'Keep improving': Rangers end June searching for consistency

June 29th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the media at the end of May, when his team reached a .500 record for the first time in 2022, that the club needed to walk before it could run. After all, it’s about the end goal and it's not as if Texas can make the playoffs overnight.

“I guess you could say we started off the season scooting or crawling,” Woodward joked then. “But we’ve gotten to walking, and hopefully, we can get into the sprint. That's where we're trying to build this thing.”

The Rangers still aren't sprinting just yet, but they are doing some speed walking, if you will. It was a fine June. It was nowhere near the excellence of May, when they went 17-10, but definitely not close to the poor 7-14 start they had in April.

Following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Royals, Texas (36-38) has yet to get back to a .500 mark since May 31.

“I just think games like today, if we can find ways to win those games, that obviously puts us in a different category,” Woodward said. “We’ve got a lot of baseball to play. The biggest thing for me is that we keep tighter quality games with quality at-bats. Hopefully we get hot, but we just got to keep pushing. That's the biggest thing. And keep improving. We just can't go backwards.”

So what worked for the Rangers in June and what needs to be better to finally get over that .500 hump and start sprinting?

Bullpen keeps rolling
If there’s one big positive to take out of the past month of Rangers baseball, it’s the bullpen. Entering Wednesday, the 'pen's 3.14 ERA in June ranked fifth in the Majors -- and that was before Matt Moore proceeded to toss two scoreless innings in the loss.

The bullpen also has the second-best strikeout-per-nine rate at 7.4 and carries an opponent slash line of .204/.267/.332. Six bullpen pieces (Brock Burke, Dennis Santana, Joe Barlow, Garrett Richards, Brett Martin and Moore) have an ERA+ well over 100, with Burke (317) and Santana (254) even better than that.

“They​​ come in and they do their work every day,” said Dane Dunning, who allowed two runs over six innings. “I mean, they definitely put in the work and you can see it on the field. They've been fantastic, just throughout the month and the season. Like I said, they keep us in the game.”

The starting pitching has been night and day at the top and bottom of the rotation, but there’s no doubt Dunning’s correct in that the bullpen keeps Texas in each and every game.

Offensive consistency
The Rangers' offense can be elite. It showed that in the first two wins over the Royals this series and it has done so throughout the month. But it has not been consistently able to put runs on the board, especially against elite pitching.

Three Rangers hitters excelled in June, while others were up and down:

Marcus Semien: .288/.333/.519, 7 homers
Adolis García: .317/.352/.584, 7 homers
Nathaniel Lowe: .278/.327/.440, 7 homers

Texas was only shut out twice in June, but the more troubling statistic is that the loss on Wednesday was the eighth one- or two-run loss for the month. Woodward said he doesn’t think that’s a major issue -- the Rangers have won those types of games just as many times as they’ve lost -- but he would still like to see his club come out on top more often than not.

“I feel like we've definitely improved,” Woodward said. “It's more individual, but I think as a group, there's a lot more understanding to the buy-in of what we're trying to accomplish every day. There’s really good dialogue in the clubhouse and in the dugout during the game. I think, as a group, we're getting better. We're definitely improving. Some guys are hot, some guys are a little bit cool right now. But as a group, I feel like there's a lot of good buy-in, but we've just got to keep pushing.”