OAKLAND -- The Rangers better hope that their starting rotation’s recent struggles are an aberration, a slump or something else that’s temporary.
Because if Texas’ starters continue to flounder, as Lance Lynn did in Tuesday night’s 11-5 loss to the A’s at Oakland Coliseum, the Rangers will be sorely challenged to remain competitive in the unforgiving American League West.
It’s not even May, so it’s too early to panic. But the bare facts offer little comfort. Lynn, facing Oakland for the first time in his eight-year career, received a rude introduction as he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. Oakland’s six-run outburst in the fourth prompted his departure.
In the Rangers’ last five games, their starters have allowed 21 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings, an 8.34 ERA. Except for Lynn and Mike Minor, who have two wins apiece, Texas’ starters own one total victory this year.
The rotation is averaging barely five innings per start, and its season total of 107 2/3 innings is the lowest in the Major Leagues. That reflects the 12 occasions in which a Texas starter could not last five innings. It also explains why Rangers pitchers have met the minimum standard for competence by recording a quality start -- three or fewer earned runs allowed in at least six innings -- only five times in 22 games.
In fairness to Lynn, he performed capably in his previous three outings, recording two victories and posting a 2.41 ERA. Moreover, the game might have developed much differently if Texas had capitalized on loading the bases with no outs in the fourth. But Logan Forsythe’s double-play grounder to Matt Chapman doused the threat.
Texas manager Chris Woodward praised A’s starter Frankie Montas for escaping that jam. But Woodward also proposed a “what-if” scenario.
“We had a chance to blow that game open,”’ Woodward said. "[Montas] getting out of that inning kind of gave them a spark. ... He has an unbelievable arm, he has really good stuff and he competed. Bases loaded, nobody out -- that was the game. If he doesn’t get out of that and we blow the game open, he’s out of the game. We might score 15, who knows?”
The A’s scored off Lynn in each of the first two innings, but at least he was facing their best. Chapman, whose skills are blossoming quickly and inevitably, pulled a tremendous first-inning drive inside the left-field foul pole for his seventh homer of the season. Stephen Piscotty, who matched a career high with four hits, lengthened his hitting streak against Texas to 16 games by tripling and scoring one inning later.
Then came the fourth, which began with a Piscotty single. That started a stretch of eight of nine batters reaching base, including No. 9 hitter Josh Phegley, who lined a two-run double.
Woodward empathized with Lynn by pointing out that relatively few of Oakland’s seven hits in the fourth were struck with authority. The exceptions, Woodward said, included Phegley’s liner and Marcus Semien’s two-run double.
Lynn offered no excuses.
“Terrible,” Lynn said of his performance. “It wasn’t there tonight.”