There were plenty of things for manager Chris Woodward to feel good about, despite a 9-8 loss to the Athletics on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park.
“A lot of emotions up and down,” Woodward said. “Once again, it shows the resiliency of our team. We can be down eight runs and it doesn’t matter. We keep coming non-stop.”
But for all the feel-good, the Rangers finished their 7-4 homestand and headed for Boston still trying to figure out left-handed starter Drew Smyly. He had another rough outing against the Athletics, allowing five runs in three innings. Smyly is now 1-5 with an 8.40 ERA in nine starts and two relief appearances.
“Today, I felt mechanically that I was way better than I have been,” Smyly said. “Just seemed like the ball and all my pitches were way sharper and just coming out way better than they were the past few games. But the results were the exact same, so I don’t know. I’m searching. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s just not coming easy.”
Smyly’s misfortune on Sunday started after he retired the first four hitters. With one out in the second, Stephen Piscotty smashed a line drive that hit Smyly on the side of his left knee and went for an infield single. Smyly stayed in the game, but Matt Olson hit his next pitch deep to right-center field for a two-run home run. The Athletics added another run that inning and Khris Davis hit a two-run home run off Smyly in the third.
“He did throw the ball better,” Woodward said. “He did exactly what we talked about. They were just more in the middle of the plate, but he attacked the strike zone. I don’t know what to say. He got hit hard, but he did what we asked him to do. We have to figure out whether it’s a mechanical thing. He’s got a chance to get guys out because he has good stuff. It just didn’t show up.”
Smyly has been dealing with soreness in his left ankle, and he has already been on the injured list once this year with tightness in his left forearm. Another trip may be looming for a pitcher who missed the previous two seasons while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
“I feel bad,” Woodward said. “I know his ankle was bothering him and then he got hit in that leg. I felt bad for him because I know he was trying to do what we asked, then he got hit in the leg that he was pushing off of. That kind of stopped the momentum as to how he was throwing to the first four hitters. We’ll talk to him and see how he feels.”
Fairbanks, called up on Sunday from Triple-A Nashville, made his Major League debut in the fifth and struck out the side. He also pitched a scoreless sixth.
“It's pretty good,” Fairbanks said. “I don't really know how else to describe it. I kinda talk to myself a little bit. … I was like, ‘Well, you've got a chance to do it, so you might as well.’ It's a cool feeling, a cool experience to be able to have, a cool memory. But you gotta keep going from there; it's just one outing.”
Fairbanks was a ninth-round Draft pick for the Rangers in 2015 out of the University of Missouri, where he studied aerospace engineering. He missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and began this season at Class A Advanced Down East. But he throws 97-98 miles per hour and zipped through the system with quick stops at Down East, Double-A Frisco and Nashville while averaging 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
“Yeah, it's been a pretty hectic month,” Fairbanks said. “My goal for this year was to be able to make it to Frisco for most of the year. I'm about 40 minutes south of there now, so it's been a very hectic month, you know, and I think, to be honest, I don't think I'd be here without the rehab team I had with [coordinators Sean Fields and Keith Comstock in Arizona] to be able to get me healthy and kinda get my head to where it needs to be to be able to pitch at … well, I guess this level now.”