. Garcia worked the count full against reliever Bryan Abreu, but was frozen on the 8th pitch of the at bat, a slider up in zone that ended the inning.
  • A leadoff double from Jonah Heim in the seventh gave Texas another scoring opportunity, but he was stranded when Miller, Kole and Marcus Semien all lined out. In the good process, bad results category, both the Miller and Calhoun line drives were pretty well struck, but were also right at fielders.
  • In the ninth, the Rangers had their chance to tie the game. Willie Calhoun led off the inning with a walk, and went to third on an Adolis Garcia double. Jonah Heim then smoked a grounder to first base. With the infield playing back, Calhoun could have scored, but he didn’t break, a decision both Calhoun and Woodward noted after the game was a poor one. Brad Miller grounded out to shortstop for the second out, with Calhoun scoring on that play and Garcia going to third, but it made the score 4-3, whereas if Calhoun and Garcia had advanced on the Heim grounder, it would have potentially meant Garcia scoring and tying the game. Kole Calhoun struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
  • It was a frustrating loss. Plays made, plays not could have gone either way, and the Rangers didn’t make the plays they needed to make to win. The Astros did.
  • Glenn Otto topped out at 93.9 mph. Brett Martin reached 94.5 mph on his sinker. Matt Moore hit 94.7 mph on his four seamer. Garrett Richards touched 94.7 mph.
  • Mitch Garver’s home run, at 103.9 mph, was tied with Jonah Heim’s ninth inning 103.9 mph groundout as the hardest hit Ranger ball of the game. Corey Seager had a pair of 102.7 mph fly outs. Kole Calhoun’s second inning single was 102.3 mph off the bat. Adolis Garcia’s ninth inning double was 101.0 mph.
  • Again, a frustrating loss. Though I guess a loss that is frustrating because it could have gone either way is better than a loss that is frustrating because the Rangers were never in it.