Defense spoils Howard's debut, Hearn's gem

August 5th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have prided themselves on their usually stellar defense all season, even in tough situations. That defense faltered on Thursday afternoon, when two Texas defenders recorded errors in the club’s 5-0 loss to the Angels.

Rangers starter , who tossed 2 1/3 innings, and tandem partner , who threw four, both executed well but couldn’t overcome defensive miscues.

“I try to pick the defense up [when that happens],” Hearn said of MLB debutant Yonny Hernandez's throwing error in the sixth inning. “I try to do damage control. That’s when I honestly really try to strike guys out and get momentum back on our side. I really tried to pick Yonny up because I knew it was his first day and he was nervous. I told him afterwards to not worry about it.”

Howard, making his Rangers debut, pitched two scoreless innings without allowing a hit before a leadoff homer from Adam Eaton broke open the scoring in the top of the third inning. A throwing error by Nathaniel Lowe and a wild pitch by Howard contributed to the final two runs of the right-hander’s outing.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said that Howard's outing was decent for his first appearance with the club.

“It was not as sharp as I would’ve liked, but there’s still things to learn from and things that I can build off of so I can progress,” Howard said. “I’ll try to hammer mechanics as much as I can this next week. I'm just feeling a little bit off and it's translating into my fastballs not really going where I want them, and offspeeds not spinning the way I want. It’s just a matter of syncing the delivery up, and that'll come with repetitions.”

Hearn only allowed three hits over four innings. The two runs scored on him in the sixth were both unearned following Hernandez’s throwing error at third. Hearn struck out four in what would have been a dominant relief outing.

Woodward emphasized how well Hearn was executing his pitches, as the left-hander went a career-high four innings out of the bullpen.

“It's like the ball was coming out with life,” Woodward said of Hearn. “He looked good. Honestly, the tempo was good. The conviction was there. He's executing pitches, and his stuff maintained throughout the outing. He had good sliders, good changeups. I just thought he did really good.”

The Rangers’ offense didn’t assist much on the other side of the field, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranding eight on base. Though they hit the ball hard, with a top exit velocity of 105.4 mph from Jason Martin and distances of 400, 393 and 387 feet, they had nothing on show for it.

“I thought our bats were really good at times,” Woodward said. “We had I think five fly balls that probably are homers in other parks, but obviously our place is a little bit bigger. Overall, we’ve just got to continue to improve. They have to go out and execute game plans, get good swings on good pitches. That's what we can control. Some of the at-bats are a little bit confusing. They're taking pitches when they should be swinging and swinging at pitches that should be taken in certain situations. It’s something we’ve just got to talk about.”

As the Rangers begin a six-game West Coast road trip on Friday, the first two series away from home since the Trade Deadline, Woodward is hoping to bring some renewed energy to Oakland and Seattle. Texas is 26-30 at home, but 13-40 on the road this season.

“I don’t want to make light of it, we’re obviously struggling,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to come out and play with some energy, some enthusiasm, some passion. I know we’re young and inexperienced, but that’s not an excuse. That’s the only time I get frustrated, when we’re a little passive.”