Mental hurdle finds Allard in learning curve

August 29th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Heading into this weekend, the home team had won each game of the Lone Star Series this season. The Astros broke the streak on Friday, taking the season opener at Globe Life Field, and continued the streak on Saturday night with a 5-2 win over the Rangers.

Rangers starter Kolby Allard’s streak of four straight quality starts came to an end, as he allowed five runs on eight hits to the Astros in six innings.

After surrendering two homers Saturday -- one to Yordan Alvarez and another to Carlos Correa -- Allard has given up the third most on the Rangers pitching staff at 23, though he falls well behind Mike Foltynewicz (34) and Jordan Lyles (33).

This is the fourth consecutive start that Allard has given up two home runs and the sixth game in which he’s surrendered multiple homers this season. But the lefty said he isn’t worried about his home run numbers at the moment, and he is always confident in his abilities to pitch down the stretch.

“[I can't] leave pitches over the middle,” Allard said. “Both those pitches weren't where we were trying to go with them. I hung the curveball [to] Alvarez, and then we were trying to go up and in to Correa, and I left it down the middle. I think I just need to execute pitches a little bit better.

“Obviously, I do pitch up in the zone, so just making those mistakes, if you're going up and in, maybe make them off the plate rather than down the middle. It’s just refining those mistakes a little bit better.”

Houston jumped out to an early lead against Texas, putting up three runs in the second inning after a leadoff homer from Alvarez ignited the rally. Allard has struggled with avoiding the “big inning” all season, but he had been more consistent in recent starts.

The 24-year-old said he felt a bit off and uncomfortable from the get-go, which wasn’t ideal against a potent lineup like the Astros. Both Allard and manager Chris Woodward said Houston’s hitters were aggressive against Allard’s fastball/cutter combo from the very beginning, which led to a two-out, two-run single from Martín Maldonado in the second inning that gave the Astros a 3-0 lead.

“[Maldonado] probably had the biggest hit of the game, in my opinion,” Woodward said. “After that, [Allard] made some adjustments, and I felt like once he started using the changeup, that was the difference maker. You can see that he got some double plays and got some weak ground balls -- he gets a ton of outs with the changeup.”

Allard is used to utilizing the fastball/cutter combination and has become more comfortable relying on that mix than his changeup. He said he needs to get over that mental hurdle and make better pitches with better execution the next time around.

Rookie Adolis García was responsible for both of the Rangers' runs, including a run scored in the fourth inning and a solo homer in the sixth.

Woodward said that offensively, he just saw a group of young and inexperienced guys try to face a tough pitcher in Astros starter Framber Valdez, who held the Rangers to just three hits over seven innings.

“He’s really hard to square up,” Woodward said. “Overall, it was a tough task. He threw changeups when he needed to, and once he started throwing curveballs I knew we were in a little bit of trouble, because that's a nasty curveball. We kept fighting. We put the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning against one of the better relievers in baseball [in Ryan Pressly]. We just couldn't get one in the middle of the plate that we could hit.”